How to Hear the July 4th Boston Pops Concert and See Fireworks from a Boat

by Linda
(Raleigh, NC)

Mass Avenue Bridge Ramp to Boston Esplanade by Charles River

Mass Avenue Bridge Ramp to Boston Esplanade by Charles River

Mass Avenue Bridge Ramp to Boston Esplanade by Charles River Sailboats in Charles River Basin, Boston Kayak in Charles River, photographed from Mass Ave Bridge Spectators near Hatch Shell for Boston Pops Concert

Is there any charter boat option that allows you to listen to the July 4th Boston Pops Concert AND see the fireworks? Thanks!

Susan's reply: Linda, thank YOU for asking this great question! I'm sure you're not the only one who's wondering about boat rentals for Boston's July 4th fireworks, and I'll add the information to Boston Discovery Guide's information about where to watch the fireworks as soon as I finish writing this message.

In short, yes, there's a terrific option for watching the fireworks AND hearing the concert from the water that I've heard about from others.

First, just so you know the constraints, the fireworks take place in a part of the Charles River called the Charles River Basin, between the Longfellow Bridge to the east and the Mass Ave Bridge (sometimes called Harvard Bridge because Harvard is on the Cambridge side of this part of the river) down to the west. It's a relatively small area but it is blocked to boat traffic on July 4th for safety reasons.

Also, the Hatch Shell where the concert takes place is not too far from the Longfellow Bridge, although there are a number of good-quality speakers placed along the river on both sides so that people can hear the concert and then watch the fireworks.

The tricky part, if you're in a boat, is being close enough so that you can hear the music - in other words, you won't be able to hear it "live" if you're out in Boston Harbor on one of the cruise boats (although you may get to hear the broadcast version).

Seeing the fireworks isn't normally an issue, unless you're in a position where foliage or a building is obstructing your view, in which case you can just move. However, if you're at water level, you may in fact have to position yourself a bit because of the way the river bends.

In any case, the experience that I've heard people rave about is renting a canoe, which enables you to get close the blocked off Charles River Basin area, which means that you'll still be at a point where you can hear the music broadcast.

The only organization that I'm aware of that offers canoe rentals in this part of the river (and it's the one that the people who told me about this used) is Charles River Canoe and Kayak. They have a couple of pick-up locations nearby as well as others further out. Their website is, and their phone number is 617-965-5110. I would suggest calling to find out which pick up location is better for your purposes. Also, I would expect that a number of people do rent the canoes on the 4th, so I would urge you to make reservations just as soon as you're sure of your plans to avoid disappointment.

The Charles River is very slow-moving at this point so it is easy to navigate - my daughters learned to sail in the Charles River Basin - but wind can kick up, so you might want to ask Charles River Canoe about their policies related to weather - i.e., could you still rent the canoe and stay close to shore, or other options.

If you were hoping for a boat rather than a canoe, you could also call the boat charter companies listed about halfway down BDG's page about the fireworks - I'd start with the first 2, as the others have huge cruise boats. Be sure, though, to emphasize that you want to also hear the music and find out exactly where the boat would be. I think there are restrictions to the types of boats that can be in specific parts of the river, so they would probably have to be to the east of the Longfellow Bridge - key would be to make sure you're still close enough to hear the music.

Hope this works out for you, and have a great time in Boston!


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