Your Guide To The Fourth of July in Boston

Patriotic activities and events for those who celebrate our nation's independence in the place where it all started

There are few places that top Boston as being more patriotic—except maybe Philadelphia, but let’s be honest: We’re kind of the ones who got the ball rolling on that whole independence from the Brits thing. That aside, the time is right for us to celebrate the hard-won liberties earned by our forefathers: American freedom and democracy. The people of Boston honor the past with an array of events, tours and other adventures not only on July 4, but all month, all summer and, in some cases, all year long.

Independence Day Commemoration

The City of Boston's Official Independence Day Commemoration, always on July 4 at 9 am, starts with a parade to Granary Burying Ground and King's Chapel Burying Ground for the laying of memorial wreaths followed by a balcony reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Old State House—the site where, in 1776, it was first read publicly in Boston—and then a formal oration at Faneuil Hall aka “The Cradle of Liberty.” 

Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular

Keith Lockhart and America’s Orchestra bring the pomp on the Fourth of July with the beloved annual Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular at the Hatch Memorial Shell. This free concert attracts denizens of patriotic revelers who camp out early in order to secure a spot within sight of the stage. The esplanade orchestra’s set list includes the national anthem and usual Fourth fare as well as some signature arrangements. Beginning at 9 pm, the Pops also back two special guest performers (for 2016, it's multiplatinum recording artists Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas). The widely televised, beloved finale sees fireworks set off over the Charles River (yes, you can see these for miles around) to a rousing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

Keith Lockhart leads the Boston Pops at the Hatch Shell

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

Feel like you're a member of the Sons of Liberty and throw some tea into Boston Harbor while onboard the Eleanor or the Beaver, two authentically restored tea ships anchored at Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. But that's only part of the experience at this cool, and surprisingly state of the art, museum. There are real artifacts, like one of only two remaining tea chests, costumed characters, theatrical presentations and eerily lifelike holographic demonstrations, as well as Abigail's Tea Room, where visitors can stop and sip a specially blended cup of tea. Head to the Revelry on Griffin's Wharf July 1-3 (7-9 pm) where visitors will be able to experience hands-on activities and performances that depict a colonial Griffin's Wharf. Events will include nautical demonstrations, live period music and the chance to mingle with noted Bostonians like John Hancock and Paul Revere.

Patriot Calling (© Boston Tea Party Ships & Museums)

The Green Dragon Tavern

The Green Dragon Tavern found on Marshall Street today is not the original Green Dragon Tavern, an important meeting place for pre-Revolutionaries including Paul Revere. The original inn and public house stood about 100 yards away from the now Irish bar, but it's still worth a visit for its quaint appeal and the history lesson learned while grabbing a pint.

Freedom Trail Tours

The Freedom Trail is Boston’s signature and iconic destination, preserving the story of the American Revolution at 16 sites where many of the events originally took place. History buffs can self-guide and visit favorites like the Granary Burying Ground, Faneuil Hall and Old North Church. Alternately, whimsical tours run daily and are themed to a variety of interests: the broad-reaching Walk into History Tour, the scandal-icious Pirates & Patriots Tour, and the Revere-heavy North End Tour.

Freedom Trail Tours are famous for their informative, costumed guides.

Boston By Foot

Resident tour company Boston By Foot makes history a priority. Adventures are frequent and factual, and usually delve beyond the (overadvertised) basics of the Revolutionary era. Themes run the gamut from the ongoing Freedom Trail-centric "Road to Revolution" to special one-offs like "Ben Franklin: Son of Boston."

Fort Warren on Georges Island

The Civil War-era Fort Warren celebrates history with a number of events, including the Civil War Dress Up program on Saturdays that little ones love because they get to romp around the parade ground in 1860's-style clothes. Civil War Day (in 2016 on July 31) features ball games and dancing balls from the era, encounters with the 54th Regiment and more.

Georges Island 54th Regiment (© Liz Cook)

Twilight at the Battle of Bunker Hill

The National Park Service hosts its signature Twilight at the Battle of Bunker Hill jaunt (July 1, 2016, at 6:30 pm) when regular folk get to play British regulars and explore the right flank of the famous Charlestown battlefield. Those who feel up for a challenge can climb the 221 steps to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument (seriously, it’s not for the faint of heart) and watch the sunset.  

Minute Man National Historical Park

Occupying nearly 1,000 acres across Lincoln, Lexington and Concord, Minute Man National Historical Park features a wealth of rich landmarks associated with the American Revolution. Perhaps the most prominent, North Bridge is the site of the romanticized "shot heard 'round the world" of April 19, 1775. From Minute Man Visitor Center, hop on the Battle Road Trail, a five-mile walking path that connects significant landmarks like the Paul Revere Capture Site where the patriot was taken prisoner by British soldiers, the battle site at Meriam's Corner, and the Hartwell Tavern, an authentic Colonial-era home where park rangers demonstrate musket firings. Spend a whole day in Concord and Lexington; read more here.

Paul Revere House

Historic Paul Revere House often hosts demonstrations of colonial-era craft and music-making, not matter the season. For Independence month in 2016, visitors can spend the post-lunch hour July 9 listening to early American melodies played on a glass armonica (an invention from Ben Franklin). Then, on July 23, find out about Colonial-era leather working techniques and watch them practiced by 21st-century hands, 1-3 pm.

Leigh Harrington
About the author

Leigh formerly served as the Boston editor for Where and was the br...