In terms of patriotic history, Boston has a good deal to brag about; the city has been home (for good or ill) to the Boston Tea Party, Battle of Bunker Hill and infamous Boston Massacre. So, it’s no surprise Beantown loves a good Fourth of July celebration. The city offers no shortage of annual Independence Day events and festivals, but here are a few of our favorites.
Walk the Freedom Trail
Few Boston attractions are more iconic than the Freedom Trail. Visitors can choose to explore the trail at their own pace or opt for one of many guided tours. Most depart from the Boston Common Visitor Center or Faneuil Hall, and many include fully costumed guides. The National Park Service offers their unique (and free) Meetings, Mobs & Martyrs Tour, focusing on the site of the Boston Massacre, Old South Meeting House and Old State House, among others. This year, a special African-American Patriots Tour will also depart from Boston Common at noon.
Attend the Country’s Oldest Fourth of July Festival
Boston’s Harborfest is a 35-year-old tradition that’s actually a culmination of events spread across four days in and around the city. The family-friendly event is the largest Fourth of July festival in the country. Events include historical Revolutionary War reenactments, live entertainment, special Boston Duck Tours and the opening ceremony of Faneuil Hall. It’s a great excuse to visit many of the city’s most well-known landmarks.
Witness the Reading of the Declaration of Independence
Every Fourth of July at 10am, a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence is performed from the Old State House balcony, recreating the original reading of July 18, 1776. Even for non-history buffs, it’s a moving and patriotic tribute to the revolutionaries who sparked the birth of a nation.
Explore the USS Constitution
As the world’s oldest commissioned military warship, the USS Constitution is a must-see for history buffs visiting Boston. It’s currently undergoing heavy renovations but is still open to visit. As an added bonus, the adjacent museum’s newest exhibit, Forest to Frigate, provides an in-depth look into the science and technology behind the ship’s creation and use.
Find a Rooftop Perch to Enjoy the Festivities
Boston lacks the sheer quantity of rooftop patios of other major cities (blame the four-month-long summer). But, enjoying a cocktail from high above is a wonderful way to experience the stunning fireworks display. Top of the Hub offers a 52nd-floor perch from which to take it all in. The historic Lenox Hotel also hosts an annual rooftop soiree which can include dinner at the swanky City Table restaurant, an overnight luxury hotel stay and an excellent view of the fireworks display over the river.
Watch the Fireworks Spectacular on the Esplanade
It goes without saying, but no list of Boston’s Fourth of July events is complete without mentioning the annual Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. The show kicks off every year at the Hatch Shell, with the Pops performing their world-famous orchestral set. With hundreds of thousands lining the Charles River every year, it can be a chaotic scene; visitors interested in a more relaxed celebration can watch the show live from almost any bar in the city.
Escape to Martha’s Vineyard
Those looking for an even more relaxed way to enjoy the day can escape to Martha’s Vineyard. Edgartown’s annual Fourth of July event is a low-key celebration that kicks off with an old-fashioned American cookout. The free, family-friendly event includes a parade, marching bands and other live entertainment and, of course, fireworks launched from the harbor at dusk.
Join the Boston Tea Party
While not specifically an Independence Day event, touring the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum gives an appreciation for the city’s revolutionary history. The floating museum houses dozens of interactive exhibits, restored tea ships, countless historical artifacts and one of the only remaining original tea chests from the Boston Tea Party. The entire tour leads visitors through the events leading up to that fateful 1773 day in chronological order, making it an ideal way to kick off your Fourth of July celebration.