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What You Need To Know About The Fourth Of July In Boston

Fireworks explode over the Hatch Shell during rehearsal for the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular last year. (Michael Dwyer/AP)
Fireworks explode over the Hatch Shell during rehearsal for the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular last year. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

For many in Boston, the Fourth of July in this city of rich history means heading down to the Esplanade for a long-held tradition: the annual Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. This year, Queen Latifah headlines. The country's first youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman is also performing.

Here's a short guide to help you navigate the day (and days before):

What's happening:

Tuesday

On Tuesday night, Harborfest puts on a boat parade of lights in Boston's inner harbor. It features nearly 20 brightly lit boats and will be followed by a fireworks show. There are good viewing points along the North End and the edge of the Seaport.

Wednesday

Wednesday night is a full-fledged rehearsal for the Boston Pops at the Esplanade's Hatch Shell — you'll get the same performers but with less crowds, and no fireworks. Gates for this show will open at around 5 p.m. and the rehearsal will begin at 8:30 p.m.

Thursday

At 9 a.m., a parade begins from City Hall Plaza to the Old State House, followed by a reading of the Declaration of Independence from the balcony of the Old State House.

Gates to the Esplanade's Hatch Shell open at 9 a.m. for enthusiastic early birds who want to guarantee good spots for the Boston Pops show and late-night fireworks.

The city's beloved orchestra will perform beginning at 8 p.m. Folk star Arlo Guthrie is scheduled to pay homage to Woodstock on its 50th anniversary. The youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman, now a Harvard student, is expected to recite her poem, "The Believer's Hymn of the Republic," accompanied by the Pops playing "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Other performers include former "America's Got Talent" contestants Amanda Mena and the Texas Tenors. Queen Latifah headlines, singing a selection of her own music just before the fireworks are set to go off around 10:30 p.m.

How to get there:

If you're trying to get to the Esplanade Wednesday or Thursday, plan for extra time as traffic will likely be heavy, with Storrow Drive lane closures starting at 3 p.m. on July 3. It’s best to take public transportation, and the MBTA is free after 9:30 p.m. on July 4. (See other road closures here.)

The subway will be on a Sunday schedule until 2 p.m. Thursday, and then will run at rush-hour levels of service. After the fireworks, an express bus shuttle will run from Boylston to Riverside, via the Mass. Pike. There will be late commuter rail trains on several lines.

Parking will be restricted on Memorial Drive, Cambridge Parkway, Magazine Beach, Riverside Boat Club and the MWRA pump station.

There will be handicapped parking (with a valid handicap plate or placard) at Mass. Eye and Ear's Storrow parking lot until 6 p.m., or when it reaches capacity, whichever comes first. Parking for those with disabilities will be allowed on Cambridge Parkway.

Where to watch:

For those who want to get as close to the Boston Pops and fireworks show as possible, head over to the Hatch Shell as early as 9 a.m. Thursday, when gates open. Wristbands will be given to people for entry and reentry onto the Esplanade until the watch areas are full. The event is free.

If you don’t mind being on the other side of the river, screens and sound towers will be set up on Memorial Drive in Cambridge. The Rose Kennedy Greenway in Downtown Boston will also have a screen set up for viewing at Atlantic Avenue and High Street.

Are you looking to stay home on the Fourth but don’t want to miss out on the show? Well, you’re in luck. Bloomberg TV will be broadcasting the show on Bloomberg’s website and WHDH-TV. It will also be available for streaming on mobile devices and on Apple TV.

Things you can bring to the Esplanade:

  • pop up tents or canopies with no sides, no bigger than 10 feet by 10 feet
  • blankets or tarps no bigger than 10 feet by 10 feet
  • folding or beach chairs only
  • coolers, which must be carried in by shoulder strap or single handle (no wheeled coolers)
  • all personal items must be carried in clear bags only
  • after inspection, small clutch bags/purses may be taken into the venue with the clear bag

Things you can’t bring:

  • glass containers
  • cans
  • pre-mixed beverages
  • alcohol
  • grills
  • sharp objects
  • weapons
  • firearms
  • coolers on wheels
  • backpacks
  • shopping bags
  • oversized handbags/purses
  • pets
  • bikes
  • drones

What will the weather be like?

WBUR meteorologist Dave Epstein says July Fourth looks ideal. He expects fireworks across the region to go off without a hitch, and there will be a clear to partly cloudy backdrop for all the festivities.

Cintia Lopez Arts Fellow
Cintia Lopez is a fellow for The ARTery, WBUR's arts and culture team.

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