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

Andy Grammer performs during the annual Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular on the Esplanade in 2017. (Michael Dwyer/AP)
Andy Grammer performs during the annual Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular on the Esplanade in 2017. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

It's the Fourth of July in Boston. That means concerts by the Boston Pops at the Hatch Shell and a fireworks display over the Charles River.

If you're more of a morning person, you could catch the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence from the balcony of the Old State House starting at 9 a.m. and then watch the parade from City Hall Plaza to the Old State House.

Here's what you need to know about the music and the light show in the sky if you'll be celebrating in the city (or trying to avoid the traffic).

What's Going On And When?

On Tuesday, you'll have a chance to enjoy the concert without the crowds (but also, without the fireworks) at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade. The gates open at 5 p.m., and the concert runs from 8 to 10 p.m.

Then on Wednesday — the Fourth of July — the Boston Pops sets up the fireworks with its classic concert at the Hatch Shell. Gates open at 9 a.m. Be sure to get down to Esplanade early if you expect to have a good view. The concert runs from 8 to 10:30 p.m. The fireworks are slated to run from 10:30 to 11 p.m.

The concerts on both nights are led by longtime Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart. This year, the Pops will pay tribute to composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein in celebration of his centennial. The Massachusetts native would have turned 100 this August. Rita Moreno, who played the role of Anita in Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's "West Side Story," will join the tribute. Guest musicians include Rachel Platten, Rhiannon Giddens and the Indigo Girls.

Where Should I Watch?

The concert takes place in the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade, which recently underwent a $2.5 million renovation. To enter the area with the best view of the stage, you'll need to go through security access points for the Oval and the Island or Lagoon. There will be bag checks to enter these areas. To access the checkpoint for the Oval, head over via Berkeley Street. To access the checkpoint for the Island on the lagoon, use the Dartmouth or Fairfield Street footbridges. The Fairfield Street footbridge will be designated as an exit from the island on Wednesday night.

Over on the Cambridge side of the Esplanade, there'll be speakers so you could listen to the Pops while waiting for a good view of the fireworks. New this year, there is also an viewing location at the Rose Kennedy Greenway (at Atlantic Avenue and High Street) equipped with an HD screen.

If you want to watch the fireworks, there's plenty of good vantage points away from the crowds. Walking across one of the bridges is always a good bet for a good view of the show, or you can climb to Peters Hill at the Arnold Arboretum.

What (Not) To Bring

Dan Bennett, the state's public safety chief, urges attendees that if they see something, say something to any of the uniformed police on patrol. At a press conference Monday, Bennett said "there are no credible threats out there at this time" for the Boston area.

Make sure to pack light — even if you're planning to stay for the day.

On Wednesday only, you're allowed to bring pop-up tents without sides as long as the tent is 10'x10' or smaller. You can also bring blankets or tarps that are no bigger than 10'x10', folding or beach chairs, coolers that could be carried by a shoulder strap, items in clear plastic bags, and small clutch purses.

Don't bring coolers on wheels, backpacks, glass containers or cans, grills or alcohol. Marijuana, though now legal, is not permitted. Leave all types of weapons at home. This is not a time to fly your drones or any type of unmanned aerial vehicle (as cool as the visuals may be). Bicycles will not be allowed past the checkpoints when you get closer to the Hatch Shell. (Here's a full list of what not to bring.)

How Should I Get Around?

Walking or taking the MBTA is probably your best bet on Wednesday.

The MBTA subway and bus lines will be running on a Sunday schedule and the commuter rail, ferry and the RIDE will be running on a Sunday schedule. (Click here for more details.) The MBTA says it won't be collecting fares after 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Expect road closures in the area of the Esplanade and limited parking on the Fourth. (Here's a full list of road closures on Tuesday and Wednesday.)

For persons with disabilities, accessible shuttles will run from the Mass Eye and Ear parking lot to the Esplanade from 3 to 6 p.m., and again after the fireworks end.

What's The Weather Like?

It's been a real hot week, and the Fourth promises to be just as hot as the last few days. WBUR meteorologist David Epstein says it'll be hot and humid — with plenty of sunshine and no risk for showers. Highs will be in the low 90s, but the air will feel like 97 to up to 101 degrees.

At a press conference about the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular on Monday, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said, "The biggest threat I see is the weather. People have to bring plenty of water."

What If I Want To Stay Home?

If there's no way you'll be waiting it out on the Esplanade in the heat, you can still watch the concert and fireworks from the comfort of your backyard or air conditioned home. Thanks to the 21st century, you can now stream the concert and fireworks on the radio, on TV and on your smartphone.

With reporting by WBUR's Zeninjor Enwemeka


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Amy Gorel Senior Editor
Amy Gorel is a senior editor of digital news at WBUR.



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