4th of July at the Hatch Shell

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Posted June 30, 2014 by Lindsey Daniels in Downtown Boston
Boston Fireworks

More than half a million spectators come to Boston each year to view the July 4 fireworks at the Hatch Shell. If you’ve ever attended the festivities, you know how crowded the Esplanade can get (hint: worse then Fenway traffic). Plan your July 4 festivities in advance to ensure that you get a good viewing spot come sundown.

July 4 performers

The Pops are keeping mum on their friends this year. Past years have seen performances from Susan Tedeschi, Ellis Hall, Jennifer Hudson, and Michael Chiklis. Of course, Keith Lockhart will be there conducting the Pops. It wouldn’t be the 4th without their iconic performance of the 1812 Overture right before the big bang.

Event timeline

On July 3, the Pops have a warmup concert. If you want to hear the great symphony tunes without the crowd, head to the Hatch Shell by 7:30 p.m. to enjoy premium seating. The free outdoor concert begins at 8:30 p.m. and ends at 10:00, without a bang. The advantage of taking in the pre-fireworks performance? You’ll get to actually be on the Hatch Shell and see the stage. Oh, and have some personal space.

The July 4 festivities begin at 8:30 p.m. and the fireworks start at 10:30 p.m. By 11:00, the show is over and the whole city is trying to head home at the same time. Yeah, you’re not going anywhere.

Hatch Shell 4th of July

If you want to hear the great symphony tunes head to the Hatch Shell.

Where to watch

The best viewing options for the fireworks display flank the Charles River. On the Boston side, the Esplanade and Hatch Shell are the place to be. Both Boston and Cambridge have excellent viewing opportunities so the choice is yours, but

if you want to be at the Hatch Shell, you need to plan ahead. The checkpoint to enter the Esplanade opens at 9:00 a.m. and if you want to have a shot at lawn seats, you’d best line up around then. If you don’t need to see the Pops up close, mosey over anytime and try your luck at finding a spot. Note, the event is first-come, first-served and free, so anyone trying to sell you a ticket is scamming you.

Both sides of the river have restrooms and concessions. There is one handicapped area on the Esplanade, which will close at 6 p.m. (or earlier if it fills up).

If you’re intrepid, you can watch the display from a boat, so long as you remain 100 feet from shore and 100 feet from the fireworks barges.

Security considerations

As with other big events since the Marathon bombings, there are major security considerations. If you want to access the Hatch Shell, you will not be able to bring portable coolers, backpacks, or containers of liquid that are greater than 2 oz. You cannot bring glass, cans, or alcohol in any form. You can bring a blanket or tarp (10 x 12 or smaller), a folding chair, or a pop-up tent (10 x 10 or smaller). Take any personal possessions in a clear plastic bag.

If you were thinking of biking to the fireworks, you might want to avoid the Esplanade area. No bicycles will be allowed inside the checkpoint, and bikes locked up outside the checkpoints or left unattended anywhere in the area will be removed.

If you live downtown, the best option is to just walk…it’s only about 20 minutes or so on foot from downtown to the Shell.

The whole city really turns out for the July 4 event. Whether you plan to go early or test your luck and show up at dusk, you’re sure to have a great time.


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