There’s no better place to celebrate the 4th of July than here in Massachusetts, where it all started. More than 230 years ago, the 13 colonies declared independence, fought the opening battles against the British Empire in Lexington and Concord, and birthed a new nation.
This upcoming week, we commemorate that victory, along with all of America’s other successes since 1776.
The 4th of July in Massachusetts is filled with festivities throughout the weekend, leading up to the holiday itself. From parades to picnics to the renowned Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, the Bay State has it all during the 4th of July.
Whether you’re looking for activities to spice up your holiday or having trouble picking from the multitude of events, we’re here to point you in the right direction.
Have a safe and happy 4th of July, everyone!
Boston Harborfest, Boston, June 28–July 4: Harborfest is the king of all Independence Day celebrations. The festival is composed of more than 220 events, including walking tours, concerts, historical reenactments, harbor cruises, State House tours, guided walking tours, whale watching trips, the USS Constitution Turnaround Cruise, and the famous Chowderfest. Harborfest will be capped off by a Boston Pops concert and fireworks display on the 4th of July. For your transportation needs, check out the MBTA’s special schedules during Harborfest.
Boston Harborfest Children’s Day, City Hall Plaza, Boston, June 29, 10:00 AM–3 PM: At Children’s Day, kids will get the chance to join organizations like The USS Constitution Museum, Historic New England, and the New England Aquarium to learn something new and exciting about Boston and its history. Children’s day features a live juggling act, children’s musical performers, balloon presentations, live dancers, and more. Admission is free.
Boston Chowderfest, City Hall Plaza, Boston, July 1, 11:00 AM–6:00 PM: As part of Boston Harborfest 2012, this day-long celebration of a New England favorite features all varieties of chowder from chefs and restaurants throughout New England.
Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, Boston, July 4, 8:20–11:00 PM: This free outdoor concert in the Hatch Shell, located aside the Charles River, is a glittering staple of Independence Day in Boston. This Fourth of July musical celebration includes performances of patriotic favorites, such as “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “America,” and “Stars and Stripes Forever;” a thunderous rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” will be followed by a fireworks display over the Charles River at 10:35 PM.
OpSail Boston 2012, Tall Ships, & Bicentennial of the War of 1812, Boston, June 30 – July 5: OpSail Boston 2012 glides into Beantown to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and The Star-Spangled Banner. The events will begin at Fish Pier – located in the Seaport District of South Boston – and the Charlestown Navy Yard. Activities will take place between those two primary locations all along Boston’s Harborwalk. At the Charlestown Navy Yard, the USS Constitution, along with some of the other tallest ships in the world, will be on display for all to see.
Boston Navy Week, Boston, June 29–July 6: This is the sixth year in a row that Boston has been chosen to host a Navy Week celebration, which recognizes the Sailors who serve our country and the communities that support them. Navy Week will feature a serious of events, ranging from ship visits to Navy band musical performances to meet and greets with local Sailors. Through Navy Week, the U.S. Navy will come together with the members of the greater Boston community to honor the history of the Navy and cultivate new connections between the city and the world’s greatest maritime fighting force. It will run in conjunction with the 31st annual Boston Harborfest.
Reading of the Declaration of Independence: Old State House, Boston, July 4, 10:00–10:30 AM: Only once a year do Boston residents and visitors get the chance to hear the famous document read from the balcony, as it was on July 18, 1776. Admission is free.
Black Bostonians of the Revolution, Faneuil Hall, Boston, 11:00 AM–12:30 PM: On July 4th, this guided walking tour will recount the history of early African American leaders, such as Prince Hall and George Middleton, and examine how their trailblazing actions laid the foundation for the abolition movement’s roots in America.
North of Boston & Greater Merrimack Valley
Sudbury’s Annual Fourth of July Parade, Sudbury, July 4, 1:00 PM: All are welcome to come and watch one of the area’s best parades. With a zip code like 01776, Sudbury’s patriotic spirit is one to be reckoned with! The parade begins at the intersection of Union Ave. and Route 20, moves on through Boston Post Road, and ends at the Sudbury Town Hall.
Acton Celebrates Independence Day, NARA Park, Acton, July 4: Celebrate Independence Day in Acton, MA. The day starts off with family fun activities from 3:00–7:00 PM, followed by a free concert featuring the The Blushing Brides, a Rolling Stones Tribute Band, at 7:30 PM and fireworks at 9:30 PM. Food vendors will be onsite and no alcoholic beverages are permitted. Admission is free, although some activities may have a small fee.
Picnic in the Park, Emerson Field, Concord, July 4, 10:00 AM–4:00 PM: Picnic in the Park will feature balloon rides, henna tattoos, a children’s decorated bicycle parade, field games, and various types of music. In the event of rain, the picnic will move indoors.
Pepperell 4th of July Town Hall, Pepperell, July 7: The Pepperell parade will begin at 12:30 PM, leaving from the Town Hall on Main Street through Railroad Square and moving onto Tarbell Street. The parade will end at VFW, after which a Hometown Independence Celebration will take place on the field behind Varnum Brook Middle School. The celebration will feature a variety of vendors, selling both food and merchandise.
Salisbury Beach 4th of July, Salisbury, July 4: The Salisbury Independence Day celebration will take place down by the surf. This celebration offers a variety of treats, including ice cream, cotton candy, pizza, and fried dough. Palm reading, arcade games, and surf lessons are just a few of the activities that will be taking place in Salisbury on the 4th of July, which will be conclude with a campfire and fireworks at 10:15 PM.
Rockport Independence Day Celebration, Rockport, July 3–4: The Rockport Firemen’s Parade will commence at 6 PM. After the parade, the Legion Band Concert and bonfire on Back Beach will start at approximately 8:30 PM. Rockport’s 4th of July celebration will also include a sing-a-long and marshmallow roast.
Gloucester Independence Day Horribles Parade and Fireworks, Gloucester, July 3: The Gloucester Horribles Parade will begin at 6 PM and circle through downtown Gloucester. Fireworks, which will go off over Gloucester Harbor, will launch at 9:30 PM. Some of our recommended viewing locations for the festivities are Stacy Boulevard, Stage Fort Park, and Western Avenue.
Danvers Family Festival, Danvers, July 3–July 4: Festivities leading up to the Danvers Fireworks on July 4 start about a month prior to the event, with themed nights, concerts, games, and festivals. The Fireworks Festival itself will take place at Plains Park, on July 3rd, from 5:00–10:30 PM. The main stage will host musical performances, while various concession stands will sell tasty food. The Just for Fun areas will feature games and rides for children. Throughout the early evening, a stunt plane show will take place, along with parachuting and a military flyover. The famed fireworks show begins at 9:30 PM.
Beverly Farms Independence Day Celebration, Beverly Farms, July 4: The featured events in Beverly Farms are the unique Horribles Parade, spectacular evening shoreline illumination, and aerial fireworks display, which will be held at West Beach. Rounding out the holiday events will be the House Decorating Contest, the Family & Friends Cookout, the youngsters Scavenger Hunt, the post-Parade “Old Timers” adult softball game at Dix Park, races and games at West Beach, and musical entertainment at the Beach before the fireworks.
Marblehead Fireworks & Harbor Illumination, Marblehead, July 4, 9:00 PM: In Marblehead, the 4th of July Harbor Illumination will begin at 8:45 PM. Immediately following the Harbor Illumination, fireworks will start.
Harvard Town Fireworks at Fruitlands, Fruitlands Museum, Harvard, July 3–4: The pastoral site of Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, MA, will be home to an all-American Independence Day celebration on Tuesday, July 3. The event will feature music, which will begin at 5:00 PM and food, which will be available to purchase. Visitors are also allowed to bring picnics to the event. Fireworks will go off at 9:15 PM. On July 4, the parade will begin at 11:00 AM, after which field events will take place in front of the library.
South of Boston
Plymouth’s Fourth of July Festivities, Plymouth, July 4: Independence Day is always a great time to be in America’s hometown! The parade route in Plymouth begins at Hedge Road in North Plymouth at 9:30 AM. After the parade, at around 7:30 PM, the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra will play at the Plymouth Waterfront. The concert will be free and open to the public.
Greater New Bedford Summerfest, New Bedford, July 6–8: New Bedford’s annual old-fashioned, family-oriented international folk music and arts festival is a good time for everyone. This event, which is hosted by the City of New Bedford and The Standard-Times, is held throughout New Bedford’s beautiful National Historical Park. Summerfest will feature an array of musical performers, an artisan’s marketplace, juried crafts, an international bazaar, a variety of delectable food vendors, whale boat races, and harbor tours.
138th Brockton Fair, Brockton, June 28–July 8: This year’s Brockton Fair will has lively and exciting entertainment for all ages. In addition to the various rides, entertainment includes a surprise-filled magic show, an exciting demolition derby, horse racing, amateur boxing, figure 8 racing, stock car football, a big bear show, a petting zoo, puppet shows, and livestock shows. Brockton’s 138th Independence Day celebration will culminate with five nights of fireworks.
Hingham Celebrates the 4th, Hingham, June 30–July 7: The celebration of Independence Day in Hingham spans more than a week and showcases three signature events. On June 30, fireworks will scrape the sky over Hingham Harbor. July 4 will feature the annual Hingham Road Race and the town’s Parade of Heroes. On July 7, the Vintage Baseball Game will take place at Derby Academy.
39th Braintree Independence Celebration, Braintree, June 30: Braintree’s Independence Day celebration provides a variety of attractions. Kicking off the festivities at 11:45 AM, the Stars and Stripes Parade will step off at Hollis School and finish at Braintree High School. After the parade, games, rides, food, and live music will set the stage for a spectacular fireworks display at 10:00 PM.
Cape Cod & the Islands
Mashpee Wampanoag Annual Powwow, Mashpee, June 29–July 1: This Native American cultural event has something for everyone. Drumming contests, dance contests, a clambake, and the Sly Fox Muhsh8n Race are just a few of the festivities. The Powwow will also include the Ham and Bean Supper and a musical performance by the Wampanoag Nation Singers and Dancers.
Cape Cod Baseball League: What better way to celebrate America’s independence than watching America’s pastime? Cape Cod League ballgames feature some of the best up-and-coming players in the country. So, grab your cap, bring along a few bucks for hot dogs, and catch a game. You never know which future Major League players will be in action.
Fourth of July Parade & Fireworks, Old Whaling Church Lawn, Edgartown, July 4, 4:00–8:00 PM: Edgartown on the Fourth is pure Americana. Fella Caters will offer you a classic American cookout, supplying burgers and dogs with all the fixins’ and much more. Bring the family, spread out your blanket, relax, and enjoy a great meal while waiting for the parade’s 5:00 PM start. Free marching band concerts in the Old Whaling Church before and after the parade make fun for the whole family. Food is sold à la carte and admission is free. Fireworks, which will go off over Edgartown Harbor, begin at 9:00 PM.
22nd Annual Firecracker 5K & Walk, Nantucket Health Club, July 4, 8:00 AM: Looking to counteract all of that barbeque food you’ll scarf down later on in the day? This 5,000-meter (3.1 mile) trek from Nantucket Health Club to Monomoy and back is sponsored by Nantucket Health Club and sanctioned by USA Track & Field. Participants can either walk or run and cash prizes are available.
Chatham’s July 4th Independence Day Parade, Main Street, Chatham, July 4, 9:30–11:30 AM: This year, Chatham’s annual July 4th Independence Day Parade will have the theme of “Chatham Through the Years, A Living History.” The parade will proceed down Main Street from the corner of Shore Road and continue on to Veteran’s Field.
Bourne on the Fourth of July Parade, Main Street, Buzzards Bay, July 4, 10:00–11:00 AM: The sixth annual Bourne on the Fourth Parade gives residents the opportunity to walk in the parade and offers prizes for the best groups, too! Drop by and you’ll get to see some great costumes and floats.
Barnstable-West Barnstable 4th of July Parade, Main Street, Barnstable Village, July 4: The parade will commence at 9:00 AM at the County Complex on Railroad Avenue, proceed down Main Street, turn left onto Mill Way and end at the Village Hollow. After the parade, various activities will take place in the Hollow.
Provincetown 4th of July Parade, Provincetown, July 4, 11:00 AM: The Provincetown parade will begin at the Harbor Hotel and proceed up Commercial Street to Franklin Street, where the procession will end. Fireworks, which will take place over the Provincetown Harbor off of MacMillan Pier, are slated to begin at 8:45 PM.
New England Summer Nationals, Worcester, July 5–8: The largest auto event on the East Coast is returning to Worcester. Attendees will see live music, contests, controlled burnouts, flamethrowers, street rods, muscle cars, and stunt bikes.
An 1830s Independence Day Celebration, Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, July 4: This Fourth of July, step back to a time when America was new and veterans of the fight for freedom still lived. The celebration will include a parade, a reading and signing of a large Declaration of Independence replica, an 1840s game of “base ball” and concessions.
Shrewsbury’s 4th of July Celebration, Main Street, Shrewsbury, July 4, 12:00–4:00 PM: The town of Shrewsbury’s 4th of July Celebration will include food, live music and DJs, inflatable amusements, clowns, and face painting. A decorated bike and doll carriage parade begins at 12:30 PM. Admission is free, although amusements will cost $2 per ride. A wristband entitling the wearer to unlimited use of amusements will cost $8.
Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade, Park Square, Pittsfield, July 4, 10:00 AM: Named as one of the 10 best parade venues in the country by USA Today, Pittsfield’s annual Independence Day parade is legendary for its outstanding musical acts, balloons and floats, and hometown feel. The parade will begin on the corner of South and West Housatonic Streets and proceed up South Street to Wahconah Street, ending at Wahconah Park.
Amherst Independence Day Celebration, behind McGuirk Football Stadium, Amherst, July 4, 5:00–10:00 PM: 4th of July in Amherst promises to be an event that everyone will enjoy; the day will feature games, races, music, contests, food, and, of course, fireworks. Admission is free.
North Adams Steeplecats Baseball: This year’s annual 4th of July baseball game takes place at 6:30 PM at the Joe Wolfe Field on Route 8 in North Adams. The game will pit the North Adams Steeplecats against the Sanford Mainers. The evening will be capped off with a spectacular fireworks display, a North Adams tradition.
Fourth of July with Shakespeare & Co., Rose Footprint Theatre/Bankside, Lenox, July 4, 1:30–5:00 PM: Celebrate a Revolutionary weekend! Come to enjoy a delicious Fourth of July Community Barbecue, with à la carte pricing for food. Burgers, dogs, corn on the cob, beer, wine, and more will be available. Additionally, the festivities will include a reading of the Declaration of Independence by Company actors and special guests.
Star Spangled Springfield, Festival Field/Memorial Bridge, Springfield, July 4: The program begins at 7:30 PM, celebrating America’s independence from the Crown. Fireworks will commence at 9:30 PM from the Memorial Bridge with a musical simulcast on MIX 93.1 FM.
Williamstown Parade, Williamstown, July 4th, 11:00 AM: The Williamstown Parade will wind up Route 2 from Southworth Street and continue down Spring Street, where the Flatbed Jazz Band will be playing. Those who attend the festivities will enjoy a free barbecue, a reading of the Declaration of Independence and the British Reply by Williamstown Theatre Festival actors, and the Williams College Museum of Art’s lovely galleries. After the food, participants can catch the North Adams Steeplecats squaring off against the Sanford Mainers at Joe Wolfe Field. Fireworks will follow the ballgame.
Photo credit: Mike Casey.