Boston Fourth of July Concert and Fireworks
Charles River Esplanade
Friday, July 4, 2003
Rather than bore you with hype, I'll get right into specifics:
Table of Contents
Security Changes (2002)
There were many security changes in 2002. While we don't know what the 2003 security
changes will be, here is the list from 2002:
- The oval in front of the Hatch Shell is a gated area. Show up early enough
and you'll get a wristband once you've passed through the security checkpoint.
The wristband lets you leave the area and return later.
- Nobody is allowed onto the oval until 9AM.
- A much larger area behind the Hatch Shell is off-limits.
- The Storrow Drive entrance near Arlington Street is off-limits. You'll need
to use the Berkeley Street entrance instead.
- The islands, canals and lagoons in the Esplanade area are off-limits to boats.
For more detailed and updated information, see the
restrictions page, as well as the
Fourth of July Events
This is a partial list of what is going on:
- USS Constitution Turnaround and 21-Gun Salute.
Noon, Charlestown Navy Yard.
- Music groups and performers in the Hatch Shell area,
- The Concert. 8:30pm, Hatch Shell.
- The Fireworks. Following the concert, about 10:30pm.
Visible from either side of the Charles River.
Special Tips for Visitors from Afar
There are a lot of other things to do and see in Boston. Here's a brief
list of what I think are the must see/must do things:
- The concert and fireworks are free. There is no admission charge
and no tickets (other than the wristbands mentioned above).
- The concert is broadcast on Channel 4 (WBZ)
in the Boston area, and the last half hour of the concert and the fireworks
are broadcast nationally on the CBS
television network starting at 10:00 PM EDT.
- The odds strongly favor
Rain has fallen only three of the twenty years we have been attending
the concert. The concert has never been canceled due to rain, the
fireworks were canceled once.
How To Get There
Take the MBTA to the Arlington
Street Station (on the Green Line).
Leave the station via the Arlington Street exit (not the Berkeley
Street exit). When you reach street level, head north on the left
side of Arlington Street, following everyone else. (The Arlington
Street Church will be next to you on your left and the Public
Garden will be across the street on your right as you walk up
Follow Arlington Street until it ends at Beacon St. Cross Beacon
St, turn left, and walk one block to Berkeley St. (Previously
you would use the Storrow Drive entrance opposite Arlington St,
but it is now off-limits.) Turn right on Berkeley St and cross
From this point, you're on your own. Find some uncovered grass
and set down your blanket, or find your friends who came earlier.
Things to Bring
Don't feel that you have to bring everything on this list, it is intended
to give you an idea of the kinds of things that will be useful.
- A cooler, containing:
- Soda, fruit juice, or other liquid refreshment.
Think about how much you will drink, and bring double
that amount. On a hot day, you'll want it.
- Sandwiches, subs, or other meal-type food. Don't bring
anything that needs heating, there are no cooking facilities
available. Make the sandwiches ahead of time.
- Fruit, such as grapes, peaches, or apples.
- Ice to keep the above stuff cool.
- Snack foods, like chips, pretzels, cookies, or crackers. Keep dips or
cheese in the cooler.
- Paper plates, plasticware, and napkins.
Clothing and Weather Protection:
- Sunscreen and sunglasses.
- A hat or visor.
- A light jacket or sweatshirt.
- A bathing suit and beach towel. There is a pool about 1/2 mile up
Storrow Drive, and the MDC sets up sprinklers and a fire hose if it
is a hot day.
- An umbrella, regardless of the weather forecast.
Games and Entertainment:
- Small, portable games or sports equipment. like frisbee, cards, or
- Paper and pencils for scoring card games.
- Laptop with cellular modem. (Just kidding)
- Money for tolls or T fare, admission to pool, souvenirs and food.
Warning: the food is very expensive.
- Trash bags. These are also useful for carrying wet bathing
suits and towels back home.
- A hand truck, for transporting heavy coolers.
- American flags.
Things to Not Bring
If you were thinking of bringing these things, please leave them at home.
- Alcohol. Police search coolers when you get there.
- Patio chairs, if you come by T.
- Barbecue equipment. No open fires are allowed.
- More than you can carry in one trip, if you come by T.
- In 2002, the list of forbidden items included hammers and tents or canopies with metal poles.
Here are some tips that we've learned over the years, usually the hard way.
Keep this word about leftover spaghetti in mind as you read this list:
Those who forget the pasta are condemned to reheat it.
- If you come by T, buy a token for the return trip when leaving the
Arlington Street T station.
- If you are meeting someone who is already there, arrive early.
If you are meeting someone with space in the oval you must
arrive before the wristbands run out, or you will not be
allowed into the oval.
- It is difficult to meet people who arrive after 4:30pm or so, and
almost impossible to meet people after 6:00pm. After that, forget it.
- Saving space for large parties planning to arrive later is no
- If you want the best view of both the orchestra and the fireworks,
get a spot on the right side of the oval (from your perspective,
as you face the Hatch Shell).
- Keep your cooler in the shade, the ice will last longer. Umbrellas
and towels come in handy for this task.
- Don't plan on parking in downtown Boston after 7:30am. If you do
drive, try to park on Newbury Street (when leaving, go straight
until you see the Mass. Turnpike entrance). If you will be
arriving after 7:30am, take the T.
- A paper grocery bag placed inside a plastic grocery bag makes a good
carrying container for stuff that doesn't need to be kept cool.
A small overnight bag or backpack also works well.
- If you come by T, make sure you can carry all of your stuff in one
trip. The trip back after the fireworks will be easier, as the
cooler will be empty (and can be used to carry stuff).
- Bring a hand truck to make it easier to lug around heavy coolers.
- If you have small children who tend to stray, bring a harness or leash
to keep them from wandering off. Also, put a nametag on them in
case they do get lost.
- Make your final trip to the bathroom by 6:30pm. After that, the
crowds are too thick for you to return.
 Thanks to Dan Swartzendruber for coming up with this punchline
about a delayed spaghetti dinner.