Going into 1974, organizers decided it would be a good idea to add howitzer cannons, church bells and fireworks to the playing of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
Pops Conductor Arthur Fiedler suggested, “All hell could break loose.” Little did he know…
Four decades later, the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular draws about a half-million people to the banks of the Charles River, with millions more tuning in to the broadcast.
It’s an awesome experience. But it can also be a very long day and night if you aren’t fully prepared.
Here’s a guide for everything you need to know for the 4th of July on the Esplanade.
Note: This guide will be updated as any new parking, timeline or security checks are announced.
Check The Forecast
There’s an old saying in New England: If you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes. In the summer, it can fluctuate like crazy. Temperatures can range anywhere from the 60s to the high 90s. Violent thunderstorms tend to pop up at a moment’s notice.
The WBZ Accuweather team will keep you updated with Weather on the 3s on WBZ NewsRadio 1030, forecasts on WBZ-TV and right here on CBSBoston.com.
If you’re spending the day at the Esplanade, you’ll want to be dressed appropriately… which brings us to our next topic.
No shirt, no shoes… no one’s going to say anything. But, it can get very chilly at night, and a sweatshirt or jacket may be in order. Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are all must-bring items. Depending on the forecast, an umbrella or rain coat might be a smart move.
Wear Comfy Shoes
It doesn’t matter if you’re taking the ‘T’ or driving, you’re going to have to do some walking. Parking near the Esplanade is like trying to find a cold spring in the desert. Good luck! Event organizers highly recommend taking public transportation.
The two closest T-stations on the Boston side are Charles-MGH on the Red Line, and Arlington Street on the Green Line. The MBTA is open late and will be offering free rides home after 10 p.m.
A whole mess of road closures make driving a daring decision. If you are willing to take that risk (and don’t mind sitting in hours of gridlock after the show), it’s suggested that you park at the 100 Clarendon Street garage. Train or car, you will have to do some walking. Expect the minimum to be about a half-mile.
NOTE: According to the DCR website, disability/handicap parking will be available at the Charles Circle LAZ Parking Lot, next to Massachusetts Eye & Ear Hospital, starting at 10 a.m. on July 4.
Mass. only vehicles with valid disability/handicap placards/plates will be allowed to access the parking lot. Parking in this lot will be available on a first come, first serve basis. The lot will close once it is full; when the designated disability/handicap area at the Hatch Memorial Shell (Esplanade) is full; or 6 p.m.; whichever occurs first.
The MBTA shuttle vans (The Ride) will cease operation when the disability/handicap area is full or at 6 p.m., whichever comes first.
Vans for the return trip will stage on the Storrow Drive Tunnel Eastbound ramp. When the area is safe for movement of disability/handicap patrons, patrons will be escorted across Storrow Drive to the staged vans (approximately 10:30 p.m.).
WHAT ELSE TO BRING
There will be no backpacks allowed inside the Oval or on the Island. All personal items must be carried in clear bags for easy inspection. Small purses will also be allowed.
FOOD – New for this year – no coolers on wheels are allowed. So your perishables will have to fit in a cooler than can be carried on a shoulder strap or single handle. There are cash-only food concessions to help you fill in the blanks. If it’s hot, bring extra water. All liquids must be carried in sealed clear plastic containers not to exceed 2 liters in size. Paper plates, plastic ware (silverware is not permitted), and napkins are all optional as well. A small trash bag might also come in handy.
FUN – If you’re spending the day, card games, books, Frisbee, sports equipment, etc. are all good to pass the time.
COMFORT – Sunscreen, bug spray, blankets (10×12 foot maximum), chairs (foldable or beach-style only). Pop-up tents are allowed during the day, but must be 10×10 or smaller and must come down at 6 pm.
THE SHOW – Camera & Binoculars… and maybe some earplugs for the little ones. Don’t forget your American flags!!!
WHAT NOT TO BRING
New this year: No backpacks and No coolers on wheels.
Fireworks, grills & BBQ equipment, and firearms are not permitted ANYWHERE on the Esplanade.
Alcoholic beverages, glass containers, cans, tarps larger than 10’ X 12’ and sharp objects (e.g., knitting needles, metal tent spikes, can openers, metal utensils) will all be confiscated.
All liquids will be carried in sealed clear plastic containers not to exceed 2 liters in size. No pre-mixed drinks allowed.
Pets are NOT allowed in the Oval unless they are service animals.
Bag checks are required for anyone entering the Oval, so don’t waste your time trying to sneak anything in.
WHERE TO WATCH AND WHEN TO GET THERE
Your arrival time depends on where you want to sit and what you want to see.
THE OVAL – As far as the concert goes, it’s the best seat in the house. The right side of the oval (facing the stage) is best for seeing the fireworks.
Gates open at 9 am. The line starts at the crack of dawn. The Oval is usually full by 2 pm. Everyone who’s admitted into the Oval receives a wristband allowing access in and out of the secured area. Reserving large areas in the Oval is not allowed.
THE ISLAND LAGOON The Island Lagoon will also be a secured area this year.
OUTSIDE THE OVAL AND LAGOON AND ALONG THE CHARLES RIVER – Speakers are set up along the Charles (Boston and Cambridge-side) so you’ll be able to listen to the concert even if you can’t see it. There are quite a few trees that can block your view of the fireworks show. Crowds close to the Oval typically swell by 4:30 pm and become impassable by 6:30 pm. Further down the river, most of the prime real estate typically gets scooped up before show time at 7:30 pm. If you’re savvy, you can still find spots without totally obstructed views before 8:30 pm.
THE BRIDGES (Longfellow, and BU) – New this year: The Mass Ave. Bridge is OFF-LIMITS to the public. Only half of the Longfellow Bridge will be open.
MEMORIAL DRIVE/CAMBRIDGE-SIDE – Cambridge-side features speaker towers, food concessions and restrooms.
ON A BOAT – One way to beat the crowds is to park in the Charles River. Many boaters arrive early in the day and then stay overnight right on the river.
Note: Fireworks produce smoke. Wind direction (or lack thereof) can adversely affect viewing at any of the above locations.
Everything is an hour earlier this year! The concert begins at 7:30 pm. The fireworks display goes from 9:30 pm to 10 pm.
OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION
- There are about 350 portable restrooms… for 500,000 people.
- Avoid the bathroom after 6 pm. It gets crowded.
- Bikes can be both a good and bad idea. When you get close, navigating the crowds with a bike can be a headache. On your way out though, once you break through the crowds, getting out of dodge is a breeze. Storrow Drive is closed down, so there’s plenty of room to ride.
- Watch it on WBZ-TV starting at 7 p.m.
- Listen to it on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 or CBSBoston.com.
- If you just can’t deal with the crowds, but want to be there in person, the Boston Pops hold a rehearsal concert on July 3rd at 7:30 p.m. Only about 50,000 people show up and there’s plenty of room to mull around. The downside is there are no fireworks.