Break out your red, white and blue…it’s time to celebrate America’s birthday! The Fourth of July brings some of summer’s biggest bashes around the country, and while we may be biased, we think New England is one of the best places to spend the holiday. From fireworks to festivals to live music and reenactments, there is so much to do and see in New England on Independence Day. Bonus: this year makes a long weekend! Whether you’re from the area or planning a trip, we’ve mapped out six of our favorite New England destinations to celebrate the occasion.
Probably the largest celebration happens right in our hometown at the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. The Boston Pops Orchestra performs their Fourth of July Concert on the banks of the Charles River at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade. The nationally televised concert is concluded with a spectacular fireworks display over the river. The marquee event brings more than 500,000 visitors to the city, and there are several great viewing spots along the river, such as Memorial Drive on the Cambridge side. Tip: get there early, pack a picnic, and prepare for crowds. Even better, if you have a boat or get a ticket for one of Boston’s charter cruises, you can get right under the action. The fireworks can be seen from all over Boston, including some restaurants, such as Top of the Hub, and rooftops like the Lenox hotel. Or grab a blanket and head over to the grassy hill at Castle Island in South Boston to catch them, and a few other nearby firework shows, over Boston Harbor. While you’re in town, there are several other all-American events you can partake in, such as the Reading of the Declaration of Independence from the balcony of the Old State House, just as it was read to the citizens of Boston on July 18, 1776 and several historical tours like Boston by Foot where you can walk the iconic Freedom Trail.
If you’re looking for a quintessential New England experience filled with history, head over to Bristol, Rhode Island. Bristol proudly hosts the oldest Fourth of July celebration in the country, dating back to 1785, only two years after the war ended. Known to be “the most patriotic town in the country,” Bristol boasts three weeks of festivities, starting with Flag Day. During this time there are carnivals, sporting events, concerts and more. The three-week-long celebration culminates with a huge fireworks display over the harbor on the third and a parade on the fourth. While you’re there, you can also visit the Bristol Waterfront Historic District, established in 1680.
Bar Harbor, ME
If eating delicious New England seafood is more your thing, head over to Bar Harbor. Deemed as the #1 Fourth of July celebration in America by the Today Show, and recognized by National Geographic as one of the top ten in the U.S, Bar Harbor’s festivities include a blueberry pancake breakfast, fireworks on the harbor, a fair, a parade and a seafood festival…hello, Maine lobster! The parade route winds through downtown Bar Harbor and features an annual theme. This year, it’s Acadia’s Centennial” in honor of the National Park’s 100th birthday. If you can, make a weekend out of your stay and explore all Bar Harbor has to offer, including bookstores, antique shops, galleries and gift shops along its picturesque waterfront. For the history buffs, visit the Abbe Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate, which features exhibits and activities reflecting the history and cultures of Maine’s Native people, the Wabanaki.
For a unique Fourth of July experience with a dose of history, check out the Mystic Seaport Independence Day Celebration. One of Connecticut’s great historical sites, Mystic Seaport takes you back to July 1876, allowing you to imagine you’re commemorating America’s Centennial. Events include a picnic lunch and game of croquet alongside re-enactors of 1876 Greenmanville residents. Other 19th century activities include crafts and ice cream churning lessons, along with live-reenactments. In addition, enjoy boat races on the Mystic River, the Independence Parade, and a concert featuring the Mystic Silver Cornet Band, for a truly classic Americana experience. If you plan to extend your stay in Mystic, there is plenty more history to discover, like the last wooden whale-ship in the world, the Charles W. Morgan, and other exhibits that offer a unique perspective of our nation’s history. Be sure to check out the Mystic Aquarium, one of the nation’s leading aquariums, and home to Beluga whales, African penguins and Steller sea lions.
Portsmouth’s annual American Celebration, hosted by Portsmouth’s Strawberry Banke Museum, puts on a charming ode to America, Independence Day and the joys of summer. All weekend long the festivities include something for everyone, from an old-fashioned field day to a 1940’s swing dance, and a Patriotic parade. The day is full of live music, food, history and fun, including a kids’ treasure hunt, historical garden tours and colonial cooking and basket weaving demonstrations.
For a classic New England experience, seek out Stowe’s Old Fashioned Fourth of July. Perhaps best known as a ski destination, Stowe is a beautiful town to visit all year round. For the Fourth the festivities include a day-long party, including a parade, music, food and other entertaining experiences. It’s a kid-friendly event full of face-painting, clowns, carnival attractions and even a pet parade. The annual field carnival at Mayo Farm is followed by an impressive fireworks display.
From all of us at Rockport HQ, we wish you a Happy Fourth of July!