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May 16, 2011 05:23 PM

4th of July in Boston

I will be attending this year's Pops concert on the Esplanade. I plan on bringing a picnic lunch and would like to explore the Back Bay/Beacon Hill/downtown areas for dinner time prior to the 8 pm concert. Are there non chain restaurants that will be open on the 4th? I'm thinking of a timeframe from 4 pm - 7 pm. TIA.

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  1. 4th of July is huge in Boston. There will definitely be restaurants open, as well as special holiday food like Chowderfest and a Schooner cookout, according to Once the holiday gets closer, will probably post a rundown at or on their main page.

    The Esplanade is a total zoo, but there's always someplace to settle with a picnic lunch. if your heart is set on seeing the Pops, you're going to have to plan to get there when they open (6am?) and spend the entire day there. If you just want to see fireworks, you can head towards the water closer to 8, but it will be crowded, and stay away from the Hatch Shell, because it's wall to wall people around fireworks time. They do sell food around the Hatch Shell, just convenience sort of stuff.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Chris VR

      Thanks very much for the links. They are very helpful. When will they have the Chowderfest judging?

      1. re: TravellingFoodie

        I *think* it's on the 4th. I've never actually gone so I'm just not sure.

      2. Keep in mind that people arrive many hours in advance to claim a patch of grass. There's little or no chance of being able to arrive at 7 pm and find any space.

        1. If you're not getting there until 7, there is simply no way you will get onto the Esplanade. Sorry.

          At that point, your best bet will be to walk across the Harvard/Mass Ave bridge and find a spot to spread out on the Cambridge side of the river. There will be speakers and occasional video screens, so you'll be able to hear the music.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Jenny Ondioline

            Thanks for the suggestions. I will be arriving @ noon to try to get a spot and spend the day on the Esplanade until the concert and fireworks. Is noon a good time to arrive to get a spot?

            1. re: TravellingFoodie

              Well, the Esplanade is a big place (see ) If you set up down by the Harvard Bridge, for example, I don't think you'd have a problem around noon, and still get a good view of the fireworks (which are set up on barges on the river between the Harvard and Longfellow bridges). From there, you're also pretty handy to Kenmore Square and Island Creek Oyster Bar, which is a perfect place for a taste of Boston... I can't imagine they'd be closed on the 4th. If you want to be closer to the Hatch Shell, you need to get there earlier if you want to be on the water. People will set up blankets with tents, and even little picket fences to stake out their land, especially right on the riverbank. If you don't mind not getting a spot right on the river or by Hatch Shell, noon should be fine, and once you stake out your spot with a blanket and such, people are pretty good about respecting it, so you can go off and wander. This discussion is probably ranging a bit off topic for Chowhound, though.

              Island Creek Oyster Bar
              500 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

              1. re: Chris VR

                Also, keep in mind we're talking over 1/2 million folks. Alcoholic beverages, blankets larger than 5 feet by 7 feet, glass containers, sharp pointy objects like knitting needles & can openers are banned. Something waterproof under your blanket, sunscreen/hat & insect repellent are recommended.

              2. re: TravellingFoodie

                Noon could be too late as well. As others have mentioned, people start lining up before dawn to stake out a spot. Certainly if you do get in at noon, prime spots will be long gone.

                It is by far the biggest event of the year in Boston. Where will you be coming from and how will you get into and out of the city? Parking will be blocked off in some areas, and therefore hard to come by in others. Mass transit will be mobbed. I used to come in from the north and park upriver and paddle canoes/kayaks down to watch from the water. Lot less crowded, albeit with the dicey proposition of paddling back with a ton of motorboats headed in the same direction.

                The actual fireworks don't start til almost 10PM and go for about 45 mins or so. You'll be getting out very late.

                The Cambridge side is usually a lot less crowded and easier to get in and out of the city from.

                Not trying to dissuade you, but be prepared.

            2. this does not address the river/viewing specifics but dinner and the area.Hope it's helpful:

              Guide to Boston by Areas and Restaurants:

              2 Replies
              1. I'm not so certain that there will be lots of non-chain restaurants open. I've had terrible luck on the 3rd, have not even tried on the 4th, but that was more on the Cambridge side of the river.

                As you have gathered from the other posts, you will not be able to eat in the afternoon and hope to get a spot on the lawn. One thing that should be noted is that getting out after the concert is an absolute zoo. Many roads nearby are closed, and everyone leaving at once makes the train tough as well. My strong suggestion is either to stay within walking distance or rent a bike. to get in and out (my method of choice).

                One consideration is that they have a dress rehersal with everything except the fireworks on the 3rd. Also a bit of a zoo, but less so than the 4th. If you're coming especially for the festivities though, it's worth going all in to see the real thing.