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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 http://www.bostonharborfest.com/monda.... Once the holiday gets closer, bostonchefs.com will probably post a rundown at http://bostonchefs.com/news/calendar/... 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 http://www.esplanadeassociation.org/p... ) 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.

                1. You've received a lot of excellent advice regarding this event and the need to come early if you want a good spot. Please do come! This is one of the defining events of the year in the Boston experience. Just bring picnic lunch AND dinner. You can probably pick up some excellent picnic fare the day before at a Trader Joe's or maybe Whole Foods. (Tell us where you will be staying and we can provide July 3 picnic shopping suggestions.) The fireworks are amazing in person up close along the river. Seeing them on TV just does not compare. Plus, there is the ritual of the 1812 Overture complete with real canons. The crowd is also a great opportunity for people watching and the atmosphere is almost always very positive. Just DO IT! You will not regret it.

                  1. If you're not on the green early, way before 8pm, you're probably going to watch the concert from a bar.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: treb

                      Thank you all so very much for the suggestions! I will be coming in with a group and dropped off and picked up near Charles Street near the foot of Beacon Hill. I am aware of all of the traffic and I think it is so worth it to see the Pops! I love Keith Lockhart and I am so looking forward to the 4th! Coming to Boston for the 4th of July is my dream come true!

                      1. re: TravellingFoodie

                        I really don't want to be a downer but if seeing the Pops in person is really important to you, you do need to be there around dawn. The lawn in front of the Hatch Shell fills up as soon as they let people go, and that's the only place you really get a visual line to the Pops and Lockhart. The screens set up around the Esplanade and Cambridge are fine for those who want the music but don't want to be right there.

                        1. re: Chris VR

                          There is traditionally a rehearsal concert on the evening of July 3rd which is much more reasonable to get access to, with the hatch shell lawn opening around 4p for an 8p concert. You might want to take that in to see the Pops up close and then stroll through the masses on the Esplanade for the 4th while listening to the concert on the loudspeakers scattered around while watching the fireworks. It is truly a great experience.

                          As far as restaurants are concerned, there will be plenty (though not all) open. We had a nice dinner at the Grotto in Beacon Hill before the fireworks a few years back. Check open table as the date gets closer. Whatever is open is relatively easy to get a table at, as everyone is down on the esplanade.

                          1. re: Gabatta

                            Thanks very much for the opentable suggestion. I will look into it!