date published: July 2, 2007

Panorama spotlights Harborfest, the Hub’s official July 4th celebration  by Josh B. Wardrop

Few cities in America have the historic importance that Boston does, and on the Fourth of July that history and nationalistic spirit are expressed to the fullest with Harborfest—a massive celebration of our country’s birth befitting the epicenter of the nation’s struggle for independence. Here’s a few of the Harborfest highlights that patriotic partiers throughout the Hub will want to make sure they don’t miss leading up to the Fourth of July.

Once summer arrives, kids have one thing on their minds: Fun. Luckily, Harborfest is jam-packed full of opportunities for participating pipsqueaks to have fun and actually learn something, too. (Shhhhh! Don’t let on.)

The New England Aquarium (refer to wildlife listing) brings its popular harbor seals to the forefront July 2–4 at 9:45 a.m., with a free show called “Whiskers, Fur and Flippers.” Or, if your tykes are hooked on Jack Sparrow, bring them to the Samuel Adams statue at Faneuil Hall, where local tour company Boston By Foot (refer to tours and trails listing) sends groups on Captain Kidd’s Treasure Hunt, complete with real pirate map.

And on July 2, the whole day is devoted to the young, as Harborfest hosts their 13th annual Children’s Day at City Hall Plaza, from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Organizations from around the city will be on hand to provide entertaining and educational programs, and there’ll be live entertainment from jugglers Fly By Night and musicians The Wayne Potash Band.

Harborfest may be the main show, but it’s not the only 4th of July party around. Consider these alternatives to extend your celebration or bypass the crowds on the Esplanade.

Quincy: The Adams National Historical Park hosts a dramatization of the passage of the Declaration of Independence and the relationship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Refer to sightseeing listing.

Gloucester: This fishing town on the North Shore celebrates July 3 by merging patriotism and odd costumes for the Fishtown Horribles Parade at 6 p.m, followed by fireworks over Gloucester Harbor at 10 p.m. Call 978-283-0800 for more information.

Sturbridge: Old Sturbridge Village boasts a July 4 reading of the Declaration of Independence by costumed interpreters and an old-fashioned muster parade. Refer to excursion listing.

Provincetown: Hop on one of Boston’s high-speed ferries and take in July 4 festivities—including a parade and fireworks—in this town at the tip of Cape Cod. Refer to excursion listing.

With so much of America’s fight for freedom having happened around historic Boston Harbor, it’s hardly surprising that many of the activities on Independence Day involve getting out on the water in one way or another. Check out these ways to embrace your inner sea dog.

Both Massachusetts Bay Lines and the New England Aquarium (refer to cruise listing and whale watch listing) are hosting Whale Watch Cruises July 2–4 at 8:30 a.m., taking whale-lovers out into nearby Stellwagen Bank to catch a glimpse of the gentle giants.

On July 2 & 3, Liberty Fleet (refer to cruise listing) welcomes guests aboard the Liberty Clipper for Tall Ship Sails, beginning at noon, departing from Central Wharf. Rabblerousers-in-training can also hop on the Clipper daily at 3 p.m. (July 2–4) to partake in a re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party, throwing overpriced tea into the harbor and firing off cannons.

And on July 4, Boston’s favorite ship—the USS Constitution—springs into action, as “Old Ironsides” honors the nation with an 11 a.m. Turn-Around Cruise through Boston Harbor, complete with 21-gun salute. Call 617-242-5671 for more information.

Of course, many visitors to the Hub looking to celebrate Independence Day cram in all their Harborfest activities by July 3—because they plan to spend the big day itself picnicking on the Charles River Esplanade and staking a claim for the best possible spot to watch the Boston Pops perform their July 4 spectacular at the Hatch Shell, a tradition that dates back to 1924. The event traditionally draws close to a half-million spectators, and this year, the Pops are joined by true-blue American rock ’n’ roller John Mellencamp for a spirited and patriotic display of classical bombast.

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