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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

Boston’s 4th of July by Matt McGann '00

Boston has arguably the best 4th of July festivities in the country, and MIT has a front row seat.

Boston has arguably the best 4th of July festivities in the country, and MIT has a front row seat.

Each year on July 4th, a concert by the Boston Pops is combined with an amazing fireworks show, and is televised nationwide (10pm et/pt on CBS). The concert occurs at Boston’s Hatch Shell, a concert venue on the Esplanade, a nice park along the Charles River, which separates Boston from Cambridge and MIT. The fireworks barge is moored in the middle of the Charles River, across from MIT. See the graphic I made below:

Okay, so I’m not much with Photoshop, but you can see the barge is right in front of MIT, approximately in front of the Sailing Pavilion and Walker Memorial. Over the years, I’ve watched the fireworks from many locations on and around campus, including the Baker House and Senior House dormitories. But where are the best (legal) spots, you might ask? In my opinion, they are:

5. MIT dormitory roofdecks, notably Senior House, McCormick Hall, and Baker House. The barge is directly across from Senior House, and Baker has a nice big roofdeck.
4. MIT fraternity house roofdecks, notably Pi Lambda Phi, Nu Delta, and Delta Tau Delta. The houses in the Back Bay have incredible views and great parties along with it.
3. The Mass Ave bridge. Now that there are sound towers on the bridge (at approximately 100 Smoots and 250 Smoots), the bridge, with nothing to block its view, and relatively smaller crowds, becomes a prime fireworks watching location.
2. The Sailing Pavilion. For members of the MIT Nautical Association (the MIT Sailing Club) and their families only, you can’t get much closer to the fireworks barge. The nice folks at the Pavilion start grilling at 4pm, and sailing generally continues until sunset. I love the folks at MIt Sailing and highly recommend that you take a sailing class while at MIT.
1. From a Couchamaran or Carboat. MIT students and alums love creating their own venues for watching the festivities.

Thanks to MIT TechTV, you can watch an excerpt of last year’s fireworks over the Dome, online.


Of course, watching a video clip is nothing like actually being there…

Another secret of the Boston 4th of July celebrations is that the Boston Pops do a special, less crowded, “preview concert” on July 3rd. I’ve attended the Preview Concert four times, and it’s a lot of fun. The Boston Pops program always includes many fun songs, like the Main Title from Star Wars, composed by the Pops’ own John Williams, but always includes Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. The live cannons for 1812 are always a big hit.

Here are some photos I’ve taken on the Esplanade for the concert:

The scene before the concert at the Hatch Shell.

The crowd gathers along the banks of the Charles River.

Across the river, MIT’s Green Building and Walker Memorial, with the Stata Center peeking out from behind the trees.

The Sloan School, Dewey Library, and Eastgate Residences are among the buildings along the river in East Cambridge.

I think the Back Bay area of Boston is very beautiful.

Two dusk photographs: first, the sun begins to set over MIT, while a blimp flies overhead; next, beautiful sunset colors over the Kendall Square area.

For further Boston 4th of July info, check out Bryan‘s one two three four five entries on the topic (I think he loves fireworks).

Happy 4th of July!


[This entry adapted from a few previous entries]

20 responses to “Boston’s 4th of July”

  1. Piper says:


    Next year, I vow it =P. I was in sailing just before I left! I love it – I’m definitely going to take it up again when I get back =D.

    Whoa, I didn’t realize it was *right* in from of MIT. Hello East Campus!

  2. Omar '12 says:

    OMG fireworks. That gets me excited. I’ll be sure to catch them on TV. Maybe parts of MIT will show in the background. I hope next year im in town to watch them.

  3. Paul says:

    Back Bay, heck yeah. smile This year will be my second time seeing the Boston fireworks, I can’t wait!

  4. Sarli says:

    why do people spam….thats disrespectful

    well thats a pretty crazy show. hope i get in to see it smile

  5. Lauren '12 says:

    Oh man, July 4 in Boston. Spending the summer in California is pretty cool, but the fourth of July here is nothing like it is in Boston…

    I love watching the fireworks from the Mass Ave bridge, but next year, if I’m in Boston, it’s definitely going to be a Couchamaran or something of the sort – homemade floating devices, what a fun idea! grin Also, I definitely never knew about the Pops’ preview concert on July 3! Very good to know.

    Mm, can’t wait to come back to MA in August.

  6. Keri says:

    To quote my House Manager:

    “Please stay off all Senior House roofs this weekend.”


  7. Dreams says:

    Here’s a question: I just went down to the Hatch at 9am and my friend and I have got ourselves wristbands, but we don’t want to spend the entire day sitting around the Oval. We do want to go back in to watch the Concert though (we don’t mind standing). What time should we aim to go back? Is it going to be impossible to see the Oval (even if we are standing and don’t mind squeezing with ppl as long as we get viewing room)? Where would be the best/most feasible place to go after that for the fireworks (since I understand the best view is not from the Oval)?

  8. Steph says:

    Wow. The fireworks event looks really fun.

    I went ahead and marked the CBS show to watch tomorrow.

  9. Rigsby says:

    “arguably the best”
    I love that saying.

  10. '12 parent says:

    I am trying to make travel plans for Thanksgiving. Can anyone tell me if dorm access is closed or limited during the break period?

  11. Sarah '08 says:

    ’12 parent: the dorms do not close for any breaks or holidays (unlike other schools), unless repairs are being done, and those are done in the summer.

  12. Paul says:

    @’12 parent: Dorm access is completely open during the Thanksgiving break. MIT’s dorms never close, although summer housing is separate from term housing.

    @Krishnan: I’m sorry we can’t help you, but this it the undergraduate admissions site. You may be better off looking at the Graduate Admissions site.

  13. Daniel '12 says:

    The forecast calls for rain tomorrow — hopefully that doesn’t happen.

  14. @ ’12 parent

    By “Completely open”, he means that security procedures and whatnot are still regularly enforced, and people will be able to enter/exit as normal. We don’t all just throw open doors, or anything.

  15. Li'12 says:

    Yay! I haven’t been to the fireworks for a couple years, but I’m going tonight– probably somewhere along Mem. Drive to avoid the crowds grin

  16. PADOOR says:

    Respected Sir,

    I am a B.Tech (Bio Tech) final year student from India. I would like to join M.S in Biomedical Engineering in Fall 2009. Please advice me, which is the course you are having M.S. in this topics and it’s fees details (per annum), scholar ship if any and other details of the course. Please let me know the GRE marks needed for admission.

    Please give your advice and details of the course at an early date.

    With High Regards,


  17. omar says:

    watching the fireworks from the senior haus roof is definitely an experience.


  18. Lawrence says:

    It is good show. I enjoy it very much and the most I feel great of the river that is just next to MIT and make MIT even great as a campus for the most bright and challenging students and people there.

  19. Aditi says:

    4th of July :D
    (My birthday!)

    Happy belated birthday America smile

    The photos are gorgeous.

  20. wisdom says:

    Thanks for sharing those pictures. I have never been into Boston on the 4th of July. Saw fireworks in New York a few years ago though.