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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

July 4th in Boston by Matt McGann '00

MIT has the best seat for Boston's July 4th celebrations.

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. 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.

I will reveal the #1 place to watch the fireworks in my next entry.

Another secret of the Boston 4th of July celebrations is that the Boston pops do a special, less crowded, “preview concert” on July 3rd. This was the second year I decided to attend the Preview Concert. Many other MIT folks were there as well, including Kevin ’08 and his friends, friends Ben ’03, Karin ’03, and Josh ’03 (currently pursuing graduate degrees at MIT), and MIT President Emeritus Charles Vest.

This year’s Pops program featured Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Momma (from “Chicago”), and the Main Title from Star Wars, composed by the Pops’ own John Williams. The program also included, as always, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture (it always gives me goosebumps when the bells come in) and the “Patriotic Sing-Along.” The live canons for 1812 are always a big hit.

Here are some photos I took from the Esplanade:

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 another account of the July 4th weekend, head over to Bryan’s blog.

3 responses to “July 4th in Boston”

  1. Kiersten says:


    That would have been good to know….yesterday!!!! Oh well, next year. We watched from a pretty good spot. It was awesome! I am staying right next to a frat house, and those guys rocked out til about 4am! Interphasers are not allowed on any roof tops (which sucked like a vacuum):(


  2. I still maintain that nothing beats NYC for July 4 festivities.

    It was awesome.



  3. Saad Zaheer says:

    well it all seems soooooooooooo good smile

    I am glad to know all this, im not sure if ill be around next year yesterday (to qoute Kiersten)! well, I am not going anywhere, just thinking I might miss it due to my coming home in summers next year:(