Harborfest and More: Celebrating July 4th in Boston with Kids (Without Fireworks)

Sure, taking the kids to a fireworks show for July 4th seems like a good idea—until you’re actually doing it. The little one (who refuses to wear earplugs) has his hands over his ears and a terrified look on his face, everyone is getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, and you know you'll be getting home well past the kids’ (and your) bedtimes.

Luckily, the city of Boston and the surrounding towns also mark Independence Day with parades, fairs, festivals, carnival rides, live music and food—no fireworks needed. There’s no better place to show the great ol’ U.S. of A. some love than right here in Boston, the cradle of the American Revolution. Do it in style at these kid-centric Independence Day celebrations, from the city's annual Harborfest to small-town festivities all around the Boston area.

Note: This article is being updated for 2017

Independence Day Celebration in Christopher Columbus Park
Sat, July 2, 2017
The day of free fun starts off with a Kids Parade led by Uncle Sam on stilts. Entertainment and free family-friendly games on the West Lawn follow throughout the day.

Braintree's July 4th Celebration - Parade & Fair
Sat, July 1, 2017
The festivities kick off with Braintree's annual Stars and Stripes Parade. The parade begins at the Hollis School, continues south down Washington Street, turns right onto Washington Street at South Braintree Square, turns right onto Franklin Street, turns left onto the Braintree High School access road, and ends. Find a spot in front of Braintree Town Hall or Thayer Public Library for the best views of the performances.

You could spend the entire afternoon celebrating at Braintree's July 4th Fair with games amusement park rides, and monster trucks (separate admission). Enjoy live music performances and then head home for dinner while the fireworks fans stay for a Fat City Band concert and a fireworks show

Fri, June 30-Mon, July 4, 2017
Harborfest, Boston’s Independence Day celebration, features more than 200 events. Families can choose from reenactments, outdoor concerts, historical tours, special events, and more. 

Newton Kids' Morning  
Mon, July 4, 2017
Kids (ages 3-12): Bring your teddy bear, doll stroller and Rover to show off in the Teddy Bear Parade, Decorated Doll Carriage Promenade, and Grande Pet Parade at the Newton Centre Playground. Grab your sneakers, too, because there's also a foot race. After all that fun, cool off with free ice cream!

Waltham 4th of July Celebration in Prospect Hill Park 
Mon, July 4, 2017
On the morning of Independence Day, Prospect Hill Park comes alive with pony rides, animal shows, bouncy houses and music.

Andover's Family Fun in the Park
Mon, July 4, 2017
Andover's Independence Day celebration is a two-day affair, with fireworks on July 3 and Family Fun in the Park on the 4th. The day starts early with a pancake breakfast and live jazz, followed by the annual Horribles Parade, games in the park, and more music. It's such a lovely town, you'll want to stick around after the festivities to explore the main street's shops and restaurants. 

Declaring Independence in Concord
Mon, July 4, 2017
History buffs can join park rangers and volunteers at North Bridge in Concord to mark the occasion with a reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Town of Lincoln's Fourth of July 
Mon, July 4, 2017
Lincoln's fireworks show in a bucolic setting is one of my family's favorites, but there's a whole day of fun leading up to the evening entertainment; so much that you don't even need the fireworks to celebrate the holiday in a big way. There's a family Firecracker Run bright and early, then a children's bike parade. The Lincoln Minute Men declare independence just before the big July 4th Parade. The festivities continue with the annual Boy Scout Cook Out, Town Swim, soccer, and a concert. 

Originally published June 2014; updated June 2015, 2016, & 2017

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Wicked Wednesdays in Salem
- various times Pick
Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience
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