Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Travelblogue: A Bostonian Fourth of July

As I get older, I often find myself thinking that most major holidays never really live up to the hype. Christmas still manages to remain fun because of a yearly tradition that my college friends and I have established. But other holidays like New Year's Eve and the Fourth of July always end up falling flat and are never quite as hopping as I'd like them to be.

This year, a group of friends and I decided that it was time we changed that. And so we decided to go to Boston for the Fourth of July, so that we could witness the annual fireworks show, while also giving ourselves the opportunity to explore a new place. The end result was a great success as we were able to have a good time, while also doing something that felt very traditional.

Boston is famous for its Fourth of July celebration, which features fireworks over the Charles River and a concert performed by the Boston Pops in an area known as the Esplanade. It seems that at least a few hundred thousand people turn up to view the show every year — hotels through Boston and Cambridge are booked by visitors hoping to catch a glimpse. From what I witnessed that day, people seem to get really pumped for the show. Our own hotel, the Boston Marriott Cambridge Hotel, provided all guests with free red and blue glow sticks for the celebration. And of course, there were plenty of people peddling glow sticks and other light-up items when night fell.

Being that there were thousands of people in town to take part in the festivities, and also considering the fact that we wanted to take time to explore the city instead of just camping out for a spot, my friends and I didn't try to stay where the main events were taking place. We actually decided to go back to our hotel in Cambridge, which is a choice I'm glad we made after seeing the crowd trying to get on the T after the show.

This is actually a move that I would advise many people to do, if they're staying in Cambridge over the Fourth or don't want to try fighting for a spot near the Pops' stage. The area along the Charles River is absolutely wonderful, lined with grass and trees, providing people with plenty of space to sit down with picnic blankets and whatnot. As we were walking through the crowd, trying to find a spot, it also appeared as though the city had completely shut down. There were no cars to be seen, just hoards of people walking around with friends, family members and their pets. And while I'm not from Boston, I have to admit that I felt a sense of camaraderie as I realized that we were all there for the same thing.

My friends and I finally made our way over to the Mass Ave. Bridge — also known as the Harvard Bridge or M.I.T. Bridge — just a little while before the fireworks began. It should also be noted that the Mass Ave. Bridge is one of those places lined with extra speakers, so that those who are far away from the Pops can still hear them perform. It was definitely incredible to hear the famous orchestra play on such a momentous occasion and so I would recommend that people interested in hearing the music do some research about areas that might feature these speakers.

By the end of the night, I felt that our efforts to see the show had been well worth the experience. We were lucky enough to get a spot on the bridge that ended up being rather close to the fireworks. And while you could say that fireworks are rampant throughout the U.S. on the Fourth of July, there's something special about seeing them while standing over a river near one of the country's most famous historical cities. As a variety of music — including some well-meaning, yet cheesy inspirational tunes and the much-loved Dropkick Murphys' "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" — blared in accompaniment to the bursting fireworks that night, I realized that when they're done right, the holidays can still be pretty spectacular.

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