As you make your plans to celebrate America's birthday this year, why not think beyond the usual parades and fireworks displays (fun as those are)? In and around Boston, you'll find lots for the whole family to do on the Fourth of July and throughout the holiday weekend. Here are a few to consider:
Boston Harborfest Children's Day, City Hall Plaza, Boston. Wed., July 3, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Free. Kids can join organizations like The USS Constitution Museum, Historic New England and the New England Aquarium to learn something new and exciting about Boston and its history. With a live juggling act, childrenís musical performers, balloon presentations, live dancers, and more. www.bostonharborfest.com
Independence Day Celebration, Old Sturbridge Village, 1 Old Sturbridge Village Rd., Sturbridge. Thurs., July 4, 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. Adults, $24; 65+, $22; ages 3-17, $8; under 2, free. Join in the fun as the martial band leads the citizens' procession as they march through the streets. Cheer and huzzah during a rousing patriotic reading of the Declaration of Independence and sign a giant reproduction of the document. Make your own tri-cornered hat to wear as you learn to drill with the Sturbridge Militia. Learn dances done by 19th-century Americans and play a game of "base ball." Watch music and other special performances on the Common. For an additional fee (before July 1, $12; beginning July 1, $15) stay for evening festivities and fireworks, beginning 6 p.m. www.osv.org
A Reading of the Declaration of Independence, Old State House, Boston. Thurs., July 4, 10 - 10:30 a.m. Free. Boston residents and visitors get to hear the famous speech read from the balcony as it was on July 18, 1776.
Kids' Morning, Newton Centre Playground, 69 Tyler Terrace, Newton. Thurs., July 4, 10 a.m. - noon. Free. Kids can take part in the Grande Pet parade, Decorated Doll Carriage Promenade, the Teddy Bear Parade and the Foot Races, followed by free ice cream candy and drinks. www.newtoncommunitypride.org
Picnic in the Park, Emerson Field, Stow St. & Everett St., Concord. Thurs., July 4, 11:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Free. Old-time picnic featuring music, bicycle/tricycle parade, puppet shows, hot air balloon, field games, balloon twisting, henna tattoos, and more. Visit website for schedule of events, as times vary. www.concordma.gov
Happy Birthday USA Family Day, Spellman Museum of Stamps & Postal History, Regis College, 235 Wellesley St., Newton. Thurs., July 4, noon - 4 p.m. With museum admission: adults, $8; seniors, $5; ages 5 - 16, $3. Stamp scavenger hunts, games and puzzles for prizes, designing patriotic stamps, making envelopes from recycled paper to use to send letters to friends (the museum pays the postage), and arts and crafts using stamps. Children can also help create a flag mosaic using postage stamps, make a collection (free) of American flags on stamps to take home and have their photograph made into a postage stamp. In honor of a special stamp on exhibit, "The Invented Jenny," anyone named Jenny receives free admission. www.spellman.org
4th of July Celebration, Dean Park, Main St., Shrewsbury. Thurs., July 4, noon - 4 p.m. Free. Includes food, live music and DJs, inflatable amusements, clowns, and face painting. A decorated bike and doll carriage parade begins at 12:30 p.m. Amusements, including a moon walk, for fee ($2 per event or $8 for unlimited-use wristband). www.shrewsbury-ma.gov
A Reading of the Declaration of Independence, Rose Meadow, Lenox. Thurs., July 4, 3-4 p.m. Free. A public reading of our nationís founding document that features some of the most stirring words of political rhetoric ever written, read out loud by Shakespeare & Company actors, dignitaries and other special guests. www.shakespeare.org
July 4th Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, The Esplanade, Boston. Thurs., July 4, 7:30 p.m. The annual tradition of music and fireworks at the Hatch Shell will begin at 7:30 p.m., with the fireworks display starting at 9:30 p.m. This year's celebration will feature New Englanders such as Grammy-winner Susan Tedeschi from Norwell, singer/songwriter Howie Day from Brewer, ME, national recording artist Ayla Brown from Wrentham and multi-instumentalist and vocalist Ellis Hall from Roxbury. They will all join Maestro Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra along with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.
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92nd Annual Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow, Barnstable County Fairgrounds, 1220 Nathan Ellis Highway, East Falmouth. Fri., July 5 - Sun., July 7, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Adults, $13; 12 and under, $8. A traditional celebration of Mashpee Wampanoag culture, featuring Native American dancing, drumming, games, food art, jewelry, wampum, gifts, crafts and clothing. www.Mwtribe.exstream.tv
6th Annual Independence Weekend Vintage Base Ball Classic, Talbot Field, Derby Academy, 56 Burditt Ave., Hingham. Sat., July 6, 2 p.m. Donations appreciated. Step back into the 1860s and see the boys of summer play nine frames of Base, that new game of ball that is taking America by storm. In 1860s fashion, the players compete by the old and honorable rules which allow the hidden ball trick, the spitter, the foul ball double play and a demonstrable ignorance of balk rules. Bring blankets or lawn chairs. www.hinghamvintagebaseball.org
New Bedford Folk Festival, various locations in New Bedford. Sat., July 6 & Sun., July 7. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Sat. pass, $20; Sun. pass, $20; weekend pass, $25; under 12, free. New Bedfordís annual old-fashioned, family-oriented international folk music/arts festival held throughout New Bedfordís beautiful National Park. Features an array of musical performers, artisanís marketplace, juried crafts, international bazaar showcasing a diverse selection of imported goods, variety of food vendors, whale boat races and harbor tours. www.newbedfordsummerfest.com
More Fourth of July fun...
Are your kids wearing red, white, and blue? A special hat? Or perhaps they created a special craft? Please share a photo of your patriotic kids! (Photo: iStockphoto.com)
Is your pet decked out for the Fourth of July? This is Annie from Wayland in her patriotic hat. Please share a photo of your patriotic pet with us! (Photo: Submitted by Laurin of Wayland)
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Kristi Palma, Boston.com Moms producer, is the mom of a first grader and a preschooler. She is a writer who enjoys cooking her grandmother's Italian recipes (when her son isn't launching paper airplanes into them). Follow her on Twitter @kristipalma.