The best places to see Fourth of July fireworks

the-best-places-to-see-fourth-of-july-fireworks

Editor’s note: This is a recurring story, updated with new information.

It’s time to break out your best red, white and blue finery … and maybe some earplugs, too (including for pups!).

America’s birthday is nearly upon us, and cities and towns across the U.S. are celebrating with all-out parades, fun events and patriotic pyrotechnic parties that light up the night sky.

There’s nothing wrong with backyard sparklers and poppers (in areas without high fire danger, that is) and homegrown festivities. However, if you want to see the country’s biggest, brightest and most spectacular fireworks displays, and experience the events that go with them, we’ve rounded them up for your viewing pleasure.

New Orleans

CHRIS GRAYTHEN/GETTY IMAGES

When: July 4 at 6 p.m.

New Orleans’ musical roots run deep, as does the city’s history as a major port, so it only makes sense that the city’s “Go 4th on the River” fireworks special pays tribute to both. As it does every year, the city will bring out the General Roy S. Kelley fireboat for its famed fireworks show, shooting red, white and blue plumes from its deck. You can see the show from anywhere along the riverfront, but a spot in Crescent Park will give you a front-row seat for the prefireworks concerts. Or, reserve a special Independence Day riverboat dinner cruise on the Creole Queen or Steamboat Natchez.

Related: TPG-approved hotels for your next New Orleans stay

Bar Harbor, Maine

VISIT BAR HARBOR MAINE/FACEBOOK

When: July 4, starting at 7 a.m. (fireworks at approximately 9:15 p.m.)

Featured by the “Today” show and numerous publications as among the country’s top fireworks extravaganzas, Bar Harbor’s Fourth of July celebration takes full advantage of the hamlet’s location as the gateway to Acadia National Park, with the display made all the more stunning as it is mirrored in the waters of Frenchman Bay. It’s an all-day affair, starting with a pancake breakfast at 7 a.m. and a parade at 10 a.m., and followed by a full roster of activities including a seafood festival.

The most popular place to view the spectacle is from the lawn at Agamont Park, where viewers kick back with blankets, towels or folding chairs to enjoy the show. Numerous restaurants on the shore also offer front-row seats to the festivities for those who want to dine while they watch.

Related: TPG’s complete guide to visiting Acadia National Park

Angel Fire, New Mexico

When: July 5 at 8:45 p.m.

Extend your celebration with the unusual day-after show at Frontier Park, in which hundreds of drones take to the sky above the northern New Mexico mountains for a spectacular and fire-free show.

The viewing party kicks off with an afternoon of live music from 3 to 7 p.m., followed by the drone show at 8:45 p.m.

Beech Mountain, North Carolina

BEECH MOUNTAIN SKI RESORT/FACEBOOK

When: July 6 at 5 p.m.

The town of Beech Mountain goes all-out for its celebration, which takes place at the ski resort at the summit of Beech Mountain. The fun starts with the annual (53rd this year!) Beech Mountain Hog Roast, serving drive-thru pickup at Fred’s Gazebo from 4 to 7 p.m.

Beginning at 5 p.m., the schedule of free activities includes music, scenic lift rides and games for the whole family. The evening features dancing under the stars and a nighttime fireworks display above the summit of Beech Mountain. Beech Mountain Brewing Company offers craft beer and a crawfish cookout from 12 to 4 p.m. for a fee.

Boston

When: July 4, from 8 to 11 p.m.

Boston’s annual “Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular” takes place along the Charles River at the DCR Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade between the Longfellow and Massachusetts Avenue bridges. Rain or shine, the beloved orchestra will go on at 8 p.m. with a concert of patriotic classics. Visible from both the Boston and Cambridge sides of the river, the fireworks go off at 10 p.m., subject to change depending on weather and other conditions. The display culminates with a powerful rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” while cannons fire in the background and hundreds of fireworks illuminate the sky.

Related: A guide to Boston’s top attractions

St. Louis

ZACH DALIN PHOTOGRAPHY/FAIR ST. LOUIS

When: July 4, starting at 10 a.m.

This year, St. Louis expands its Independence Day festivities with the inauguration of the “Celebrate Saint Louis July 4th Festival.” Starting off with the America’s Birthday Parade, which departs at 10 a.m. from Market Street and finishes at Gateway Arch, the day will include the 150th anniversary celebration for Eads Bridge, concerts under the arch and an airshow with a pilot from the film “Top Gun: Maverick.”

Free to all, the event includes food and beverage vendors and a host of family activities. The city’s beloved fireworks spectacular, set against the dramatic backdrop of Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River, will remain the centerpiece of the event. Make your day even more special with a narrated riverfront cruise.

Dahlonega, Georgia

When: July 4, all day

Old-fashioned small-town charm and family fun are the hallmarks of Independence Day in Dahlonega. Taking place around the historic town square, the day’s events include a traditional Firecracker 5K and Fun Run, patriotic parade, classic car show, and face painting and games for the kids. Food trucks, live music and craft booths add to the all-ages appeal.

The majestic fireworks show is visible all over town, but for prime viewing, head to the drill fields at the University of North Georgia.

Nashville

VISIT MUSIC CITY/FACEBOOK

When: July 4 at 9:30 p.m.

It wouldn’t be a Music City Fourth of July celebration without live music. Nashville’s “Let Freedom Sing!” event will have plenty of it, along with one of the nation’s largest fireworks displays. This year’s headliner is Chris Young, with the lineup also featuring YOLA, Girl Named Tom, Blessing Offor and more. The free and family-friendly event, which takes place in downtown Nashville, features one of the most extensive fireworks shows in the country, with the pyrotechnics synchronized to a live performance by the Grammy-winning Nashville Symphony.

Event admission is free, but you can reserve a premier viewing spot overlooking the Cumberland River for a fee.

Related: Cool Nashville hotels to consider for your next trip to Music City

New York City

KENT MILLER/MACY’S

When: July 4 at 8 p.m.

This year is the 48th annual Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks celebration, and it will feature thousands of fireworks set to a rousing mix of patriotic and popular music.

The spectacular pyrotechnic display lasts 25 minutes. The fireworks (some 1,920 shells and effects per minute, according to Macy’s) will launch from barges stationed near midtown Manhattan along the East River. There are various viewing spots, but you’ll need to arrive early if you want a good one. Some locations may close to additional guests once they fill up.

If you can’t make it in person, you can watch the show live on NBC or streaming on Peacock.

Related: Book this, not that: New York City hotels edition

Redding, California

When: July 4 at 10 p.m.

Held on the grounds of the Redding Civic Auditorium, the city’s annual “Freedom Festival” is one of the biggest Fourth of July celebrations in California, with a fireworks display featuring more than 1,700 shells. Arrive early for good seats and enjoy live music, which begins at 7 p.m., and the wide variety of offerings from local food and beverage vendors. In addition, Redding’s eye-catching Sundial Bridge, designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, will also celebrate its 20th anniversary July 4.

Denver

Fireworks
EVAN SEMON PHOTOGRAPHY/VISIT DENVER

When: July 3 at 9:15 p.m.

Denver’s official city event takes place on Independence Eve with live music, a wide variety of food and a drone show in Civic Center Park. Surrounding the event, the city plans a weekendlong celebration featuring expanded museum exhibitions, street food gatherings and plenty of heart-pumping activities.

Washington, DC

When: July 4 at 9 p.m. 

There aren’t many places more appropriate to celebrate our nation’s independence than in our capital. Washington, D.C.’s official celebration, sponsored by the National Park Service, takes place on the National Mall and features one of the country’s most elaborate fireworks displays with the backdrop of national monuments and memorials. The annual star-studded concert, “A Capitol Fourth,” begins at 8 p.m. Those who can’t attend can watch the livestream broadcast by PBS.

The fireworks launch from the sides of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, and guests can access the National Mall from various points for the best viewing spots.

Related: Best things to do in DC for families with kids of different ages

San Diego

Multicolored fireworks over San Diego Bay at night on the Fourth of July. VISIT SAN DIEGO/FACEBOOK

When: July 4 at 9 p.m.

San Diego launches its city-sponsored fireworks show, “Big Bay Boom,” from four different barges on San Diego Bay, making it easy to find a prime viewing spot. Local favorites include Harbor Island, Shelter Island, the Embarcadero, the Marina District and Coronado Ferry Landing.

The event is free to the public, but you can purchase special event tickets to watch the show from the San Diego Midway Aircraft Museum or the Maritime Museum of San Diego, or aboard a dinner cruise.

Baltimore

When: July 4 at 9:30 p.m.

Paying homage to the city’s Black artists and South Baltimore’s diverse cultural heritage, the Cherry Hill Arts & Music Waterfront Festival returns this July 4 at Middle Branch Park, beginning at 1 p.m. and running until 10 p.m.

The free festival includes performances by Monie Love, Mykal Rose and other musicians, and will be followed by fireworks. The shells go up over the Patapsco River, so bring a blanket to the shoreline lawn and enjoy.

Key West, Florida

LISA-BLUE/GETTY IMAGES

When: July 4 at 9 p.m.

Apple pie may be the all-American dessert, but in Key West it’s Key lime pie that’s the centerpiece of the area’s five-day holiday celebration, the annual Key Lime Festival. From a pie-eating contest to a 5K race, there’s an activity for everyone, along with a vendor village, cooking classes, pool party and patriotic grill hosted by the Rotary Club.

The fireworks take to the sky from Edward B. Knight Pier, but you can party at the pier from the afternoon on with live music, food and more. You can also see the fireworks from Smathers Beach, which is a bit farther away but probably less crowded. For optimal viewing, book one of the fireworks cruises offered by numerous sailing companies.

Houston

When: July 4 at 9 p.m.

There’s much more to Houston’s annual “Freedom Over Texas” celebration than just fireworks. Held along Allen Parkway, the six-hour event features performances by nationally recognized musicians leading up to a musically choreographed fireworks display. Family activities help keep the kids busy while the grown-ups listen.

Televised live in Houston for those who can’t attend, the event occurs at Eleanor Tinsley and Sam Houston parks on the banks of the Buffalo Bayou. Admission is $10 per person, and kids age 5 and under are free.

Los Angeles

Fireworks
ADAM LATHAM/HOLLYWOOD BOWL

When: July 2-4 at 7:30 p.m. nightly.

Los Angeles’ signature event, the “July Fourth Fireworks Spectacular” at the Hollywood Bowl, will feature Harry Connick Jr. accompanied by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and finish up with a legendary fireworks spectacle. Concertgoers have three chances to attend the event, with tickets available for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

In downtown LA, Gloria Molina Grand Park will host its signature “4th of July Block Party” from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with DJ-produced dance fests, free family-friendly activities, entertainment and more fireworks over Music Center Plaza.

Santa Claus, Indiana

When: July 3-4 at 9 p.m.

The Holiday World theme park, which has an entire land dedicated to the Fourth of July, celebrates the nation’s birthday in style. Celebrate Independence Day every day on rides like Eagles Flight and the Firecracker and finish the day with a DJ dance party.

The park’s “Holidays in the Sky” drone and fireworks show pays homage to all holidays — and for Independence Day, the park adds even more fireworks (and 500 drones) to the show. Guests can also pick up a pair of free 3D fireworks glasses and a character mask to see the show in a new light.

San Antonio

When: July 5 at 9 a.m.

This year, San Antonio inaugurates a new all-day event, “Stars & Stripes Salute,” taking place at Alamo Plaza and featuring an evening drone show above the Alamo narrated by country music artist Pat Green.

The day’s schedule includes performances by the U.S. Air Force Rock Band, the Children’s Chorus of San Antonio, Opera San Antonio, the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio and other groups, along with family-oriented activities and food trucks for lunch, dinner, treats and beverages.

Philadelphia

Fireworks
G. WIDMAN/VISIT PHILADELPHIA

When: July 4 at 8 p.m.

Not surprisingly, the city where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were written celebrates the Fourth of July in spectacular fashion.

The city’s famous 16-day “Wawa Welcome America” festival celebrates Juneteenth, Independence Day and all of the diverse ways Americans experience liberty.

Benjamin Franklin Parkway is the place to be if you are spending America’s birthday in America’s birthplace. At 8 p.m., visitors congregate from Eakins Oval to Logan Circle for the festival’s grand finale with fireworks set to a soundtrack curated by DJ Ghost.

Catalina Island, California

When: July 4 and July 6, all day

Catalina Island’s Fourth of July celebration is suitably quirky, kicking off with a parade of decorated golf carts and finishing up with a lighted boat parade followed by fireworks over Avalon Bay. In between, the event features a performance by the University of Southern California Trojan Marching Band and Song Girls, with an additional evening concert in the historic Catalina Casino Ballroom. Catch the show anywhere on the waterfront, or book a ride on the Cyclone powerboat to watch from the water.

Over at Two Harbors, Independence Day will be celebrated July 6 with another fireworks spectacular. Leading up to the fireworks will be a variety of family-oriented activities, including the annual Children’s Festival, games and a dinghy parade. Guests traveling from Avalon can catch the Cyclone powerboat or an air-conditioned bus to join the festivities.

Bottom line

Whether you hit the road or stick close to home, there’s a flashy Fourth of July display and some down-home fun for you. So pick a prime spot and settle in to say happy birthday to the country with flair.

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