Say what you will about American culture, but there's no denying that we know how to throw the kind of Independence Day parties that would convince even the famously stoic George Washington to let loose. Naturally, picking the best place to see fireworks on the Fourth of July is the most important choice facing Americans each Independence Day. And, if you're looking for an impressive display, there are plenty of spectaculars put on by cities across the United States. No matter where in the country you live, I'm sure you'll be able to locate the perfect spot to watch fireworks during your Jul. 4 holiday.
Pyrotechnics have been an integral part of Independence Day celebrations since the country’s earliest days. In 1776, Founding Father John Adams wrote in a letter that he hoped American independence would be celebrated with “Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations,” among other things. On Jul. 4, 1777, his wishes came true when Independence Day celebrations in both Philadelphia and Boston ended with fireworks displays. Fast forward to the present day, and the skies are illuminated with colorful explosions every Fourth of July.
So where should you set up your picnic blanket this Independence Day? Here are some of the best shows to catch.
New York City
If you always try to catch the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in the fall, you won’t want to miss its Fourth of July Fireworks this summer. Set off on barges floating on the East River, the fireworks will be visible from official viewing points in Midtown, including Bryant Park and Dag Hammarskjold plaza, but you can catch them from rooftop vantage points in Long Island City and Brooklyn if you’re looking toward the river. Macy’s has a guide to viewing spots in different neighborhoods on its website.
The Macy’s display may be one of the most well known, but you can also catch fireworks shows at Coney Island and a few other spots around the city. For a full list of sponsored shows, check out the city of New York’s guide here.
If you live in the South, it's worth making the trip to Addison, Texas, for the famous Addison Kaboom Town show on Jul. 3. A suburb of Dallas, the city's display is consistently named one of the best in the nation. You can find a list of watch parties on the event's website, but if you'd rather be up close, it should be visible pretty much anywhere near Addison Circle Park.
Each year, the Boston Pops orchestra holds a free concert leading up to — you guessed it — a bunch of pyrotechnics. The event is located along the Charles River between the Longfellow and Massachusetts Avenue Bridges. You can get a close-up view from the Boston Esplanade or either of the bridges, but otherwise, pick a vantage point where you can see the sky above the Charles River.
In Seattle, the summer-long Seafair festival will light more than 8,000 pounds of explosives from a barge on Lake Union. According to Travel + Leisure, plenty of cruises will offer a vantage point on the lake itself, but Gas Works Park's Kite Hill provides excellent views as well.
Fair St. Louis, which bills itself as "America's biggest birthday party," takes place between Jul. 2 and Jul. 4 in Forest Park. According to Conde Nast Traveler, the fireworks will be set off in the northwest section of the park, and the best viewing spot is near the St. Louis Art Museum.
Residents of the Windy City flock to the fireworks display at Navy Pier all summer long, and the Independence Day show is particularly impressive. You can watch the display from the waters of Lake Michigan — time for a dinner cruise? — or along the shoreline.
Multiple fireworks displays in San Francisco have been planned for the weekend, but the Fourth of July Celebration at the PIER takes place on Independence Day itself. You'll be able to see the fireworks along San Francisco Bay, or better yet, you can catch them from the water on a boat. If that's too much effort, you can always stay in and watch the pyrotechnics from a watch party in a bar. Given how much Americans have loved beer through the ages, something tells me the Founding Fathers wouldn't mind.