It’s been more than two centuries since Philadelphians ignited America's first July 4th celebration in 1777-- one year after The Declaration of Independence was adopted—and to this day, flashes of red, white, and blue continue to fill those deep blue skies every July in order to highlight the glory of our nation’s independence. Come summertime, numerous cities from East to West Coast outdo themselves with dazzling fireworks, seas of parades, and tons of fresh fare, live jams, and exciting activities to keep locals and visitors alike entertained from morning till starry-skied night.
Crowds of people come together every year from the San Francisco Bay Area to Washington D.C. to commemorate the birth of America, mostly with the help of awe-inspiring and amazing pyrotechnics, along with various other holiday traditions that all allow for hot summer fun and an exciting chance to partake in some much-needed patriotism. It’s a nice chance for all of us to keep the good old values of freedom, liberty, and love fully alive and well-- so hop on over to one of these big and bright Independence Day extravaganzas in a city near you. Here are eleven of the best Fourth of July celebrations in America. You are welcome.
The Best 4th of July Celebrations in America
1. July 4th Celebration at The PIER – San Francisco, California
By itself, the San Francisco Bay Area is already an amazing spot to visit all on its own. Sprinkle in some bright lights being launched from barges in the water and off the Municipal Pier just north of Pier 39 in the Fisherman’s Wharf district, and you’ll find yourself staring in awe at a dramatic spectacle of over ten thousand effects that extends around twenty-five minutes and attracts hundreds of thousands of viewers each year. This year, you’ll be able to witness the skies sparkle with red, white, and blue all while rocking out to a live performance by ’80s cover band Tainted Love.
You might even want to catch a Shark Week-sponsored laser show over the pier, participate in a “shark selfie scavenger hunt,” or sit in on some shark talks at the Aquarium of the Bay. Do some sea lion sightings and street performers earlier on in the day for even more family-friendly fun. And for the best 360 degree views of all the action, stay around Pier 39, which is the epicenter—it will no doubt get you up close and personal to the best of the best in the show. Fisherman’s Wharf is a solid bet as well, and if you want to avoid the crowds, try Aquatic Park, or climbing the hill to Coit Tower in Pioneer Park.
2. National Mall Independence Day Celebration – Washington, D.C.
The fireworks celebration in Washington, D.C. is among the largest fireworks celebration in the United States and lasts over seventeen minutes. Lights and sparkles are set off from the Reflecting Pool, but can usually be seen from even miles and miles away. Make sure to score a seat on the National Mall for the best view though.
Really, it doesn’t get more patriotic than the Fourth of July in our nation’s Capital. You’ll definitely feel some star-spangled madness while watching fireworks burst over the Lincoln Memorial, in front of the Washington Monument, and just steps away from the Jefferson Memorial. Or, bring a picnic basket full of goodies, nab a grassy spot on the lawn, and make a family date out of the event by scoping out an area in East or West Potomac Park, just south of the Mall. It’s no wonder why hundreds of thousands of people flock over to the city each year come July to fill the entire Mall to its maximum capacity. Illuminate your mind, body, and soul by watching the D.C. skyline light up with the sounds of Barry Manilow, Josh Groban, Natasha Bedingfield, and other superstars jamming along with along with the National Symphony Orchestra. And for those of you who want to enjoy the show from the comforts of home, both the concert and fireworks extravaganzas are broadcasted throughout the country on PBS. It’s always better live though! Trust us.
3. Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular – Boston, Massachusetts
This historic American city’s show is world-renowned for its accompaniment, courtesy of the legendary Boston Pops Orchestra. It also happens to be one of the most expensive in the country to produce-- its 2013 show cost a whopping $2.5 million! The outcome is definitely worth it though, as each year, an impressive array of pyrotechnics are shot from seven barges on the Charles River in Boston. Things culminate along with Tchaikovsky’s resounding 1812 Overture, with the help of live shots of cannon fire-- the ringing of nearby church bells along with the gunfire can be heard all throughout the city! Yes, it’s the real deal, folks, and truly a mind-blowing event for the entire family.
Any spot along the river or on the Harvard and Longfellow Bridges usually provides incredible views, as well as anywhere along the three-mile Esplanade. Performances from the orchestra begin at 8:30 p.m. at the DCR Hatch Shell, an outdoor band shell where the Pops perform. Celebrate America’s past, present, and future by joining Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, and Bostonian legend Keith Lockhart as he strikes up the band for this Boston tradition of more than forty years. The over twenty-minute extravaganza is televised, but it’s definitely more fun to check it out in person. Let the fun unfold!
4. Wawa Welcome America! – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
There isn’t any better place to celebrate America’s birthday than at the place of its birth in Philadelphia, are we right?! The Home of the Cheese Steak takes great pride in its annual Wawa Welcome America! event, as it gets to roll out the red, white, and blue carpet for a more than week-long citywide celebration that culminates in a grand finale of fireworks bursting high up over the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
First-time Philly visitors will for sure want to grab a triumphant Rocky climb photo-op at the Museum of Art before nabbing a spot on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to catch a free concert by an entertainment lineup that includes Miguel, Jennifer Nettles, and hometown heroes the Roots. It’s the largest free concert in the country—a more than star studded fifteen-minute jam session featuring over 15,000-shell fireworks and a crowd of more than 500,000 gawkers every year. Head on out to The City of Brotherly Love this July Fourth. You won’t be sorry.
5. Let Freedom Sing – Nashville, Tennessee
Music City is home to one of the largest fireworks shows in the United States—an over thirty minute blowout using nearly 55,000 shells that ventures down Broadway and First Avenue along the Cumberland River in Nashville. The all-day affair includes performances by greats such as Sheryl Crowe, Maddie & Tae, Erin McCarley, and Andrew Combs. The Nashville Symphony Orchestra also accompanies the main explosive event to add further excitement. Make sure you and the kids park yourselves anywhere along Broadway or in Riverfront Park. Spots on the east side of the Cumberland usually have much lighter crowds though.
What’s more is that the celebration is two whole days long (July 3–4), so citywide party fun begins on the third, with additional shows on that day by Brandy Clark, DJ DU, and Shelly Colvin. There’s also tons of good grub and free McDonalds’s Family Fun Zone inflatable rides, games, and family-friendly music to enjoy. Let. Freedom. Ring.
6. Macy’s Fourth Of July – New York City, New York
Nothing can ever top this star-studded show on New York's East River that provides viewers in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn with pyrotechnic entertainment and the country’s largest display of Independence Day fireworks. The famous Macy’s Fourth of July celebration lasts for twenty five minutes and draws a crowd of over three million spectators each year. It’s got more than 50,000 effects, as well as a jam-worthy evening celebration with performances by Kenny Chesney and Jennifer Holliday. This year, the massive show expands to two locations and will launch from the Brooklyn Bridge, as well as at four additional barges in the East River between East 23rd and East 37th Streets. For the best views, set up shop at any spot with open views of the East River. If you’re in Manhattan, try out FDR Drive or the South Street Seaport. Brooklyn babes should head over to the Brooklyn Bridge Park or the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, and in Queens, the waterfront in Long Island City is your best bet.
Go saturate yourself summer with pure American spirit by saluting our nation along with the help of the acclaimed United States Airforce Band. This year is the event’s big 4-0 anniversary, so celebrate four decades worth of festivities by joining in on the fun. If you really can’t make it in person, NBC always does a live broadcast starting at 8pm EST.
7. Go 4th On The River - New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a fun city at any time of year, but it really comes alive on the Fourth of July. Celebrate the Fourth New Orleans style with rapturous celebrations, an unforgettable night of fun, and a fireworks show that’ll light up the entire Mississippi River. Blasts of new pastel-color fireworks, special pattern shells such as butterflies and smiley faces, and popular nautical floating shells will be featured this year, showering the entire city with a fountain full of glittering sparkles and bursts of color on the water.
The party never really does stop in the Big Easy, and an Independence Day celebration on the Historic Downtown NOLA Riverfront is just another way to further fuel your nonstop summer party fun. Eat, drink, play, dance, and be merry in a super relaxed atmosphere, all while staring at a fascinating display of fireworks coming from two "dueling" barges over the Mighty Mississippi.
8. DO A.C. 4th of July Fireworks - Atlantic City, New Jersey
There are not one but two awesome chances to see the sky light up in Jersey’s famed resort town of Atlantic City. The first show usually occurs on July 3, with fireworks erupting from two barges along the classic Boardwalk. On July 4, there’s the second, which is set up on a platform a few miles north in the Marina District. Local area hotels such as the Borgata and Harrah’s even serve as fabulous backdrops for this additional evening of festivities. Both shows last about fifteen minutes long and kick off with a reading from the Declaration of Independence—it’s been cited as one of the longest and most elaborate firework shows in the United States.
Make sure to grab a spot on the Boardwalk or any of the city’s many beaches for the best views, or to watch from the carousel at Steel Pier. Most of the major casino-hotels also have fantastic viewing areas. Just make sure to be an early bird, as A.C. is always packed in the summertime and more than 250,000 spectators flock to the city to catch this particular celebration each year.
9. Lights On The Lake – Lake Tahoe, California
Each year, over a hundred thousand people gather in South Lake Tahoe on land and boat to take in awesomeness of a 25-minute Lights on the Lake show. With three barges positioned just off the shores of the majestic Lake Tahoe, you and the fam bam will have the chance to ogle at colorful bursts of light gleaming smoothly off the still waters of North America’s largest alpine lake—which by itself, measures over twenty miles long and is about twelve miles wide. For the best views of all the lights and dazzle, try booking a night on one of the lake’s popular cruises operated by Tahoe Cruises or Lake Tahoe Cruises.
You’ll be having yourself a July 4th to remember for sure as you ride aboard a luxury 80-foot motor yacht while savoring a delicious catered dinner, unlimited wine, beer, and champagne, as well as lots of free music and unbeatable views of the spectacular fireworks display. There’s even a courtesy shuttle included. Make sure to tune your radio to KRLT-FM 93.9 or KOWL-AM 1490 for a synchronized music broadcast that’s sure to get your patriotic juices flowing! Love it.
10. Aon Summer Fireworks at Navy Pier - Chicago, Illinois
The Windy City's fireworks is held on the picturesque Navy Pier, allowing the entire Chicago skyline to be dotted with an array of awe-inspiring lights and sparks circling around a 150-foot-tall Ferris wheel. The vast waters of Lake Michigan serve as a launching point, as well as a reflecting canvas for the extravaganza, which typically attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators along the lakefront every year. The entire show spans down two miles of Grant Park to the Adler Planetarium, so those hoping for the best views should board one of the many area cruises that take patrons out to great spots on Lake Michigan.
11. Seafair Summer Fourth at Lake Union – Seattle, Washington
Come July, Seattle offers a month-long summer festival, which hosts an impressive display of fireworks on the 4th at two lakefront parks as part of Seafair Summer Fourth at Lake Union. Those with kiddies should head over to Gas Works Park for a family-focused day that begins at noon with a kids’ zone, plenty of good quality food trucks, and tons of all-American games or contests such as tug of war fights, potato-sack races, and pie-eating contests.
Settle down in the evening at a more subdued atmosphere near South Lake Union Park, where live music, food booths, and a beverage garden cater to all your summertime wants and needs. What’s more is that both parks have open and reserved seating options, which provide select attendees with the all-around best access to the grand fireworks display.
This article was written by Pamela Chan.