Every city has its own Independence Day festivities, but there’s one thing they all share in common: fireworks. American’s preoccupation with fire and brightly lit night skies culminates on July 4th with fireworks spectaculars in cities across the U.S. Lighting up skylines, harbors, and beaches, Independence Day Festivals draw people out, rain or shine, to experience the awe and wonder these shows bring to both young and old. Each city’s fireworks adds its own unique style, and you don’t have to be the biggest to draw cheers from the crowd, though it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Here’s a list of 10 great July 4th fireworks shows in the U.S.
Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular
In Boston, it’s go big or go home, and the city that has become world-renowned for its Independence Day celebration. It’s so big that it can’t even fit into one day. Not only is this one of the largest fireworks shows in the U.S., it’s also one of the longest Independence Day festivals. A six-day festival known as HarborFest, it includes live concerts, food and games and national TV coverage that leads to the big show.
In its 32nd year, Boston pulls out all the stops with grandiose church bells, howitzer canons, and more fireworks than you can imagine. What can only be described as a pyrotechnic extravaganza keeps getting bigger each year. Although the Pops Concert takes place at the Oval at the Esplanade, many people line both sides of the Charles River to get the best view of the spectacular fireworks show. The 30-minute fireworks show culminates with the grand finale, which puts most fireworks shows to shame.
Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks over the Hudson River
The Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks over the Hudson River is one of the longest running fireworks shows in the world. Making its debut in 1958, the fireworks extravaganza has built on its momentum each year, getting bigger with each passing show. Visitors to New York City often make their plans to center around the fireworks spectacular.
The New York City July 4th fireworks show is so big that it takes six barges lined along the Hudson River to accommodate the 40,000+ shells. Like many of the larger metro fireworks shows around the U.S., a pops symphony performance leads up to the grand show, with the first fireworks launching at approximately 9:30. As you might imagine, the best viewing spots, which are along Manhattan’s west side, get taken several hours in advance, so spectators will have to arrive early to get a prime spot.
4th of July on the River in Savannah
Though Independence Day in Savannah is on a smaller scale than cities like Boston and New York City, it offers the perfect historic backdrop with its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, Victorian buildings, and antebellum homes. Festivities get kicked off around 5 p.m. as people start heading down to Savannah’s River Street. Savannah’s alcohol laws allow visitors to grab a beer to-go from one of the many River Street pubs to enjoy while walking along the waterfront and perusing the open-air market.
The fireworks show over the river begins at 9:30. Unique to Savannah, many people bring their own radio or gather around someone else’s, as the fireworks are choreographed to music on some of the local radio stations. Although most spectators will be gathering along the waterfront, an alternative is the Savannah Riverboat Fireworks Cruise, a 90-minute boat ride, which includes live music and the best view of the pyrotechnic show.
Fourth of July Fireworks in Washington, DC
As the nation’s capitol, it’s only fitting that DC would have one of the best Independence Day fireworks shows in the U.S. The U.S. Capitol building and Washington monument are the perfect backdrop for fireworks lighting up the DC. sky, providing great photo opportunities for getting shots of fireworks above the capitol’s national monuments.
The July 4th festivities get kicked off with the popular Independence Day Parade down Constitution Avenue at 11:45 a.m. The rest of the afternoon includes music and food vendors leading up to the evening concert. The headlining concert is on the West Lawn of the capitol, featuring the National Symphony Orchestra and several national artists. At approximately 9:15, fireworks are launched from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
Welcome America in Philadelphia
Similarly to DC, it’s only appropriate that one of the top Independence Day fireworks shows would be in Philadelphia, since it has such a high seat in the nation’s history. The festival is the longest in the U.S., as it spans two weeks in late June and early July, beginning with the Taste of Philadelphia food event. The July 4th Parade through historic downtown Philadelphia and the tapping of the Liberty Bell get things kicked off on Independence Day.
Each year features an evening concert by a major recording artist on Ben Franklin Parkway with the big fireworks grand finale beginning at 10:30. The best viewing spots are up and down Ben Franklin Parkway, where guests are encouraged to bring blankets and lawn chairs, and can even make a day of it by bringing a picnic. Spectators start vying for the best viewing locations early in the day, so it’s recommended to arrive during the afternoon to grab a good spot along the parkway.
>> Check out our Philadelphia Indie Travel Guide
San Diego’s Big Bay Boom
Fireworks lighting up the beach make for the perfect backdrop for Independence Day, which is what you’ll find at San Diego’s Big Bay Boom. Several hundred thousand people head to the bay each July 4th to take in the beach and extravagance of the fireworks show.
Four barges line the North Bay area to launch the fireworks and a unique feature of the 15-minute pyrotechnic show is that it is choreographed to music on one of San Diego’s local radio stations. The show begins at 9 p.m., although spectators start arriving as early as 5:30. With the large crowds that show up for the fireworks, it’s recommended for visitors to take the trolley, which provides free transportation to Shelter Island and Harbor Island, both of which offer the best viewing of the show. Seaport Village and Coronado Ferry Landing are two other prime viewing locations for the fireworks.
>> Check out our San Diego Indie Travel Guide
Go Fourth on the River New Orleans
Everyone knows New Orleans for Mardi Gras in the winter, but in the summer, NOLA is also the place to be for Independence Day. Like many of the other major waterfront cities around the U.S., it too uses barges to discharge the fireworks. However, New Orleans adds its own twist. The two barges used to launch the fireworks take part in a spirited contest, a dueling fireworks competition that leads up to the grand finale.
Alternatively, the famous Steamboat Natchez offers the best seat in the house, front and center for the fireworks showcase. Guests on the Natchez are treated to a barbecue buffet, live music and great viewing for the fireworks show. Choreographed to patriotic music, the fireworks begin launching at 9 p.m. Spectators not on the Steamboat Natchez or other available cruises can bring lawn chairs and grab a spot along the New Orleans riverfront to watch.
>> Read Don’t Wear Black to Cafe du Monde (& Other New Orleans Travel Tips) and check out our New Orleans Indie Travel Guide
Lights on the Lake at Lake Tahoe
Providing the perfect setting right on Lake Tahoe, this is one of the most popular Independence Day fireworks shows among vacationers. Several barges line the south shore of Lake Tahoe to launch the thousands of fireworks shells. Many residents with boats hit the water for the fireworks show, while visitors to Lake Tahoe can get a good view from one of the area beaches. Edgewood and Lakeside Beach are a couple of the best places to watch the show, while many of the other beaches provide good viewing spots.
Spectators arrive early in the day for fun in the sun and bring a picnic to make a day out of it, as the fireworks don’t launch until 9:30. The Lake Tahoe Independence Day Fireworks Show is perfect for vacationers who want a little bit of a cooler alternative to many of the other fireworks shows around the U.S.
Music City July 4th Fireworks Spectacular
Thousands of people head to Nashville for both the music and the fireworks for the Music City July 4th Fireworks Spectacular. It’s not unusual for there to be over 100,000 people at the all-day event, which is headlined by some of best country music stars. The Independence Day Festival is especially popular among families, as it gets kicked off early in the day around noon with food vendors and activities for children. The music first begins around 2 p.m., with some of the smaller musicians taking the stage.
Things really get ramped up at 7 p.m. with performances by Grammy award-winning country artists and patriotic songs performed by the Nashville Symphony. The grand finale is the fireworks show from the banks of the Cumberland River, with the first ones launching at approximately 9:30 p.m.
Fair St. Louis
The two-day Independence Day Festival in St. Louis has been a hallmark for several decades. The St. Louis archground and Mississippi Riverfront offer a beautiful setting as the light show illuminates the St. Louis skyline. The show gets kicked off the day before with an Independence Day Parade that has been occurring for over 100 years. One of the main highlights is the air show that takes place during the afternoons, with military aircraft, stunt planes, and other aircraft on display.
Each night includes headlining concerts from major recording artists, with fireworks launching each night at 9 p.m. Although spectators will have to arrive early in the day, the best viewing spot is on the lawn under the St. Louis Gateway Arch. The event itself is free, but spectators have to pay for parking, which can be as much as $20. Riding the metrolink is a cheaper alternative for visitors.
Note: This year’s Fair will take place at nearby Forest Park instead of downtown because of a massive construction project on the St. Louis Arch grounds.
Read more about summer travel and festivals:
- 7 Classic American Food Festivals
- 13 of the Best Outdoor Summer Festivals in the World
- The Best New York Summer Festivals