By Courtney Scott, on June 10, 2016

Fourth of July in New York City

As Fourth of July inches closer, preparations are underway for fireworks displays big and small.  Perhaps the most famous Independence Day celebration happens every year in my own backyard, New York City. The Big Apple is home to the spectacular Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks. It’s the fourth largest fireworks display in the United States, and it will be even more exciting this year since 2016 marks the 40th anniversary.

As a kid, I used to watch the fireworks on television and dream about being under the bright lights in the big city. Now that I’m living here, I figure it’s my duty to share my tips and tricks on making the most of July Fourth in New York City.

The Essential Details

While the location of the fireworks changes from year to year, the East River has been the location for the past several years. Four barges will be set up along the river from around South Street Seaport up to midtown Manhattan which means you have opportunities to see the fireworks from Manhattan’s East Side, Long Island City, Queens, and Brooklyn. The show lasts about 30 minutes and begins just before 9:30 p.m.

Getting There

Fourth of July in New York City means big crowds and lots of traffic. Trains, subways, and walking will be the best way to navigate the city over July Fourth weekend. The Long Island Railroad and Amtrak arrive at Penn Station, while the Metro-North railroad arrives at Grand Central Terminal. Once you’re in Manhattan, the subway is the most affordable way to get from place to place, even to Brooklyn. A single ride subway ticket costs US$3. Uber is another good option if you prefer to stay above ground but be aware of surge pricing and traffic jams.

Where to See the Fireworks

As night falls on the Fourth of July, the sky over Manhattan’s East River will begin to dazzle like nothing you’ve seen before. I prefer to watch the fireworks from Brooklyn so that you have Manhattan as your backdrop. Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Brooklyn Promenade are two prime spots to view the fireworks. Get there early and you can enjoy a picnic and a beautiful sunset. On the Manhattan side, head to iconic South Street Seaport for incredible views of the fireworks and the Brooklyn Bridge.

For fireworks 2.0, download the Makelight app to watch an illuminated performance on your mobile device perfectly in sync with the Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks.

Where to Stay

If seeing the fireworks from the privacy of your own hotel suite is more your style you can book the duplex suite at the Hotel Indigo Lower East Side. It’s a luxury two-story escape on the 25th and 26th floors with insane views of the New York City skyline.

Other hotels with rooftop views of the fireworks include the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Penthouse 808 at the Ravel Hotel in Long Island City.

Other Things to Do

Max out your summer weekend in New York City with a full itinerary of activities.  Three of my favorite parks for picnics are Central Park, Prospect Park, and McCarren Park. For a beach day, head to nearby Long Beach, or make a day of it and go surfing in Montauk. Summer in New York City also means outdoor concerts, farmers’ markets, and al fresco dining, so you’ll have no shortage of exciting urban adventures to be had.

What are the best Fourth of July fireworks you’ve ever seen?