Are you in town this Fourth of July weekend? If you don’t have a rooftop of your own to watch from (or a friend’s to mooch off), have no fear — there are plenty of free, primo spots to watch the fireworks in four out of the five boroughs. Macy’s 40th annual Fourth of July fireworks show is set off from five barges: one double barge south of the Brooklyn Bridge and the remaining four along the East River, spread between 23rd and 37th Streets.
Sparks will begin to fly around 9:20 p.m. and last for about 30 minutes. Jersey City’s Freedom & Fireworks Festival can also be seen from certain parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn and will begin at 9:30 p.m. In case of rain, start times will be delayed — but rest assured that the show will go on.
Pro tip: It’s generally easier to see fireworks from low-rise Brooklyn and Queens than it is from within Manhattan. See our picks for the best (free!) places to watch below.
South Street Seaport | Financial District
The South Street Seaport hosts their Festival of Independence all day long, so why not make a day of it? Not only will you secure a riverside viewing spot, but you can dabble in all the festival has to offer, including live music, an exhibit by The Parsons School of Design, family programming, and Seaport Smorgasburg, which now includes an outdoor bar. What better way to celebrate America than by day-drinking and eating to your heart’s content until the fireworks start? Designated viewing areas include the FDR via Dover Street, with less stellar views from Fulton Street and Peck Slip.
The area between Houston Street and Midtown East is a great spot for viewing; access to the highway opens around 7 p.m. with entry points at Houston, 23rd, 34th and 42nd Streets. The elevated portion of the FDR Drive is also an official viewing site, with entrances at Broad Street (ground level), Old Slip (upper level) and Pearl and Frankfort Streets.
Unofficial Manhattan Viewing Sites*
Running alongside the FDR and the East River from Montgomery to East 12th Street, the John V. Lindsay East River Park is a great viewing spot for the fireworks display, as is the waterfront area between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, AKA Two Bridges. If you’re looking for a family friendly place to watch, Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island is hosting a Family Fireworks Celebration from 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. The event is free, but advance registration is required and opens on June 27.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
According to TripExpert’s data scientist, Brooklyn Bridge Park is the best spot to watch the fireworks. Not only are there fantastic views of the fireworks unfolding over the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, but watching from Brooklyn gives you the added bonus of the Manhattan skyline lit up at night. Access the park at Old Fulton and Furman Streets, Joralemon and Furman Streets or Old Dock and Furman Streets and claim your spot early. You can also access the park through the entrance at Atlantic Avenue and Pier 6 until 4 p.m. Limit your picnic supplies to blankets and small bags; the NYPD won’t allow chairs in any official viewing areas and will be checking all bags. Be aware that park attractions like Jane’s Carousel and the Pier 2 Pop-Up Pool will close at 4 p.m, so if you plan on staking out a spot early, prepare for hours of downtime.
Coney Island hosts a July 4th Fireworks Spectacular each year, preceded by the Annual Fourth of July Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Around 9:30 p.m, the fireworks begin off the beach near Steeplechase Pier, so grab a picnic blanket and hunker down at Steeplechase Plaza or the Coney Island Boardwalk.
Pro tip: The best seating can be found along the boardwalk or beach between West 10th and West 15th Streets. Not interested in shlepping to Coney for the Fourth? No problem. They’ll be hosting a free fireworks show every Friday night from 9:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. through Sept. 3.
Unofficial Brooklyn Viewing Sites*
The Brooklyn Heights Promenade is an extremely popular viewing location that boasts a more elevated view of the fireworks than Brooklyn Bridge Park, with an equally stunning view of the Manhattan skyline. Grand Ferry Park and East River State Park are also good options, though their locations don’t lend great views. Since these Williamsburg waterfront parks put you farther from the action, they might be your best bet for viewing if you prefer to avoid crowds that rival the L train at rush hour. For the same reasons, Greenpoint’s WNYC Transmitter Park is also a good option.
An added bonus to watching from Transmitter Park is The Brooklyn Barge, a waterfront barge bar right next to the park that will be hosting a Fourth of July party for the Macy’s fireworks show. The party is all you can eat and drink, so it’s not free — but tickets are still available.
Gantry Plaza State Park | Long Island City (Unofficial Site*)
Since the fireworks are over the East River this year, the view from this Long Island City waterfront park is not ideal. But hey, it still beats watching the show from a screen inside your apartment! We’d only suggest going to Gantry Plaza State Park if you live nearby and won’t be crushed by a less than stellar view of the fireworks display. If nothing else, you’ll have a great view of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.
The Staten Island Philharmonic will perform “American Salute” at 6 p.m. at the Alice Austen House on the water, followed by a viewing of citywide fireworks displays until 10 p.m.
If you’re attending the fireworks with an elderly or disabled person, Macy’s has a great map outlining which areas have been reserved for handicapped viewers, including the Murry Bergtraum High School Track and Vietnam Memorial Park. A full list of access points for these viewing areas can be found here.
Some of the public viewing areas have limited capacity and the NYPD may redirect you accordingly. If you have your heart set on a certain spot, it’s best to post up early.
Not in town this Fourth of July weekend but still want to see fireworks soar across the NYC skyline? Control your FOMO — there are plenty of opportunities to see free fireworks throughout the summer.
*Asterisks indicate unofficial viewing areas. While you are generally permitted to bring lawn chairs or other large items to these locations, it’s possible that some or all of the parks may close. If you’re planning on going the unofficial route, prepare a plan B to avoid total disappointment.
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