A truly American holiday, the Fourth of July is also known as Independence Day. It commemorates the signing and adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which gave the colonies independence from Britain.
Independence Day is a federal holiday, and Americans typically celebrate bigtime with fireworks, barbecues and parades throughout the United States.
Although many New Yorkers skip town for the Fourth of July, New York City hosts truly impressive fireworks displays as well as a number of other events to commemorate the holiday. Visitors to New York City get a vacation bonus: They can watch the largest fireworks display in the United States in person, which makes for a very spectacular holiday, even if it's a bit different from what you're used to.
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Macy's Fourth of July fireworks display is the largest in the United States, and is truly a dazzling show. On July 4, 2019, the fireworks will be shot from seven barges in the East River between 24th street to 42nd street. Free viewing sites are set up along FDR Drive, where traffic is blocked between certain streets; the elevated pedestrian ramp at Houston St. offers an especially good view. For $250, you can get a ringside seat of the spectacle at Riverpark's annual Backyard Barbecue Bash, which offers an all-you-can-eat buffet, open bar, and both indoor and outdoor seating. Restaurants with stellar views include the Water Club in Kip's Bay and the rooftop bar Jimmy at the James Hotel in Soho, where you can catch fireworks displays from all the buroughs in one spot. Make reservations well in advance.
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One of the best ways to experience New York City's phenomenal fireworks is from a sightseeing cruise in New York Harbor. July Fourth cruise tickets aren't cheap, but they do offer a unique vantage point for experiencing an unobstructed view of fireworks. Book well in advance to ensure a spot, and be sure to be on time for boarding
The annual Independence Day family-friendly cruise on Hornblower Infinity Yacht offers an open bar for grownups and kid-pleasing picnic favorites like baked beans, mac and cheese and BBQ chicken. Those looking for fancier fare can book a five-hour dinner cruise from Hudson's restaurant at Pier 81, and enjoy premium drinks from the open bar and a four-course gourmet meal. And Hornblower Cruises offers four separate cruises departing from the East River's Pier 15, all of which sell out quickly.
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Fourth of July Events
Looking for other ways to celebrate the Fourth of July in New York City? Catch the world-famous Nathan's hot dog eating contest in Coney Island, where you can also take a break from the midday sun in the New York Aquarium and experience the Coney Island Circus Sideshow of "freaks, wonders and human curiosities!"
Those looking for a more relaxing holiday can enjoy a self-guided walking tour through Victorian neighborhoods in Brooklyn's Prospect Park or stroll through DUMBO's Front Street. And though most Broadway theaters close for the holiday, you can buy tickets to a few big shows on July 4, ranging from Beetle Juice to King Lear.
Keep in mind that special events at your hotel often require additional tickets to attend. Contact your hotel directly to find out if there will be any restrictions or limitations for the holiday. Even if the hotel's awesome rooftop bar has a prime view of the fireworks, it might be closed for a private event or access might be limited for security reasons.
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Since the Fourth of July is a federal holiday, the government, most businesses, post offices and banks will be closed. In New York City, most stores, restaurants and bars will be open, but some might close early to allow for employees to celebrate the holiday. Most sightseeing cruises have special schedules for the holiday, and guided tours often have special events/schedules as well, so confirm directly with them to avoid disappointment.