Even though many New Yorkers choose to skip town on the Fourth of July to spend the holiday on a beach or outside of the city, those who choose to stay have some of the best Independence Day celebrations in the entire country right in their backyard. From the nation's biggest fireworks display to one of the oldest parades, there is no shortage of July 4 events in New York City to keep you busy.
Be Amazed at Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks
Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks display is the largest in the United States and is truly a dazzling show, shot over the East River with the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline stepping in as dramatic backdrops. The Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks show takes place on July 4, 2020, but without designated viewing areas for this year. Many people who live in Brooklyn or downtown Manhattan may be able to see the show from their own rooftops, but for the millions of people who live in other parts of New York City or around the country, you can tune in and watch the show right in your living room. The show begins on NBC at 8 p.m. EDT/PDT and 7 p.m. CDT/MDT, so all Americans from coast to coast can be a part of this patriotic spectacle.
Cheer on Contestants in Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest
Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest may be canceled or postponed in 2020. Check out the official event webpage for the most up-to-date information.
One of the great New York City Fourth of July traditions is the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island. Contenders from all over the world come to the beach to see how many hot dogs they can eat in 10 minutes. In 2019, the reigning champion broke his own world record by chowing down 74 dogs. Of course, you don't have to participate to be part of the fun. Just come out and cheer on the contenders (and enjoy at least one hot dog if not 74). It's held from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the corner of Surf and Stillwell avenues.
After the contest head to the New York Aquarium for more fun in Coney Island. Don't miss the shark exhibit that opened last summer where you can crawl under the shark tank.
Wave a Flag at the Travis Parade
The village of Travis on the West Shore of Staten Island is older than the United States of America and throws one of the longest-running Fourth of July parades in the country. Since 1911, this homey residential neighborhood has hosted one of the most iconic Independence Day events not just on Staten Island, but in all of New York City. The opening ceremony for July 4, 2020, begins at noon in front of P.S. 26 on Victory Boulevard. This year's parade—the 110th—will be scaled back, with all dignitaries and special guests riding in separate vehicles. The parade route is open to spectators, but event organizers have asked for social distance measures to be maintained.
Take a Festive Cruise
One of the best ways to experience New York City's phenomenal fireworks is from a sightseeing cruise in New York Harbor. Fourth of July 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.
Hornblower offers many Independence Day cruises, with options ranging from family-friendly to adults only. Daytime lunch cruises miss out on the fireworks, but serve picnic favorites like mac and cheese and barbecue chicken. They're also a much more affordable option for those who want to spend the holiday on the water and don't mind missing the evening show. The evening cruises are the most expensive, but attendees can enjoy an open bar while fireworks shoot off directly overhead.
Dance the Night Away at a Waterside Festival
Freedom Fest is canceled in 2020.
Freedom Fest is a nighttime celebration that has been taking place for years on Pier 15 in New York City's Tribeca neighborhood. Tickets are pricey, starting at $195 for general admission, but it includes all the fun you need in one night: views of the fireworks; a DJ playing your favorite tunes; an open bar; and a BBQ buffet including burgers, hot dogs, pulled pork sliders, and of course, chicken wings. It's fun for the entire family, but be sure to bring your ID if you want to consume alcohol. It's also located on a pier in the middle of the water, so you'll get that gorgeous summertime breeze.
Visit National Monuments
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island National Monument are both closed in 2020 until further notice. Check out the National Park Service website for the most up-to-date information.
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island National Monument are both open and offer the chance to celebrate Independence Day at two of the most iconic symbols of America's freedom. Spend the day touring one or both and learning about the country's earliest years. There are different ticket prices based on your itinerary and age.