Guide to Fourth of July in New York City: Festivals, Events, Things to Do

Macy's Fireworks, New York City

 Douglas Palmer/ Flickr

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 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.

01 of 06

Be Amazed at Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks

Fourth of July Fireworks
Ultima_Gaina / Getty Images

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 the area around the Brooklyn Bridge. There will be four barges positioned on the Lower East River between the Manhattan Heliport and Pier 17 at the Seaport District. That means the fireworks will be visible in many places in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Free public viewing platforms will be set up along the lower, elevated parts of FDR Drive. Get there early as spaces fill up quickly. If you have cash to spend, many restaurants and bars will also be hosting festivities. A swanky option is the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, which will be hosting a dinner and cocktail reception on its roof with a direct view of the Brooklyn Bridge. There will also be a ticketed cocktail party on Pier 17 hosted by The Fulton, a seafood restaurant.

02 of 06

Cheer on Contestants in Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest

Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest countdown clock
Kcpwiki / Wikimedia Commons  

One of the great New York City Fourth of July traditions is the Nathan's hot dog eating contest in Coney Island. Contenders from all over the world come to the beach to see how many hot dogs they can eat in 10 minutes. Last year the winner broke his own world record by chowing down 74 dogs! Of course you don't have to participate to be part of the fun; come 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.

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. 

03 of 06

Wave a Flag at the Travis Parade

US Flag, backlit by the sun, waves on a windy day in NYC.
 jnn1776 / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

In Staten Island there is a village named Travis that is older than the United States of America. Every year since 1911 it has thrown a Fourth of July Parade, making it the oldest celebration of its kind in the United States. The 109th event will take place at noon. It starts in front of PS 26 (a school) located at 4108 Victory Blvd. Come with cash. There are patriotic blankets, hats, and t-shirts for purchase. Expect parade marshals, flags, floats, and lots of red, white, and blue. 

04 of 06

Take a Festive Cruise

Sunset Cruise off Battery Park, New York City
Alex Proimos / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

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.

Hornblower offers many Independence Day cruises. Some, like the one on the Infinity Yacht, offers an open bar for grownups and kid-pleasing picnic favorites like mac and cheese and BBQ chicken. Hornblower Cruises offers a few separate cruises departing from the East River's Pier 15, all of which sell out quickly. 

Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06

Dance the Night Away at a Waterside Festival

Pier 15 Esplanade
 Ingfbruno / Wikimedia Commons 

Freedom Fest is a nighttime celebration that has been taking place for five years on Pier 15 in New York City's Tribeca neighborhood. Tickets are pricey; they start 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 American 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 (note: 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. 

06 of 06

Visit National Monuments

Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island from the ferry
 Jiuguang Wang / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

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. 

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