There’s only one thing America loves more than America: fireworks. Many cities compete for the honor of having the best 4th of July fireworks in the U.S., but we can’t choose a favorite—here are 11 of the biggest and most spectacular celebrations, plus tips on how to get the best view for all of them this Independence Day. This gallery has been updated.
41st Annual Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks, New York City
Macy’s massive show is the biggest display in the country, using 50,000 effects in a 25-minute extravaganza that’s viewed live by 3 million people annually. This year, the pyrotechnics will be launched from Brooklyn Bridge and five additional barges in the East River between East 23rd and East 37th Streets. This year’s pre-show performers include Brad Paisley and Hailee Steinfeld.
Where to watch: Set up shop anywhere with open views of the East River: In Manhattan, the South Street Seaport or along FDR Drive; in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Bridge Park or the Brooklyn Heights Promenade; and in Queens, along the waterfront in Long Island City.
National Mall Independence Day Celebration, Washington D.C.
It doesn’t get more patriotic than the Fourth of July in our nation’s capital. Watch fireworks burst over the reflecting pool in front of the Washington Monument. Show up early to nab a grassy spot on the National Mall—we recommend bringing a picnic and making a day of it. The pyrotechnics are concentrated in a small part of the sky for maximum effect, and the show lasts for 17 minutes.
Where to watch: If you can get into the National Mall, try for a seat on the steps of the Lincoln or Jefferson Memorials. Otherwise, scope out a place in East or West Potomac Park, just south of the Mall.
Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular
This historic American city’s display is renowned for its accompaniment—live music performed by the legendary Boston Pops Orchestra, which features—yes—real cannon fire. The fireworks are nothing to sneeze at, either—an impressive array of pyrotechnics are shot from seven barges along the Charles River.
Where to watch: Home base is the DCR Hatch Shell, an outdoor band shell where the Pops perform along the Charles. You can also get killer views from the Harvard and Longfellow Bridges, or from anywhere along the three-mile Esplanade.
Addison Kaboom Town!, Dallas
Though the Dallas suburb of Addison is only home to 15,800 residents, a staggering 500,000 swell the town come Independence Day. That’s thanks to its epic, 25-minute-long display on July 3, which uses 3,500 pounds of fireworks. Before the bangs, check out an airshow put on by the Cavanaugh Flight Museum, featuring aerobatics and pyrotechnics.
Where to watch: The show can be seen from pretty much anywhere in town, but Addison Circle Park is where the action happens. You can also watch a live broadcast of the show at the ’burb’s many restaurants—Addison boasts the most eateries per capita of any town in the United States (almost 200).
DO A.C. 4th of July Fireworks, Atlantic City
Jersey’s famed resort town annual fireworks show will be set up on a platform in the Marina District. Lasting 15 minutes, it all kicks off with a reading from the Declaration of Independence. A.C. is always packed in the summer, but 250,000 spectators flock to the city to catch this spectacular.
Where to watch: Grab a spot on the Boardwalk or any of the city’s many beaches, or watch from the carousel at Steel Pier. Most of the major casino-hotels also have viewing areas.
Wawa Welcome America!, Philadelphia
The City of Brotherly Love pulls out all the stops for its weeklong Fourth of July celebration—as well it should, considering the Declaration of Independence was signed here. It all culminates in the largest free concert in the country and a 15-minute, more than 15,000-shell fireworks display viewed by more than 500,000 gawkers. This year’s live-music lineup includes Mary J. Blige and Boyz II Men.
Where to watch: Prime viewing for both events is Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where both the fireworks and the concert will go down against the backdrop of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Fair Saint Louis, St. Louis
The 1,371-acre Forest Park, site of the 1904 World’s Fair, is the setting for “America’s Biggest Birthday Party” for the fourth year running. Fair St. Louis will release 15,000 pounds of fireworks over three nights (July 2–4). Concerts and exhibitions over the course of the fest include performances by Akon, 3 Doors Down, and Jake Owen on the #FairSTL Stage.
Where to watch: Fireworks will be shot from the northwest quadrant of the park, north of Lagoon Drive. The best vantage point is Art Hill, the site of the Saint Louis Art Museum.
Lights on the Lake, Lake Tahoe
The reflections cast by fireworks in the crystal-clear water of Lake Tahoe, with the Sierra Nevada mountains as a backdrop, makes this one of the most visually arresting shows in the country. Around 125,000 visitors head to the California–Nevada border to see this 25-minute display.
Where to watch: The fireworks are visible all over town and around the lake, but try spots along the south shore including El Dorado Beach, Nevada Beach, and Timber Cove Marina. The intrepid can even watch from the summit of Mount Tallac. But nothing beats being out on the water for the show; book a spot aboard paddlewheel boat the M.S. Dixie II.
July 4th Celebration at the Pier, San Francisco
San Francisco Bay is the setting for this dramatic spectacle, which incorporates 10,000 effects over 25 minutes and attracts hundreds of thousands of viewers. Fireworks launch from barges in the water and off the Municipal Pier, north of Pier 39 in the Fisherman’s Wharf district. Show up earlier in the evening to catch the event’s live performers.
Where to watch: Pier 39 is the epicenter, and will get you up close to the show. Anywhere else on Fisherman’s Wharf is a solid bet as well. If you want to get a vista (and avoid the mobs), climb the hill to Coit Tower in Pioneer Park.
Big Bay Boom, San Diego
San Diego may be best known for the spectacular fireworks fail of 2012, where an entire 18-minute fireworks display accidentally exploded in a matter of 15 seconds. But, with possibly the loudest display five years in the past, the Big Bay Boomcontinues to draw more and more people to watch fireworks launch off four barges in the bay.
Where to watch: The Big Bay Boom’s four barges are spread throughout the bay, so the fireworks can be seen from various locations including Shelter Island, Harbor Island, North Embarcadero, Marina District, Seaport Village/South Embarcadero and Coronado Ferry Landing. But, the best way to see the fireworks is actually on the water, where boaters gather around the barges to get a front row seat to the action.
Nashville goes all out for the 4th of July, with a full day of free music (including country and soul stars like Chris Young and Jonny P) and fireworks choreographed to a live set from the Nashville Symphony. The event draws in nearly 200,000 people each year to downtown Music City. In the past, the city has allegedly set off more fireworks than New York City, putting it in the running for the most over-the-top fireworks displays in the country.
Where to watch: Park yourself anywhere along Broadway or in Riverfront Park. For lighter crowds, look for a spot on the east side of the Cumberland.