On Saturday, July 4, Macy's Fireworks Spectacular will illuminate the skies over the East River for the second year in a row. (Those of you who miss when the sparklers exploded over the Hudson River, take note: you can see New Jersey's Liberty State Park's Fireworks near the Statue of Liberty.) But if only Macy's Fireworks will do, you should be able to catch the show from many neighborhoods in downtown Manhattan, and parts of Brooklyn and Queens.
The glorious Brooklyn Bridge will serve as the backdrop for the fireworks. More than 50,000 are scheduled to burst forth from six floating barges on the water, synchronized to a soundtrack of patriotic standards. And if you're worried about the weather, Macy's says the show will go on rain or shine (though perhaps a little late).
If you're hoping to watch Macy's 4th of July Fireworks live, it's never too early to start planning your viewing strategy. Tickets for paid viewing options like 4th of July Fireworks cruises are already on sale and going fast. Of course, you don't need to spend a penny to see the sparklers, but there are some important things to know before you go. We've got the scoop on how to find the best places to watch Macy's 4th of July Fireworks in person with your family.
Macy's 39th annual 4th of July Fireworks will take place on the East River by the Brooklyn Bridge. The show usually begins around 9:20pm and lasts approximately 25 minutes. Rain could delay the start time though.
Of course you need to claim your viewing spot long before sundown. Although Macy's says the FDR viewing area opens at 7pm, we suspect spectators will start gathering long before at the entry points. Be prepared to stand or sit on the ground: The New York Police Department won't allow you into the area with backpacks, lawn chairs or other large items, and they often search your bags.
If you're not up for fighting for a great spot, you can always watch Macy's 4th of July Fireworks live on NBC. This year's telecast will be hosted by Today's Willie Geist and Tamron Hall, and feature live performances by Gloria Estefan, Dierks Bentley, Kelly Clarkson, Brad Paisley, Flo Rida and Meghan Trainor. Wherever you are, you can tune into 1010 WINS-AM radio to hear the synchronized fireworks soundtrack, featuring re-imagined versions of patriotic tunes like "This Land is Your Land" and "America the Beautiful." Beginning Wednesday, July 1, Macy's will provide free downloads of some of the tunes.
Best Viewing Locations
There will be a double barge at the Brooklyn Bridge and four other barges between 23rd and 37th Streets.
The Macy's website only lists official access points in Manhattan, but recommends finding spots in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens with unobstructed views of the sky above the East River. Here are Macy's recommendations, as well as our own.
Official Viewing Sites
Manhattan's FDR Drive between Houston Street and Midtown East, with entry points at Houston, 23rd, 34th and 42nd Streets.
The elevated portion of the FDR Drive in lower Manhattan, with entry points at Broad Street's ground level, Old Slip's upper level, and Pearl and Frankfort Streets.
Parts of the South Street Seaport are also designated viewing areas: the FDR via Dover Street, plus limited views from Fulton Street and Peck Slip. Arrive early as the Seaport is planing a daylong celebration with two stages of live entertainment, including Ken Whelan and NY Puppets, kindie rockers Hot Peas 'N Butter and the incredible comedic juggler Marcus Monroe.
Although not listed on Macy's site, Brooklyn Bridge Park will be open for fireworks viewing. According to the park's website, the entry points are Old Fulton and Furman Streets, Joralemon and Furman Streets, and Old Dock Street. Take note: Most park attractions are closing early, including the Pier 2 Pop-Up Pool, Jane's Carousel and the playgrounds, so if you had visions of playing until showtime, that's not going to happen. The NYPD will also be checking all bags, and backpacks and chairs aren't allowed.
If you have an elderly or disabled person in your party, Macy's has set aside a few areas for spectators with special needs. In Manhattan, head to the FDR southbound lane at 16th Street and Avenue C or the top of the ramp at 34th Street, as well as Vietnam Memorial Park. In Brooklyn, enter Brooklyn Bridge Park at Furman and Old Fulton Streets near Pier 1. In Queens: Center Boulevard from 48th to 49th Avenues.
Our Recommendations for Unofficial Viewing Sites
The Brooklyn Heights Promenade - again, this was an official viewing site last year, but Macy's doesn't list it this year. Last year's entry points were Columbia Heights and Pineapple Street, Montague Street and Pierrepont Place, and Remsen Street and Montague Terrace.
Although they've never been listed as official Macy's viewing locations, assuming these parks stay open on the evening of July 4th, you should be able to see the fireworks from:
Take note: it's possible some or all of these parks will decide to close. Remember, the police have the power to shutter any street or green space at any moment (and they often do)! So if you attempt to watch from an unofficial site, be prepared for possible disappointment. And wherever you go to see the fireworks, expect huge crowds.
Since this information may change before July 4th arrives, make sure you check Macy's website before heading out the door, or you can call the store's dedicated fireworks hotline at 212-494-4495. Many streets will also be closed to traffic, so whatever you do, don't drive!
Where Not to Go
The East Side of Manhattan above midtown won't offer views unless you're up very high.
According to Macy's, Hunters Point South Park in Queens and Roosevelt Island's Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park are not viewing areas, so we assume that means they will be closed to the public.
Battery Park won't offer views of Macy's fireworks, though you should be able to see Liberty State Park's Freedom and Fireworks Festival near the Statue of Liberty.
Paid Viewing Options
If you feel like splurging, consider hopping on a boat. We have a post about 4th of July Fireworks cruises sailing out of Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and New Jersey.
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Photo credit: Flickr user Diana Robinson