Fireworks just aren't for everyone. For little kids especially, the loud noises and flashing lights in the sky can be overwhelming and a little scary. If that's the case in your family, the Fourth of July might be a bit of a challenge in New York City.
But no worries: You don't have to line up midday to stand in a crush of strangers and watch the sky explode in order to enjoy this holiday in NYC. We've got a cool dozen ideas to help you navigate the birth of our nation, gunpowder-free!
Of course, you can also always turn to our July GoList, our compendium of 100 Free Things to do with NYC Kids This Summer, and our bulging calendar for more ideas. Happy 4th!
1. Independence Day: Freedoms and Food in WWII — Upper West Side
The New York Historical Society invites families to celebrate Independence Day by learning about the World War II era. Immersive family activities explore the freedoms Americans cherish, the daily lives of soldiers, and warfront and homefront food. All visitors get a free, tasty treat invented for WWII soldiers—M&Ms!
Enjoy a patriotic tour as part of the Fraunces Tavern Museum's Fourth of July celebration that explores the American Revolution. Photo courtesy of the museum
2. Fourth of July at Fraunces Tavern Museum — Financial District
Celebrate Independence Day at one of George Washington's favorite restaurants (he even ordered food to go!). The museum offers a special dawn tour and $1 admission to the museum itself all day long.
After the contest, hit the beach at Coney Island, head to the rides or grab a hot dog! Photo by Julienne Scaer for NYCgo
3. Nathan's Famous 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest — Coney Island, Brooklyn
How many hot dogs can you eat in ten minutes? 72? 73? The record so far remains in the mustard-drenched fingers of Joey Chestnut, but who knows what 2018 will bring? Root for a new champ (or the old one) and watch frankfurters disappear at the speed of sound. FREE
4. Regal Summer Movie Express — Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and Staten Island
In Brooklyn and on Staten Island, Regal Cinemas is offering $1 screenings of The LEGO Movie and Alvin and the Chipmunks on July 4th. Settle in for air-conditioned animation!
RELATED: Best Fairs and Festivals for NYC Families in July
Join the Prospect Park Alliance for Independence Day in Prospect Park. Photo courtesy of Prospect Park Alliance
5. Independence Day in Prospect Park — Prospect Park, Brooklyn
The Prospect Park Alliance hosts family-friendly activities at the Prospect Park Audubon Center, Lefferts Historic House, and the 1912 Carousel. In fact, you can celebrate not one, but two Independence Days: America’s independence from England in 1776, and the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans in New York in 1827. Look extra patriotic as you make yourself a plumed hat to wear while signing your own "John Hancock" on a reproduction of the Declaration of Independence.
5. Hudson RiverKids at the Carousel — Chelsea
Make some magic with Ethan at the Hudson River Park Carousel. Pier 62 also has a very cool skate park for older kids. FREE
6. Midsummer Nights Swing: The Mambo Legends Orchestra — Midtown West/Lincoln Center
Gotta dance? Jump in to the Midsummer Nights Swing of things in Damrosch Park when the Mambo Legends Orchestra performs on the 4th. The evening includes a dance lesson at 6:30pm.
7. Big Onion Walking Tour: Revolutionary New York — Financial District
New York’s Revolutionary era is often hidden behind modern buildings and obscure signs, but Big Onion Tours peel back the layers in a perfect 4th of July hike for kids who don't mind meandering. Visit the site where the Declaration of Independence was first read to a New York audience, the graves of Revolutionary War General Richard Montgomery and first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, the site of President George Washington’s Inaugural Address, Fraunces Tavern, and the target of the Stamp Act mob in Bowling Green.
8. Louis Armstrong's Birthday Bash — Jackson Heights/Corona, Queens
Celebrate Satchmo's 118th birthday is his lovely home in Queens. Free birthday cake is on the menu!
9. Travis Parade — Travis, Staten Island
The colonial-era Staten Island neighborhood of Travis hosts one of the oldest consecutive Independence Day celebrations in the United States. And if you love an old-fashioned, small town parade complete with fire trucks and floats, this can't be beat. The festivities start at noon with a ceremony at the reviewing stand, then the marching begins! FREE
10.Wildman Steve Brill's Hunt for Milky Mushrooms — Kew Gardens, Queens
Wildman Steve Brill leads an Independence Day foraging tour of Forest Park, looking for wild delicacies like spicy hedge mustard, common plantain, which makes outstanding vegetable chips, and lemony wood sorrel, along with sassafras and sweet cicely—and milky mushrooms!
RELATED: 100 Free Things to Do with Kids in NYC This Summer
Explore the depths of the ocean in the immersive experience Ocean Odyssey. Photo courtesy of National Geographic
11. Red, White and the Deep Blue Sea — Midtown West
National Geographic Encounter takes visitors on an immersive adventure across the ocean, from the South Pacific to the coast of California, all without getting wet. Manhattan’s best beach might just be right in the heart of Times Square—and for the 4th, there's a special 2-for-1 ticket deal. Take advantage.
Take a super fast thrill ride past the Statue of Liberty on The Beast. Photo by NYCgo
12. Boat Rides around Manhattan and Beyond — Citywide
Break the heat with a ride on the waves. NYC offers a delicious variety of boating fun, from speedboats to ferries. Salute the Stature of Liberty as you pass by, however you travel!