Every year, Macy's annual July 4th fireworks show in New York City is an unforgettable highlight of the summer. On Wednesday, July 4, 2018, fireworks will light up the sky over the East River near Midtown, and this year's show promises to be bigger than ever as it celebrates its 42nd anniversary. In fact, the 2018 show marks the largest display since the Millennial Celebration in 2000.
Spectators should be able to see the fireworks from many neighborhoods in Midtown Manhattan as well as parts of Brooklyn and Queens, but 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 Fourth 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, when to go, and what to bring.
And don't forget, there are frequent fireworks shows in NYC during the summer, from Coney Island to Central Park. Read our roundup of where else to see cool displays this summer.
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Macy's 42nd Annual 4th of July Fireworks will take place on the East River. The show usually begins around 9:25pm and lasts approximately 25 minutes. In the event of rain, the start time could be delayed.
New-in-2018 effects include neon pinwheels, swirling water fountains, brocade horse tails, ghosting fans, blooming rings, and pulsing hearts. More than 75,000 shells are scheduled to burst forth at a rate of 2,200 per minute—that's a lot of whizzes, bangs, and explosions, which some kids love...and some kids don't. This is a higher intensity show than most, so if your little one isn't a fan of fireworks in general, try to find a viewing spot that's not in the middle of the action, with an easy exit plan in case you need it.
Of course you need to claim your viewing spot long before sundown. Be prepared to stand or sit on the ground: The New York Police Department won't allow you into viewing areas with backpacks, lawn chairs, or other large items, and they often search bags.
If you're not up for fighting for a great spot, you can always watch Macy's fireworks live on NBC from your couch. Wherever you are, you can tune into 1010 WINS-AM radio to hear the synchronized patriotic fireworks soundtrack, including a rendition of "God Bless America," performed by Kelly Clarkson.
Best Viewing Locations
There will be seven barges—two more than in years past—between 23rd and 42nd Streets. Please note, there will not be a barge near the Brooklyn Bridge as in years past and Brooklyn Bridge Park is no longer a recommended viewing spot.
Macy's always 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. Find Macy's recommendations, as well as our own, below.
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Official Viewing Sites
Official access points will be located along Manhattan's FDR Drive at Houston Street, 18th Street, 23rd Street, 34th Street and 42nd Streets. Access to the highway will open at approximately 7pm.
If you have an elderly individual or a person with a disability in your party, Macy's has set aside the FDR at 18th Street and Avenue C as a special needs viewing area.
Brooklyn and Queens viewers can peep the fireworks from anywhere with an unobstructed view of the East River.
Note, too, that access to viewing areas in all boroughs will be closed as areas fill with spectators.
Our Recommendations for Unofficial Viewing Sites
RELATED: NYC Summer Fun Guide: Outdoor Fairs, Movies, Boats, Water Parks, Day Trips
A crowd gathers for the magnificent fireworks display. Photo by Anthony Quintano via Flickr.
Although they've never been listed as official Macy's viewing locations, you should also be able to see the fireworks from the below as long as these parks stay open on the evening of July 4th.
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! 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, unless, of course, you have access to a private rooftop. NYPD has already announced significant street closures for the 2018 fireworks fest.
Because this information sometimes changes at the last minute, make sure you check Macy's website before heading out the door, or 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
Contrary to years past, the South Street Seaport and Brooklyn Bridge Park will not offer a view of this year's fireworks show. The southernmost barge will be stationed at 24th Street, and too far north to see from Lower Manhattan or Dumbo.
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 is not a viewing area, so we assume that means it will be closed to the public.
Battery Park won't offer views of Macy's fireworks, though you should be able to see Jersey City's Freedom and Fourth of July Fireworks Festival just across the river.
Paid Viewing Options
If you feel like splurging, consider hopping on a boat. We rounded up some of the most family-friendly Fourth of July Fireworks cruises sailing out of Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and New Jersey. There are also a number of venues around the city that will host viewing parties, but many are just for those ages 21-plus, so it's only an option if you're turning the holiday into a date night. You can also take the kids to some pre-bedtime fun on the holiday, from Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest to an afternoon Fourth of July-themed day of activities in Prospect Park. Check our NYC event calendar for more happening in NYC on July 4, and chime in on Facebook to tell us from where you'll be seeing the show!