Macy's July 4th Fireworks 2021: Where to See Them in NYC

The nation’s largest Independence Day celebration is back live from New York City.
The nation’s largest Independence Day celebration is back live from New York City.

Macy's annual July 4th fireworks show makes a triumphant return to the skies over in New York City in 2021. An annual unforgettable highlight of the summer, Macy's put on abbreviated surprise shows in 2020 but returns in a big way this Independence Day. On Sunday, July 4, 2021, fireworks will explode in the sky over the East River in Midtown Manhattan, with more than 65,000 shells lighting up the night sky.

Spectators should be able to see the fireworks from many neighborhoods in Midtown Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn and Queens. Official public viewing from the elevated portions of the FDR requires proof of vaccination. If you're hoping to watch Macy's 4th of July Fireworks live, it's never too early to start planning your viewing strategy.

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While you don't need to spend a penny to see the sparklers, 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.

What You Need to Know About Macy's July 4th Fireworks

Macy's 45th Annual 4th of July Fireworks take place over the East River with five barges centered in Midtown Manhattan. The show usually begins around 9:25pm and lasts approximately 25 minutes. In the event of rain, the start time could be delayed.

Meant to celebrate America's everyday heroes and the country's resilience during the pandemic, the celebration includes myriad pyrotechnic effects from Pyro Spectaculars by Souza. Among the highlights of the multi-colored spectacle are fireworks shaped like rainbows, blue jellyfish with patriotic tentacles, and red, white, and blue waterfalls streaking through the night sky. The planned highlight is Macy's Golden Mile: Thousands of golden-hued shells will illuminate the night sky, simultaneously creating a mile-long cascade of metallic splendor soaring more than 1,000 feet in the air.

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, tune into 1010 WINS-AM radio to hear the synchronized soundtrack. This year is an ode to the hero within, and you'll hear patriotic classics like The Star-Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful, plus Lift Every Voice and Sing. Tori Kelly's rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone accompanies the Golden Mile moment.

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Viewing for verified fully vaccinated spectators is available on elevated portions of the FDR Drive in Manhattan 

Best July 4th Fireworks Viewing Locations

This year, there will be five barges, with a viewing area concentrated around the East River in Midtown.

Macy's lists the official viewing sites for fully vaccinated spectators—proof required—as the elevated portions of the FDR. Entry is controlled by the NYPD, and authorized access points are at East 23rd Street, East 34th Street, and East 42nd Streets. In addition, special needs/ADA access is available at the 34th Street entrance.

Spectators who are not fully vaccinated—which likely includes most families with young children—can vie for viewing spots along the Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan waterfronts. The caveat, of course, is that plans can change as the public health situation evolves, so bookmark Macy's site to double-check access points closer to the holiday.

Take note: It's possible some or all of these viewing locations will 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.

Because this information sometimes changes at the last minute, make sure you check the 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!

A version of this post was published in 2018; it is updated annually.

Photos by Kent Miller for Macy's

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