Just like the Thanksgiving Parade, Macy’s annual Fourth of July fireworks show in New York City are, as you might have guessed, kind of a big deal. And definitely something worth seeing at least once in your lifetime, in my humble opinion. But Katie, you ask me, with eight million (in 2017) New York City residents and roughly 65 MILLION tourists a year, how am I even going to see the dang things?
Well, for one, most of the locals don’t seem to want to battle traffic, crowds and tourists. So that just leaves… you to do it. But, if you consider some of my tips I’m about to lay out here, I think you’ll have an easier time navigating the hubbub and will actually – gasp – HAVE A GOOD TIME.
Tips for a Fun Fourth Fireworks Experience
- It’s freeeeeeeeeeeeeee. That is, if you go to the fireworks viewing stations that are laid out specifically for the event. (Plenty of hotels and other venues were offering rooftop views for $$$.)
- Speaking of viewing stations, if the event for the year is on the East River or centered on the Brooklyn Bridge (like this year’s) and they have stations on Manhattan side and Brooklyn – PICK BROOKLYN. Pros for the Brooklyn view based on our experience:
- Brooklyn Bridge Park had multiple piers to view the fireworks so it was never too crowded.
- It’s a park! Easier to keep the kids occupied when there’s space to run around and basketball courts to play on.
- There are actually places to sit. Turf on the ground, benches, tables, etc.
- Last but not least, there are BATHROOMS. I mean, nothing fancy, just port-a-potties, but at least it’s something. Complaints from relatives who were on the Manhattan side was that there wasn’t an easily accessible bathroom anywhere.
- Continuing the pro-Brooklyn for fireworks viewing thread, you can get there pretty easily by subway. It’ll be much cheaper and faster than attempting to rideshare, especially with traffic.
- When they say get there at least a couple hours before show time, they mean it. You’ll get a better seat if you get there early, plus when the pier stations started reaching capacity, they started closing off the entrances for safety reasons. IMPORTANT NOTE: They are SUPER serious about safety, so if police/security has closed off an entrance and you’re thinking about leaving an area, check with them to make sure you can get back in.
- I’m sure you already know this, but it bears repeating – cell service can (and DID) get spotty when there’s crowds around so always know where your people are at and stick together!
Things to Bring (Or Wear)
Keeping in mind that they did a quick bag check when we were walking to Brooklyn Bridge Park, I think I still would have wanted to come a little better prepared with the things below.
- Food! Double check what’s allowed at the viewing stations (I just searched for the event at Brooklyn Bridge Park on the Googs and found a super helpful guide), but it seems like most food and drink is welcome EXCEPT for alcohol. Some people brought snacks, some families made a huge event of it complete with serving trays, coffee carafes, etc. There also are usually a bunch of vendors outside the area selling food and beverages.
- Something to sit on! People brought chairs and blankets to relax on, or even a jacket will do.
- Games! Maybe a deck of cards to help pass the time before the show starts.
- Comfy clothes and shoes. It’s July – so most likely, it’s going to be humid during the day. And if you’ve chosen to take the train and walk to the viewing stations, you’ll want to do so in comfort.
Why I Enjoyed the Show (And Am Pushing the Brooklyn Side So Hard)
Despite my hesitation and worries about how difficult it might be to see the fireworks, it was actually a wonderful time. Getting to Brooklyn Bridge Park was easy and so was getting swept up in all the excitement. Kids ran around laughing with their friends and waved at helicopters flying by. People ‘ooh-ed’ and ‘ahh-ed’ at the FDNY boats spraying red, white and blue water streams for their hoses. Everyone settled in close to showtime as breezy air from the water cooled down the area. Then, the Brooklyn Bridge lit up in a shower of pyrotechnic sparks signaling the start of the show with huge barges now launching huge bursts of color into the NYC skyline.
Anyway, you don’t have to take my word for it. Try it for yourself! But keep these tips in mind so you can stress less.
See ya next time travelers!
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