Fourth of July Fireworks in NYC (How to Not Lose Your Mind, Save Money & Actually Have a Good Time)

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

  1. 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 $$$.)
  2. 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:
    1. Brooklyn Bridge Park had multiple piers to view the fireworks so it was never too crowded.
    2. It’s a park! Easier to keep the kids occupied when there’s space to run around and basketball courts to play on.
    3. There are actually places to sit. Turf on the ground, benches, tables, etc.
    4. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Something to sit on! People brought chairs and blankets to relax on, or even a jacket will do.
  3. Games! Maybe a deck of cards to help pass the time before the show starts.
  4. 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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  1. We did the New Jersey side with a view of Ellis island; Hudson River Park. Have accommodations but parking off I 95 to the park was easy. The Hudson River show starts earlier than the East River.
    So, fireworks from 9:30 to 11:00. The East River main show goes high enough to see with the Manhattan skyline shadow in front. Spectulure show with less traffic.

    • waitingforrain28

      Thanks for the added details, Gene! We love learning more about the tips and tricks to seeing a good show!

  2. Koki Arrington

    Great post. Very helpful hints. It’s too bad I missed the fireworks show since I felt really lousy due to lack of sleep the previous night.

  3. Emese

    Sounds like it can be a good time – from the Brooklyn side. It makes sense, I would imagine the Manhattan side would get way more crowded. Thanks for sharing the tips.

  4. Sierra Schmidt

    What great tips! I’d love to see fireworks in NYC. Brooklyn Bridge Park looks like the perfect place to hang out with a late picnic and let the kids run around before the show starts!

  5. I have been to NYC before but never to the Brooklyn area. This is a really helpful post. I’ll have to add this activity to my list of places to go/ things to do!

  6. As a New Yorker, I used to go every year. Unfortunately this year I was abroad. Anyhow, great tips! I feel is a great experience to have 😊

    • waitingforrain28

      I’m glad that the tips seem good to a local. That’s the real test! Thank you!

  7. This is such a bucket list thing for me! I’d love to experience 4th of July (one of my favorite holidays because of the fireworks) in NYC. Thank you for the useful tips!

    • waitingforrain28

      No problem! Sounds like this would be the experience of a lifetime if you love fireworks.

  8. Ahh fireworks in NYC, how magical! Brooklyn Bridge Park is my favorite view of the city, definitely choose Brooklyn!

  9. I would love to experience Fourth of July in New York City one day! I love the fireworks for the 4th, and I feel like NYC would be tough to beat for fireworks. Thank you for all of the tips!

  10. So excited to be in NYC next year for 4th of July after reading this : ) Sounds like such an amazing time.

  11. Great tips and yay smaller crowds!! It can be hard to know where to view fireworks, We live in DC and the 4th fireworks here are amazing, but we never go right into the thick of it, and we still get beautiful views of them without the hassles, hopefully, one day we can check out the NYC ones!

    • waitingforrain28

      Even in Phoenix, I avoid the really busy fireworks. Somehow its more acceptable to me to brave the crowds while on vacay. XD

  12. I have never attended a fireworks but it seems an amazing experience to go for one!

  13. 4th of July is such a special day! I’m from Denmark so we obviously don’t have it, but I’ve been fortunate enough to celebrate it three times in the States. Once in Atlanta and twice in Hawaii 🙂

    • waitingforrain28

      Wow! Amazing! I would love to celebrate independence day in another county. My good friend in Chile is celebrating their independence day this month! She says it is such a fun time.

  14. I’ve never thought about going to NYC for the fourth, but it looks like a crazy good, patriotic place to be! I love the tips for avoiding crowds and saving money (I am always trying to do both of those!)

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