Since I lived in New York City for over a decade, I’ve been to a lot of 4th of July celebrations.

Every year there’s always an expectation that the holiday should be epic, and every year my friends end up stressing over making plans.

Everyone goes out partying in the city, and honestly, it’s always too crowded.

I learned a long time ago; I prefer low-key plans on the 4th of July in NYC, or ideally, private house parties, with a beach day in the afternoon.

No matter what your style is, I’ve got you covered in this guide.

Keep reading to find out all the best ways to spend 4th of July in NYC!

Which River Are the Fireworks Being Shot From?

How to Spend 4th of July in NYC Top Tips and Events

If you’re planning to watch the 4th of July fireworks in NYC, the first thing you need to find out which river they’re being shot from.

Traditionally they launch the Macy’s fireworks display from barges on the East River. However, in recent years, the they will sometimes chose to do them from the Hudson.

They also moved the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks show further up the East River in 2021, providing a unique viewing experience for spectators.

Always check for updates before making plans because the location basically shifts year to year, though it seems like the East River tends to be the popular spot.

There are plenty of viewing spots along the East River. Some popular options include:

  • South Street Seaport: This historic area offers a unique vantage point for the fireworks, with views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.
  • Roosevelt Island: This island in the East River offers a quieter viewing experience, away from the crowds of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Fair warning, the 4th of July is a popular holiday in NYC, and crowds can be intense.

Whatever you do, plan to arrive early to claim your spot and bring plenty of snacks and water.

Best Places to Watch Fireworks in NYC

Rooftop Bars


Watching the fireworks from a rooftop bar is a classic New York experience. You’ll get a stunning view of the city skyline and the fireworks display.

This is one of my favorite ways to celebrate the 4th with friends. The only annoying thing is the bars will be packed!

Here are some of the best NYC rooftops to watch the fireworks from:

  • Westlight: Since this is on the 22nd floor of The William Vale hotel in Brooklyn, you’ll get panoramic views of the city and a great selection of cocktails.
  • Harriet’s Rooftop: With stunning views of the Manhattan skyline, 1 Hotel’s rooftop is perfect for watching the fireworks while enjoying a cocktail and bites.
  • The Press Lounge: Head to the 16th floor of the Ink48 hotel in Hell’s Kitchen, to find The Press Lounge. It offers a sophisticated atmosphere and breathtaking views of the Hudson River and the fireworks.
  • The Hoxton Williamsburg: Go to Brooklyn for a fun night watching the fireworks while chilling at one of the coolest new hotel rooftops.

Boat Cruises

Boat Cruises 4th of july nyc1

If you want to be right in the action, a fireworks cruise is the way to go.

I haven’t taken one yet, but friends tell me it’s a memorable experience.

You’ll get to see the fireworks up close while enjoying a fun night out on the water. Here are some of the most popular options:

  • Circle Line Cruises: Circle Line offers a special 4th of July fireworks cruise that takes you along the East River for an unobstructed view of the fireworks. The cruise includes food, drinks, and live entertainment.
  • Hornblower Cruises: Hornblower offers a variety of 4th of July cruises, including dinner cruises and party cruises. You’ll get to see the fireworks from a unique perspective while enjoying a delicious meal or dancing the night away.

No matter where you choose to watch the fireworks, be sure to book early and arrive early to secure your spot. Oh, and don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the incredible views.

Where to Celebrate the 4th in New York with Food and Drinks

BBQ Restaurants

BBQ Restaurants 4th of july

NYC has some of the best BBQ restaurants in the country, and they’re a very American choice for celebrating 4th of July. Here are a few popular local picks:

  • Mighty Quinn’s BBQ: This popular BBQ chain has several locations, and friends tell me it has delicious brisket, pulled pork, and ribs. They also have a great selection of sides, including mac and cheese, collard greens, and cornbread.
  • Fette Sau: This trendy BBQ joint in Brooklyn is a must-visit for meat lovers. They smoke their meats on-site and offer a rotating selection of craft beers to wash it all down.
  • Hometown Bar-B-Que: This Red Hook BBQ spot is famous for its Texas-style brisket and homemade sausage. They also have a great selection of sides, including potato salad, coleslaw, and baked beans.

Open Bar Venues

Open Bar Venues nyc

If you’re looking to celebrate 4th of July with an open bar, there are plenty of options in NYC. Here are a few of my favorites that offered deals last year:

No matter what your 4th of July plans are, NYC has plenty of options for you to choose from, so go out and have some fun, just make sure to hydrate so you avoid a nasty hangover the morning after.

Fun Activities to Do on 4th of July in NYC


coney island beach

Another fabulous way to get in the July 4th spirit is to head to the beach for a day of fun in the sun.

Coney Island is a popular spot, with its iconic boardwalk, amusement park, and famous hot dogs.

Other beaches to check out include Rockaway Beach and Brighton Beach.

Swimming Pools

nyc swimming pool 4th of july

Did you know there are over 50 pools across the city?

Cool off from the summer heat at one of NYC’s public swimming pools.

Some of the most popular pools include the McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn and the Astoria Park Pool in Queens.

Amusement Parks Near NYC

Ally and friends at Coney Island

Looking for some excitement? Head to an amusement park!

Besides Luna Park, which is a classic NYC amusement park, there are several other parks nearyby, including Six Flags Great Adventure and Adventureland.

These parks have a ton of rides and attractions for all ages. Be sure to check the park’s website for hours of operation and ticket prices.

Picnic in Central Park

central park nyc

One of my all-time favorite things to do in NYC in the summer is to pack a picnic and head to Central Park for a relaxing afternoon.

Spread out a blanket and enjoy the beautiful scenery while snacking on your favorite foods. There are plenty of spots to choose from, including Sheep Meadow and the Great Lawn.

Historical Sites to Visit on 4th of July

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

4th of july nyc1

The Statue of Liberty is an iconic symbol of freedom and democracy, and it’s a must-visit for anyone who wants to experience the history and culture of America on 4th of July.

You can take a ferry to Liberty Island, where you can explore the statue and learn about its history at the museum.

If you book access super early, you can even climb to the top of the pedestal for a breathtaking view of the city.

Ellis Island is another historical site that is absolutely worth visiting. It was the gateway for millions of immigrants who came to the United States ages ago in search of a better life.

You can book a tour of the island and visit the museum to learn about the immigrant experience and the history of Ellis Island.

9/11 Memorial

9 11 memorial nyc

Whether you’re a tourist or a local, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum will leave a lasting impression on you and remind you of the importance of freedom and democracy.

It’s a somber but important place for anyone who wants to pay their respects to the victims of the September 11th attacks.

The memorial houses two reflecting pools that stand in the footprints of the Twin Towers, as well as a gorgeous museum that narrates the stories of the people affected by the attacks.

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial on the 4th of July is a powerful way to remember the sacrifices that were made for freedom and to honor the resilience of the American people.

Scenic Spots to Enjoy the Festivities

Empire State Building

Best Places to Watch Fireworks in NYC1

The Empire State Building is one of the most iconic landmarks in New York City, and it’s also a great place to take in the 4th of July fireworks.

The observation deck on the 86th floor offers stunning views of the city skyline, and you’ll have an unobstructed view of the fireworks as they light up the night sky.

Hudson River

Hudson River

The Hudson River is another brilliant spot to enjoy the 4th of July festivities, depending on where the fireworks are being shot from.

The most picturesque way to enjoy the evening would be to take a sunset cruise along the river and enjoy the views of the city skyline as the sun sets.

As the evening progresses, you’ll be able to see the fireworks display from the water, which is a unique and unforgettable experience.

There are also several parks along the Hudson River that offer superb views of the fireworks, including Hudson River Park and Riverside Park.

East River

East River

If you’re looking for a more traditional spot to watch the fireworks, the East River is the place to be.

The Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks display takes place over the East River, and there are several glorious spots to watch the show.

You can head to Brooklyn Bridge Park for a front-row seat, or head to Roosevelt Island for a more secluded spot.

Other great locations along the East River include Gantry Plaza State Park, South Street Seaport, and Hunters Point South Park.

No matter where you choose to watch the fireworks, be sure to arrive early to snag a good spot.

Bring a picnic blanket and some snacks, and get ready for an unforgettable 4th of July celebration in New York City.

4th of July Events in Jersey City

new jersey 4th of july

If you’re looking for a fun and family-friendly event, head to Jersey City for their annual 4th of July festival. This event features live music, food vendors, and a carnival with rides and games.

The festival culminates with a spectacular fireworks display over the Hudson River, providing stunning views of the Manhattan skyline.

Wrapping Up 4th of July in NYC


No matter how you choose to celebrate, plan ahead and book your activities in advance.

Many events and attractions will sell out quickly, especially on the Fourth of July in NYC. And whatever you do, don’t forget to stay safe and have fun!


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