This Independence day, skip your regular routine and visit one of these destinations for a fireworks show that is sure to blow you away.
Cities all over the U.S. have their own way of commemorating our country’s independence, from big concerts to backyard barbecues. But no matter where you are, the night ends the same way—with fireworks. Why, you ask? Because that’s exactly what former president John Adams wanted. In a letter he wrote to his wife, Abigail Adams, on July 3, 1776, he noted that our independence should be celebrated with “illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.” Nowadays, on July 4th, fireworks can be seen from just about any American town, but these six shows outshine the rest.
1. Go Fourth on the River, New Orleans, LA
Similar in concept to the city’s popular live “dueling pianos” style of entertainment, the annual fireworks show in New Orleans involves a little friendly competition—two barges on the Mississippi River battle for your attention as they set off 3,000 fireworks into the sky. The displays from each boat are so spectacular that it won’t be easy to pick a winner.
2. Welcome America Celebration, Philadelphia, PA
For an authentic experience that will make your heart swell with patriotism, Philly is the place to go. This birthplace of the U.S.A. certainly knows how to throw a great party. In 1777, the first Independence Day fireworks went off here. Today, the fireworks are set off from the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the iconic place where Rocky—the heroic, all-American film character—ran up the steps.
3. Stone Mountain Park’s Fantastic Fourth Celebration, Atlanta, GA
When you think of Independence Day, Atlanta probably doesn’t come to mind. But it should, because Stone Mountain Park puts on a unique and dazzling show. Fireworks launch from both the top and base of the park’s mountain, which depicts massive, carved images of Confederate leaders Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis. Not impressed? The fireworks are accompanied by a laser show that features fireworks, along with characters, stories and graphics, that’s enhanced with “Mountainvision” (a digital type of projection that makes the images appear in 3D without your having to wear those annoying glasses).
4. Macy’s Fireworks Display, New York, NY
To see the nation’s largest fireworks display, head to the city that never sleeps. This show, which typically uses three times more fireworks shells than any other in the country, is for those who aren’t afraid of loud noises and massive crowds. The exuberant effects are choreographed to a live, patriotic score, which takes about 75,000 pounds of fireworks and 25 minutes to accomplish. Insider tip: To avoid crowds on the ground, find an accessible rooftop and enjoy the show!
5. Lights on the Lake, Lake Tahoe, CA
Looking for a show that’s powerful but also intimate? Lake Tahoe’s fireworks show uses the same company that does the New York City show, but has a much smaller crowd, so you don’t have to elbow your way through masses of tourists. The reflection of the fireworks on the lake is breathtaking, and the best view is from a paddleboat right under the action.
6. A Capitol Fourth, Washington, DC
What better way to celebrate this country then with red, white, and blue fireworks soaring above historical monuments in our nation’s capitol? The best part is that since no building is higher than the capitol, these fireworks can be seen from anywhere in the city—so there’s no need to go through security just to fight for blanket space on the packed National Mall.
Where do you watch the fireworks on July 4th? Tell us about your favorite 4th of July fireworks show below.
Maggie Parker is an NYC-based actress and writer, specializing in travel and entertainment. She has written for Men’s Fitness, Rand McNally, and Lost Girls World, among other publications. Follow her: @maggie_wp