Things to Do on the 4th of July in NYC

The Ultimate Guide to Spending the 4th of July in NYC

July 4th is one of the most celebrated national holidays in the United States. Given that the celebration falls into the summer, it gives you plenty of fun things to do on the 4th of July in NYC.

The 4th of July is officially called Independence Day, on which the United States of America commemorates its independence from the British on July 4, 1776. In other words, the 4th of July is the birthday of the nation!

Our Top Things to Do on the 4th of July in NYC

Some of the best things to do in NYC on the 4th of July are not exclusively activities for that very day alone, but also are great activities you can take advantage of throughout the entire summer in New York. On the other hand, there are several events taking place that are specific to the 4th of July, meaning that you only have one chance to attend them!

1. Watch the jaw-dropping 4th of July fireworks

Fireworks over Brooklyn Bridge

If you are spending the 4th of July in NYC, you cannot get around Macy’s 4th of July fireworks! Every year, the 4th of July in New York is celebrated by launching an amazing firework spectacular, sponsored by the well-known department store Macy’s. 2021 will mark the 45th annual fireworks show illuminating New York’s skyline. The fireworks in New York are the nation’s largest independence day celebration, launching more than 60,000 shells to ignite the night. This isn’t the only superlative event sponsored by Macy’s.

learn more about the fireworks

2. Take a 4th of July fireworks cruise

A unique way to see the fireworks on the 4th of July is to watch them from the water! There are several cruises that have made it their mission to provide the perfect experience. Instead of storming into the crowds on the streets, you can enjoy a much more relaxing 4th of July evening. The night cruise offers you amazing views of New York’s skyline, food, beverages and most importantly, unobstructed views of the fireworks!

For these reasons, 4th of July Cruises are much sought after by tourists and locals alike. There’s no need to worry about getting somewhere extremely early or fighting to get a good spot before waiting an eternity for the fireworks are launched. One of the most popular cruises is the 4th of July Evening Cruise by Circle Line, but you can find the best fireworks cruise for you with the help of our more detailed comparison of the best 4th of July cruises in New York.

The 4th of July cruises are very popular and the number of seats are limited – the tickets sell out very quickly!

  1. July_4th_New_York_City_Fireworks_Cruise_with_Buffet_and_Live_DJ_

    01 July 4th New York City Fireworks Cruise with Buffet and Live DJ

    Celebrate July 4th on this New York City Fireworks Cruise. Depart for the evening to the beats of a live DJ. Enjoy a buffet style menu featuring pasta, finger foods, chicken, salad, desserts and more! Sip on an alcoholic beverage from our onboard cash bar. Grab the festive party favors provided as the firework show begins. Your cruise will return once the fireworks end. What’s Included:

    • July 4th New York City Fireworks Cruise 
    • Buffet Style Menu featuring pasta, chicken, salad, finger foods, dessert and more! 
    • Live DJ Music
  2. 4th_of_July_NYC_Fireworks_Cruise_Liberty_Bell

    02 4th of July NYC Fireworks Cruise

    Aboard Liberty Belle to celebrate this Independence Day in New York City. Celebrate sailing the waters and enjoy the Macy’s Spectacular Fireworks Show. All tickets include open bar and a delicious dinner. Live DJ playing top hits will keep you this Independence Day memorable along with your favorite drink. Enjoy the show of the July 4th fireworks. This is a NYC Dance Cruise. Aboard and sip your favorite drink, eat delicious food, dance and enjoy! You will get a 3-Hour premium open bar, food, and complimentary party favors. VIP Tickets include priority boarding and a reserved table at private lounge with a bottle of MOET to cheer this Independence Day. Enjoy the views of Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, One World Trade Center and more! This is a great experience to celebrate in style. Treat yourself into this unforgettable experience.

  3. NYC_July_4th_Macy_s_Fireworks_Family_Friendly_Festive_Boat

    03 NYC July 4th Macy's Fireworks Family Friendly Festive Boat

    Your cruise will have a live DJ on 2 floors and 2 dance floors. There will be 4th of July giveaways, a light buffet, a cash bar, and fun toys for the children. While waiting for this spectacular show in the sky, you’ll see famous landmarks including the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Freedom Tower, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the NYC skyline. As the boat docks getting ready for the show, the DJ will have music to dance to for full family fun. 

    Macy’s has been hosting a 4th of July fireworks show in NYC since 1958. The Brooklyn Bridge and the East River are the new stars of the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks, the largest fireworks show in the United States. You’ll have front-row seats to the fireworks show, as special firing platforms will be set up along the span and about 50,000 pounds of fireworks are set to launch!

  4. 4th of July Brunch Cruise

    04 NYC 4th of July Brunch Cruise

    This 4th of July brunch cruise is one of the newest boat tours where you can celebrate the Independence Day of the USA in a wonderfully relaxed way. The ship has three different decks where you can combine sightseeing with brunch. The icing on the cake is the live DJ on board who will entertain you on this tour from George Washington Bridge to Brooklyn Bridge.

  5. New_York_City_Fourth_of_July_Fireworks_Cruise_with_Lobster_Dinner

    05 New York City Fourth of July Fireworks Cruise with Lobster Dinner

    UPDATE: No tickets available anymore!

    Grab a front row seat for New York City’s fireworks display on this Fourth of July cruise with lobster dinner. Get an up-close look at the Manhattan skyline while digging into a buffet-style dinner with an open bar. A DJ will spin tunes on board to keep the party mood going.

    • New York City Fourth of July fireworks cruise with lobster dinner
    • Delight in superior views of the fireworks display on this fun, casual cruise
    • Enjoy an open bar and gorgeous vistas of the Manhattan skyline
    • Dance the night away as DJs spin the latest hits and quintessential party songs
  6. 4th_of_July_Fireworks_on_Clipper_City_Tall_Ship

    06 4th of July Fireworks on Clipper City Tall Ship

    UPDATE: No tickets available anymore!

    See New York City’s 4th of July Fireworks from the deck of a tall ship for the ultimate visibility and photo ops. Help the crew raise the sails and navigate the ship, or just sit back and enjoy the show. Each year’s fireworks show consists of more than 40,000 shells exploding above the East River for a brilliant display celebrating the nation’s birth. Buy tickets in advance to avoid the last-minute scramble for 4th of July plans!

    • Food and beverages included
    • Best possible vantage point for fireworks show
    • See the NYC skyline from the water
    • Open bar throughout the cruise
  7. Bateaux_New_York_4th_of_July_Fireworks_Dinner_Cruise-1

    07 Bateaux New York 4th of July Fireworks Dinner Cruise

    UPDATE: No tickets available anymore

    Come aboard the Bateaux New York, a fully glass-enclosed, luxury dining cruise for your Fourth of July celebrations! A five-hour upscale dining cruise on the Hudson River includes a delicious three-course plated dinner with attentive table side service. Take in the panoramic, breathtaking views of the infamous New York City skyline and the Fireworks Display (weather permitting). Sit back, relax, enjoy your spectacular meal and the live acoustic quartet musical entertainment, and celebrate the United States of America!

    • Live Music
    • Dinner
    • Alcoholic Beverages
  8. Circle_Line___4th_of_July_Fireworks_Cruise

    08 Circle Line 4th of July Evening Cruise

    UPDATE: No tickets available anymore!

    Circle Line is a very well-known sightseeing cruise operator in New York and also offers one of the best 4th of July cruises. The cruise includes a light dinner with classic summer dishes and great drinks. Most importantly, however, you will enjoy guaranteed views of the fireworks, particularly from the outdoor deck space.

    What you’ll get:

    • light dinner
    • drinks
    • live DJ
    • guaranteed views of the 4th of July fireworks

MORE DETAILS

3. Visit the 9/11 Memorial

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial on 4th of July

Every year, each of the 2,983 victims of 9/11 and February 26, 1993 are specially honored on Forth of July 4 with an American flag distributed by volunteers. This is an annual 9/11 Memorial tradition and I get goosebumps every time I stand there.

4. Have a BBQ in New York’s most beautiful parks

Green Central Park Lawn

What’s more typical than enjoying the 4th of July by having a BBQ (or picnic) in a park? Lucky for you, New York City is home to numerous, beautiful parks that let you escape the bustling city life. For you, that means sunshine, super delicious food and a splendid time! If you still want to be around people, head to Sheep Meadow in Central Park to join many others having their barbecues. This is your chance! Grilling and barbecuing in Central Park is only allowed 3 days a year: on Memorial Day, the July 4th and Labor Day. Just note that the use of propane gas is strictly prohibited!

If you are only visiting New York and looking to buy a reasonably priced grill, you should head to Best Buy. You can get a small, portable grill for about 35 bucks. Everything you want to put onto the grill can be bought at the supermarket, for example, Whole Foods. You will find the closest Whole Foods to Sheep Meadows at 10 Columbus Circle.

the ultimate Central Park Guide

5. Enjoy the unforgettable views at Honorable William Wall

Honorable William Wall

This is my discovery of the summer in New York – the floating boathouse from Manhattan Sailing Club! It is called Honorable William Wall and is located right next to Ellis Island. Especially in the evening, when you look at the illuminated Manhattan, it is just sensational here. If you are looking for really cool thing to do on 4th of July you should check out my review of Honorable William Wall or check for available 4th of July tickets here.

6. Enjoy the day at the beach

Brighton Beach Boardwalk New York

To escape the bustling city life, even more, you should head to the beach as most New Yorkers do! Manhattan will soon have its first beach at Hudson River Park. Until then, and because of New York’s murky waters, the best option is to ride the subway to Coney Island. Besides just swimming, sunbathing and relaxing at the beach, you can also spend some time at Luna Park or watch the annual Hot Dog Eating Contest at Nathan’s Famous (jump to more info). Especially if you are traveling as a family, spending the 4th of July in NYC at the beach may be the preferred option for your kids!

CONEY ISLAND insider GUIDE

7. Satisfy your shopping needs

Shopping Streets in SoHo

As many people will leave town to go to the beach on the 4th of July in NYC, you could take advantage of that and have a great day of shopping! Stores will be open as usual, meaning that the only difference will be smaller crowds! You have plenty of options in Manhattan if you prefer to stay local. Our Ultimate Shopping Guide will help you explore the best shopping spots in the city. Another option would be to take a bus to an outlet. There are two outlets in proximity to New York City: The Mills at Jersey Gardens in Elizabeth, New Jersey or the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in Central Valley, New York. You can easily be back in time for the fireworks in the evening!

NYC SHOPPING GUIDE Woodbury outlet bus tickets


Great 4th of July Events in New York

1. The 4th of July fireworks

4th of July Fireworks over East River

Where are the 4th of July fireworks in NYC in 2021?

The location for the 4th of July fireworks has been confirmed: In 2021, the fireworks is about to set off from five barges located on the East River. For the last four years, they had been set off from barges located on the Upper East River, close to Roosevelt Island.

When do the July 4th fireworks start?

The fireworks show typically starts around 9:20 pm while public viewing starts at 6 pm.

How long are the 4th of July fireworks in NYC?

The fireworks typically last for about 30 minutes and are over by 10 pm.

Where are the best places to see the 4th of July Fireworks in NYC?

The best locations to see the fireworks depend on where the fireworks will be set off. This year you can enjoy the fireworks the best here:

4th of July Fireworks locations NYC East River
These are the best locations to watch the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks

We can’t recommend this areas for viewing:

  • Battery Park
  • Battery Park City
  • South Street Seaport
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park
  • Brooklyn Heights Promenade, Grand Ferry Park
  • Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park
  • Roosevelt Island.

You can’t see the 4th of July fireworks from Brooklyn Bridge Park!

If you’re planning to go to a public viewing area, note that, typically, backpacks are permitted but coolers, lounge chairs, blankets, and umbrellas are not. Should you not be able to be in the city to see the fireworks, then be sure to turn on NBC at 8 pm to see the live broadcasting.

2. Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island

Nathan's Famous on Coney Island

As we mentioned in our best things to do on the 4th of July in NYC, one of the best ways to spend it is at the beach! While you’re there, be sure not to miss the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest – an annual tradition on Independence Day since 1972. The challenge is to eat as many hot dogs as you can in just 10 minutes! The current record is held by Joey Chestnut at 73 whopping hot dogs! The 73 hot dogs have earned him the bejeweled mustard-yellow belt. The women’s record is held by Miki Sudo with 37 hot dogs!

There are no tickets needed, so just stop by on time! If you are late, chances are you won’t get to see the contestants. About 30,000 people come to watch the preselected, competitive eaters every year. There are some jumbo screens, however, so you won’t miss the contest completely. It will also be live-streamed on ESPN if you’d like to follow the contest from your hotel room. For more info visit NathanFamous.com

  • Where? Coney Island, Brooklyn | D F N Q to Coney Island-Stillwell Av Station
  • When? 10:30 AM till 3 PM

3. July 4th Family Fireworks Celebration on Roosevelt Island

Roosevelt Island Tramway

Roosevelt Island is hosting an annual 4th of July celebration, especially suited for families. There are tons of activities and an extensive entertainment program for big and small, including bouncy houses and food.

Attending the event is free, but as availability is limited, tickets are required. You can claim free tickets online. They will be released on rioc.ny.gov in June. Another great thing about the celebration on Roosevelt Island is that you can get there by the basically free Roosevelt Island Tramway, which is a great New York experience in itself. It’s included in your MetroCard when you own an unlimited pass so you won’t have to pay extra.

  • Where? Roosevelt Island | Roosevelt Island Tramway
  • When? 5 PM till 10:30 PM

What’s Open on the 4th of July in NYC?

How will coronavirus in NYC affect 4th of July?

The known security measures apply. What we know for sure? There will be celebration!

What attractions are open on July 4th?

Most tourist attractions in New York are not affected by the 4th of July. Major attractions, such as the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, One World Observatory, the Statue of Liberty, Hop-on Hop-off Buses, the American Museum of Natural History, the Met, the MoMA and many more are operating as usual. Only government buildings will stay shut on the national holiday, including the New York Public Library.

Is New York’s public transportation affected by the 4th of July?

The MTA will run a weekend schedule on the 4th of July, meaning that you can still use New York subways and buses as usual. Additionally, as part of the NYPC Security Plan, you should prepare for some street closures from 3 pm that will affect the area where the fireworks are launched.

Are stores open on the 4th of July?

Although most people are enjoying a day off on the 4th of July, everything except post offices, banks, and the stock market will stay open. Nevertheless, you should inform yourself about the adjusted hours on the 4th of July, as some stores may open late or close early.

About the author
Steffen

I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 20 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On this blog, I want to share everything I have learned and discovered, so you can have the best time in the greatest city in the world. By the way: Did you like my article? Then think about becoming a supporter of us on Patreon!

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5 Comments

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Mayleen Melendez

Love it! We are relocating to NJ and will spend 4th July weekend in NYC before our house hunting meetings with realtors
Can wait to see NYC, and what it has to offer

Maureen Steinert

Hi Mayleen,

that’s exciting! I’m sure you’ll love the area!

Best,
Maureen

Josh

Will I be able to see the fireworks from the Top of the Rock?

Luca G.

In the “Where are the best places to see the 4th of July Fireworks in NYC?” map, the locations on the east bank of the river seem misplaced in comparison to Google maps: Queensbridge park should be north to the Queensboro bridge opposite to Roosevelt island, Gantry plaza north to the tunnel, and Hunter’s point on the south tip of Long Island City. Isn’t it?

Steffen

Hi Luca,
OMG!!! You are totally right!! I just updated the map – big big thanks for your feedback!!!!

Steffen

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