July 4th Fireworks: 15 of the Biggest Shows in America Ranked
Though some familiar names top the list of biggest firework displays – New York and Atlantic City's shows have been around for years and attract millions of visitors – there are also a few impressive but lesser known shows in more out-of-the-way locations.
Fireworks are to be taken seriously and the rankings below are the result of a highly scientific statistical analysis utilizing both publicly available data and the measurements of some of the nations great pyrotechnicians.
The calculation wound up looking something like this: (Attendance/2,000,000)5 + (Cost/2,500,000)5 + (Amount of Explosive Material/75,000)5 + (Length of show/46)5)/20 x 100 = Percentage awesome.
Of course values were not available for every category. When asked the number of fireworks used for his show, Philip Butler, producer of Atlantic City's extravaganza, said: "You wouldn't ask Michelangelo how buckets of paint he used on the Sistine Chapel, would you?" So some expert judgment was exercised along with 8th grade math.
Macy's annual firework show over the Hudson River regularly attracts around 2 million people, but vantage points are scattered all over the West Side and New Jersey so the crowd doesn't get too thick. The 26-minute show, which sets off approximately 75,000 pounds of fireworks, begins between 9 p.m. and 9:20. 23rd-59th Street along the West Side highway will be closed to traffic beginning at 4 p.m., so head over and nab a seat early – they fill up fast.
Atlantic City's show has two parts, making it one of the longest in the country. The first 22-minute show over the Marina is followed by a 24-minute display along the beach and boardwalk. With 200,000 attendees, it's important to get to the beach early to claim a spot. And, those from out of town should make those reservations fast – the city will be jam-packed this weekend.
Addison's 30-minute show is a three-decade old tradition that attracts a good 500,000 viewers. The fireworks can be seen from anywhere in Addison, including the city's 170 restaurants, which broadcast the show. The show itself takes place in Addison Circle Park and begins with an air show by the Addison Airport. Parking spaces, however, may be impossible to find – the best way to go is to park in a nearby town and walk.
Boston's show is easily one of the most well known, and, at $2.5 million for the entire show, one of the most expensive. Over 20,000 pounds of fireworks are set off during the 21-minute spectacle as 500,000 revelers "ohh" and "ahh." The fireworks are shot over the Charles River, so both Harvard and Longfellow bridges offer unobstructed views. The riverbank tends to get crowded, so bring a blanket and stake out a spot early.
The 20-minute show on the National Mall shoots 66,000 pounds of fireworks for its 500,000 visitors. The fireworks begin after 9 p.m., following a parade, and are set to a soundtrack by The National Symphony Orchestra. To sit on the Mall, be prepared to go through a security checkpoint where all bags and coolers are examined. It's worth it, though – the base of the Lincoln Memorial is a beautiful place to watch the show.
Philadelphia's 15-minute show, which follows a full week of celebrations that costs the city up to $2.1 million, attracts 500,000 viewers every year. The fireworks are launched over the Museum of Art and generally start around 10:30 p.m. Live shows – headlined this year by The Roots and featuring acts such as Earth Wind & Fire and Sara Bareilles – will be starting at 5 p.m., so settle in early. Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Lemon Hill offer great viewing locations.
The 21-minute show expects a good 600,000 attendees every year, so make sure to get there on time – it starts at 9:30 p.m. The fireworks are launched from the foot of the Municipal Pier and off barges just north of Pier 39. When the show is over, go dancing – live entertainment is offered in the Pier 39 Entrance Plaza. Also, say hi to the sea lions.
When Seattle's Family 4th Celebration was almost cancelled in 2010 after its main sponsor, Washington Mutual, collapsed, the community rose to the occasion and raised enough $500,000 needed to put on the show. This year, they did it again. The 21-minute show attracts around 50,000 people and shoots 10,000 fireworks in Gas Works Park. The park offers a wide array of seating locations as well as concerts and games.
Jim Bruno/Courtesy of Fair St. Louis
Fair St. Louis attracts half a million viewers every year for a 20-minute show that some compare to a 3-D laser show because of how the fireworks reflect off the stainless steel legs of the Gateway Arch. The show starts around 9 p.m. and the area around the arch fills up quickly, but the intense experience is worth it.
Nashville's 30-minute show shoots 13,460 pounds of fireworks for 125,000 attendees. It begins in Riverfront Park, accompanied by the Nashville Symphony, around 9:30 p.m. Before that, a variety of concerts begin in the park around noon. Food and drinks are available, so camp out in the park all day long.
Aurora draws 100,000 visitors for its 25-minute show, which starts around 9:30 p.m. The fireworks are launched on the Aurora Municipal Center lawn, about a 20 minute drive from Denver. The best places to watch are east of Potomac Street, south of Sixth Avenue, and north of Mississippi Avenue. Parking can be found at the Town Center at Aurora, Aurora City Place, and Community College of Aurora.
13. Presbyterian Hospital July 4th Spectacular - Charlotte, NC
Courtesy of the Charlotte Center City Partners
Charlotte's show is small but intense – the city spends $50,000 in 20 minutes, attracting 300,000 viewers every year. The show takes place in Memorial Stadium and includes live music and family-fun activities. The fireworks blast off at 9:30 p.m.
New Orleans gets about 200,000 viewers every year for its 13-minute spectacular, which shoots off approximately 3,000 fireworks from two battling barges. The show begins around 9 p.m. Take in the show from a restaurant along the river or just grab a seat near a levy.
15. Turtle Bay Resort - Oahu, HI
- Best Fourth of July Vacations Across America [AOL Travel]
- How to Travel with Friends and Not Want to Kill Them [Lonely Planet]
- 7 Surprising Items that Set Off Airport Security [Budget Travel]