Top Spots to Celebrate the Fourth

Celebrate Independence Day by the sea with parades, fresh fare, contests, and activities that will keep you entertained from morning to fireworks.

San Francisco, California

Photographer Thomas J. Story

San Francisco, California

Bring your dancing shoes: The Fourth of July Celebration at Pier 39 will be buzzing with live music. Visit the Pier for sea lion sightings and street performers as part of the family-friendly activities.

Live music: Browse the shops and eateries, and hear free live music from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Showtime: Around 9:30 p.m., more than 10,000 fireworks are launched over the Bay from two locations and synchronized to a custom sound track.

Best view: Locals say to bring a lawn chair or stand anywhere along Pier 39 to Aquatic Park. Or, make a reservation at one of the Pier’s restaurants.

After the show: Some merchants and restaurants will have extended hours for the holiday;


Navy Pier, Chicago


Navy Pier, Chicago

Some 4 million Chicagoans and visitors will gather on the 50 acres of shoreline and promenade that make up historic Navy Pier. The Pier combines fireworks over Lake Michigan with a festival vibe: The waterfront Pier Park includes a musical carousel and—of course—warm, sugary fried dough.

Celebrate all day: Free live music, street entertainers, shopping, and two sandy beaches are within walking distance of the Pier.

Showtime: At 9:30 p.m., the display is synchronized to music.

Best view: See the show from the 150-foot Ferris Wheel ($6 per adult). If you have a crowd, Dock Street is the place to be.

After the show: Grab a burger at the Navy Pier Beer Garden;


Honolulu, Hawaii

Photographer Douglas Peebles

Honolulu, Hawaii

More than 10,000 people are expected to watch the fireworks along the shores of Ala Moana and Waikiki and from the Ala Moana Center. One of the world’s largest outdoor shopping centers, it offers 290-plus shops and restaurants near the Ala Wai Boat Harbor and Ala Moana Beach Park.

Celebrate all day: Concessions and free live Hawaiian music will be at the Ala Moana Center from the afternoon into the evening. Bonus: The Ala Moana Center has a 20 percent savings pass for shoppers during the holiday weekend.

Showtime: The show starts at 8:30 p.m.

Best view: Pack a picnic and head to the Ala Moana Beach Park for a water view, or use the free open seating at the Makai-Ewa Parking Deck.

After the show: Take the family to the kid-friendly Islands Fine Burgers & Drinks;


Seattle, Washington

Photographer Andrea Maldonado

Seattle, Washington

Get ready to party at Seafair Summer Fourth! From 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. Gas Works Park will be filled with live performances, activities for kids and adults alike, and, of course, a fireworks show.

Celebrate all day: At Gas Works Park, Seattle's annual Lake Union 4th of July celebration will have food vendors, live entertainment, a beer garden, and games.

Showtime: The show starts at 10:15 p.m.

Best view: Boat owners have a perfect spot on Lake Union. Or, bring a blanket to Gas Works Park—every spot here is great;

Marblehead, Massachusetts

Photographer John Kane

Marblehead, Massachusetts

This quaint harborfront town is packed on the Fourth with music, art, fresh-food vendors, and family-friendly activities. Expect a crowd, lots of walking, and plenty of traffic. Best bet: Claim a parking spot the night before—or by 3 p.m. the day of—and stay there.

Showtime: At 8:45 p.m., the red flares of The Harbor Illumination signal everyone to take their seats. Fireworks are launched about 9 p.m.

Best view: Go early and stake out a bench, or bring a blanket and find a spot in Chandler Hovey Park to watch the lights over Marblehead Light Tower. Or settle in on a patch of grass at Fort Sewall or Crocker Park.

After the show: Grab a draft beer or glass of wine and people-watch outside at The Landing Restaurant on the harbor at Front Street;

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Courtesy of Myrtle Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Thousands of people will gather along the sandy shores with blankets and chairs to watch the fireworks.

Celebrate all day: Sample local fare and watch the free Fourth of July Boat Parade in Murrells Inlet.

Showtime: At dusk, various piers will launch fireworks that can be seen anywhere on the beach.

Best view: Locals say the show is best with barbecue. Grab a pulled-pork sandwich from the Little Pigs BBQ vendor, and find a spot on a blanket on the sand.

After the show: Wander around the nearby fishing village of Murrells Inlet;

Wilmington, North Carolina

Photographer Gary Clark

Wilmington, North Carolina

Spectators with lawn chairs and blankets pack the riverfront before 5 p.m. to catch what’s known as the largest fireworks performance in the region. You can also see the fireworks from most places downtown; expect heavy traffic and crowds as you edge toward the water.

Celebrate all day: Feel-good tunes and local food vendors (think funnel cakes) will pack Water Street until the show.

Showtime: Around 9 p.m., the “Battleship Blast” fireworks will explode over the docked WWI Battleship North Carolina.

Best view: Locals suggest a seat behind the less crowded Coastline Conference & Event Center, or call and ask about reservations at Elijah’s or The George waterfront restaurants.

After the show: Stroll along the Cape Fear Riverwalk and stop in at The Pilot House for homemade bread pudding and fruit cobbler;

Rockaway Beach, Oregon

Courtesy of the Rockaway Beach Volunteer Fire Department and Western Display Fireworks

Rockaway Beach, Oregon

One of the largest celebrations on the northern Oregon coast sees Rockaway Beach swell to more than 10,000 spectators for the fireworks.

Celebrate all day: Starting with a parade at 11 a.m., the festivities also include a bake sale and Dachshund races at 12 p.m.

Showtime: When it gets dark, around 10 p.m., fireworks launch over the ocean.

Best view: At the Wayside or on the shore in Rockaway Beach

After the show: Bring a grill to the Wayside beach area for some post-fireworks burger-flipping and socializing;

Jekyll Island, Georgia

Courtesy of Jekyll Island Authority

Jekyll Island, Georgia

Thousands of people travel to the island each year for the free festivities—often described as a giant family gathering.

Celebrate all day: Make sure to catch the sea turtle release at 6 p.m. at Great Dunes Park.

Showtime: At dusk, the beachfront crowd counts down from 10 to help launch the fireworks over the water.

Best view: Large group? No problem. Ample open space for parking allows campers and RVs to accommodate crowds who want to tailgate. Or grab a blanket and head to Great Dunes Park or the public sandy beach;

Ilwaco, Washington

Courtesy of Kelli Schimelpfenig

Ilwaco, Washington

The Port of Ilwaco hosts a more intimate gathering of 300 or so locals and visitors. The all-ages fireworks show on Long Beach is Thursday, July 4. Parking is free and easy to navigate along the waterfront.

Celebrate all Day: Don't miss the Old Fashioned 4th of July Parade at Ocean Park. Plus, the celebration continues through Saturday with Independence Day fireworks at the Port of Ilwaco and a Feel the Thunder! Fire Cracker 5k.

Showtime: The 30-minute display starts around 9:30 p.m.

Best view: Bring a blanket or chair to the grass-covered pedestrian strip. Or drive a few miles north to Cape Disappointment State Park for a more exclusive screening of forest, water, and fireworks;

Charleston, South Carolina

Photo courtesy of Patriots Point

Charleston, South Carolina

Listed as one of the "Top 5 Independence Day Celebrations" by the The New York Times, the Fourth of July Blast at Patriots Point draws a huge crowd looking for fun activities and a stunning fireworks display.

Celebrate all day: The celebration on the landside begins at 4 p.m. and features attractions for the whole family. Tour the historic U.S.S. Yorktown from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and hear U.S. veterans share their stories of honor and bravery.

Showtime: The spectacular fireworks show, set to patriotic music, kicks off around 9 p.m. from the deck of the U.S.S. Yorktown and explodes over the Charleston Harbor.

Best view: On the shore of Patriots Point at Charleston Harbor

After the show: Discover more of the coast at Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park;

St. Augustine, Florida

Photo courtesy of St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches VCB

St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine's annual fireworks display brings more people to the historic downtown area than any other event all year long. So come early and enjoy the city before the show.

Celebrate all day: Take a stroll in the historic downtown district and discover antique shops and restaurants before catching The All Star Orchestra's performance at 6 p.m.

Showtime: Catch the fireworks on July 4 above the ancient Castillo de San Marcos and watch them reflect off the waters of Matanzas Bay. The show begins at 9:30 p.m.

Best view: Stake out your spot along the bayfront between the Castillo and the Bridge of Lions;

San Diego, California

Dale Frost; courtesy of United Port of San Diego

San Diego, California

More than 350,000 spectators fill San Diego's six port parks for their annual dazzling fireworks.

Celebrate all day: Pack a festive picnic and head down to La Jolla Shores or nearby Kellogg Park to enjoy a day at the beach.

Showtime: Big Bay Boom July 4th Fireworks Show lights up the night sky at 9 p.m. from four barges in San Diego Bay.

Best view: Pick your favorite spot near one of the launch sites and arrive early for the free event. Prime viewing locations include Shelter Island, Harbor Island, North Embarcadero, Seaport Village in San Diego, and the Coronado Ferry Landing in Coronado.

After the show: Grab a refreshing beer or glass of wine at The Boathouse restaurant near Shelter Island;

Newport, Oregon

Photo Corbis

Newport, Oregon

Yaquina Bay hosts one of the largest fireworks shows on the central Oregon coast.

Celebrate all day: Don't miss the Fourth of July Parade on Gleneden Beach or the Patriotic Pops concert at Newport High School. There are no tickets or reservations, so arrive early. Doors open at 3 p.m., and the show starts at 4 p.m.

Showtime: The fireworks begin at dusk over Yaquina Bay.

Best view: The Bayfront, South Beach, or—if you're lucky enough—on a yacht out on Yaquina Bay

After the show: Take a nighttime stroll on nearby South Beach State Park;

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