July 4th Fireworks: 15 of the Biggest Shows in America Ranked (PHOTOS)

Posted Jun 28th 2011 09:30 AMUpdated Jun 28th 2011 05:05 PM



chriscarder, flickr

Fourth of July Fireworks should be larger than life. As Independence Day rounds the corner for the 235th time, we decided to take a look at the biggest pyrotechnic celebrations across the U.S.

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.

1. Macy's Firework Spectacular - New York, NY

1987porsche944, flickr


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.

2. Atlantic City Firework Spectacular - Atlantic City, NJ


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.

3. Kaboom Town! - Addison, TX

heroiclife, flickr

SCORE: 86.7

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.

4. Boston Pops Firework Spectacular - Boston, MA

jiangning, flickr


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.

5. A Capitol Fourth - Washington, D.C.

dan-lem2001, flickr


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.

6. Lights on the Lake - Lake Tahoe, CA

iceninejon, flickr

Lake Tahoe receives around 100,000 visitors every year for its 23-minute show of 5,000 fireworks, which are shot from a barge in the middle of the lake. Watch the show, which starts at 9:45 p.m., from the shore, from docks, or even from a paddleboat on the lake.

7. Sunoco Welcome America Celebration - Philadelphia, PA

jhophototoshare, flickr


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.

8. Fisherman's Wharf Fireworks Extravaganza - San Francisco, CA

aniavincey, flickr


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.

9. Seattle's Family 4th Celebration - Seattle, WA

bobharbison, flickr


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.

10. Fair St. Louis - St. Louis, MO

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.

11. Let Freedom Sing - Nashville, TN

paulbna, flickr


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.

12. Light Up the Night - Aurora, CO

jillianhadley, flickr


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.

14. Go 4th on the River - New Orleans, LA


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

magnus9, flickr

The Turtle Bay Resort's 10-minute firework show may be small, but it packs a punch – the beautiful resort attracts around 2,500 visitors every year and spends $21,000 on its elaborate show.

Filed Under: Best Of, Holidays

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Tyler Slomowitz

I really think Walt Disney World's firework show should be on this list it is unlike anything I've ever seen!!!

September 15 2015 at 10:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Edgar Powell

wonderful sites....

September 24 2014 at 8:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great minds must think alike. There are a lot of the same destinations featured on the Select Registry blog post. http://blog.selectregistry.com/2013/some-of-the-best-fireworks-in-the-us/

June 30 2013 at 9:12 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Miss World

I can feel that I'm about to invoke maddened rage for saying this, but I have to finally say this online: Why are we all blind to the concept that- For about 1 week every year, Every Single Township Across the Country ignites Hazardous and Toxic Fireworks in great tonnage-- How could it be possible that this event is not causing environmental harm?

I am a creature of habit, nostalgia and tradition, as much as anyone else. But there are some things which are so obvious of negative impact- We must "Man Up" and recognize we can show our Patriotism better by not poisoning our Country.

July 30 2011 at 2:19 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Miss World's comment

I think you should do a little bit more research. Fireworks today are much safer and cleaner than fireworks 100 years ago. I remember reading a report a few years ago that said that more than half of fireworks today have no impact other than scaring local wildlife. Fireworks might just be the oldest tradition this nation has. We shot them off when the declaration was signed, and again when the war was over. We continued to set off fireworks every year after. It\'s in our blood and that isn\'t changing.

June 30 2013 at 8:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Detroit-Windsor fireworks are world class. They usually pick a compromise date between Canada's Dominion Day and our Independence Day. It's terrific when two countries come together to make beautiful fireworks that celebrate peace and friendship of two nations. I highly recommend them!

July 10 2011 at 6:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chelsi Cole

where's milwaukee wisconsin???

July 07 2011 at 2:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Chelsi Cole's comment
Richard Halvorson

It's in the State of Wisconsin near one of those lakes :)

July 04 2013 at 5:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rudasill Family

Surrounded by the ideals of Jefferson and Lincoln, Roosevelt and Martin Luther Kings, Jr., which speak from marble inscribed edifaces that ring the National Mall in Washington, D.C., my family enjoyed the Capitol City's annual fireworks display. However, It strikes me as a wholly inappropriate exercise to rank these annual fireworks display as if to pit one community against another, in a "mine is better than yours" harangue. In some comments, these displays are criticized as being overwrought - they do surely contribute to air-pollution- on a short term basis. But hey, let not get too whussie here. . . to state the obvious, like Christmas, The 4th of July happens only once per year and celebrates the foresight and courage of the Founding Fathers who said they would not bow or crutesy or pay taxes to the British King. It also celebrates the 235 years we as a people have struggle to create all of these special unique places, customs and traditions which we hold dear as "our collective back-yards" and the world have come to regard as "America." It is a good thing to celebrate ones' homeland with unabashed enthusiasm. This country needs now, more than ever, patriots who understand that personal sacrifice for the good of the Nation has been a recurring characteristic of those generations upon whose shoulders we stand. And yes, I've seen the Macy's Fourth Display in New York. It's wonderful, but for my money, the Disney World's Magic Kingdom 4th of July Celebration in Orlando Florida tops this list! ( This is truly an exercise in subjectivity!)

July 06 2011 at 4:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Went to Macys Fireworks last night,I give it a rating of 4 and a half its time to go back to east 34st it really doesn't work on the West side.

July 05 2011 at 9:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Obviously, the fireworks at Milwaukee, WI.'s lakefront are the best kept secret in the USA
900,000 + people attended and the show lasted 1Hour and 5 Minutes.
I suggest the authors of the article attend next year.before they put out their list of the best as they blew this one!!!

July 05 2011 at 7:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

WTH does jjeryrey post have to do with the 4th of July? I love the let freedom RING! :)

July 05 2011 at 2:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply