Staying Downtown? Fireworks & much more this July 4th weekend


Last year’s Independence Day fireworks were over the Hudson, but this year Macy’s is bringing them back to the East River. Downtown Express file photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer

By Janel Bladow | Downtown explodes this July 4th weekend. Fun, parties, tours and talks fill the streets, waters and sky around Lower Manhattan.

The blast begins with a four-day Pier/Party of music and movies in the South Street Seaport. Topping off the holiday weekend festivities is the massive patriotic Macy’s pyrotechnics from the Brooklyn Bridge to Battery Park.

“The South Street Seaport’s PIER/PARTY will have a little something for everyone over the July 4th holiday weekend,” said Phillip St. Pierre, Howard Hughes Corporation’s general manager at the South Street Seaport. “From a diverse lineup of live music, to swing dancing, kids’ activities, and more—not to mention a spectacular view of the fireworks display — visitors can expect an exciting array of non-stop activities for the entire family. We’re excited to bring the Downtown community great outdoor offerings.”

While fun is a great part of July 4th celebrations, the true meaning of this all-American holiday is
the heart of other activities in Lower Manhattan. James Kaplan, an attorney and historian who has led walking tours Downtown for more than 30 years, believes hot dog eating contests have their place in the revelry, but what our forefathers wanted us to celebrate every year – freedom and liberty – is important to remember between barbeques and fireworks.

“For many years people lost the meaning of July 4,” Kaplan said. “Historically and politically Lower Manhattan is forever linked with July 4. By bringing back the city’s biggest celebration – including the evening’s Macy’s Fireworks – people can learn about and be a part of America’s history.”

So for the history buffs, patriots, partiers, fireworks fans, Superhero loves, kids and kids at heart, take some time to celebrate Downtown’s role in American history, dance to music and cheer the greatest fireworks show on earth. Here’s your guide to activities for everyone.

South Street Seaport hosts three days of entertainment. Activities include live music, family fun, and heroic movies. All events are free and open to the public. Neighborhood bars and restaurants as well as food trucks will have special menu items including their usually tasty treats.
There’s All American music for everyone, celebrating great American styles, including swing, blues, bluegrass and classic marching bands.
Kicking off the weekend on Thurs., July 3, at noon, is rocker Mike Verge whose music has been compared to Tom Petty, Train and the Black Crowes.

On Friday, July 4, patriotic marching sounds and songs celebrating America’s troops get feet stomping. USO Show Troupe which spans more than 70 years from its beginnings in muddy camp shows entertaining our soldiers of the South Pacific brings top entertainers from Broadway, film and TV to the Fulton St. stage at 1 p.m. Then at 4 p.m., the Hungry March Band, founded in Brooklyn in 1997 for the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, performs its spectacular brass and percussion show.

On Saturday, comic book and Superhero fans gather at the Ambrose Beer Garden on Fulton St. at 4 p.m. for a costume contest pre-movie party sponsored by the South Street Seaport and Midtown Comics. Then at 8 p.m., as part of the Front/Row Cinema series, lawn and lounge chairs will be set for a free screening of “The Avengers.”

Plenty more events are planned. For a full schedule: visit or follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Local History/Walking Tours
“Down on Broad Street, people came out of bars and taverns to confront the British,” Kaplan explained of Downtown’s impact on the founding of our country. “The red coats backed down. The people of New York prevented them from carrying heavy arms to Boston.”

Independence Day celebrations in Lower Manhattan more than 200 years ago gave rise to the American government. One hundred years later, July 4th celebrations were the way thousands of new immigrants to America learned about this country and its history. This year, the July 4th Festival Committee, a broad based coalition of more than ten institutions, groups, and individuals with an interest in Downtown and its history, intends to revive the American spirit by returning to the area’s roots with patriot celebrations.

The first event is a 3 to 7 a.m. (yes – early morning) walking tour of Downtown historic hot spots that ends at the Trinity Churchyard graves of Alexander Hamilton, Marinus Willett and General Horatio Gates, a long-overlooked hero of the American Revolution. This popular tour sold out its 60 spots earlier than ever in the 18-years Kaplan has led them. At the grave, the Daughters of the Revolution will hold a wreath ceremony. This is significant because the grave of General Gates remained unmarked for 207 years until last year.

For history buffs, a 51-gun salute by the New York Veteran Corps of Artillery takes place at Castle Clinton in Battery Park at noon. And, Fraunces Tavern Museum will open to the public on July 4 for $1 admission from noon to 5 p.m.

Another historical significant happening ( 3 pm, at the plaza in front of Fraunces Tavern) is the reading of George Washinton’s 1790 letter to the Touro Synagogue in Newport Rhode Island, stating that the United States shall “give to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance,” establishing tolerance for Jews and other minorities of as the law of the land.

A complete list of events is available at

Topping off the day is the spectacular Macy’s 38th annual Fourth of July fireworks and celebration of the 200th anniversary of “The Star Spangled Banner (performed by Idina Menzel).” More than 40,000 pyrotechnic shells and effects will burst through the skies over the Brooklyn Bridge to Battery Park. It’s been five years since the display has been on the East River.
“This year, we are thrilled to incorporate the magnificent Brooklyn Bridge as a showcase for never-before-seen effects and as a stunning backdrop to the multi-dimensional, hyperkinetic experience of the nation’s best Independence Day fireworks display,” said Amy Kule, executive producer of Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks.

The Brooklyn Bridge will be a fireworks focal point with rapid-fire comet chase along the roadways and towers to a rainbow cascade effect down to the river. Some 5,000 custom-made effects will highlight the bridge.

While you can watch the dazzling display on NBC from your couch, you can’t beat being under the flashes and reports from choice viewing spots. The fireworks can be seen from any spot with an unobstructed view of the sky above the East River Downtown. Two miles of roadway, including the elevated F.D.R. Drive, will be closed for public viewing spots.

Those who arrive by 7:30 p.m. get to see two special flyovers from United States Navy F-18 jets and a patriotic flight from the N.Y.P.D. Helicopter unit at 7:45 p.m. Plus, F.D.N.Y. returns with its impressive water show beginning at 8 pm. Fireworks explode at 9:20 p.m. and you can listen along on 1010 WINS-AM.

Recommended vantage points: Old Slip and South St. and Piers 15 and 16, enter at John and Water Sts.
Want to be as close to the action as possible? Hop on a boat. Hornblower Cruises is the official yacht partner with Macy’s and has five yachts on the river for the evening. Tickets start at $185 a person for the hour and a half pre-show sail and prime seats for viewing are still available on the Jubilee. Go to for details.

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