The Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular is one of the largest and most spectacular fireworks displays in the whole world, there are very few events around the world that can top the amount of gunpowder Macy’s fires into the air every 4th of July over New Yorks East River. The display is so huge, that you are going to be able to see it from anywhere in New York, but of course, getting a direct view is the best option and there are only so many places you will be able to do this. So we show you exactly where to watch the 4th of July fireworks in New York City 2023.
Unfortunately, it’s not simply a case of finding the best spot and rocking up 15 mins before the show. Oh no, that would be FAR too easy! With an estimated 3 MILLION Spectators you can expect large issues in getting to the best spots and securing anything like a good view. So this article is also aimed at helping you understand what you need to do to get the best view of the Fireworks
Where is the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Display In New York City
The simple answer is the Fireworks are Launched from Barges stationed on the East River Between Manhattan and Brooklyn. However, the technical answer to this is Nobody knows. The location of the Fireworks is not announced until a few weeks before the Display. However, in reality, they are usually in a similar location every year. And that is along the East River. The Fireworks are launched from barges stationed in the east river and span a good stretch of the Manhattan Waterfront.
Here is the Official Map for the 2023 fireworks.
This is only slightly altered from Last Year, moving from 23rd Street to 20th and adding a new viewing area at Newton Bridge Park.
Are the 4th of July Fireworks In New York City Free?
Nice and simple one this, Yep they are 100% free to view. We have a few options for viewing below that cost but that is for a private viewing area with a guaranteed view and is nothing to do with the public display. These are rooftops, and Cruises… places toy would expect to pay to get into regardless. But to visit ANY of the Public Viewing zones will cost you Zero Dollars!
What Time Do 4th of July Fireworks In New York City Start?
The Fireworks start around 9:15 pm which is only a little after the sun sets and darkness begins to take over. The Macy’s website often cites the time of 7:30 pm for some reason, possibly to get people to attend promptly, but in mid-summer, this is a long time before darkness sets in and 9:15 is about the earliest time the show could possibly begin.
Are the 4th of July Fireworks In New York City Worth it?
What is the Display really like? It’s pretty mindblowing. The Video above shows the huge scale, 48,000 shells are launched with a huge variety of effects. Each shell would be the finale piece for most displays and some of the larger mortars really do thump right into your chest. The display rolls on for over 26mins and lights up the whole skyline and river.
Launched from 5 barges lining the river it’s a spectacle like no other and seeing all five barges pouring huge bursts in tandem over the skyline is mindblowing. The Display heavily features shells of Red, White, and Blue, letting you know exactly why you are watching the display!
We have never seen a display that comes near this, and it’s right up there with the biggest and best in the world. It’s less nuanced than some displays and just focuses on sheer Shock and Awe! It is VERY American!
Is it worth the time and effort of queueing for hours on end in the baking sun? Absolutely, why else would you come to New York on the 4th of July if you are not going to see the Fireworks? So with that said let’s look at the where and the how.
Where to Watch The 4th of July Fireworks In New York City 2023
Here are the BEST places to Watch Macy’s 4th Fireworks in 2023 based on previous years’ displays, we will naturally update this closer to the date to give you the best chance of getting a great spot and the best view of the fireworks.
1 – Manhattan Official Viewing Areas
We are going to start with the official viewing areas as these are the most popular, the most accessible, and can still give a good view of the fireworks as they erupt over the East River. But they have a big downside and this makes them the last place we would consider going.
The Official Viewing Areas are along the elevated FDR Drive that runs along Manhattans East River Coast. This is obviously closed down for the show and visitors are directed to elevated viewing areas overlooking the East River. Entry points onto FDR DRive this year are all on 1st Av and are situated at 20th Street, 34th Street, and 42nd Street.
Here you will get a perfect unobstructed View of the barges located in the middle of the east river as they unload their 48,000 shells into the air over 26 minutes of Musically backed Pyro action. It really is stunning.
The downside to this? The Back Drop. The Fireworks are amazing, and they do not need a backdrop at all, but you are in New York and it’s kinda nice to see the Fireworks explode over the Manhattan Skyline, you won’t get that from here, Manhattan is behind you and the fireworks are exploding in front of you. Here you get, some pretty wonderful, views out over Brooklyn and Queens. It’s all very nice, but you just miss out on the most iconic skyline in the world.
It is also the place more people are directed to so expect it to be VERY busy. We would say, expect to arrive a minimum of 4 hours before the show starts! While the Lack of the skyline view lets the primary viewing spot down, it’s still probably the best place to get the BEST views of the show. The entire show is designed to be viewed from here and for ease of accessibility, it’s probably your best option.
If like us you just HAVE to have the skyline in the shot too, consider our next option…
2 – Brooklyn and Queens official Viewing Areas
By heading across the other side of the East River, suddenly you are on the correct side to see the fireworks with the Manhattan skyline as the backdrop. However, it’s still not as simple as you would expect.
The East River Coastline along the viewing area is not as defined as the Viewing areas on FDR Drive. Here the coast is dotted with piers, inlets, and residential blocks with their private garden areas closed off from public use. There is less space and fewer chances to get an unobstructed view.
It’s also not really any less busy. The sheer numbers are fewer but they are crammed into a smaller space. Large portions are barricaded off and inaccessible so while we spent hours scouting out the perfect viewpoint, this was unavailable when we came due to the NYPD closing it off!
Honestly, it’s a bit of a nightmare, but it is the only way to get a view of the Fireworks with the Skyline and the Empire State Building in the Shot. There are several official viewing areas along the riverbank, Gantry Stae Plaza, Transmitter Park, Bushwick Inlet Park, and Marsha P. Johnson State Park. We chose Gantry Plaza as it’s the furthest north and offered the best chance of an unobstructed view of the empire state building.
When we arrived in 2022, the Gantry Plaza was closed off from the direction we approached, but you could get in from different routes but time was ticking. Instead, we headed to the main area of Gantry Plaza where the Lond Island Railroad sign is located. Here there are a series of Piers that juts out into the River Giving unobstructed views.
The big issue here was the number of people. These Piers close for entry at 5 pm, still over 4 hours before the display, and when we arrived at 2:30 pm they were almost full already. We just managed to luck out and get out onto a pier that offered a great view of the display. however, we were 4-5 rows back and the front rows had pitched up at 9-10 am that morning!
So if you are looking for a casual view then arriving at 2-3 pm is ok but if you want a front-row view you are going to need to commit a full day to it and come prepared! This is a long day, in full sun in the sticky humid month of July.
Getting there: Really there is just one option here from Manhattan. And that is the Subay, You could Uber it out or get a cab, but really
IMPORTANT – This applies to all the above spots, on either side of the river. Getting there is only part of the issue. Assuming you arrive in good time, get a good spot. Wait out the display with your newfound friends, and enjoy one of the best spectacles in the country. This is when your troubles really start!
3 million spectators all filed in over the last 6-7 hours, bit by bit, one by one…They ALL now want to leave at the same time! On the Manhattan side, most people will just walk back into the city, but still, expect Chaos and a long trudge on tired feet, along with stationary foot traffic! On the Brooklyn / Queens side, most people will be heading to a handful of Subway stops, and this is pure carnage. Expect 2-3 hours of queues to get on a Subway out of the Borough and back into Manhattan!
Incredibly we headed to a stop further up the line than we wanted (Jacksons Point), it was a long walk, but the queues were much shorter until we got to Vernon Blvd – Jackson Av where the hordes bordered the car, and then it was carnage again!
Unofficial Viewing Areas – A No-No!
There are many spots along the East River where you may think you can get a great view, but often they are not quite as great as you would hope, normally partially obscured or such like. Other areas are cordoned off for residents or the media. You will find some areas usually listed n the website nearer the time specifically listed and not viewing areas. These will be cordoned off and no entry allowed by the order of the NYPD.
It is best to head to an official area as any area not specifically designated just may be a letdown. Yes, they are incredibly busy but you will get a great view as long as you plan well and arrive early.
3 – Observations Decks
These are the most extensive option but they do give a fantastic view of the Fireworks and you get to see them erupt with the stunning City Skyline in the foreground. The big downside. These are ticketed events…and they are PRICEY!
A good Few of New York’s Decks offers viewing parties for a variety of prices. If you want a guaranteed view, a few drinks and nibbles while you wait, and a much more civilized experience then this could be a great bet.
The edge is at the far side of Manhattan so the fireworks are going to be pretty distant. But you will get some great views of the City with the fireworks going off behind.
The Summit offers near-perfect views of the east river, you can see the barges, the official viewing areas, and the entire display area. Once the fireworks go off there is basically no better view in the city than here!
For the Top Of The Rock, you can buy timed tickets now to ensure you are at the Top Of The Rock for the Fireworks. This is a great way to get an epic view and not have to spend too much time and money waiting for the fireworks. This is a PREMIUM time slow (all day) so you will have to pay $15 Extra…BARGAIN! Also, plan to get there early as the deck WILL fill up.
WARNING – You are going to want to book direct for this. Many 3rd Party Bookings do not provide TIMED TICKETS, instead, you get your time on arrival. If you turn up without a Timed Ticket, the deck will be sold out and you will not get up there. Book Direct and select your time when booking…Direct Link
Empire State Building – $500
A great view, but an incredibly expensive ticket, and remember there will be no view of the Empire State Building when you are standing on it, but the fireworks look great from up here.
One World Observatory – $350
The One World Observatory is a little far off for really good views. But you do get a full and unobstructed view of the east river area when the Barges launch their wares!
Most Rooftop bars will also be hosting ticketed parties where you can get up high and possibly get a great view of the fireworks depending on the location. Check the bar’s websites nearer the time.
4 – Harbor Cruise Boats
Like the Observation Decks, many of the City’s cruise ships take to the water and offer viewing parties to let you take in the fireworks. These parties offer a more relaxed experience. Where you can arrive nearer the time, enjoy a nice river cruise out to the fireworks. Enjoy some drinks and food and then watched the show from the water.
You will then be shipped back to shore well away from the madding crowds that are leaving the viewing areas. These are pretty pricey, but ultimately worth it.
However, these are not for us, as the long-exposure photography we like to use is not possible from a moving boat!
Hornblower – Pier 15 – $299
Hornblower – Pier 61 – $299
Bateaux Cruise – $430
Circleline Cruises – Pier 83 – $269
4th July Clipper Cruise – $550
*Tickets available nearer the time
5 – Helicopter
Ok, this one is pretty out there and certainly not a cheap option, but there are some helicopter operators that will take you up in the air specifically for the purpose of viewing the fireworks. FLYNYON’s Focus FLights run during big events over the year and get you into the best possible place to see the show.
This is a huge extravagance and only for very serious photographers or people who just want to go the extra mile, but we couldn’t help but include it.
6 – Avoid The Macy’s Display Altogether!
The Macy’s 4th July Fireworks Display is one of the most impressive displays of Pyrotechnics in the world and if you haven’t seen it then it’s well worth the hassle. The videos we have posted up do not even come close to doing this epic display justice. You need to see and feel the whole City being lit up by this incredible amount of ordinance.
But if you have seen it before or fireworks are just not your thing, the whole effort of getting to see the show may just not be worth it! There are other smaller fireworks displays in the city, you could just head out to the beach or even get out of the city altogether.
If you have come here looking for the best place to see the Macy’s Fireworks it may seem a bit odd we are suggesting not seeing them, but if queuing for hours to be crushed into a pen, or paying hundreds of dollars for a cruise or rooftop is not the answer you were looking for then you may need to reconsider!
Other New York Fireworks Displays
Have Your Say
Let us know where you choose to what the 4th July Fireworks. Did you get a good view and how early did you get there? Maybe you headed to an official viewing area and were disappointed? Did you book a cruise or rooftop party? Were these good value? Whatever your experience please let us know in the comments below. And if you have any questions we are happy to help out.