Are NYC’s 4th of July Fireworks Happening This Year?

See some legal pyrotechnics for a change.

NYC Fireworks
Macy's 4th of July Fireworks 2019 | Francois Roux/Shutterstock
Macy's 4th of July Fireworks 2019 | Francois Roux/Shutterstock

America’s 244th birthday is almost here, and while it feels like NYC has been pre-gaming the celebration with the widespread use of illegal fireworks all over the city, many of us are wondering if the official festivities are actually still a thing in 2020.

In the era of COVID, the city is hoping to discourage crowds by putting on a spontaneous multi-night event of sorts. Read on to learn everything we know right now about where and when you can catch them.

Are the 4th of July fireworks still happening this year?

Yes, but in an entirely different way. Instead of an extravagant show that usually takes place over the course of a single night on the 4th, this year’s celebrations will be broken down into smaller displays over the span of a few days across all five boroughs starting on Monday, June 29, through Wednesday, July 1. Then on July 4th, a grand finale fireworks show atop of the Empire State Building will conclude the festivities.

What can I expect from these smaller fireworks displays starting on Monday?

Mayor de Blasio calls them “very brief bursts,” but “mighty.” Each will be five minutes long and can reach up to 1,000 feet. With one or two per evening, they’ll be launched from land and water-based locations and will take place after dark.

Sounds cool! When and where will they be so I can watch them?

Unfortunately, details for their location and time will not be announced ahead of time. According to Macy’s, “to encourage and support COVID-19 safety and social distancing efforts, and mitigate the advance gathering of large crowds for an extended period of time, we have chosen to delight New Yorkers with unannounced displays across the five boroughs this year.”

Wait -- so there’s no way to plan ahead to see them live?

No, there is not. The only way to see them live is if you’re fortunate enough to be home if you live nearby one of the secret locations or just happen to be around one when the fireworks display does start. And even then, good luck on not mistaking them for the illegal fireworks that have become the nighttime soundtrack to Summer 2020.

Coney Island fireworks
Fireworks in Coney Island | Stef Ko/Shutterstock

Any idea on where these secret locations might be?

“High visibility waterways and land-based infrastructure” chosen for their ability to launch commercial-grade pyrotechnics. In a press conference, Mayor de Blasio said the aim would be to have New Yorkers in each of the five boroughs able to experience these smaller fireworks displays from their homes, rooftops, or nearby parks. Some sharp people have already spotted possible locations.

Secret locations with no start times -- why?

According to Macy’s, each of the smaller firework displays taking place were designed to “be over before residents can gather at its source.” This is to promote social distancing and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Exactly when will I be able to watch these smaller fireworks displays then?

They’ll be filmed throughout the week to be televised along with a live grand finale fireworks show, the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular, airing on NBC at 8pm ET on July 4th.

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 Tae Yoon was born and raised in Queens, and is the Editor of Thrillist New York.
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