Where to Watch Seattle's 4th of July Fireworks

Seafair Summer Fourth
Seattle downtown skyline | neelsky/shutterstock
Seattle downtown skyline | neelsky/shutterstock

Fireworks are a surprisingly big deal in Seattle. In a town that doesn't get excited about anything except maybe artisanal ice cream and a seemingly unresolvable problem with homelessness, Fourth of July celebrations somehow manage to draw some serious crowds. Oh, and yes we said celebrations, plural, because despite what most people may think, there are more events honoring our Union than that the big one on Lake Union. And we've got the lowdown on all of them, including where to watch, what to do before hand, and much more. 

What time do the fireworks start?

It’s officially summer, which means it stays light pretty late way up here above the 45th parallel, so be patient: Shows will start between 10 and 10:15pm, or put another way, less than an hour after sunset.

Where are all the fireworks shows?! 

Seafair Summer Fourth 
Wallingford and South Lake Union
Event: Noon
Fireworks: 10:15pm
So technically it's called the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Seafair Summer Fourth, and depending on how you measure it, might not actually be the biggest Fourth of July event in the area (more on that later), but it IS definitely the biggest deal. There's official viewing areas on both ends of the lake, a live television broadcast, an expansive beer garden, and "all-American" games, including pie-eating contests, sack races, and more. The event is free, though paying for limited reserved seating will give you the best view… unless you just skip the whole thing and watch from a bar overlooking the lake, a boat on the lake, or a park in one of the surrounding neighborhoods. Not sure where to go? Our guide from last year should get you started. 

Bellevue Family 4th
Event: 2:30pm
Fireworks: 10:05pm
This wholesome affair fills the 20-acre Bellevue Downtown Park with an outdoor food court, bouncy houses, and a main stage where there will be live music all afternoon, culminating in a performance by the Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra synced to "the eastside's most spectacular fireworks display" overhead. 

Fourth of July Kirkland
Duh… Kirkland
Event: All day
Fireworks: 10:15pm
There are a full day of Fourth-related things happening in Kirkland's small Downtown, highlighted by a parade around noon, but this isn't some highly organized event -- it's just a fireworks display in Moss Bay visible from most of the local parks. 

Freedom Fair
Event: 9am
Fireworks: 10:10pm
With as many as 125,000 visitors along a two-mile stretch of Tacoma's Ruston Way waterfront, this massive event claims to be the largest in the state (and the 3rd largest in the country!), and who are we to argue. There's an air show complete with F-16 demonstration, a car show, multiple live music stages, three beer gardens, over 45 food vendors, a beach pole vaulting competition(?!), and more. Oh, and that's before the huge fireworks display. 

Renton's Fourth of July
Event: 8am
Fireworks: 10pm
This patriotic celebration on the southern shore of Lake Washington starts at 8am with a coed volleyball tournament on the beach, and continues all day with live entertainment in the grass amphitheater at Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park, and a 25-minute fireworks display accompanied by music from legendary Seattle bands. 

How should I get around? 

Tacoma's event actually has special bus service along the waterfront, and the Seattle Streetcar isn't a bad option if you're heading to South Lake Union, but other than that you're pretty much on your own. Good luck! 

Where should I pregame? 

Obviously it depends on which display we're talking about. If you're headed to Tacoma, just pick one of the beer gardens and stay there. All day. If you're in Kirkland, our advice is to play a couple of rounds at Flatstick Pub, or post-up on the patio at Cactus (or both) until the sun sets, then head across the street to Marina Park for the show. In Bellevue, we suggest Jason Willson's speakeasy inspired Civility Unrest in the new(ish) Lincoln Square Expansion kitty corner from the park, or one of the bars (Monsoon!) just to South on Main St. 

In Seattle you're better off trying a lakefront bar like Westward, which thanks to its excellent food and man-made beach out front is probably the best restaurant/bar on the shores of Lake Union, and probably the best choice if you're looking for a place to watch the fireworks. But unless you're one of the lucky few to score a ticket to their sold out holiday party, you better pick someplace else, like Chandler's Crabhouse on the Southern shore, or White Swan Public House off Fairview, in the space that used to be A Terrible Beauty, and BluWater Bistro, and… well, you get it. Other Seattle options include Thrillist favorite The Lookout on Capitol Hill, or Keira Knightley's favorite Seattle bar Little Water Cantina (she was spotted here whilst filming a movie a few years ago), which actually takes reservations (for free), but only for large groups.

Of course you don't have to worry about any of that if you've got a boat. Or, even better, if one of your friends' does. Or, you know, buying a boat. If those things aren’t an option there are several booze cruises, including waterways cruises, and Seattle Boat Parties that can hook you up. 

What will the weather be like? 

It should be excellent! Looking like sunshine and temperatures in the mid '70s. Obviously, it can get cold on the beach at night -- especially in Tacoma where the display is on the shores of Puget Sound, rather than on a lake -- but at least we don't have to worry about watching fireworks in the rain. Or worry that much, anyway. 

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Bradley Foster is a former Thrillist editor who after all this will probably watch the Seattle fireworks display on TV. At a bar. Overlooking Lake Union.