The Best Places to Watch Fireworks in Austin

Ring in America’s 246th birthday with style.

Austin Symphony Orchestra
Austin Symphony Orchestra

In summer, there are only two times of day most Texans will step outside (unless tubing or a swimming hole is involved)—before dawn and after dusk. Otherwise, it’s AC all the way. That’s why fireworks events are so much fun. We not only get to stretch our legs in the great outdoors, enjoy fabulous company, and feast on anything with cheese, we get to watch things explode. This year’s July Fourth fireworks are back—once again at Auditorium Shores. If it’s your first time, by all means, get in early (like, super early) to snag a spot at the official celebration. But if you want our advice, make like a veteran Austinite and go for one of the less busy, way more fun, alternative spots. You’ll beat the crowds, bring your own food and drink, and have a far more wonderful time, without the stress of parking, we promise. Here’s our pick of the best places to catch the fireworks.

Downtown’s rooftop bars: Geraldine’s, Rules & Regs, and Edge

The downtown hotels perched on the lake all boast excellent views across from Auditorium Shores. Head for their rooftop bars if the ground floor patios don’t suffice. Our pick of the bunch include Geraldine’s atop Hotel Van Zandt, known for their excellent live music program; Rules & Regs atop Fairmont Austin, adjacent to the largest hotel pool downtown; and Edge atop JW Marriott, which knocks out a delicious Piña Colada. If you’re feeling extra splashy, you and your pals can book a top-floor room facing the action.

Downtown’s apartment buildings

Thankfully, not all the lakefront real estate opposite Auditorium Shores is made up of hotels. There are also a number of apartment buildings worth nagging your connections to let you come watch the fireworks. The best for unobstructed views are the two Gables buildings by Lamar Blvd Bridge. Just stock up a YETI full of treats, find a spot, and your private party is all set.

Lady Bird Lake Trail

One of our fave options (and easiest for last-minute planning) is the 10-mile Lady Bird Lake Trail that lines the areas surrounding all the action. Bring a blanket and have a picnic while you wait for the show to commence, or get some extra steps in with a stroll over to Austin’s beloved Lick Honest Ice Creams.

Flickr/Chris Zerbes
Flickr/Chris Zerbes

Ladybird lake

To beat the crowds with the same Lady Bird Lake Trail idea, why not see the show from the water itself? You can rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard from spots like Austin Rowing Club, or if you’re a true Austinite, bring your own inflatable. We suggest starting at S. First Street, paddling to S. Lamar Blvd, and finishing at Lou Neff Point, a shallow part of the lake where revelers often congregate. For an elevated modification, rent a boat. Virgin Experiences offer private dinner cruises for up to four people, so you can come close enough to hear the Austin Symphony Orchestra live.

Congress Bridge

If you’re new in town or are hosting visitors, then you might as well kill two bats with one stone. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.) Congress Bridge is where the tourists line up to see thousands of Mexican Free-tailed bats emerge for their nightly feeding. This only happens in the warmer months at dusk, so following the bat show, you may as well stick around on Congress Bridge for the fireworks display.

Barton Creek Square Mall

It may be behind the main event, but when it comes to fireworks there is no backward view. This secret spot is a favorite of locals looking for quick viewing in the comfort of their vehicle—the parking lot usually has excellent vistas of the sparkling sky. Best of all, you have access to refreshments and bathrooms in the mall.

Zilker Park, Rock Island Park, and Deep Eddy Park

In a similar vein to the trails, gather your pals and picnic at one of the loop’s adjoining parks. Zilker, Rock Island, and Deep Eddy have some of the best views, and chances are you’ll have a celebratory crowd of new pals to mingle with. Y’all might wanna stop off at Austin Eastciders for a few extra cans on the way.