Fireworks and the Fourth of July

Statue of Liberty on the background of sunrise and fireworks

In the United Kingdom, we gather to watch fireworks on 5 November in remembrance of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament. In the United States, the relationship between fireworks and the fourth of July is less representational.

The US celebrates American Independence Day with fireworks because John Adams, the second President, recommended it be so. He wrote to his wife, Abigail, on 3 July, 1776 (before the Declaration of Independence was signed), that the date should be celebrated “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

Parades, games, and shews (shows) the US has aplenty, but it is the fireworks that bring Americans together on the 4th of July. Almost all major cities, and most of the small towns, have a fireworks show, although in cases of drought these can sometimes be canceled. (This is quite frequent in the western parts of the United States.)

It is a common misconception that Americans use fireworks to remember "The rockets red glare, Bombs bursting in air…" from the lyrics of the "Star Spangled Banner". But, in fact, Americans celebrate their independence with "Illuminations" because one of their forefathers realized what a momentous occasion it was, and envisioned future celebrations for years to come.


The best places to watch July 4 fireworks in the US include


Washington, DC

 It doesn’t get better than celebrating US Independence in the nation’s capital. With fireworks exploding over the Mall, you can see the Washington Monument silhouetted against the night sky.


New York City, NY

 The Macy’s Fireworks Spectacular is probably the most famous in the United States, because of the stunning setting. The fireworks over the East River frequently include fireboats, which shoot patriotic streams of fireworks into the night sky. You can watch from anywhere along the riverfront, or on one of the many special cruises on the harbor.


Boston, MA

For a more classical take on the event, drop in to the Boston Pops annual 4th of July concert, where the orchestra accompanies the fireworks with a rendition of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture – they use real cannon for the finale, too!


Plan a US road trip


To read more about what to see in the United States, visit Insight's USA destination pages. Or choose from one of our fantastic USA travel guides, including US on the Road...



Northern route – east coast Boston to west coast Washington state

Atlantic route – New York City to Key West, Florida


Pacific Route – from San Diego to Seattle

• Tips on renting a car for your journey

• Road trip survival skills

• A tour of the best locations from US road movies


• A guide to eating your way across America


• Hotels, motels and wigwams – planning where to stay on your road trip