By Lili Eros-Sarnyai
If the very thought of the Fourth of July fills you with a decidedly unpatriotic dread, and the mere mention of the word ‘celebration’ leaves you determined to spend the holiday holed up in your apartment with the door firmly bolted in case dazed/drunk/over-friendly members of the crowd happen to wander by, then it is time to face your fears. Independence Day is a fantastic excuse for countless things, such as singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ at the top of your voice on the subway, wearing ridiculous oversized hats, eating anything and everything that could possibly be deemed unhealthy over the course of 24 hours, and deciding that it would be “amusing” to dye your hair red, white and blue after getting more than a little tipsy at your friend’s roof-top barbecue. There is, however, no excuse for depriving yourself of one of the most spectacular visual events of the year: the famous Macy’s fireworks.
Indisputably a New York ‘tradition,’ the fireworks extravaganza must be seen in person to be truly appreciated. Beginning at approximately 9 pm, fireworks will be released from three separate locations around the city, illuminating the sky in a dazzling dance of sparks and vibrant color. People flock from all over the world to witness this spectacle and experience the quite simply, electric atmosphere; at the same time, too many New Yorkers let the fear of spending hours scrunched between confused tourists and overzealous Manhattanites get in the way of their inevitable desire to be there. So for all you ladies who would much rather give up summer mani-pedis than have to watch the fireworks from amongst the festive hoi polloi on FDR Drive, here are a few alternative suggestions.
Escape the madness without giving up the views! Flip-flop your way over to Roosevelt Island, where not only will you have a bit more breathing space, but the thoughtful (or merely forward-thinking and realistic?) organizers also provide guaranteed seating for all ticket holders. Tickets cost $18 and are available online or by calling 877-77CLICK; it’s a great offer, and it even includes pre-fireworks entertainment featuring music and face-painting, as well as a food court if you’re too lazy to bring a picnic.
Directions: Take Roosevelt Island tramway from 2nd Avenue between 59th and 60th Street or the F train to Roosevelt Island (Queens bound F one stop from 63rd Street/Lexington Avenue.)
South Street Seaport
How about celebrating the home of the free and the brave by joining the River to River Festival for a special fireworks viewing party at the South Street Seaport? It’s a great venue, and you are guaranteed a clear view of the fireworks being launched from all three locations.
Pedestrian access to the FDR is from Pearl Street only.
Liberty State Park
If you’re feeling more adventurous, why not grab a couple of friends and make a day of it in Liberty State Park in Jersey City? The views are fantastic, the ambience is friendly and relaxed, and there’s so much room you could, if you are that way inclined, actually put your arms out and spin around in a whirl of patriotism (though you may want to keep in mind that you have left Manhattan and have therefore entered the territory of ‘normal people’ where such displays of spontaneity are scrutinised-but don’t worry about it; after all, it’s a celebration of independence, right?)
Directions: Take the Water Taxi from the North Cove Marina (in front of the World Financial Center) to the Liberty Landing Marina in Liberty State Park.
Long Island City
Another great, easily accessible viewing venue is Long Island City. LIC even boasts an entire Fireworks Festival, complete with music, food and games; “eat, drink, watch the show and be merry!” is clearly the motto here.
Directions: At the Hunter’s Point Pier (Borden Ave & 5th St.)
Empire State Building
Then again, you could always invest in a ticket to a truly unforgettable Fourth of July by foregoing buying those impossibly chic sunglasses you’ve had your eye on in Barney’s. For $175 you get the chance to watch the Macy’s spectacular from the top of the Empire State Building, and it really is worth every penny. Admission includes an open bar and snacks, but spaces are limited to 150, so book now! (And if there are no more tickets left for this year, you could always book in advance for 2008…)
Call 212-736-3100 or 877-NYC-VIEW.
The Circle Line
For all you sophisticates who recoil at the very word ‘picnic’ or ‘free entertainment,’ do not despair! Although the Fourth of July is usually a casual affair, there is something for everyone – and a cruise on the Circle Line is exactly what the culture-thirsty New York darling needs on Independence Day. Complete with a DJ, cash bar and buffet dinner, this cruise offers you the chance to mingle with other like-minded individuals (and no doubt laugh gleefully over extortionately-priced cocktails at the plight of the poor people crushed against one another on FDR Drive). Witness Lady Liberty in all her glory, and marvel at the fireworks display from a safe distance. Tickets only cost $70, and the ship leaves Pier 16 at the South Street Seaport at 5:30 pm, returning at 11 pm.
Call 212-269-5755 or 866-9CLINE1 for reservations and more information.
East River – FDR Drive
Finally, for anyone determined to enjoy the fracas of the street party that is FDR Drive on the Fourth of July despite the risk of death by tourist stampede, you can watch the fireworks between 14th and 42nd Streets with all the other mad yet resolute revellers. Pedestrian access to the viewing area will be at 23rd, 38th, and 42nd Streets, but be sure to get there early (if you can, by 7 pm), and bring a blanket or a chair as well as food and drinks to last you the evening. Also, be ready to find your centre of cool and calm as the celebrations die down, as actually getting out of there can be more difficult than attempting to jog backwards through Grand Central station during the morning rush-hour.
Finally, for anyone who remains unconvinced and still finds the prospect of staying in and watching the fireworks on TV as the best alternative, NBC will have a live broadcast beginning at 9 pm. Either way, just remember to have fun on the nation’s birthday!