Where to Celebrate the 4th, if You Love Fireworks but Hate Crowds

Fourth of July celebrations may vary around our melting pot of a nation, but there’s one constant that can be counted on: the fireworks. But powerful pyrotechnic displays aren’t only found in major cities like New York City, Chicago or Washington, D.C. Here are eight standout shows in other cities, worth seeking out for their small-town charm, stunning natural settings and, of course, spectacular fireworks.

Addison, Tex.

If Addison’s nickname, Kaboom Town, is any indicator, this four-and-a-half-square-mile town just north of Dallas takes its fireworks very seriously. More than 500,000 attendees are expected for their Third of July fireworks spectacular; the half-hour show kicks off at 9:30 p.m., incorporates more than 300 shells and boasts a finale that’s twice as long as the industry standard. Catch the show at the official free-watch party at Addison Circle Park, but expect major crowds — the gates to the park open at 4 p.m., but fireworks enthusiasts line up nine to ten hours prior. Alternatively, seek out watch parties at restaurants and hotels around town.

Lake Tahoe, Calif.

A Fourth of July celebration in the Sierras has a backdrop that would make any fireworks display impressive — 10,000-foot granite peaks ring Lake Tahoe’s 72 miles of shoreline — but the stunning natural scenery is just the beginning. The 25-minute show, held on July 4 at 9:45 p.m., is shot off from three barges in the waters off the lake’s south shore, and can be seen from all around the area. Optimal viewing spots include Zephyr Cove, Nevada Beach, El Dorado Beach and aboard boats of all sizes (check out Fourth of July lake cruises on Ms. Dixie II and Safari Rose). The show itself prioritizes using environmentally conscientious large shells shot high in the air — they are easier to clean up after the show.

Gatlinburg, Tenn.

This Smoky Mountain town staked its claim in the Fourth of July celebration game in 1976, when it kicked off a July 4 parade at exactly 12:01 a.m. Gatlinburg continues the tradition of hosting its midnight parade each year, but plans a full day of celebrations beforehand, including an unmanned river raft regatta and a military band performance whose rendition of “The 1812 Overture” leads right into the 10 p.m. fireworks show.

Dover, Del.

Dover’s Fourth of July Celebration dates back to the 1976 Bicentennial, but aims to celebrate the town’s Revolutionary War history, too (soldiers met and marched off to fight from downtown Dover). Tradition and modernity also factor into Dover’s approximately 20-minute fireworks show. Held right downtown, the fireworks go off around 9:20 p.m. over the Delaware State Capitol Building and accompanied by a carefully curated, themed soundtrack — this year’s tunes will center on the phrase “Coming To America” (previous years have included music from “Hamilton,” movie soundtracks and songs about cars).

Bar Harbor, Me.

The Fourth of July is a big deal in Bar Harbor, with a full day of celebrations that includes a pancake breakfast, a seafood festival, lobster races and live music through the day and night. Everything culminates in an approximately 30-minute fireworks display at 9:15 p.m. — look for the first boom as the band hits the final note of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Fireworks are shot from the town’s pier over the water, with the mountains of Acadia National Park in the background. Watch from Argamont Park right in town, or take a sunset cruise with the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. for a view of the show from the water.

Traverse City, Mich.

Traverse City’s Fourth of July fireworks is a testament to civic engagement. In 2011, the group that had traditionally funded the fireworks opted out. A number of locals banded together and raised enough money for a 15-minute show — since then, they’ve formed a nonprofit: the Traverse City Boom Boom Club, dedicated to ensuring that Traverse City has fireworks on the Fourth. The show, which coincides with the National Cherry Festival, is now 25 to 30 minutes long, carefully synchronized with patriotic and mainstream music, and boasts more than 1,400 fireworks.

Whitefish, Mont.

The Northern Rocky Mountains provide the backdrop for this Northwest Montana town’s fireworks show, which is shot from a barge 100 yards off City Beach Park, on the eastern shore of Whitefish Lake. Come early for a live band performance at 7 p.m., and stay for the last vestiges of sunset as the fireworks start. In addition to prime viewing from City Beach, hundreds of boats will be on the lake before and during the show — vessels are decked out for a 9 p.m. boat parade before converging around the barge for the show’s start at approximately 10:45 p.m.

Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Choose between two Fourth of July shows in and near Jackson — drive 15 minutes to Teton Village for a fireworks display paired with stunning views of the Grand Tetons, or catch the show, which is shot from the base of Snow King Mountain right in town (both shows start around 10 p.m.). Don’t want to choose? Drive up nearby Shadow Mountain or Curtis Mountain (an off-road-capable vehicle is a must) and see both fireworks shows simultaneously before camping overnight. Also consider catching the Town Square Shootout at 6 p.m. and the Jackson Hole Rodeo at 8 p.m., before the fireworks begin.

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