July 4th barbecues and firework viewing are definitely fun and never get tiresome, but in a city as busy and diverse as New York City, there are always unique alternatives to traditional holiday celebrations. From an African Arts Festival to a burlesque party, or a yoga class on the Hudson to viewing a copy of the Declaration of Independence, there are so many off-the-beaten path activities to partake in this year. Since July 4th falls on a Thursday, there are exciting events taking place all week long. Here are some of our Untapped picks for alternative ways to celebrate Independence Day this year!
1. Rare Viewing of the Declaration of Independence
This 4th of July week, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to view a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence in Thomas Jefferson’s original handwriting. This treasured document can be found at the New York Public Library’s Gottesman Hall on the first floor of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue.
The Declaration of Independence was finished on July 1, 1776, but before it was ratified on July 4th, some changes were made to the text, such as the removal of Jefferson’s long condemnation of the slave trade. After July 4th, Jefferson wrote several fair copies of his original text and sent them to five or six friends. The New York Public Library holds one of the four, intact Jefferson fair copies known to exist, so do not miss your chance to check it out in person.
The public will be able to view the Declaration of Independence on Monday, July 1st from 10:00AM to 5:00PM and Tuesday, July 2nd from 10 AM to 7 PM. The exhibition is free!
2. Summerstage in Central Park
Photo by Nick Childers courtesy City Parks Foundation
New York City’s largest performance festival that is proudly women-run is finally here! SummerStage transforms New York’s parks into lively performing spaces. There is an array of music and dance being offered at these festivities, such as salsa, modern dance, hip hop, indie, and more. In Central Park, there are nearly 100 free and benefit performances from 200 artists, and there are other SummerStage events taking place in seventeen other New York City parks as well.
Now is the time to start choosing which performance festivals you want to attend. The weekend following July 4th there are concerts in Central Park, Springfield Park and The Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island. You can see the full summer schedule of all free and benefit SummerStage concerts here.
3. Secrets of the Brooklyn Bridge Walking Tour
Besides boasting an amazing view of the city, the Brooklyn Bridge also has an extraordinary amount of secrets to boasts, such as its old Cold War fall out shelter, abandoned park, and hidden champagne vaults. When the Brooklyn Bridge was built, it was the longest in the world, making it not only an instant icon of New York City, but also a magnificent American achievement.
Are you ready to see the location of the nation’s first White House or discover a hidden statue at the base of the bridge? If yes, join Untapped Cities’ next Secrets of the Brooklyn Bridge Walking Tour on July 2nd. You can book your ticket with the button below.
4. Travis Parade in Staten Island
Since 1911, the small yet extraordinarily patriotic town of Travis has thrown an Independence Day parade, and it is one of the oldest celebrations of July 4th in the United States. This year’s 107th parade on July 4th starts with a ceremony at the Reviewing Stand that will recognize the dignitaries and honored guests of the parade, like the Grand Marshal. After the ceremony, participants will march down Victory Boulevard from Cannon Avenue to Glen Street, a route officially designated as “Independence Way.” Enormous red, white, and blue decorations are placed along the streets of Travis, and of course the patriotic spirit of the residents and visitors is more prominent than ever.
The charm of Travis is certainly distinguished by its history. The town was named after Colonel Jacob Travis, who lived in Travis before the Civil War. During the American Revolution, Travis, at the time known as New Blazing Star, was home to a contingent Loyalists troops who battled the Patriots in the Battle of Staten Island in 1777. Both sides surrendered. Moreover, in the 1800s, Travis became a major center of travel and innovation, with its revolutionary American Linoleum Manufacturing Company becoming one of the first companies to use electricity. Travis is certainly a town filled with American history, and its spirit comes alive on the 4th!
The opening ceremony starts at 12:00PM at the Reviewing Stand, located in front of P.S. 26 at 4108 Victory Boulevard (between Wild Ave. & Melvin Ave.) For more information on the parade route and parking, visit the Travis Parade website here.
5. Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest at Coney Island
Courtesy of Nathan’s Famous, Inc.
Coney Island’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest returns again in 2019! Legend has it that on Independence Day in 1916 four immigrants competed in a hot-dog eating contest at the original Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand in Coney Island to see who was the most patriotic. Today, this contest continues and you can watch world-champion eaters chomp down as many Nathan’s Natural Casing hot dogs as they can in only ten minutes.
The woman’s competition occurs at 10:45 AM and the men’s at 12:00PM. You can either watch the contest in person among a crowd of over 40,000 fans, or from the comfort of your home on ESPN along with about two million other viewers. 11-time champion Joey Chestnut is ready to defend his title, but fierce competitors Carmen Cincotti and Matt Stonie are coming for him. Chestnut ate a record of 74 hot dogs in 2018 which is equal to 16 pounds and over 12,000 calories! On the woman’s side, Miki Sudo is a five-time Mustard Belt winner. Sudo ate 37 hot dogs in 2018, and is perhaps unstoppable. Who are you betting on to win this year’s competition?
6. Secrets of Prospect Park Walking Tour
Take part in a fun walking tour through the meadows, gardens, and forests of Brooklyn’s beautiful and lush Prospect Park. Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, the designers of Central Park, crafted this vibrant park filled with gorgeous ponds and growing trees. On this expert-led tour, you will learn about Prospect Park’s construction and stories of intriguing events, like mystic rituals, that took place in the park.
From decoding the symbols of Grand Army Plaza to learning about the secret tunnels hidden beneath the lush fields of green, uncover all of the thrilling Secrets of Prospect Park on Sunday, July 7th. You can book your tickets with the button below.
7. Louis Armstrong Birthday Celebration
Courtesy of the Louis Armstrong House Museum
Famous jazz musician and Queens resident Louis Armstrong celebrated his birthday on July 4th, and though this may not have been his actual birthday, the Louis Armstrong House Museum, housed inside his former home in Corona, carries on the tradition every year. This year the museum will be celebrating Armstrong’s 119th birthday.
The outdoor celebrations will include a live jazz concert in Armstrong’s Japanese-inspired garden at the Armstrong house and of course, free birthday cake! You can purchase tickets at the door and keep an eye on the house museum website for more details.
8. Annual Freedom Fest at South Street Seaport
The 5th annual Freedom Fest at South Street Seaport is here! This year’s patriotic event is located at Pier 15 because you can expect superb firework viewing of Macy’s 43rd Annual Fireworks Show from that location. The pier side will be filled with a delicious all-American barbecue buffet, an open bar, and a live DJ.
The July 4th event starts at 6:45PM and ends at 11:00. Tickets to this fireworks viewing event are quickly running out, so book yours here!
9. Hit the Dance Floor at the Midsummer Night Swing
2019 marks the 30 year celebration of Lincoln Center Plaza’s Midsummer Night Swing. The center transforms into a dance floor with live music in Damrosch Park and dance lessons in tango, salsa, swing, disco, and more. On Thursday, July 4th, participants will learn how to salsa to the tunes of DJ Broadway and the Bobby Valentín Orchestra with dance instructor Carlos Konig.
The series of dance events, which kicked off with music and moves inspired by the Jazz Age of the roaring 20s on June 25th, will run until July 13th. Tickets are required and can be purchased in advance online. Which dance style intrigues you?
11. Empire Outlets Block Party
Photograph Courtesy of Empire Outlets
Empire Outlets, New York City’s first and only outlet destination center, will be host a three-day July 4th Block Party event this year. The new outlet space, designed by SHoP Architects, will offer guests extensive programming for the entire family, music from live DJs and bands, and food. The festivities will be enhanced with prime seating for harborside fireworks put on by Empire Outlets at 9:00PM on the fourth.
The entire block party will last three days, from July 4th through July 6th. Throughout all three days there will be roaming street performers and programmed activities like a tie-dye workshop, sidewalk chalk art, face painting, large scale sandcastle building, and an outdoor screening of a featured Americana film to be announced. See the full schedule of programming here!
11. New York Asian Film Festival
Until July 14th, the New York Asian Film Foundation (NYAFF) will hosts screening throughout New York City in partnership with Film at Lincoln Center. Enjoy thrilling East Asian films as the festival marks its 18th year! The New York Asian Film Festival strives to promote appreciation of Asian film culture in America. This year’s program is called the “Still Too Young to Die” edition and includes five international premieres, twenty-three North American premieres, four U.S. premieres, and eight New York premieres. The program includes a variety of genres from horror, drama and action to comedy, romance, thriller, and art-house. Additionally, nearly thirty directors and nine actors from Asia will be visiting.
On July 4th at the Walter Reade Theater, Film at Lincoln Center, you can enjoy the films: Savage (7:30 pm), It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Show (12:30 pm), Dare to Stop Us (3:30 pm), Misbehavior (5:30 pm), and Walk With Me (10:00 pm). Tickets can be purchased here. Which films will you be attending?
12. American Ballet Theatre’s Elegant Sleeping Beauty
The auditorium of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Photo: Jonathan Tichler/Metropolitan Opera
This July 4th, visit the Metropolitan Opera House to enjoy the American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) performance of Sleeping Beauty. Choreographer Alexei Ratmansky beautifully shows via dance the classic tale of love triumphing over evil. The ballet showcases 400 elegant and detailed costumes, 210 fancy wigs, and intricate story book sets. The classic characters of Princess Aurora, the evil sorceress Carabosse, and a handsome prince all light up the stage with this beautiful performance.
There are still a few tickets available for the 2:00PM performance on July 4th which can be purchased in advance online. Sleeping Beauty will only be at the Metropolitan Opera House until July 6th, when the 2019 ballet season closes.
13. International African Arts Festival
Photograph Courtesy of Solwazi Afi Olusola
Beginning in 1971, the International African Arts Festival (IAA) has shaped Brooklyn’s cultural landscape. Each year Commodore Barry Park is transformed into an outdoor African oasis. The International African Arts Festival celebrates traditional and contemporary expressions of numerous African cultures through film, dance, and other art forms. Artists such as Steel Pulse, The Mighty Sparrow, KRS-1, Lauryn Hill, and India Arie have appeared at the Festival. You can purchase African art, jewelry, body oils, fabrics, artifacts, hand-carved marble sculptures, body oils, and more at the festival’s African market. There will also be an outdoor Food Court that offers a variety of traditional soul food and spicy Caribbean dishes along with African, Latin, vegetarian, seafood and gourmet cuisine.
The 2019 Independence Day festivities will feature performances by Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Clifton Anderson Sextet, Dinizulu Cultural arts Institute – African Dance and more. The festival will run from July 4th through July 7th. You can purchase single or multi-day passes here.
14. Burlesque’s Night Out Big July 4th Celebration
Are you ready for a dazzling and explosive evening of striptease and fireworks? This July 4th, City Winery will host Burlesque’s Night Out Big July 4th Celebration. The performance takes place inside and starts early so you can head out into the night to enjoy the fireworks outside.
The show will feature fun and innovative performances by Amuse Bouche, Audrey Love, Delysia La Chatte, Logan Laveau, Odette Coquette, Princess Tess, and Vonka and more. Doc Wasabassco is the host of the show and will appear wearing a Superman costume. Do you know what daring outfit you will be wearing to this thrilling spectacle?
The $22 performance ($25 the day of the show) showcases a combination of humorous and talented acts. The show starts at 7:00PM with doors opening at 6:00PM.
15. HIIT on the Hudson
Photograph by Max Guliani for Hudson River Park
Exercise is always enhanced by a beautiful outdoor setting. This week of the Fourth of July, work of all the burgers and hot dogs with a free High Intensity Interval Training Bootcamp class along the river at Hudson River Park’s Pier 25. Each dynamic and challenging HIIT class is adaptable to all levels of ability in a beautiful and unique setting.
The class is presented in partnership with Lululemon and is part of the summer-long fitness series Healthy on Hudson which includes other athletic events along New York City’s beautiful harbor, include paddling, zumba, fitness walking, mediation and pilates. So do not worry if you can not enjoy this night session, because there will be plenty of other opportunities to take advantage of these free excessive events! The class runs from 6:30OM to 7:30PM on July 3rd. Advance registration is required.
Still don’t know how to spend your upcoming week and Independence Day in New York City? Check out 15 Things to Do This Week in NYC: June 28th-July 4th, 2019.