Whether you want to watch a dazzling fireworks display, fire up the grill, or find an alternative way to celebrate the 4th of July in New York City, we have you covered. Dive into the history of Independence Day by examining revolutionary artifacts or talking to costumed history interpreters, find a new perspective for the fireworks display, watch a fresh champ be crowned at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest, and find more ways to celebrate in the city!

1. View a Copy of the Declaration of Independence

Painting of King George Statue being toppled
Courtesy of the New-York Historical Society

For just a few days, the New-York Historical Society will display a special exhibition, Our History of Discord, where you can see a rare New York printed copy of the Declaration of Independence from 1776. A “declaration of dependence,” a petition from hundreds of Loyalist New Yorkers pledging their allegiance to the king, is displayed alongside the document we celebrate on the 4th. Hanging above these conflicting declarations is a painting that depicts the night revolutionaries tore down a statue of King George III in Bowling Green. A piece of that very statue, which has been in the New-York Historical Collection since the late 1800s, is also on display. Our History of Discord is on view through July 7th.

On the 4th, visitors to the museum can try 18th-century street food and ice cream flavors, meet historical interpreters, and take part in games, crafts, a dress-up photo booth, and more!

Join Untapped New York’s Chief Experience Officer Justin Rivers for a deep dive into the events of July 9th, 1776 when that King George III statue was toppled, and track down the rest of the remnants, during a live virtual talk on July 31st, 2024! This virtual talk is free for Untapped New York Insiders! Not an Insider yet? Become a member today with promo code JOINUS and get your first month free!

2. Barbecue in Central Park

Central Park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted

You can only barbecue in Central Park three days out of the year: Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the 4th of July. Be sure to check the park’s website and follow all the rules! You’ll need to bring your own grill (no propane) and can only use it in certain areas. It’s suggested you find a spot north of 96th Street, particularly near Harlem Meer or Great Hill where there is flat ground and you can set up at a safe distance from trees.

3. Explore the Hidden Gems of Grand Central Terminal

A group of tourgoers at an Untapped New York Event at Grand Central Terminal

Explore one of New York City’s busiest transit hubs during the quieter holiday weekend and uncover surprising features like hidden tennis courts, a swanky speakeasy, a forgotten celestial mural, and more! As you walk through the stunning landmark, you will learn about the train terminal’s lost movie theater, look for people walking across its iconic windows, and trace the evolution of the building from its opening through its near demolition to today. This tour was just awarded a Best of the Best Award from Tripadvisor, based on traveler reviews!

Secrets of Grand Central

Grand Central Clock information booth

4. Watch Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks in a New Location

4th of July Fireworks
Photo Courtesy of Macy’s, Inc.

Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks will shoot off from the Hudson River for the first time in over a decade. Along the west side of Manhattan and the east shore of New Jersey, there are plenty of public viewing areas where you can watch the show for free. Head to the Macy’s website here to find a map of the best spots. Untapped New York traveled to a secret location to watch the crew prep thousands of fireworks for the big night, check out our photos here.

You can gaze up at the fireworks from the ground, take in the show while cruising New York City’s waterways on a boat, or watch from above while partying at the highest points in the city! Summit at One Vanderbilt, The Edge at Hudson Yards, and One World Observatory at the World Trade Center will all host exclusive 4th of July fireworks viewing events with drinks, music, and a unique vantage point to enjoy the show.

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5. See Coney Island’s 4th of July Fireworks

Coney Island Fireworks
Photo by Jim McDonnell, Courtesy of Alliance for Coney Island

The Macy’s fireworks display isn’t the only sparkling show in town. Coney Island will launch fireworks from Steeplechase Park at 9:45 pm on Thursday night. Spectators can watch the colorful sparks light up the sky alongside the electric glow of the amusement park rides from anywhere along the Riegelmann Boardwalk. The best spots to watch from are between West 10th Street and West 23rd Street.

6. Cheer On the Lower Manhattan 4th of July Parade

Lower Manhattan 4th of July parade
Courtesy of the Lower Manhattan Historical Association

Follow the route of the Ninth Annual Independence Day Celebration and Parade hosted by the Lower Manhattan Historical Society on Thursday morning! Festivities begin with a Flag Raising Ceremony at 10:00 am at Castle Clinton. The parade marches on toward the South Street Seaport’s Pier 16. After the parade, head to the Fraunces Tavern Museum, one of the oldest buildings in Manhattan, for $1 admission and It Happened Here events highlighting the newly installed Lafayette exhibit and the revolutionary history of Lower Manhattan. Original copies of the Declaration of Independence and other 18th-century artifacts will be on display.

7. Meet the Founding Fathers

Richmond Town
Courtesy of Historic Richmond Town

Celebrate the 4th of July the old-fashioned way at Staten Island’s Historic Richmond Town Independence Day Celebration. Costumed interpreters dressed as founding fathers and mothers will roam the grounds of this living history village and host special events inside historic structures like the carpenter’s shop, tin shop, basket maker’s house, and native encampment. Visitors will get to sign a copy of the Declaration of Independence, enjoy demonstrations of 19th-century fireworks, indulge in snacks and beverages, listen to patriotic music, and more.

8. Watch Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest

Nathan's hot dog eating contest

With reigning champion Joey Chestnut out of the running this year, it’s anyone’s guess who will take home the Mustad Belt at Nathan’s Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island. The first recorded hot dog eating contest took place at Nathan’s Famous flagship in 1972. Since then, contestants have scarfed down 1,509 dogs. This year’s contest starts at 10:45 am when Miki Sudo will defend her title in the women’s competition. The men’s competition begins at noon. The event is free and open to the public, but expect large crowds. While in Coney Island, check out some other classic eateries!

9. Explore an Abandoned Hospital on Ellis Island

Ellis Island Hospital

Many immigrants started their new lives in America at Ellis Island. For some passing through this immigration station during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, their dreams of living in the land of freedom and opportunity were halted by illness. They were treated in a 29-building hospital complex on the lesser-traveled south side of the island. Over this 4th of July weekend, you can uncover their stories as you step inside the abandoned hospital complex on a hard hat tour led by a Save Ellis Island docent. You’ll gain access to rooms such as the laundry facilities, autopsy theater, and contagious disease wards, spaces that have been closed off for decades.

Abandoned Hospital Hard Hat Tour

Ellis Island Hard Hat Tour

10. Enjoy a Revolutionary Read

Living Constitutionally Book cover and author headshot

New York Times Bestselling author A.J. Jacobs spent a year attempting to live by the original meaning of the Constitution. He caught curious glances while gallivanting around New York City in a tricorne hat with a 1700s musket and bayonet. Jacobs recounts his experiment in The Year of Living Constitutionally. Along with hilarious anecdotes, the book explores what the Constitution means and how we should interpret the foundational document more than 230 after it was written. You can grab an autographed copy of the book from the Lit Salon shop, and watch a recording of Jacobs’ Lit Salon launch part in our on-demand archive.

Next, check out Must-See Public Art in July!