Best Boating Locations for Fireworks

Amazing 4th of July Celebrations Around the Country

June 2024 News, Feature Roy Sparks

Few holidays bring the heat like the Fourth of July, especially when it comes to pyrotechnic displays of patriotism. Oh how we love those big colorful explosions, especially when they’re synchronized to some of our favorite all-American songs.

Yes, watching fireworks is awesome, but do you know what’s even better? Watching fireworks from your pontoon or boat. We’ve put together some of the best boating locations for watching fireworks this Independence Day so you can get the most out of both your boat and the holiday. While there are plenty of other great firework shows over water, each of these patriotic celebrations we included have their own personal flair as unique as the cities they’re hosted in. Regardless of where you end up this Fourth of July, be sure to take advantage of arguably the greatest boating holiday of the year.

Rockaway Beach, Oregon
This city in northern Oregon sends up the fireworks after a day marked by a big parade, wiener dog races, beach treasure hunts, and more as part of Rockaway Beach’s celebration. The day begins at 11 a.m. with its Independence Day Parade and you’ll want to get there early for a good spot to watch the dazzling floats go by. Afterwards, head over to Phyllis Baker Park for the always-hilarious Annual Dachshund Races. And don’t forget to visit the Rockaway Lioness Bake and Plant Sale, play a game of Airsoft paintball, and enjoy a flyover by the National Guard.

When dusk comes, head over to the Wayside behind the red caboose or find a comfy spot on the beach and get ready to watch the spectacular fireworks show that kicks off around 10 p.m.

Rockaway Beach’s celebration has been dubbed one of the most magnificent Independence Day celebrations on the northern Oregon Coast by USA Today and Coastal Living

Put-in-Bay, Ohio
One of the most well-traveled destinations in the Great Lakes region is Put-in-Bay, Ohio, and for good reason. The island of Put-in-Bay has an idyllic little town just a quick ferry ride away. The locals have a thriving hospitality industry, with roaring music attractions and festivals lasting all through the prime season, making a visit a must if you’re on Lake Erie.

Their Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza certainly doesn’t slouch, either. Island businesses and residents pool their resources to launch a barge of fireworks into the bay, sending off a battery of pyrotechnics just after a free live music performance. You’ll never forget a visit to Put-in-Bay, and while you’re there, you’re sure to fall in love with the island and the surrounding lake.

Annapolis, Maryland
Maryland starts celebrating America's Independence in the last days of June. There are a lot of patriotic events that take place in Baltimore and Annapolis, while the Chesapeake Bay and Ocean City offer perfect beach weather and stunning fireworks over the waterfront. Events are scattered throughout the Fourth of July weekend and the fireworks are launched from a barge in the Annapolis River. The best viewing area is definitely aboard your boat in the Annapolis Harbor. This event is extremely popular and you can beat the crowds and traffic from the comfort of your pontoon.

However, if you plan to venture ashore during the day, you won’t be disappointed since there are plenty of patriotic events, complete with marching bands, fire engines and some tasty food during the parade. Then be sure to be on the water when evening rolls around for a great display of fireworks.

Chicago, Illinois
Another great location for fireworks this Independence Day is in Chicago. The pyrotechnics show off of Navy Pier is top-notch and lights up Lake Michigan. This lovely display is synchronized to patriotic music that you can hear if you’re close enough to the shore. Plus, Navy Pier, a 3,300-foot pier on the shoreline, also hosts fireworks shows every Wednesday and Saturday night of the summer in addition to the fireworks on the Fourth.

Saluting the nation and honoring our country’s great history doesn’t get any better than this along Chicago’s downtown lakefront; it’s one of the largest fireworks shows in the country.

Plus, you can expect tons of events and activities going on at the Pier throughout the entire day. Some of the events included are live music performances at the Miller Lite Beer Garden. This is a very popular event, and Navy Pier is expecting a high volume of people, so try to plan ahead to get the most out of your Independence Day.

New Orleans, Louisiana
Famous as a party destination, New Orleans’ Go 4th on the River truly shines in their huge Independence Day celebration on the Mississippi River. Views from the shore are good, but they’re better from your boat, especially when they break out the Dueling Barges show. This incredible fireworks display accompanied by patriotic music is something you’ll always remember fondly.

Before night falls, you can also enjoy the city’s festive ambience in the French Quarter or cruise along the river to visit the different marketplaces. Additionally, most of the museums will stay open so you can check out a variety of exhibits and learn more about New Orleans’ history. Don’t forget to try some famous southern cuisine while you’re there.

After you’ve explored the city and enjoyed everything it has to offer during the day, you’ll be ready to kick back and enjoy the Dueling Barges fireworks with your family and friends.

Kemah, Texas
Kickoff the summer with amazing fireworks, live music at the Plaza as well as amusement rides. Grab the kids and spend the day at the Kemah Boardwalk before returning to your boat at the adjacent Kemah Marina to watch the fireworks.

Music-themed fireworks shows are every Friday night through June and July, beginning at 9:30 pm, with an especially explosive show on Thursday, July 4th. If you don’t want to bring your own boat, it’s not a problem. Be sure to checkout the Boardwalk Beast Fireworks Cruise or the Boardwalk Fantasea Dinner Fireworks Cruise, two great options for those without boats to view the fireworks from the water. The Boardwalk celebration is free to attend and to watch the fireworks, but don’t forget to make your reservations for dinner at your favorite Boardwalk restaurant before you visit.

Boston, Massachusetts
If you’re in the New England area, you won’t want to miss the world-famous Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. The free concert will be July 4, followed by fireworks at 10:30 in the evening in celebrations of Independence Day. It all takes place on the Charles River Esplanade, making it the perfect location to launch your boat and relax while you celebrate this patriotic holiday.

The Boston Pops first July 4 performance was held more than 90 years ago when Arthur Fiedler became the conductor. He had a vision to enhance his orchestra’s relationship with the City of Boston and he reasoned that if the public could access literature for free through public libraries and art for modest prices through museums, then symphonic music should also be easily accessible as well.

Fiedler set about raising the necessary funds in order to bring this idea to life and finally succeeded on July 4, 1929, with the first-ever free Esplanade Concert. Almost one hundred years later, the concert is still a tradition along the river, and no doubt the experience can be enhanced further when enjoyed from your pontoon boat.

Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada
You can’t forget about the scenic Lake Tahoe’s Lights On The Lake spectacular. This event has the southern waters of Lake Tahoe shimmering in delight. This Fourth of July pyrotechnic display is considered one of the best with NBC’s Today Show recognizing it as one of the country’s top celebrations and the American Pyrotechnics Association rating it as one of the top five in the nation.

The show is slated to start at 9:45 in the evening and the fireworks are visible from all over town; however, the best seats will doubtless be on your boat in the water. Plus, you’ll have an awesome time during the day as well, enjoying the gorgeous Sierra Nevada Mountains and crystal-clear lake water. Just imagine cruising around the alpine lake during the day and then dropping anchor to enjoy the fireworks once the sun sets. You can be a firsthand witness to why this is one of the nation’s top Fourth of July pyrotechnics displays.

Washington, D.C.
Can you think of a more appropriate spot to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day than at our country’s capital? You’ll feel right at home and in good company on the Potomac River since there are several sightseeing boats that organize trips as well for this occasion. Prime viewing locations on the river are between the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge and the Arlington Memorial Bridge.

Being able to watch the fireworks in the nation’s capital is one of the highlights of Washington, D.C.’s  Fourth of July celebration. You can also expect plenty of other festivities throughout the day, so you’ll want to plan accordingly so you can get the most out of it before enjoying the fireworks on your pontoon boat. One of the best ways to navigate the city is via Metro, which offers a special Fourth of July service deal for the occasion.

However, don’t venture too far from your boat because it tends to be rather crowded and you’ll want to get to your viewing spot early to avoid any unnecessary stress. This is definitely a location you need to visit at least once for the Fourth of July.

Duluth, Minnesota
For the grand finale, let’s take a look at the Duluth Fourth Fest in the memorable city of Duluth, Minn., on the very western tip of Lake Superior. Duluth does nothing half-measure, and its Independence Day Celebration is no exception.

There’s an all-day live music event from 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. The Bayfront Festival Park plays host to dozens of vendors providing food, beverage, and specialty crafts to commemorate the holiday. Admission is free, though they ask that you don’t bring your own fireworks. Considering how great the main event is, you won’t need to anyway.

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