When it comes to 4th of July fireworks, Chicago has no shortage of unsanctioned displays. From a rooftop bar, you can get a nonstop show—particularly, we've found, if the building is in Pilsen or Humboldt Park. The downside: You might get a bottle rocket in the eye. Lower-risk fun can be had at scores of authorized fireworks displays. The only proper shows in Chicago are at Navy Pier and Wrigley Field on July 4. Nearby suburbs, though, offer lots of bang for your travel buck. Whether you want to hang out in your nieghborhood or take a weekend getaway, here are the displays worth checking out.
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Navy Pier The city canceled its fireworks show in 2011, and Navy Pier has been Independence Day central since. A patriotic soundtrack blares as fireworks go boom overhead. Navy Pier. July 4, dusk.
Arlington Heights The post-race fireworks display starts at dusk, but you can arrive early in the afternoon for music and family activities—and hurry, the first 5,000 people get a patriotic gift. Arlington Park Racetrack (2200 Euclid Ave, Arlington Heights). July 4 at dusk. $12.
Aurora The Aurora American Legion Band entertains crowds with American Standards, beginning at 6:15pm. A fireworks display caps off the night. RiverEdge Park (360 N Broadway Ave, Aurora). July 3 at 9:30pm. Free.
Downers Grove Come with friends and family to the Village of Downers Grove and Village of Woodridge Independence Day parade, which kicks off at 12:45pm. After an afternoon of suburban fun, the night ends with a fireworks display. Downers Grove (75th St and Lemont Rd, Downers Grove). July 4 at 9:30pm. Free.
Evanston The Palatine Concert Band pipes out patriotic and popular music from 7:30–9pm. Not close enough to hear the music live? It will be simulcast on 90.5 FM, so pack a portable radio. The heart of this firework frenzy is at Clark Street Beach, but Evanston encourages attendees to park downtown and stake out a viewing spot along the lakefront. Clark Street Beach (1811 Sheridan Rd, Evanston). July 4 at 9:15 pm. Free.
Glen Ellyn Independence Day festivities begin with a parade at noon, carnival games from 1–4pm and fireworks at dusk. The fest also includes live music, concessions and face painting. Lake Ellyn Park (645 Lenox Rd, Glen Ellyn). July 4 at dusk. Free.
Glenview The 50th annual Glenview Independence Day Celebration begins with a parade on Harlem Ave. This year the evening events take place in Gallery Park, including a twlight concert and fireworks. Gallery Park (2400 Chestnut Ave, Glenview). July 4 at 7:00pm. Free.
Highland Park A children’s bike and pet parade are part of the main Independence Day procession of floats and marching bands at 9:30am. Highland Park's Fourth Fest begins at 11pm, featuring carnival rides, a petting zoo and pony rides. A battle of the bands at 5pm in Wolter’s Field leads into the evening's fireworks display. Wolter’s Field (1080 Park Ave, Highland Park) July 4 at dusk. Free.
Hoffman Estates From July 1–6, the Northwest Fourth-Fest offers up family friendly activities including a carnival, craft fair and music from the likes of Infinity and 7th Heaven. Sears Centre Arena (5333 Prairie Stone Parkway, Hoffman Estates). July 4 at 9:30pm. Free.
Itasca The village of Itasca takes the Fourth of July very seriously, putting on one of the largest displays outside of Chicago. Prepare yourself for 25 minutes of midair explosions. Hamilton Lakes Office Campus (Illinois Rt 53 and Thorndale Ave, Itasca). July 4, 9:45pm. Free.
Lake Forest Festival & Fireworks Wynonna Judd headlines this suburban fireworks fest. Once you the music stops, you can watch the bombs bursting in the sky. Deerpath Community Park (Deerpath Rd at Hastings Rd, Lake Forest). July 4, 5–10pm. $20, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff residents $15, kids 5 and under free.
Plainfield Park District Patriotic Picnic and Fireworks Before the fireworks at dusk, check out the inflatable obstacle course, face painting, crafts and games at this family-friendly fest. Plainfield Central High School (24120 W Fort Beggs Dr, Plainfield) July 3, 6–9pm. Free.
Naperville Ribfest Fireworks This explosive display is part of Naperville’s Ribfest, which celebrates finger-lickin’ fare from around the country. Knoch Park (700 S West St, Naperville). July 4, 9:30pm, $15. After 7:30pm free.
Skokie Park District Fireworks The show gets some extra spark with “3D fireworks.” Special glasses add color to the aerial display, making them really pop. Niles West High School (5701 Oakton St, Skokie). July 4 at dusk. Free.
Wrigley Field Fireworks Wrigley Field gets its first ever fireworks show after the game on July 4. Even if you can't make it into the Friendly Confines, you can enjoy the explosions from the street. Wrigley Field (1060 W Addison St, Chicago). July 4, post-game. Free.