Free things to do on the 4th of July
Pack up hot dogs, hamburgers, cupcakes and chips, and head to Brooklyn Bridge Park to claim your spot for the fireworks. Get there early enough to soak in some sun and check out Jeppe Hein's public art installations (one of which incorporates spurts of water you can cool off in), and bring some comfy blankets to settle in for the long haul. That view of the Manhattan skyline will be worth it.
For a full day of sun, sand and riding both literal and figurative waves of good tunes, head to Jacob Riis Park on the Rockaway Peninsula. The folks behind Brooklyn Night Bazaar (R.I.P.) have booked Kings County’s Uriel J. Winfree III and Jamie Register to perform live, while DJs Dirtyboogie, Big Victory and Edward Eskew provide danceworthy jams.
Live music, booze, food, fireworks and a beach view—you can’t ask for much more than that on Independence Day. Last year's party began at 9am and went until midnight, so assume you're in for a full day of partying, unless you need to leave for a quick drunken ride on the Cyclone (you will definitely be tempted).
The epic light show stays on the East River this year (sorry, Jersey), and you can catch it from any rooftop in Manhattan, Queens or Brooklyn. Or check out party spots like Berry Park or Fornino, or head to vantage points like the Brooklyn Promenade or South Street Seaport. All you have to do is look up!
Take in a traditional Independence Day parade in the small Staten Island community of Travis, which hosts its 105th annual promenade. The enclave is also known for festooning its houses with elaborate, patriotic decorations for its home-decorating contest. Arrive early so you can check out all of the red, white and blue finery. Then grab a seat at the viewing center.