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How To Have A Last-Minute (Non-Corny) Fourth of July In New York City

When the hardest seat to get is a bench in Battery Park City.

by Tim Latterner

The Fourth of July is here, which means everyone who didn’t have the foresight or funds to book a trip is now scrambling to make plans. And if you haven’t been extended an invite to a barbecue or backyard, that likely means finding a bar or rooftop where you might be able to catch the fireworks display, which has moved from the East River to the Hudson. (Barges will line up between 14th and 34th Streets, and the show starts at 8 p.m. There’s also the Liberty State Park show at 9:30 p.m.)

The problem with that route, though, is that like New Year's Eve, Halloween, and too many others, the Fourth is a holiday where many establishments sell tickets by claiming that they have the best party and a clear view — almost alway untrue, which is why we’ve put this guide together. So before you consider sending that “hey stranger” text to your ex with a riverfront apartment, scroll through to see some more viable options, whether you’re looking for a bar worth the ticket price or a chiller, though no less fun, park hang.


Grand Banks

Grand Banks puts you directly under the action. The floating ship is docked at Pier 25, just a few blocks south of the main show and a few blocks north of the Liberty State Park fireworks. Tickets for the night are steep, but to get a better view, you’d have to lease a one-bedroom at 15 Hudson Yards. “Waterfront” and “Dockside” options have already sold out at $450 a ticket, but bar seating is still available for $300. It does come with a glass of champagne, a lobster roll or scallops, French fries, and key lime pie.

Drift Inn

If Grand Banks runs out of seating, opt for their landlubber sister bar Drift Inn on Pier 45. They’ve got a similar ticketed menu available, all priced at $50 cheaper than Grand Banks at each level. The views are still great, but beware the fireworks viewer’s biggest fear: park trees. You’re paying for actually good food and drinks, but you might need to do some maneuvering to get an unobstructed view.

Gansevoort Rooftop

I’m not about to endorse Gansevoort Rooftop as a cool bar. But I will say that, when there are fireworks to be seen and they’re hosting their “Rooftop Soirée,” it’s not unlike when you befriend the nerdy kid with a pool in May so you can use it in the summer. The Meatpacking hotel has more of a clubby vibe, but 1) it is getting down to the wire, and 2) maybe that’s what you’re going for.

Le Bain

Le Bain has always been a tiny bit unhinged, and I mean that in the best of ways. (Just ask any nightlife regular what the strangest thing they’ve ever seen at Le Bain was.) Yet somehow, the idea of everyone at Le Bain looking up at the sky to watch fireworks seems almost quaint. The bar is having their July 444th Party, with plenty of music and DJ performances, which runs from 4 p.m. until 4 a.m. — so let’s hope your work gave you Friday off.

City Vineyard

What we said about Gansevoort Rooftop also goes for City Vineyard, but we have to give credit to the latter for throwing a party that puts all the venue's assets to work. Every floor will have music and DJs, and tickets are relatively affordable at $100. (Guests also get a complimentary drink and free food.) The downside is that while the event will be fun, the rooftop has limited space, even more so once everyone gathers for the show. NB: Grand Banks may be best to impress a date, but this is the best for partying with friends.

Green Spaces

Hudson River Park

Naturally — but we have some pro tips. First, know that a lot of the entrances will be closed to control the flow of traffic. (There will be access points starting at 6 p.m. along Washington Street at Christopher, West 11th, and West 12th, and then at 11th Avenue and 29th Street and 40th street.) Next, come prepared with all the supplies you’ll need because the park is narrow; once you’re inside, it’ll be near impossible to leave and get back in. We recommend stopping by Sea Grape Wine beforehand.

Rockefeller Park

Further south, Rockefeller Park has a bigger lawn to spread out on if you’re going with a group. The added benefit is that, depending on the positioning, you’ll be within view of both the Macy’s fireworks to the north and the Liberty State Park fireworks to the south. Battery Park City is a bit quieter, and businesses close early, so we suggest picking up bevs at Pure Liquid in the Oculus.

The Battery

On the very southern tip of Manhattan, the Battery offers a different sort of view. Instead of having to crane your neck to see the Macy’s fireworks, focus on the Liberty State Fireworks — from this vantage point, they’ll be exploding right over the Statue of Liberty. The beer garden at the south corner of the park is under the tree line, but may be a great place to grab a few pints; or make a pit stop at the Duane Reade on Whitehall for beer and hard seltzers. A lot of the lawn is under tree cover, so consider relocating to the promenade (but bring a folding or beach chair for the concrete instead of a blanket).