(c) Onest Mistic

Celebrate Independence Day with pie and parties waterside.

Allison Williams

On Independence Day, Seattle's eyes turn to Lake Union.

In keeping with tradition, the city's biggest fireworks show will take place over the downtown-adjacent lake (on New Year's, the booms and bursts come from the Space Needle). This year's extravaganza, now of the summer-long Seafair festival, is capped with a 20-minute fireworks show at 10:20 p.m., wherein some 8,500 pounds of explosives are lit from a barge on the lake; three Argosy Cruises boats will bob underneath the fireworks, offering cruises to guests over 21.

The next best seats are at Gas Works Park on Lake Union's north end, where the Seafair Summer Fourth kicks off at noon. Reserved seating is available, but most will climb the park's Kite Hill for a free lawn spot. Leading up to the fireworks, there's plenty happening in the air, with two skydiver performances—they jump in suits lit with sparklers—and a Chinook helicopter flyer from the Washington National Guard. On the ground, the park turns into a day-long salute to summer standbys with a pie-eating contest, sack races, and a hula-hooping battle, plus live band performances and a beer garden.

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Though Lake Union is the biggest game in town, one Argosy Cruise boat will depart downtown for the Bainbridge waterfront across Puget Sound; there's a dance party on board during the sail. Another boat (this one for all ages) swings by Native American cultural excursion Tillicum Village before making its way to Bainbridge.

East of Seattle, the Bellevue Family Fourth hosts a fireworks show at 10:05 p.m., serenaded by the town's youth orchestra and best viewed from Bellevue Downtown Park. Seattle's bustling Capitol Hill neighborhood hosts a picnic at central Cal Anderson Park with free root beer, hot dogs, and face painting. Private fireworks use are banned in the city of Seattle, but not in the unincorporated county south of West Seattle, where the streets fill with shows of locally generated patriotic pyromania.

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