Best Hotels for July 4th Fireworks
“We have the best view ever,” says Pat Barbarich, a New Jersey real estate broker and grandmother of two. The head count for her and husband Dave’s family party in the hotel’s Milton Hershey Suite now stands at 24. The best part? “Sitting where we do, it looks like the fireworks are shooting right at you.”
This year, municipal budget cuts mean that cities around the nation—from Palm Springs, CA, to Jones Beach on NY’s Long Island—are shuttering their shows (the average July 4th show price tag tops $100,000). So folks determined to oooh and aaaah may now have to travel to find their Technicolor dream sky. And if you’re going to book a hotel, why not choose one with an amazing vista?
So Travel + Leisure scoured the country looking for the best hotels to watch fireworks. And we uncovered 11 with a high “boom-boom factor”—that is, properties where the rooms, the rooftop bars, and even the gym may have picture-perfect panoramas.
Some of these hot spots roll their primo seats into packages. The W Hotel in Washington, D.C., for example, offers a Boom with a View package, which includes concert tickets to its own rooftop concert before the big show over the National Mall, for $619 (price tag for a room alone: $249).
But hotels don’t necessarily add on high-cost bells and whistles. In hilly cities like San Francisco, where great views abound, prices across the board are reasonable (always ask for a Bay-facing room). And a few spots across the country even charge less over the holiday weekend—largesse that we attribute to good ol’ patriotic spirit.
Of course, affordable spots with great views are likely to get booked up fast. So we’ve also searched for hotels where you can just snag a stool and order a beer—sometimes, the sky-scraping bar is the best place to be for the big show (and since bars don’t take reservations, the early bird gets the perch).
Plenty of these hotels just have great views, no matter when you visit. In Austin, the pyrotechnic-friendly perches at the Hyatt Regency also offer front-row seats for the legendary nightly ascent of the one-million-plus Mexican bats from the Congress Avenue Bridge. Sure, those bats don’t come in red, white, or blue, but we’ll take any excuse to kick back and enjoy a summer sky.
W Hotel, Washington, D.C.
Ask For: Mall views.
You could embrace that We-the-People spirit and join the hundreds of thousands of spectators on the National Mall, but this is one night when it pays to act like a Beltway insider. The grande dame Hay-Adams Hotel—which competes only with the White House for the best views of the massive fireworks display—is closed this summer for renovations, so check out nearby newcomer W Hotel, whose rooms and 11th-floor rooftop lounge, P.O.V., overlook the Mall. For primo access, the year-old W is offering a Boom with a View package that includes a room and rooftop concert tickets.
Bonus View: On any given day at the W, you’ll likely spot the Marine One helicopter—surrounded by Secret Service choppers—taking off and landing. Come spring, the cherry blossoms explode into a panorama of pinkness.
Ask For: Charles River views.
Boston easily qualifies for the Big Three of July 4th shows, alongside D.C. and New York City, and may rule the day thanks to its trump card: the Boston Pops. But since the pyrotechnics over the Charles River shoot from a barge, the best spots for viewing shift slightly from year to year. The Royal Sonesta Boston can’t guarantee a view from specific rooms, but it does claim a pretty consistent success rate. At the very least, a short walk will lead you to the walkway along the Charles River’s edge.
Bonus Views: A postcard-worthy scene of the city skyline, the landmark Longfellow Bridge, and Beacon Hill neighborhood.
Mandarin Oriental,New York City
Ask For: Hudson River views.
You gotta get up high in the Big Apple if you want to see the annual Macy’s display over Manhattan’s Hudson River. The 54-story Mandarin Oriental, near Columbus Circle, is offering a July 4th Fireworks Package for $765 per night, including breakfast—not a bad deal, relatively speaking, given that its usual breakfast-inclusive rate is $755. Floors above 38 have the best water views.
Affordable Alternative: The new Trump SoHo Hotel, whose southern-facing, deluxe-category rooms have a clear shot of the Hudson, too, and cost only $359.
Bonus Views: In November, guests at the Mandarin Oriental can cheer on runners on their last mile in the NYC Marathon. A few weeks later, the Thanksgiving Parade will roll past the hotel, giant Kermit balloons and all.
Four Seasons Hotel,Philadelphia
Ask For: Parkway views.
Philly’s July 4th show takes place over the Philadelphia Museum of Art—a place that makes many an American heart swell with pride, remembering Sly Stallone running its steps in Rocky. To get above the fray, check into the Four Seasons Hotel off Logan Square, where a parkway view will give you the best perspective. Or, walk out the front door and grab a spot at Swann Memorial Fountain, just across the street.
Affordable Alternative: The Hyatt Regency Penn’s Landing also offers solid views from its rooms, restaurant, bar, and even from the pool and fitness center.
Bonus Views: From the Four Seasons, the City of Brotherly Love opens up for you, including the Free Library, the Franklin Institute, and those famous Philadelphia Museum steps. Have fun watching tourists do their own version of the Rocky run.
Trump Chicago Hotel,Chicago
Ask For: Navy Pier views.
The Windy City used to have just one big show—over Grant Park—but the Navy Pier show is now stealing some pyrotechnic thunder. A great spot to see it: the Trump Chicago Hotel, which sits on the river and so has a straight shot down to the pier. Its 16th-floor restaurant, The Terrace at Trump, guarantees you center-stage seats—but, since it doesn’t take reservations, early-bird patriots will get the best perch.
Bonus Views: Making the most of the festive summer crowds, the Navy Pier amusement park will also light up the sky every Wednesday and Saturday from July 4th through Labor Day.
Silver Cloud Inn—LakeUnion, Seattle
Ask for: Lake Union views.
The show must go on! When the main corporate sponsor backed out this year, a grassroots effort by local businesses raised enough money to save the July 4th display. The fireworks go off over Lake Union, just north of downtown, meaning that the most popular downtown hotels are out of range. For lakeside accommodations, we like the branch of the small Pacific Northwest boutique chain the Silver Cloud Inn—Lake Union. If you can’t get one of the nearly 100 water-facing rooms, cruise across the street, where a variety of restaurants line the shore.
Bonus View: Seaplanes take off and land from Lake Union every day—most heading out for aerial tours of the San Juan Islands or the Cascade Mountains, or just getting a bird’s-eye view of Bill Gates’s estate.
Westin Canal Place,New Orleans
Ask For: Mississippi River view.
Hotels overlooking the Mississippi River—showcase for the Big Easy fireworks—can be tough to book this time of year. Fortunately, at the Westin Canal Place, the 11th-floor lobby (which is open to the public) also has a great view. If the whole place is packed, try the Windsor Court Hotel or the New Orleans Marriott.
Bonus View: Aside from the mighty Mississippi, daytime sightlines include the Crescent City Connection bridge, Jackson Square, and St. Louis Cathedral.
Manchester Grand Hyatt,San Diego
Ask For: Bay views.
As the tallest hotel in downtown San Diego (and the city’s third-tallest building), the 40-story Manchester Grand Hyatt has unrivaled vistas of the San Diego Bay, over which the Big Bay Boom takes place—not only from water-facing rooms but also from its pool and the Top of the Hyatt bar (fireworks plus one of its strawberry lemon-drop cocktails equals perfection). A close second-best: the Altitude Sky Lounge, which sits atop the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter.
Bonus View: You probably won’t catch any fly balls, but the Altitude Sky Lounge also has a great view into Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. The Manchester Grand Hyatt is towering enough that you have a decent chance of catching the SeaWorld fireworks, which go off nearly every summer evening.
Fairmont HeritagePlace, Ghiradelli Square, San Francisco
Ask For: Bay views.
In a city with 40-plus good-size-to-monstrously-steep hills, almost anywhere from Nob Hill to the Mission District can overlook the waterfront. But it’s hard to beat the scene at the Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square, which invites guests to its Mustard Terrace for a private party of food, drink, and pyrotechnics. The terrace is on the Fairmont’s second floor, but since the hotel is on a slope, a hotel spokesperson estimates that the lounge is a good 30 feet above the water level.
Bonus Views: It’s a West Coast real estate agent’s dream come true: the Fairmont looks onto both the Bay and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge (assuming, of course, that pesky fog permits).
Disneyland Hotel,Disneyland, Anaheim, CA
Ask For: Rooms facing Disneyland.
Where’s the happiest place on earth? Could be a hotel room balcony inside Disneyland on a holiday weekend. The park’s Independence Day fireworks promise to dwarf—and we don’t mean Doc or Dopey—the nightly Magical Fireworks display that goes on during the rest of the summer. Ask for a park-facing room at the Disneyland Hotel or the Paradise Pier Hotel. (Hint: rooms on the fourth floor and above offer the clearest sightlines.) Some rooms at the plush, Craftsman-style Grand Californian put the fireworks well in sight, too, especially if you stay on the concierge level, which has a view-friendly lounge. For a soundtrack, tune into the hotels’ fireworks-music channel.
Bonus Views: During the day, you can see the iconic, steel-mountain Matterhorn ride—use binoculars and you might see Mickey or Goofy scaling it—but the best visuals transpire on any summer or weekend night, when you get the over-the-top Magical fireworks at 9:20 pm.
Hyatt Regency, Austin
Ask For: Ladybird Lake view.
The Austin Symphony Orchestra and the Texas National Guard will perform the “1812 Overture” on the night of the Fourth—replete with cool cannon solo—on the shores of Ladybird Lake, on the southern edge of downtown. Not many hotels overlook the water, but the Hyatt Regency Austin does—at least from most of its north-facing rooms. If you’re oriented to the south, the hotel’s waterfront, patio-level bar still offers a primo perspective (and it’s even better for kicking back and looking skyward).
Bonus View: Located near downtown’s Congress Avenue bridge, the Hyatt lets you catch a sneak-peek at Austin’s signature show in the sky: the breathtaking (or freakish) ascent of about 1.5 million Mexican bats, which flap away from the bridge each dusk from March until November.