It’s Independence Day 2019, which means half of New York City has headed out for glamorous Hamptons plans. For everyone else, that leaves shoving into the stampede to catch the big Macy’s fireworks spectacle.
That is, unless they save themselves the headache and follow this insider’s guide to festive, slightly less crowded happenings around the city to celebrate the Fourth of July.
Make a splash
If you’ve got the cash, consider throwing down $350 for a ticket to the shindig atop the Sentry at the American Copper Buildings. Hip-hop trio Naughty by Nature and electronic duo Kayex will provide the tunes for the party at this brand new rooftop pool. Also expect to see the fireworks show while enjoying an open bar and eats from Aussie restaurant Hole in the Wall’s executive chef, Brent Hudson. 5 – 10 p.m. 626 1st Ave.; 347-363-7326, TheSentryNYC.com
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If you’ve got a few less coins in your purse, trek out to the Pool Bar at TWA Hotel, accessible via JFK Airport’s Terminal 5. Their rooftop soiree is free of charge and provides neat views of airplane takeoffs and samples of specialty cocktails. Poolside faves like ice cream and grilled corn will also be available for purchase. 4 – 8 p.m. JFK Airport; 212-806-9000, ThePoolBarTWA.com
The other eating contest
Avoid the tourists swarming Coney Island for the annual hot dog eating contest, and instead visit Turtle Cove Golf Center in The Bronx for their hamburger revelry. From noon to 2 p.m., watch as the contestants try to win $250 by downing a burger loaded up with 3 pounds of beef, six slices of bacon, six slices of cheese — and 2 pounds of fries with a soda on the side, naturally.
“You’re more than welcome to come cheer them on — or heckle them,” says Trevor Cook, Turtle Cove’s catering manager.
Afterward, tune up your swing on the 18-hole minigolf course ($8 for adults, $7 for kids 12 and under). 1 City Island Road, Pelham Bay Park; 718-885-1129, TurtleCoveGolfCenter.com
Roll into summer
Hamilton Heights’ 28-acre Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park offers stunning views from 69 feet above the Hudson. The park’s facilities open for the holiday include a public pool, a splash area and four tennis courts. Plus, visitors can throw it back with roller-skating at the rink. Pool open 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; $2 for adults, $1 for kids ages 5 – 15, free for kids ages 4 and under. 679 Riverside Drive; 212-694-3660, Parks.NY.gov; Skating rink open in sessions from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. $1.50 per person, $6 skate rentals. 679 Riverside Drive; 212-694-3642, Parks.NY.gov
Fireworks — without the mob
If you’re determined to catch the big fireworks show, but the thought of crowding in with the masses gives you hives, try a premium experience. At Freedom Fest, a general admission ticket (starting at $189) grants you access to Pier 15 for an excellent view of the show, along with a BBQ buffet catered by Watermark and an open bar from 7 – 11 p.m. A live DJ will keep the party hoppin’ before and after the skies light up. 78 South St.; FreedomFestNYC.com
Party like it’s 1776
Have yourself an old-fashioned summer holiday at Staten Island’s Historic Richmond Town, a village and museum complex. Try your hand at churning ice cream (it’s harder than it looks!), taste red, white and blue pies baked in a brick oven, chat with artisans such as a blacksmith and tinsmith and make a Victorian paper pinwheel for the patriotic parade.
“We’re demonstrating traditional American skills and trades and activities of daily life,” says Felicity Beil, director of education and public programs.
New to the lineup this year is a thrilling demonstration by the Unexcelled Fireworks Company that operated on Staten Island from the 1880s to the 1940s, about the science behind fireworks. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, $6 for kids. 441 Clarke Ave., Staten Island; 718-351-1611, HistoricRichmondTown.org
There’s also New-York Historical Society’s “Revolutionary Summer” holiday celebration. Kids will love learning about life during the American Revolution by exploring the intriguing replica of George Washington’s Headquarters Tent, where they can meet an actor portraying the president.
“We really want families to come in and just walk amongst the tents and the troops and get a sense of what it was like to be [there] in the late 1770s,” says Alice Stevenson, who organized the Independence Day activities.
“John Adams” will also present a live reading of the Declaration of Independence, a reenactment will show how Deborah Sampson disguised herself as a man to fight in the war, there will be singalongs with the Hudson River Ramblers and music from a fife and drum corps will soundtrack the event. 11 a.m – 3 p.m. $22 for adults, free for kids 17 and under. 170 Central Park W.; 212-873-3400, NYHistory.org
If you prefer your history handed to you on a platter, celebrate the country’s birth by grabbing a meal at the Fidi eatery that’s been around as long as America has. Fraunces Tavern opened in 1762, and today they serve up more than 200 whiskeys, 130 beers and ciders and a hearty food menu. Keep it old-school by ordering fish — that’s beer-battered cod — and chips with mushy peas for lunch ($20). 54 Pearl St.; 212-968-1776, FrauncesTavern.com
For a peaceful evening, voyage to the waterfront park at Staten Island’s Alice Austen House. The historic home of the famed photographer hosts the sweet sounds of the Staten Island Philharmonic, leading up to views of local fireworks displays. It’s free, but don’t forget to pack a chair or picnic blanket. 2 Hylan Blvd., Staten Island; 718-816-4506, AliceAusten.org