Celebrate America for Free - Birthday Week


By Tanya Silverman

Photo courtesy of Andy Karmy.

Being broke, or just cheap, may get in the way of many opportunities in a big American city; however, celebrating Fourth of July weekend isn’t one of them. Lots of free activities are available in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Miami, from the traditional fireworks show to musical performances to arts festivals to zany contests.

New York City

Macy’s Fireworks Show
July 4th, Evening
Manhattan’s West Side

To appease your urge of finally seeing a big-name fireworks show amidst the metropolis of America’s biggest city, Macy’s puts on this annual event in Manhattan. Curated by (none other than) Usher, they will set off 40,000 fireworks over the course of 25 minutes; there also be performances by big names like Mariah Carey, Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez.

The fireworks can be seen from any clear view of the sky above the Hudson River, especially along 12th Avenue between 23rd and 42nd streets.

Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest
July 4th, 12:00 PM
Nathan’s Famous, Coney Island, Brooklyn

Fireworks are kind of cliché… but hot dogs aren’t. If you want to beat the usual exploding fiery spectacle, you can head down to Brooklyn’s Coney Island and watch the 2013 hot dog eating contest. The contest will be accompanied by additional entertainment, including a live music show and a Coney Island Strongman performance.

Best thing is, not only will you be impressed with the majestic gastronomic capabilities that humankind can achieve in the modern age, you can continue the fun after the contest by strolling down the boardwalk, hitting up the beach or riding the Cyclone. (Disclaimer: No matter how inspired you are by what Nathan’s Famous has to offer, the suggested follow-up activities are generally better on a stomach without an excessive volume of hot dogs.)

Though this is an alternative option to the mainstream event in Manhattan, keep in mind that it still does attract a ton of people, so be sure to show up at least an hour early to beat the crowds. In the past, there have been over 40,000 attendees to watch this gluttonous extravaganza.

Los Angeles

Mr. and Mrs. Muscle Beach
July 4th, 10:00 AM
Venice Recreation Center, Venice

Nothing says July 4th in the City of Angels like muscles… on the beach. That’s why the Mr. and Mrs. Muscle Beach will be taking place at the famous outdoor gym in Venice. Open to the public, attendees are welcome to watch all the bodybuilding, bikini, figure and physique shows that the participants have to offer.

There is a fee for those who want to participate in the contest — but if you win, you get featured in Iron Magazine.


Fireworks Spectacular
July 4th, 9:00 PM
Navy Pier

Fireworks over Lake Michigan? Why not! You can view this annual show anywhere along the lake shoreline, and enjoy to the patriotic music they play to accompany the scenery. If you miss this holiday celebration for whatever reason, or if it’s so good you want to see it again, they will have another fireworks show on July 6th at 10:15 PM.

Chicago Tribune North Michigan Avenue Art Festival
July 5th & 6th, 10:00 AM-6:00 PM; July 7th, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM
Pioneer Court, Downtown Chicago

If you’re still in the mood to do and see stuff after celebrating July 4th, the 22nd Annual Chicago Tribune North Michigan Avenue Art Festival is a suitable option. A variety of original art will be displayed, from photos to sculptures to jewelry, granting visitors the opportunity to purchase pieces or inquire artists on their techniques. Plus, since the festival is centrally located, that makes it an easy starting-point to go off and explore Chicago.


July 4th Celebration at Bayou Bend
July 4th, 1:00-5:00 PM
Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens

For some historically-minded entertainment on the Fourth, the Museum District in Houston will be hosting a daytime event, full of arts, crafts, performances and refreshments. At 3:00 PM, there will be a reading of the Declaration of Independence, followed by birthday cake. They also let attendees sign a giant replica of the Declaration of Independence; now that’s patriotism!

A Star Spangled Salute
July 4th– 8:30 PM
Museum District

Texans sure knows how to celebrate America, and they will, well into nighttime. You can expect the festivities to continue with musical performances by Principal Pops Conductor Michael Krajewski and the Houston Symphony. This Star Spangled Salute will feature an array of American patriotic music, all leading to the glorious 1812 Overture, a tune that will be followed by booming cannons. Naturally, fireworks will follow.

Free tickets will be available for this event (limit 4 per person over 16) the day of the show, between 10:30 AM-1:00 PM; if there are extra, the box office will distribute them one hour before the performance starts.


America’s Birthday Bash
July 4th, 11:00-Night
Bayfront Park, Downtown Miami

This big, free, day-long event will kick off at 11:00 AM, with family activities like pony rides and a petting zoo, plus some rides and face painting. From 5:00-8:00 PM, things will get more festive with the Miami Contradance swings around to live music by Dirty Dollars. If you feel like skipping all of this and just watch the fireworks, they will start at 9:00.

4th of July Parade
July 4th, 11:00 AM
Crandon Boulevard, Key Biscayne

The Key Biscayne 4th of July Parade will have all of the patriotic floats, marching groups and assorted performances to keep you thoroughly entertained on this nation’s birthday. After the parade wraps up, there’s the Kiwani’s Picnic at Village Green, and a fireworks display on the beach at sunset.