Seeing fireworks from the water is a special experience and whether your watercraft is a kayak or yacht it’s the ideal way to experience the 4th of July celebrations across the country. We can’t cover every state, but here are a few spectacular destinations to put your boat (or someone else’s) in the water this year and beat the crowds.

This list starts in the heartland, then zigzags west and finally east—but there are plenty of lakes in Texas, Florida and all the up the coast to Maine that have 4th of July celebrations to die for. 

Minneapolis, MN

fireworks in Minnesota

In the twin cities, the midwestern charm of Minneapolis’s amazing downtown sparkles in not one but two days of partying on July 3rd and 4th. The riverfront hosts the Red, White and Boom festival for families and this is one of the most massive 4th of July celebrations anywhere. This show brings in more than 75,000 spectators, so bringing your boat and getting out onto the Mississippi river will definitely give you a front row, waterside seat. Bring sunscreen and come early, then watch the sunset and wait for the lights to Red, White and Boom lights to come up.

Chicago, IL

fireworks over Chicago

In the windy city, plenty of inhabitants and visitors choose to watch the yearly 4th of July celebrations from a dinner cruise on Lake Michigan, where fireworks don’t wait for the 4th but are shot into the sky twice weekly (Wednesday and Saturday) over the entire summer. If you own a boat, Lake Michigan is the ideal place to escape the crowds on 4th of July and watch the downtown skyline light up in one of the biggest fireworks shows the Midwest has to offer.

Lake Tahoe, CA or NV

fireworks over Lake Tahoe

Whether you arrive from the Nevada or California side, the Lights of the Lake illuminate Lake Tahoe and are a big draw for Labor Day and 4th of July celebrations. Edgewood and Lakeside Beaches are popular places to take in the parade of color in the night sky, but from the water it is even more spectacular. Tahoe is a great place to rent boats, or launch your own from several marinas. Known for its pure water, vacation opportunities and one of the best fireworks spectacles in the country, Tahoe is a must see for midsummer 4th of July festivities.

San Diego Harbor, CA

fireworks over San Diego

If you live in southern California, you are in luck if you want to take a different path for your next 4th of July celebration. The San Diego harbor is a great place to drop anchor, set out some cocktails, and take in a show. The Big Bay Boom is one of the largest Independence day celebrations in the country. With your own boat, you can choose your location in the harbor—or book a cruise, charter a yacht or rent a sailboat.

Lake Ouachita, AR

Fireworks over a lake .

In the wilds of Arkansas, not too far east of the Texas state line, is a beautiful lake called Ouachita (pronounced “WA-shi-tah”), named for the Native Americans who once lived in this region. Like Tahoe, it is an exceptionally clean lake (ranked #2 in the country), and covers a vast surface area of 40,000 acres. The fireworks display isn’t as large big cities have to offer but it’s hard to find a more serene location for the Independence Day. Launch on the lake and experience the Harbor Fireworks, then take a tour the next day to fish or explore one of the 200 islands in this pristine wilderness.

Washington, DC

fireworks over Washington DC

The fireworks are launched from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and light up the Capitol and Washington Monument during the Capitol Fourth. The nation’s capitol is place where all patriots should have a chance to enjoy Independence Day, but the crowds can be suffocating at the 4th of July celebrations here. Fortunately there is a beautiful, accessible river nearby called the Potomac. Whether you bring your own boat or book a cruise on the Potomac River, you’ll gain more solitude on the water for taking in this fantastic display of light and color.