In the last dozen years, I have been fortunate enough to spend the 4th in nine different cities. Never was it explicitly planned that way, I just happened to look up, be living/visiting some place new, and decide I needed to see some fireworks. With tomorrow being the 239th birthday of our fair nation, I thought perhaps now would be an excellent time for another list, this one encompassing my rankings for pre-eminent places to watch fireworks in the country.

It should be noted that, like all such lists on here, this is a very subjective ranking. Not only are they all time sensitive (i.e. Minneapolis, which you’ll see below), but they are also very heavily skewed by cohorts, food, etc. Basically, all the things that make a good story…and isn’t that really what 4th of July is all about? Getting everybody together for summer shenanigans?

9.) Missoula
To be honest, this probably isn’t a fair ranking. Unfortunately for Missoula, and the entire state of Montana, most years July serves as peak fire season, meaning strong strictures are in place for the holiday. This year was no exception, as even climbing to the top of Mount Sentinel for a fantastic view wasn’t enough to raise it in the rankings.

8.) Philadelphia
Still a wide-eyed high schooler, fresh off the Midwestern farm, Philly was my first venture away from home for the holiday. As such, I completely bought into the mystique of Philly as the birthplace of our nation, but found the fireworks falling rather short of such a lofty designation.

7.) Washington, D.C.
Same as above. One would think D.C. would really blow the roof off (no pun intended), and while the show was good, it wasn’t amazing.

More importantly though was the fact that D.C. is so flat, finding a good viewing experience there is tough. The options are basically to go down to the Mall and sit wedged in tight w/ a bajillion (rough estimate) tourists, or to sit somewhere w/ an obstructed view.

Sorry…but you gotta better than that to reach higher than 8.

6.) Columbus
Growing up in central Ohio, all one hears about is Red, White, & Boom. It unabashedly describes itself as the biggest fireworks show in the Midwest, plastering the slogan on t-shirts, commercials, bumper stickers, soda cans, you name it.

At the time it seemed like a huge deal, and a legitimate claim to fame, but it wasn’t until venturing out that I became aware it was kind of a dubious honor.

5.) Boston
Unfortunately for fair Beantown, it suffered from the same knock as D.C. If you are one of those fortunate enough to make it down to the Half-Shell to see the Boston Pops live and watch the fireworks over the Harbor Basin, you are truly a lucky individual. It is nothing short of incredible. I envy you, and would probably have this higher on the list.

The reason it isn’t? If you actually want that experience, you must also sit for thirteen hours (or more) in the blistering July sun to secure such a location. Otherwise you are wedged in tight somewhere along the river, most likely w/ an obstructed view.

Not Boston’s fault, but still…

4.) Minneapolis
This one gets a huge bump b/c it was the first 4th following 9/11, so patriotism was at a fevered pitch. For the first (and perhaps only) time in my life, everybody was genuinely excited about the holiday. Adding bonus points to the experience were the facts that I was w/ some great folks, we had spent the entire day pontooning on White Bear Lake, the fireworks were over water, and halfway through the show they stopped the fireworks to proudly shoot two twin spotlights into the sky in honor of the fallen World Trade Center before beginning w/ renewed gusto.

People around us were openly weeping. It was powerful.

3.) Nashville
Starting to reach some rarified air, this one owns a special place for me that others may not agree w/. Sure, all the trappings of Nashville were on hand, from fireworks over the Cumberland River to live stages on every corner, but the biggest thing was this was the first show that The Niece ever got to experience.

There are few things quite like experiencing something anew again w/ a child.

2.) Portland
This one occurred back when I was still working as a neurophysiologist, then at the OHSU hospital. (For those that have never been to the Rose City, it’s the massive one on the hill w/ the Star Trek looking gondola connecting the various outposts)

On the evening of the 4th I didn’t have a single thing to eat, and was wearing scrubs, but what made it so wonderful is my friend Danni (the scrub nurse that had spent most of the day in the same surgical suite as I) went to the connected Children’s Hospital, made ourselves a couple of friends, and took them up on the roof to watch. In the foreground was the main show over the river, and in the surroundings valleys more than a half dozen different shows could be seen going on.

The kid’s loved it, and for over a half decade it remained as my favorite of all-time…

1.) Honolulu
…until this one came long.

Sure, I’m probably a bit biased b/c it is my current city, but this place set the bar in a way I almost defy (and even hope) others to match it. It brought everything to the table, including fireworks over water, access to some fantastic eats, perfect weather, and a co-conspirator that was second to none.

And w/ that, I wish everyone a great holiday and to remember to never, ever miss a chance to make some memories….  

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