Best Cities for 4th of July Celebrations 2020

We analyzed the biggest 100 U.S. cities to see how they’ll celebrate the Fourth of July in the Coronavirus era, and which cities are the best for enjoying a fun — and safe — 244th birthday bash for America. Some cities fizzled, but some still sparkle.

Here’s what we found, and how the cities rank.

Fort Wayne, Ind., tops 4th of July City Rankings

Fort Wayne, Ind., ranks as America’s top spot, boosted by an expected beautiful day and a 10 p.m. fireworks spectacular at the Indiana Michigan Power Center downtown. “We wanted to give residents something to look forward to as we continue to work through the challenges of COVID-19,” said Mayor Tom Henry in a news release. “We encourage the public to use good judgment and practice social distancing at the event. Together, we can have a safe and enjoyable time. We have a lot to be thankful for in the City of Fort Wayne.”

CityOverall RankingWeather RankEntertainment RankFireworks RankHealth Risk RankHome Events RankLocal Access Rank
Fort Wayne, IN111201502091
Lexington, KY23451151184
Jacksonville, FL37420141629
Saint Paul, MN440511382925
New York, NY52511098771
Henderson, NV6976120370
Atlanta, GA731418281838
Colorado Springs, CO885511104181
Madison, WI91732189436
Washington, DC105213182497
Aurora, CO1115118265039
Indianapolis, IN12141518562285
Chandler, AZ1384321875389
Mesa, AZ1486321854883
Denver, CO1525118365730
Cincinnati, OH16273218272831
Gilbert, AZ1781321845193
Boise, ID183911881476
Houston, TX1975610837346
Kansas City, MO20472010714552
Charlotte, NC21283218301975
Buffalo, NY22391518379526
Winston-Salem, NC23223218189100
Durham, NC2429511833580
Louisville, KY25413218162457
Anaheim, CA2655118559047
Sacramento, CA2745118428657
Tampa, FL28601518193054
Milwaukee, WI29453218402727
Greensboro, NC30215118131792
Santa Ana, CA3195118588537
Miami, FL3291418603118
Toledo, OH33153218297595
Portland, OR3493201844116
San Antonio, TX35699410146053
Honolulu, HI3642511866153
Stockton, CA3775118489279
Nashville, TN38572018227151
Columbus, OH39781518233564
Pittsburgh, PA40195118773319
Raleigh, NC41555118341362
St. Louis, MO42352018915228
Orlando, FL43762018124465
Reno, NV4424671156274
St. Petersburg, FL45792018243848
Las Vegas, NV46922183110049
Newark, NJ47165118962311
Baton Rouge, LA4858618891097
Detroit, MI49375118616750
Fresno, CA50335118498971
Los Angeles, CA5118671639421
North Las Vegas, NV5294618179922
Minneapolis, MN53825118392614
Bakersfield, CA54445118459177
Wichita, KS5554511877990
Oakland, CA56725118538017
Philadelphia, PA5726511897649
Hialeah, FL58832018594344
Richmond, VA5977511835694
Lincoln, NE60385118703778
Anchorage, AK619813711215
Arlington, TX62629110934096
Irving, TX63709410825469
Plano, TX64669410745987
Chesapeake, VA654951713724
Omaha, NE66515118922160
San Jose, CA67232071548340
Fort Worth, TX68719410786686
Albuquerque, NM69305171113632
Irvine, CA7085171467043
Fremont, CA7148327143684
Scottsdale, AZ72883218763412
Jersey City, NJ73135118100658
Riverside, CA7465171525666
Tucson, AZ75683218794263
El Paso, TX76509118807234
Boston, MA7736511899396
Long Beach, CA78103271649623
Cleveland, OH79993218325835
Spokane, WA80125171418768
Chicago, IL8164671659710
Virginia Beach, VA8265517161241
Norfolk, VA8363517121861
New Orleans, LA848027194985
Phoenix, AZ85903218816142
Chula Vista, CA86325171518259
San Francisco, CA8787157162882
San Diego, CA88465171478433
Baltimore, MD89205171952520
Memphis, TN90532071258198
Austin, TX91612071694656
Lubbock, TX92435171753288
Seattle, WA93953271579313
Oklahoma City, OK94593271677882
Tulsa, OK95565171726973
Dallas, TX96735171864745
Glendale, AZ97893271906367
Garland, TX98679471885572
Corpus Christi, TX99969471687455
Laredo, TX1001009471737699

Key Findings

Public events rare

Of the 100 largest U.S. cities, just 17 have a public fireworks event this year; 83 will not.

All-American? More like small American

All 10 of the largest cities in the United States canceled or downsized their traditional July celebrations. Most canceled events entirely, nixing both the gathering and the fireworks. Some canceled the crowd event but will let the fireworks go on in some fashion. Cities that canceled their big 2020 firework shows include PhiladelphiaChicagoLos AngelesSan DiegoDallas, PhoenixSan Jose, and San Antonio. In many cases, other nearby cities in the metro area will have smaller July 4th fireworks displays.

Other major metros that have canceled their big, traditional Independence Day celebrations events include AtlantaBostonSan Francisco, and Seattle. In Washington, D.C., the traditional Fourth of July parade is off, but a small, made-for-TV event will be held on the White House South Lawn with live music and a fireworks display over the National Mall. In Houston, the annual street festival is off, but the fireworks display will go on. New York City’s traditional Macy’s fireworks spectacular has been canceled. Instead, the city broke the celebration into pieces, with smaller fireworks displays for each borough. To prevent crowding during the pandemic, each display will be an unannounced surprise.

Most cities allow fireworks at home

Can’t go to a public event? In most cities, you have a DIY alternative. More than 60% of cities allow people to set off at least some kinds of fireworks, with 62 cities allowing them and 38 banning them outright.

No-fun cities

Talk about duds: Thirty cities have no public celebration, and also forbid anyone from lighting their own July fireworks. They are:

CityState
AnchorageAK
GlendaleAZ
Los AngelesCA
San DiegoCA
San JoseCA
San FranciscoCA
Long BeachCA
RiversideCA
IrvineCA
Chula VistaCA
FremontCA
ChicagoIL
New OrleansLA
BaltimoreMD
Reno
NV
AlbuquerqueNM
Oklahoma CityOK
TulsaOK
MemphisTN
DallasTX
AustinTX
Corpus ChristiTX
LaredoTX
LubbockTX
GarlandTX
Virginia BeachVA
ChesapeakeVA
NorfolkVA
SeattleWA
SpokaneWA

Limits on gatherings common

Want a big gathering? Beware: Seventy cities limit the size of public gatherings. The most common limit is 50 people (26 cities) another 19 limit gatherings to 100 people. But don’t invite the extended family to a party in Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, or Madison, Wis. They are among the eight cities that limit gatherings to 10 people. At the other end of the scale, two Nebraska cities — Omaha and Lincoln — are OK with gatherings of 10,000. Another 30 cities have no crowd size limits at all.

The face masks are coming! The face masks are coming!

If you do want to go out in public for a fireworks show, bring a face mask. Nearly all cities (97) recommend wearing a face mask in public places where social distancing will be nearly impossible. Just three — San Jose, Calif., Raleigh, N.C., and St. Paul, Minn. — have no such recommendation.

Our findings echo that of other recent research. From bees to Roman candles to bottle rockets, sales skyrocketed at roadside firework stands. The National Retail Federation also finds that 2020’s Fourth of July will have as much pop as a damp firecracker. Its survey of 7,762 consumers finds that people are far less likely to attend fireworks or community celebrations or attend a parade. In all, the NRF says, 24% of Americans will not celebrate the event at all in 2020 — a rise of 10 percentage points from 2019.

Experts Say Enjoy, Reflect, on This 4th

Seth Ash Nadler, political science professor at Touro College in New York, knows his Declaration of Independence, right down to the order the Founding Fathers signed it (in geographic order, from northern colonials south). He says he hopes the smaller scale of this July’s event will have a positive effect. It may give people room to think about liberty, he says, and the price Americans paid to obtain and keep it.

“Because it’s a smaller-scale celebration, it’s a chance to internalize what the holiday means, and the philosophical underpinnings of our freedoms, and how we got here,” he says.

Attending Fourth of July celebrations has long-lasting effects: It correlates with people voting more frequently, and becoming Republican. That’s according to the paper “Shaping the Nation: The Effect of Fourth of July on Political Preferences and Behavior in the United States.” Co-author David Yanagizawa-Drott wrote the paper while at Harvard’s Kennedy School before going on to teach economics at the University of Zurich. He is hesitant to say that this year’s diminished Fourth will have much effect on celebrants’ permanent attitudes. “What the effects will be this year I think is a much more open question,” he wrote in an email to LawnStarter. That’s because the event also takes place in the midst of a pandemic, protests and social movements, he says.

Sidewalk fireworks
With firework stand sales skyrocketing, expect more sidewalk celebrations this year. Credit: Dave Worley, CC 2.0.

Methodology

To generate its “Best Cities to Celebrate the Fourth” of July scores, LawnStarter.com gathered data on the 100 largest U.S. cities in six major categories, and assigned weights to each category by importance.

Weather – 22%

We created an ideal day to go outside on July 4th — sunny and warm, with a slight breeze and low humidity. Then we looked up the predicted July 4, 2020, weather for each of the 100 cities. The closer a city’s predicted weather is to the ideal, the more points they got.

Celebrations – 21%

Up to 14% was awarded to the cities that had additional or alternative Fourth of July celebrations and festivities. A final 7% went to the cities whose drinking establishments have the latest “last call”, allowing the Fourth of July to drift into the fifth.

Fireworks – 19%

Fireworks are much more rare this year, with many cities canceling their public fireworks displays (data collected on 6/26/2020). Cities that have the were rewarded with extra points: 12% of the total. We also gave points to cities that permit people to set off their own fireworks.

Risk of going out in public – 16%

This year’s Fourth is like no others before, so we added a calculation to account for the risk of going out in public. Cities that have a high density and high rate of COVID-19 cases got fewer points. Higher scores went to those cities that limit risk by limiting gathering sizes, and recommend face coverings in public when social distancing isn’t possible.

Fun at home factors -12%

Many people — particularly this year — will opt to celebrate Independence Day at home, buying party supplies and barbecuing in the back yard instead of buying from food vendors at the park. So our scoring system rewarded cities with a low sales tax and a large average yard size. A low unemployment rate also gave extra points, since not having an income will put a damper on anyone’s party plans.

Ease of access – 10%

What good are celebrations if you can’t get to them, or there aren’t places to enjoy a holiday picnic of hot dogs, hamburgers and watermelon? So our scoring system gave extra credit to cities with good public transit, were rated as walkable and had ample community park acreage.

Data sources

LawnStarter.com research, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, EventBrite public events (data from 6/23/2020),  Walk Score, YCharts, The Trust for Public Land.

Details on individual cities and methodology available on request. Contact Press@LawnStarter.com.

Daniel Ray

Daniel Ray

Daniel Ray is LawnStarter.com's editor in chief. He is an award-winning writer and editor who previously was editor in chief of the personal finance websites Bankrate.com and CreditCards.com, but with 30 years of gardening experience, he's well qualified to help consumers grow a different kind of green.