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.”
|City||Overall Ranking||Weather Rank||Entertainment Rank||Fireworks Rank||Health Risk Rank||Home Events Rank||Local Access Rank|
|Fort Wayne, IN||1||11||20||1||50||20||91|
|Saint Paul, MN||4||40||51||1||38||29||25|
|New York, NY||5||25||1||10||98||77||1|
|Colorado Springs, CO||8||85||51||1||10||41||81|
|Kansas City, MO||20||47||20||10||71||45||52|
|Santa Ana, CA||31||9||51||18||58||85||37|
|San Antonio, TX||35||69||94||10||14||60||53|
|St. Louis, MO||42||35||20||18||91||52||28|
|St. Petersburg, FL||45||79||20||18||24||38||48|
|Las Vegas, NV||46||92||2||18||31||100||49|
|Baton Rouge, LA||48||58||6||18||89||10||97|
|Los Angeles, CA||51||18||6||71||63||94||21|
|North Las Vegas, NV||52||94||6||18||17||99||22|
|San Jose, CA||67||23||20||71||54||83||40|
|Fort Worth, TX||68||71||94||10||78||66||86|
|Jersey City, NJ||73||13||51||18||100||65||8|
|El Paso, TX||76||50||91||18||80||72||34|
|Long Beach, CA||78||10||32||71||64||96||23|
|Virginia Beach, VA||82||65||51||71||6||12||41|
|New Orleans, LA||84||80||2||71||94||98||5|
|Chula Vista, CA||86||32||51||71||51||82||59|
|San Francisco, CA||87||87||15||71||62||88||2|
|San Diego, CA||88||46||51||71||47||84||33|
|Oklahoma City, OK||94||59||32||71||67||78||82|
|Corpus Christi, TX||99||96||94||71||68||74||55|
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 Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, Phoenix, San 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 Atlanta, Boston, San 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.
Talk about duds: Thirty cities have no public celebration, and also forbid anyone from lighting their own July fireworks. They are:
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.
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.
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.