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How to watch Fourth of July fireworks this year

Here's how to watch a few of the country's biggest celebrations.
/ Source: TODAY

If July 4 is rolling around, you know what that means: Families gather to celebrate the birthday of the United States (245 years young, baby) with barbecues, parties and jaw-dropping firework displays.

This year will be something of a return to form for the celebrations, which were curtailed or eliminated last year in a lot of cases thanks to social distancing due to the pandemic. But with vaccines becoming more widespread and cities opening back up to limited gatherings, 2021's displays are likely to shine brighter than ever.

But there are three major metropolitan displays from Washington, D.C., Boston and New York that capture the attention of the nation and are a perfect fit for those who can't or don't want to get out among crowds just yet. So here's the lowdown on how you can tune in to those city celebrations, even if you don't live there!

Macy's Fourth Of July Fireworks Spectacular
Fireworks launched from the Empire State Building as part of the 44th annual Macy's 4th of July Fireworks on July 4, 2020.Noam Galai / Getty Images

Macy's 4th of July Fireworks (NYC)

The largest Fourth of July celebration in the country is all set to blast off in New York City on July 4, with live audiences corralled into vaccinated and nonvaccinated areas. The "45th Annual Macy's 4th of July Fireworks" will launch more than 65,000 shells and effects from five barges based on the East River near Midtown on the big night.

The fireworks will ignite in synchronization to a patriotic musical score, Macy's said in a news release, and last for 25 minutes. The pyrotechnics are going high-tech, too, with shapes like linked rainbows, blue jellyfish and red, white and blue sparkling waterfalls. Music will be provided by The United States Army Field Band & Soldiers' Chorus. There will also be a rendition of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" by Broadway Inspirational Voices, and musician Tori Kelly will sing "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the musical "Carousel."

Where to Watch (In Person): If you're vaccinated, public viewing stands will be available on elevated portions of the FDR Drive in Manhattan, with entry points at East 23rd, East 34th and East 42nd streets. (Special needs/ADA individuals should go to East 34th.) Nonvaccinated people will find space along portions of the Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan waterfronts; check out the Macy's Fireworks website for updates.

Where to Watch (From Home): The best view is always from your TV set, so tune to NBC for the "Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular" from 8-10 p.m. ET. Renée Elise Goldsberry and Ryan Eggold are set to host, with Blake Shelton and the Jonas Brothers set to perform, with guest Marshmello. Also slated to appear are Black Pumas, Coldplay, OneRepublic, Reba McEntire and more. The broadcast will also feature a first-ever drone light show to honor Team USA as they head to the Tokyo Olympics.

A Capitol Fourth (Washington, D.C.)

This year marks the 41st time A Capitol Fourth will air on PBS, and performers are being lined up, including Vanessa Williams (who will host), Jimmy Buffett, Cynthia Erivo, Alan Jackson, Pentatonix, Train, Gladys Knight, Mickey Guyton, Jimmie Allen and more. Renée Fleming is set to open the show with a performance of the national anthem.

"I am so honored to be hosting 'A Capitol Fourth' this year," Williams said in a news release. "I first performed this national July 4th TV tradition in 2005, and it has always held a special place in my heart."

Meanwhile, conductor Jack Everly will oversee the National Symphony Orchestra, with compositions including "Olympic Fanfare," in tribute to Team USA as they prepare for the games in Tokyo.

That said, producers are keeping things socially distanced due to the ongoing pandemic. The show will include pretaped performances from around the country and will be capped off by a live fireworks display over the Washington, D.C., skyline thanks to several cameras in place around the city.

Where to watch: PBS, Sunday, July 4, from 8-9:30 p.m. ET. NPR member stations nationwide will broadcast the audio, and the show will also stream on Facebook, YouTube and on PBS' webpage, and be on video on demand from July 4-18.

2019 Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular
Over Boston's Charles River, the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular lit up the sky in 2019. Matthew J. Lee / Boston Globe via Getty Images

2021 Boston Pops (Boston)

The "2021 Boston Pops July 4th Spectacular Concert" will take place at Tanglewood in western Massachusetts, with conductor Keith Lockhart leading a televised performance of patriotic tunes and featuring Jon Batiste and Mavis Staples. The concert will be the first in-person performance at the Tanglewood venue since it was closed in summer 2020 due to the pandemic, according to a news release (groups like the military, health care workers and first responders are being invited especially). In addition, the big fireworks finale will take place on Boston Common and will be broadcast live. The traditional location for fireworks — the Esplanade along the Charles River — has been postponed until 2022.

Where to Watch (In Person): Tickets, limited to 9,000, will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis (and four tickets only per household) at Tanglewood's website starting Monday, June 21, at 10 a.m. ET. Note: There will be no fireworks show at Tanglewood, or Jumbotrons/concert sound to accompany the fireworks at Boston Common. A rep for the City of Boston told TODAY that there are no official public viewing areas on Boston Common, but fireworks will be visible from the corner of Charles Street and Beacon Street, also known as Parade Ground.

Where to Watch (From Home): The concert stream will be broadcast live on Bloomberg TV and Bloomberg Radio, as well as locally in Boston on WHDH-TV from 8-11 p.m. ET (fireworks at 10:30 p.m.).

What about local shows?

Your best bet to find out where to see fireworks in person (if you can see them in person) locally is to search the internet or consult local media. It does seem that many communities are opening up to public-attended fireworks events, such as central Florida and Lake George, New York, but others like Colorado Springs, Colorado, are keeping things on the radio/virtual.

There has been a shortage of fireworks in 2021 due to supply chain issues, so you might expect neighborhood parties to be a bit less extravagant.