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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

3 Alternative Ways to Spend the 4th of July


In New York City, there are a few ways you can go as far as celebrating Independence Day. Of course, there are the spectacular fireworks over the Hudson River (put on by Macy's for the second time this year), for which many people buy expensive tickets to beautiful boat cruises or clamor for space on the west coast of Manhattan. There are street fairs and walking tours and all kinds of celebrations of food and independence and alcohol. And many New Yorkers choose to flee the city entirely, opting for barbecues and beach time with friends and family in the Hamptons, Fire Island, and at the Jersey Shore.

If you're in the City for the Fourth, you are welcome to fight the crowds at the hot-spots. Or you can create your own version of the holiday celebrating the independence of our country.

So avoid the crowds! Here are 3 alternatives to some of the more popular ways to spend the holiday.


1. Eat Your Face Off

The Tradition: Miami Zombies aren't the only ones who can have all the fun. (No? Too soon?) Traditionally, people flock to Coney Island for the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest to watch contestants down dozens of hot dogs in ten minutes for a grand prize of $20,000. And while watching people gorge themselves on stages is amusing, you can indulge in the excellent American tradition of hot dog eating on July 4th without elbowing your way through these throngs of 40,000+ people.

The Alternative: Instead, stop by Crif Dogs (whose website, by the way, features an amusing dancing hot dog) in the East Village or at their location in Brooklyn. People won't be swallowing them whole (which is probably a good thing?), but any hot dog fan will be thoroughly satisfied. I recommend the "spicy red neck" (a house dog, wrapped in bacon, with chili, cole slaw, and jalapenos) and then a saunter over to Tompkins Square Park for some good, old fashioned people watching.

(I feel like I have to mention the fact that Crif Dogs is also throwing their own hot dog eating contest on the Fourth of July, featuring world-famous hot dog eater Takeru Kobayashi. But we're talking about avoiding crowds here, so that's not my official recommendation.)


2. Spend Your Day

The Tradition: Everyone loves a good street fair. I guess. Street fairs are plentiful in New York in the summer, and all of them end up looking the same to me: sausage vendor, grilled corn, witty t-shirts... rinse, repeat. Sure there are exceptions, and seeing some of the different vendors can be exciting. If you are so inclined, the Great July 4th Festival is happening from 11am to 6pm this year, on Water Street from Fulton to Broad Street. I'm sure you could easily spend a nice day wandering around there and relaxing in Battery Park.

The Alternative: But if you really want to have some fun, I'm betting that the Iron Horse's Annual Pig Roast BBQ Block Party will be pretty awesome. I'll be honest: I've never attended this party myself, but I've heard good things and always had a great time at the Iron Horse. They're closing down Cliff Street (also way downtown in the Financial District), setting up picnic tables and dancing, and raising money for The Wounded Warrior Project. Sounds like an honorable way to celebrating your independence from the Mother Country.




3. Spend Your Evening

The Tradition: The Fourth of July fireworks in New York can be kind of epic. This year, Macy's returns to the Hudson River (much to the chagrin of the millions of Brooklyn and Queens residents) for more incendiary fun. I always imagine the island of Manhattan kind of tipping to one side as its occupants crowd to one side for a glimpse of the fireworks.

The Alternative: You can fulfill your firework desires elsewhere! Astoria Park's Independence Day celebration is happening very early this year (June 25th), and Coney Island has fireworks every Friday evening. And if you need to see explosions on the actual day of July 4th, you can check out the Brooklyn Cyclones Stadium at Coney Island, where they'll be putting on a fireworks show after their home game that evening.

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