Yesterday my wife and I took both of our mothers on a July 4th cruise to watch the New York City fireworks. This was the first time my mother-in-law has seen the NYC fireworks show, though the rest of us have all done it before. It can be kind of an ordeal; one of those things that, like the ball drop on New Year's Eve, you might not feel the need to do again after you've done it once. The main problem is the crowds, which are huge, and consequently you need to get there very early (as in, around 2PM) and then you sit there and wait for hours with no bathroom, no food or drink, and no entertainment other than whatever you brought with you.
But this was our first time on a cruise, and even though we went with a "cheap" NY Waterway cruise, I've gotta say it's the way to go if you want to see the NYC fireworks. The NY Waterway cruise costs $75 per person, which is not expensive by New York standards - most of these cruises cost $200 and up and include a full dinner and comfortable seating. NY Waterway is pretty basic - their boats are commuter ferries, and they'll only sell you a hot dog and a beer (and they ran out of hot dogs). But the point is to just get a good vantage point for the fireworks without dealing with a crush of people.
By the way, that's lower Manhattan. The World Trade Center and the twin towers would have been on the left of this photo, where it looks like there's an empty space. Hopefully we won't have to stare at that hole much longer.
Now, I'm not saying this experience was always pleasant. We arrived at 6PM for what we thought would be a 6:30PM boarding, only to be greeted by a non-air conditioned indoor pier and a long wait. The lines grew to what seemed like impossible lengths as 6:30PM came and went. We didn't board until 7PM and we immediately made a bee-line for the second deck of the boat - only to find it soaking wet from the rain we'd been having. We ended up going down to the indoor first deck where it was dry, but the view wasn't as good as we sailed down to the tip of lower Manhattan.
And yeah, it rained most of the day. As we sailed, most of those hardy enough to try the second deck moved downstairs with us, and it got a bit crowded. The snack vendor ran out of dogs and explained that the boat was oversold - not sure how that can happen, honestly, but then this is New York, city of incompetence. Still, it wasn't so crowded that we couldn't move around, and we did - we changed seats several times depending on the view, and we went upstairs to see if we could tough it out. The nice thing about being on a boat is you don't have to worry quite as much about your stuff being stolen if you leave it for a second - nobody's going anywhere. And it was kind of a party atmosphere, with everybody getting to know everybody else.
We sailed near the Statue of Liberty before slowly making our way back towards Manhattan, parking in the harbor just off Battery Park alongside three other NY Waterway boats and countless other private yachts, dinner cruise boats and small sailboats. There was a pretty impressive police presence including helicopters flying in formation, boats positioned about every 1/4 mile and patrol cars visible on all the bridges and coastal roads. Some of it was normal for any July 4, but it definitely seemed to have been beefed up with the recent security scares in London and Glasgow.
The fireworks began at around 9:30PM, during a fortunate lull in the rain that allowed me to make my way to the outdoor front of the boat and get a spot right at the railing. I got some good photos and my wife, who was standing a bit behind me, got some video. This is probably what you've all come here hoping to see:
"Yeah, baby!" I laugh every time I watch that last one. That guy wouldn't stop joking about how "that was just a test, this is the grand finale!" It was sort of funny the first time, not really funny the second time, and just plain annoying the third through the thirtieth times.
If you're wondering, the NYC fireworks are actually launched from several barges in the East River. You can see there's another location up the river a bit in the background of these videos. Everywhere gets the same show, though, and it's all run by computer.
Here are a couple more photos I took with my Canon Rebel XT/350D:
My photos came out pretty nice, although I did use the wrong lens. I meant to change to my 50mm/1.8 for low light shooting, but I forgot. Oh well. So at full size, these are a little blurrier than they otherwise would have been. C'est la vie.
After the fireworks ended, all the boats sounded their horns in appreciation (which was kinda cool) and we headed back to the pier.
For good measure, here's a photo of the inside of the boat on the way back. The DJ was doing his best to maintain the party atmosphere but most people just wanted to sit and relax:
Here's the boat as we disembarked, in what had again become a pouring rain:
So that's July 4 in New York City. I had meant to post some video of last July 4 in my neighborhood on Long Island, because it's really pretty crazy - like a war zone - but I can't seem to find my files from last year. I'll have to update this once I do (hope I saved 'em!).