Macy's Fourth of July fireworks display in NYC: Where to watch

The Empire State Building, as seen from Queens, The Empire State Building, as seen from Queens, is backlit by fireworks over the Hudson River during the Macy's Fourth of July display. (July 4, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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If there ever was a time to get in touch with that cousin who has a roof deck in Hell's Kitchen or that friend with a penthouse in Hoboken, pick up the phone this week: The Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks is upon us (212-494-4495, macys.com/fireworks). It's the 37th annual edition, and the nation's largest fireworks display will be launched from four barges in the Hudson River just off midtown Manhattan.

FIREWORKS FACTS

The show starts around 9:25 p.m. Lasting 25 minutes, the display is made up of more than 40,000 "effects" -- 1,800 shells a minute. The Empire State Building will be getting in on the act, too, when its unique LED lights put on a display synchronized with the fireworks.

USHER CALLS THE TUNES

He's won eight Grammys and sold 50 million records, but until now Usher has never helped design and ignite a fireworks display. The easy part was presumably the musical cues, and the superstar has lined up tunes from Rihanna, Frank Sinatra and Kelly Clarkson, among others, to sync up with the pyrotechnics. But working with brother-act fireworks designers Jim and Gary Souza, Usher also gave some input into the look of the show. And an "Usher shell" named in his honor will be among the unique visual treats this year.

WHERE TO WATCH

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River-facing rooftop decks, rooftop bars and high-rise patios are great, from both sides of the river. On the ground, the NYPD restricts the area tightly. (Areas you'd think would work, like the Hudson River Park in the West Village or Battery Park City, are off-limits.) The go-to zone is from 24th Street to 59th Street on the West Side Highway, and selected access streets; check macys.com for more info. The NYPD limits you from bringing pretty much anything, so coolers, backpacks and the like will cause you a hassle.

PRIMO VIEWING SPOTS

Sometimes it pays to spend a little money for a good view of the show. Circle Line Cruises throws a party, beginning at 7 p.m., on its midtown pier jutting into the Hudson from 42nd Street, complete with DJ and food for purchase ($99 in advance, $104 day of, 212-563-3200, circleline42.com). Starting at 6 p.m., Sky Room Times Square, the city's highest rooftop lounge, offers a place to watch and a picnic buffet for $100 (330 W. 40th, 212-380-1195, skyroomnyc.com).

There are two ways to enjoy the Plunge Rooftop Bar + Lounge at Gansevoort Meatpacking NYC (18 Ninth Ave., 212-206-6700, gansevoorthotelgroup.com): Reserve a table for $250 a person or pick general admission for $50. Either way, there's a DJ and a full menu, including dishes like BLT lobster rolls.

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