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The best virtual Fourth of July events, from firework shows to a Declaration of Independence reading

No parades? No problem. Here are ways to celebrate the holiday at home.


(iStock/Washington Post illustration)

It goes against our American instincts to stay inside on Independence Day. Celebrations are typically built around gathering with friends and family outdoors. But with coronavirus case numbers on a rapid incline, your standard Fourth of July group activities are not advisable this year.

That doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate America’s 244th birthday. Many of the country’s beloved traditions are pivoting to virtual programming to adapt to 2020′s challenges.

We highly recommend cooking up a Fourth of July spread at home and tuning into one of the many festive live shows. Here’s a roundup of some of the best options to stream this weekend.

Watch Macy’s 44th Fourth of July fireworks


View of the 40th annual Macys Fourth of July fireworks on the East River. (iStock)

Fireworks have been plaguing some American communities lately, but if you’re still hankering to watch the colorful spectacle on July 4 and don’t live near a great show, you can stream one online.

Most notable may be Macy’s 44th Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza, which is scheduled to take place around New York City from June 29 through July 4.

On Saturday, the grand finale will feature “Macy’s signature pyrotechnic scale with thousands of shells reaching heights up to 1,000 feet,” according to the department store’s website. “The displays will be launched from one or two land or water based locations over the course of the week-long celebration covering every borough of New York City.”

The choreographed fireworks, music and tributes to health-care workers will be broadcast live on NBC Saturday from 8 to 10 p.m. Eastern.

Cheer for competitors in the annual hot-dog-eating contest


Men compete during the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4, 2018. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

God bless America? More like God bless ESPN. On Saturday at noon Eastern, ESPN is airing the 17th annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog-Eating Contest live.

Instead of taking place in Coney Island, the pandemic version of the contest will go down in an undisclosed location.

ESPN commentator Mike Golic Jr. will give a play-by-play of the eating competition for the folks watching at home, and only the folks watching at home. This year, there will be no crowd because of coronavirus precautions.

Will Joey “Jaws” Chestnut eat his way to a record 13th title? Only time will tell.

Turn on PBS’s “A Capitol Fourth”


Fireworks at the Mall in Washington on July 4, 2010. (iStock)

If your Fourth celebrations usually centered on parades or going to see concerts, there are plenty of live-streamed performances to watch from home as a substitution this year.

A major highlight is PBS’s “A Capitol Fourth,” hosted by John Stamos and Vanessa Williams from Washington. Starting at 8 p.m. Eastern, the show is headlined by American treasure Patti LaBelle and features performances by the Temptations, John Fogerty and the National Symphony Orchestra, among others.

Lest you be tempted to change channels for some pyrotechnic action, “A Capitol Fourth” will also broadcast a fireworks display during its finale, along with Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.” Here’s the link to find showtimes for your local PBS station.

Tune in for some country and blues tunes

If country and blues music is more up your alley, turn on Nashville’s “Let Freedom Sing!” live show starring Keb’ Mo', John Hiatt, Tenille Townes, Lilly Hiatt and Barry Scott.

Normally held in person with a crowd of tens of thousands, the one-hour event dedicated to health-care workers is being televised instead to promote social distancing.

“While the crowds will be asked to stay home this year and our fireworks display will be minimal, we still wanted to find a way to celebrate our country and our city during this difficult time,” Butch Spyridon, president and chief executive Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., said in a statement.

The show can be watched on Nashville’s local NewsChannel 5 at 10 p.m. Eastern or streamed online.

Tour national parks remotely


Views from a hike in Yosemite. (iStock)

Normally spend July 4 out in a national park? Bring the great outdoors home with one of the many National Park Service live streams.

Instead of fighting the summer crowds to see Yellowstone’s most famous of its some 500 geysers, you can check them out via its Eyes on Yellowstone live stream. The site even gives you predicted eruption times of Old Faithful so you can tune in for the most action.

A less explosive option is California’s beloved Yosemite Falls. The 2,425-feet waterfall in Yosemite National Park experiences its peak flow in the early summer, making the Fourth of July a great time to fire up the live cam.

Get to know the Declaration of Independence

The National Archives is hosting a full-day, kid-friendly educational affair for viewers online. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., you can learn about American history from archivists and historic figures themselves (played by actors, of course). At noon Eastern time, for example, Abigail Adams will don a bonnet and share stories from the Revolution with live-stream viewers.

Viewers are encouraged to check out the schedule online ahead of time to register for particular events and download activities and materials for a more interactive experience.

The headline event takes place at 4 p.m. Eastern, with the traditional Declaration of Independence reading ceremony hosted by Soledad O’Brien.

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