Every year glorious explosions light up the skies of Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties in celebration of Independence Day. This year, concerts and other fun stuff are also part of the festivities taking place Thursday and Friday. From beaches to ballparks, from Palmetto to Punta Gorda, here are the best places to behold some patriotic pyrotechnics.
Bayfront Fireworks Spectacular
Watch the fireworks within walking distance of all the restaurants, bars, nightclubs and theaters of bustling downtown Sarasota. The display will be launched from a boat anchored on Sarasota Bay around dusk. Benefiting Suncoast Charities for Children, the show is privately funded and will be focused on charity.
9 p.m. Friday; Marina Jack; 2 Marina Plaza; Sarasota; 955-0991; visitsarasota.org.
Tropical 4th of July Celebration at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Those looking to enjoy the Bayfront Fireworks Spectacular in style will want to check out the party being thrown at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Guest will be entertained by the classic reggae sounds of Impulse during a pre-Bayfront show. There will also be a selection of outdoor fare and beverages available for purchase along with activities and entertainment for children of all ages. Attendees are asked to bring folding chairs and lawn blankets for prime fireworks viewing, but no coolers.
6 p.m. Friday; Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, 811 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota; $17 (members), $20 (non-members), free for children age 11 and younger; 366-5731; selby.org.
Fireworks Celebration on Siesta Beach
Before and after checking out the numerous hot spots on and around Ocean Boulevard, enjoy the 24th annual Fourth of July fireworks display over Siesta Key. It can be viewed from the Gulf, Intracoastal and, in particular, south Siesta Beach.
9 p.m. Friday; Siesta Key Public Beach, 948 Beach Road, Sarasota; 955-0991; visitsarasota.org.
Fourth of July VIP Party
Ever wonder who pays for all those rockets' red glare over Siesta Key? In support of the annual fireworks display, the vast majority of the cost comes from the VIP package participants. With this package comes reserved on-site parking on Siesta Beach, an on-site catered picnic for two, drinks, a preferred viewing area for the fireworks display and acknowledgment in the event advertising. For more information, contact the Chamber at 349-3800 or email Chastanna@siestakeychamber.com for prices and availability.
5:30-9 p.m. Friday; Siesta Key Public Beach, 948 Beach Road, Sarasota
North Port Freedom Festival
Sarasota singer Chris Eisenberg, who became famous at age 12 as "Lil Chris" while competing on "America's Got Talent" in 2010, will perform at 8 p.m. as the opening act for the 9 p.m. fireworks. Local rock band Adrenaline Junkies kicks things off followed by opening ceremonies at 7 p.m. There will also be food and vendor booths, a family activity area as well as an obstacle course and tropical slide.
6 p.m. Friday; North Port High School, 6400 W. Price Blvd., North Port, 955-0991; visitsarasota.org.
Venice's Fourth of July Fireworks Display
Whether at Sharky's on the Pier (1600 Harbor Drive S., Venice; 488-1456; sharkysonthepier.com) or just a spot in the famous sand, you'll have a sweet view of this always-impressive display. Shortly after sunset, fireworks will be shot off the South Jetty for viewing pleasure from Venice Beach and the Nokomis North Jetty. The south jetty will be closed all day Friday.
9 p.m. Friday; Venice Beach; 999-1415; venicegov.com.
Palmetto 4th of July
Props to Palmetto for throwing an Independence Day bash that not only features first-rate fireworks viewable from both side of the Manatee River but a proven pop star on the rise headlining a free show. Scotty McCreery, the country singer who won "American Idol" three years ago and has since had hits with the songs "I Love You This Big," "The Trouble with Girls" and "See You Tonight," will perform 4 p.m. Friday at Sutton Park, 6th Street West and 10th Avenue West, Palmetto. The Jake Castro Band and Goodbye Eddie open the show. Following McCreery's free performance (there's also a $5 VIP section at stage front), attendees are invited to stroll south to the Historic Green Bridge Fishing Pier on the Manatee River to watch the fireworks being launched at 9 p.m. These same explosions in the sky will also be viewable from most spots along the Bradenton Riverwalk (452 3rd Ave. W.).
4 p.m. Friday; Sutton Park and Historic Green Bridge Fishing Pier; Palmetto; 723-4570; palmettofl.org.
Fireworks Extravaganza at BeachHouse
Who's ready to get the party started early? On Thursday, The BeachHouse Restaurant will blast fireworks off Anna Maria Island for the entertainment of its patrons (call about party packages, reservations, etc.) and everyone else who gathers for this dazzling display on Bradenton Beach.
8 p.m. Thursday; BeachHouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive, Bradenton Beach; 779-2222; beachhouse.groupersandwich.com.
Fireworks Spectacular at Sandbar
Also part of the Chiles Restaurant Group that owns BeachHouse, Sandbar's 28th annual Fireworks Spectacular promises to be just as potent as in years past. Same as with BeachHouse, it's ideal to call ahead and reserve a table but watching in the sand, gratis, is a fine option, too.
8 p.m. Friday; Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria; 778-8709; sandbar.groupersandwich.com
Bradenton Marauders Celebration of America
Patriotic combos don't get much, if any, better than baseball and fireworks. Beer specials? Southern rock? Hell yeah! Kick off Independence Day early at McKechnie Field where the Bradenton Marauders are playing the Fort Myers Miracle followed by a fireworks display and concert by Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band Nuthin' Fancy. Being a "Thirsty Thursday" night sponsored by Budweiser, there will also be $1 select beers and $1 small sodas.
6:30 p.m. Thursday; McKechnie Field, 1611 9th St. W., Bradenton; $6-$8; 747-3031; bradentonmarauders.com.
Fireworks and Stone Crabs
The Charlotte Stone Crabs take the field at 6:30 p.m. Thursday against the St. Lucie Mets and are offering special packages for Independence Day. The Family Pack for $40 consists of four tickets, four hot dogs and four sodas and for $15 the Classic Cookout package includes a reserved level ticket and all-you-can-eat picnic. Fireworks display begins immediately after the game.
6:30 p.m. Thursday; Charlotte Sports Park; 2300 El Jobean Road, Port Charlotte; 206-4487; stonecrabsbaseball.com.
Fourth of July Celebration at Fishermen’s Village Waterfront Mall
Fishermen’s Village will host their annual Fourth of July Celebration on Friday beginning with welcoming Charlotte Harbor Freedom Swim participants at 9 a.m. Family-friendly activities can be enjoyed 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and live music with the Sarasota-based Garbage Men from noon to 3 p.m. and The Kollections 5–9 p.m. The evening ends with the fireworks finale over Charlotte Harbor at 9 p.m.
1200 W. Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda; 639-8721; www.fishville.com.
Englewood Firecracker Festival
Englewood’s Dearborn Street will be a happening spot of patriotic, family fun Friday when the Lemon Bay Sunrise Rotary Club hosts the Englewood Firecracker Festival. Festivities begin at 10 a.m. with a music lineup that begins with Kate Keys and continues through the day with Ellie Lee and Blues Fury as well as The Mulch Brothers. Vendors will serve hot dogs, hamburgers and pulled pork and there will a beer tent along with other chilled beverages. Fireworks over Lemon Bay are anticipated to begin around 9 p.m. Admission is free.
Dearborn Street, Englewood, lemonbaysunriserotary.com.
For additional Fourth of July activities in Charlotte County, visit charlotteHarborTravel.com.