Where Fireworks Freaks Go On Independence Day

As America prepares to celebrate its Independence Day this week, thoughts might turn to picnics, barbecues, an extra day off work and a patriotic display of fireworks. Look up after dark on the Fourth of July at just about any city or town in the United States and colorful displays will fill the sky. Some Americans plan their own displays where permitted while others seek out traditional fireworks celebrations that have been held annually for decades. Not sure where to go for the best of the best in fireworks? We checked in with a variety of sources and experts in their respective fields of travel for ideas. One of these places should work just fine for the fireworks freak inside you.

The Travel Channel ranks everything from the best beaches to the best bike cities in the U.S. On their list of Best U.S. Fireworks Displays, they like “America’s biggest birthday party” under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Kaboom Town in Addison, TX, the largest fireworks display in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Navy Pier in Chicago, with regular fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday night as some of their top places to go.

Hotel search engine Room 77 knows about more than 200,000 hotels worldwide and has a list of the Top 10 Hotels with the Highest “Boom Factor,” offering the best vantage points from pools and rooftop bars to balconies, beaches and even bathtubs. They like the Hyatt Regency Austin, one of the few hotels in the city that overlook the water; the Mandarin Oriental New York, where some rooms in the 54-story hotel have marble soaking tub views of the river and fireworks; and the W Washington DC where the rooftop bar offers a premiere vantage point for viewing the fireworks over the mall, one of the most spectacular Fourth of July celebrations in the entire country.At Disney Parks and on Disney Cruise Line ships, nightly fireworks displays are a big part of the experience every day of the year but especially on July Fourth. What fireworks freaks know that many fans of the Disney displays do not is that the colorful, timed explosions are not actually “blown” off the ground at all.

The Walt Disney Company is the largest user of fireworks in the world and coordinates aerial displays with microsecond accuracy to coincide with music or live action performances. They have been doing that using compressed air rather than gunpowder since 1999, making display shells explode in the air using an electronic timer. The result is a reduction of fumes, greater accuracy in height and timing and a surprise effect unmatched by gunpowder-driven pyrotechnics.

To see one of the reasons why Disney Cruise Line ranks consistently high in customer satisfaction, take a look at their Buccaneer Blast display, held at sea:

St. Louis Gateway Arch is rusting

The landmark Gateway Arch, part of a National Park Service site on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Louis, is corroding, and no one seems to know the extent of the damage.

That’s the word from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which studied reports on the corrosion dating back to 1984.

The culprit seems to be moisture leaking into the Gateway Arch – a sophisticated engineering feat made up of stacked triangular sections of carbon steel, concrete and stainless steel.

The big question is whether the streaks of rust and other discoloration, which can be seen on the upper portions of the outside of the arch, are merely cosmetic or more severe.

Let’s remember that this monument is not just pretty to look at — people ride up to the top of the Arch in a vertical tram system.

National Park Service officials insist that there is no safety issue at the Arch, for now. The agency has just funded a study to determine whether the 45-year-old arch just needs a cleaning, or whether a full-blown restoration will be required.

[Image credit: Flickr user chutme]

Photo of the Day (1.10.2010)

The Gateway Arch in Saint Louis is truly one of our nation’s most underrated landmarks. This magnificent milestone towers like a futuristic giant over the Saint Louis skyline, providing an iconic point of reference anywhere you happen to be in this historic Midwestern city. Flickr user SenzEnina snapped today’s great shot of this famous structure, framing it perfectly with the city’s Old Courthouse building.

Want your pics considered for Gadling’s Photo of the Day? Submit your best ones here.