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One could make the argument that fireworks have lost some of their heat in recent times.

Formerly viewed as once-a-year extravagances to help celebrate the nation’s birthday, fireworks displays now seem as ubiquitous as the roadside billboards advertising year-round outlet stores where private citizens can purchase their own pyrotechnics. When it comes to fireworks, the Fourth of July has become pretty much just another date on the calendar, as displays pop up at random times throughout the year to commemorate quotidian accomplishments like home runs, guitar solos, graduations or impressive corporate sales figures.

But aside from going ever bigger and better in an effort to rise above the clutter – a viable but expensive strategy – there’s still one other way to make fireworks special again. Light up that gunpowder over a body of water instead of a field or a parking lot, and suddenly there’s color above and color below – double the ooohs and two times the aaaahs.

This Independence Day, these area cities and towns are taking advantage of their proximity to Lake Michigan (and other lakes and rivers) to get more bang for their buck, and to try and make fireworks special again.


East Chicago

July 3 at dusk

The city’s marina is the stage for a big show over Lake Michigan.

East Chicago Marina, 3301 Aldis Avenue



July 3 at 10pm

An expanded fireworks display caps what promises to be a festive celebration of the city’s 125th anniversary.

Whiting Lakefront Park



July 4 at dusk

Wolf Lake may not have the buzz of Lake Michigan, but those colors will explode just as brightly over its rippling waters.

The Pavilion at Wolf Lake, 2324 Calumet Avenue


Indiana Dunes State Park

July 2 at dusk

This particular day at the beach will extend into the post-dusk hours.

1600 N 25 E, Chesterton



New Buffalo

July 3 at dusk

Small community, big lakefront display.

New Buffalo Beach, 100 Marquette Drive


St. Joseph

July 4 at dusk

The waterfront pyrotechnics go up from the city’s North Pier Lighthouse.

Silver Beach, 101 Broad Street


South Haven

July 2 at dusk

The Light up the Lake display gets its own synchronized soundtrack on 103.7 COSY-FM.

South Haven Lakefront



July 4 at dusk

The Rotary Club of Saugatuck-Douglas sponsors the city’s annual display over Lake Kalamazoo.



Navy Pier

July 4 at 9:30pm

In the years since the massive city-sponsored July 3rd displays succumbed to budget cuts, this manmade peninsula has picked up the Independence Day slack as Chicago’s “official” show. Because fireworks here are a staple every Wednesday and Saturday night throughout the summer, the holiday edition can feel a little bit routine. But it’s hard to be picky when it’s really the only show in town, and it’s hard to quibble about the views from either shore or sea. The Chicago show, in fact, may be one of the few in the area to feature almost as many people watching from the water as from the land. In addition to the many private boats bobbing out on the illuminated waters of Lake Michigan, a bevy of tour boat operators will be running special cruises from the Pier for the occasion (see below).

600 E Grand Avenue


Tall Ship Windy

There are plenty of boats to choose from for a typical fireworks “cruise,” but this majestic schooner is the only way to really sail.

9-10:30pm; $59.95

Navy Pier



Compared to some of the other boats plying the waters on this night, the bright yellow speedboat may be no-frills in terms of food and festivities, but it’s also (relatively) more affordable.

9-10pm; $64.95

Navy Pier



The elegant white vessel offers an upscale excursion for the Navy Pier fireworks, complete with drinks, dancing and a lavish dinner buffet.

8-11pm; $189 and up

Navy Pier


Mystic Blue

Odyssey’s little brother takes the glitz down a notch or two, but still features a great buffet dinner and a DJ to complement the sky show.

8-11pm; $109

Navy Pier