The smell of charcoal and barbecue favorites like burgers and hot dogs fills the air and floats covered in nothing but red, white, and blue decor parade down small-town streets, tossing candy and waving to onlookers. The 4th of July is a special holiday for all Americans. It’s a day to join together and celebrate the values that our country was founded on, spend time with our friends and families, and soak up the best parts of summer.

The 4th of July is also one of the busiest boating dates of the summer in the United States. Who wouldn’t want to spend hours cruising around, feeling the wind and the spray of the water on their cheeks? Boating is a liberating experience, and the 4th of July is all about enjoying these simple pleasures that come along with our freedom. It’s the perfect holiday to enjoy on a boat, but you want to make sure you’re prepared.

A Few Days Before the 4th

Fuel Up Your Boat

You don’t want to spend precious minutes of your holiday waiting at a marina with a fuel station, and they could hike prices for the day. Get your fuel taken care of beforehand so you’ll be able to push off from the dock and cruise into Independence Day. In addition to filling the gas tank, make sure you’ve tracked down all your water sports equipment or rented what you need for the 4th. You don’t want to spend hours of your day off searching through the garage for waterskis.

Plan Your Menu

Even if you aren’t into meal prep, this is one event you’ll want to be prepared for. Having it all ready to go will make for a stress-free day on the boat. Even if you’re planning to have a barbecue on the shore, it’s a great idea to have some boat snacks ready to go in case your boat crew gets hungry out on the water!

If you’re not sure what you’d like to cook for a boat picnic, just remember to keep it as simple as possible! Try easy-to-pack favorites like sliced watermelon, coleslaw, potato salad, and yummy desserts.

Deck Your Boat Out

If you really want to get into the spirit, decorate your boat for the occasion. Just be sure that you’re using biodegradable and eco-friendly decorations. Don’t risk polluting your local water system - these products will break down naturally if they come loose from your boat and fly into the water.

Need music for cruising? If you don’t have a built-in speaker system onboard, check out these waterproof Bluetooth portable speakers and you’ll have no issue listening to some Jimmy Buffett as your boat takes you around. Don’t forget to also download this 4th of July playlist from Spotify for the perfect tunes!

On the 4th

Spending the day on a boat for the 4th of July is the best way to take advantage of this summer holiday. Soaking up the sun, anchoring and jumping out for a swim is a must. Many people take their boats to certain destinations and tie off for a big water party, or you can cruise to waterfront restaurants with boat slips. If you prefer to avoid crowds, cruise to a quiet spot along the shore and spend the afternoon peacefully.

Because it’s a much busier boating day, be extra cautious and aware of other boaters and possible hazards out on the water. You don’t want an accident to ruin your holiday. Be prepared with lifejackets onboard, and don’t light fireworks off your own boat.

Red White & Tube - Enjoying Water Sports on the 4th

Nothing is more fun for kids (and the adults driving the boat) than flying around the water on an inflatable tube. It’s a popular day for water sports, and while it’s a lot of fun, certain precautions must be taken to avoid any catastrophes while trying to have maximum fun.

Water skiing, wakeboarding, and jet skiing are thrilling ways to get an adrenaline rush on the 4th of July. If you don’t own the equipment, rent it. If you’re renting, often you can choose equipment as an add-on option. Make sure you discuss with your boat captain or owner beforehand to check that they have all the gear available.

When you head out for a wakeboarding or water skiing session, cruise to a quieter spot on your lake or in the ocean and enjoy your water sports while being mindful of other boaters. It’s also crucial to have a spotter onboard to communicate when a rider has fallen off or needs to stop, so have a designated person in addition to the boat captain.

Picnic on Your Boat

Time to eat! Bring out the food and enjoy sharing a meal with your loved ones onboard. Dropping anchor to enjoy your lunch is a unique experience you can’t have every day of the week. And the best part is you don’t have to worry about bringing napkins - make the messy eaters jump out for a swim!

If you are enjoying alcoholic drinks and specialty 4th of July cocktails onboard, just remember to have a sober driver. Intoxicated drivers are the leading cause of boating accidents and fatalities, and the risk of something going wrong is heightened when waterways and boating locations are busier.

Drop Anchor & Watch Sparks Fly

Watching lights and colors explode in the sky over the water is an extraordinary experience that fills our hearts with pride. While impressive fireworks displays take place all over the country, we’ve highlighted a few of the top places to watch the pyro show.

Washington D.C. Fireworks

If you’re boating in Washington D.C. for the holiday, you’re in the best place to watch the sparks fly. The spirit of the 4th of July is strong in the capital, with festivities going on all throughout the city. Enjoy the Independence Day parade during the day, and then find a good vantage point to watch the fireworks on the National Mall.

Fireworks displays in D.C. can be seen from land or water, and if you want to watch by boat, you can book a family-friendly fireworks cruise or take your own watercraft out on the Potomac and find a great vantage point.

New York City Fireworks

Boating in New York City is always a fun time, and when you can watch a show in the night sky, it’s even better. NYC has the largest fireworks display in all the country. You can see colorful bursts all throughout the city, enjoying the shows from rooftops or in parks if you can find a spot with a good view.

If you’d prefer to be away from big crowds and watch from the water, book a fireworks cruise to watch this spectacle no matter where you are in the city. Cruises offering different perks like dinner onboard, and they depart from different spots in the city.

Charleston, South Carolina Fireworks

You have lots of options for watching fireworks if you’re in Charleston, South Carolina. This city is considered one of the best places to celebrate the 4th of July. There are stunning fireworks displays at Patriot’s Point, which you can enjoy from several vantage points throughout the city. Renting a boat and seeing the show from the water is an unforgettable experience. Check out your options for Charleston Harbor cruises to see these pyrotechnics light up the night sky!

Chicago, Illinois Fireworks

Chicago is renowned for fun festivities surrounding every holiday, and the 4th of July is no exception. The Navy Pier Fireworks Show is a stunning spectacle that you have to see if you’re in the city for the holiday. While it can be hard to get a spot with a good view, opt to watch from a boat rental instead. Chicago sightseeing cruises and private boat charters are the best way to get a good seat for the show. Cruise on a motor yacht out from the pier for a breathtaking experience. If you ever needed an excuse to rent a boat in Chicago, this event is definitely it!

Panama City Beach, Florida Fireworks

If you’re in Panama City Beach for the 4th of July, you’re lucky! This Florida hot spot has a star-spangled spectacular fireworks show. The explosions take place over M.B. Miller County Pier, and it’s the largest fireworks display on all of the Gulf Coast. You’re certain to love it if you get to see the show from the water. Renting a boat in easy in this part of Florida, there are plenty of options to bring your whole family on board for the holiday. You can also book yourself on a passenger boat tour for ease and enjoyment on a budget.

When you watch the show from your boat, make sure you have adequate safety and navigation lighting. Have an emergency plan - it’s always good to file a float plan with someone you know staying onshore. Abide by all local regulations for boating at night and please wear lifejackets!

If you’re out on a boat enjoying the 4th of July, we’d love to hear your stories and see your pictures! Follow us @GetMyBoat and use the hashtag #GetMyBoat.