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Fireworks Canceled? Here’s How You Can Still Celebrate

Don't worry—you've still got plenty of options for a festive Fourth. Here’s how to light up your night even without professional pyrotechnics.

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A fireworks display against the night skymvp64/Getty Images

Plan B can still be a blast!

As states try to return to normal, cases of COVID-19 are on the rise again. Unfortunately, that also means that many normal summer festivities—like Fourth of July fireworks—are being canceled. It’s a double disappointment: Not only will you miss the awe-inspiring sky displays, but you’ll also miss all the fun things that go along with community fireworks shows, like fair foods and sing-alongs. No fireworks is a bummer (although your dog will be ecstatic), but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a blast on the big night. Here are some ideas to light up your night without fireworks—and while social distancing. Make a whole day of it with these other festive ways to celebrate the Fourth of July without leaving your house.

Low Angle View Of People Watching Firework DisplayNodar Kontselidze / EyeEm/Getty Images

Stage your own fireworks show

Forty-nine states allow people to set off some type of consumer fireworks. (Sorry, Massachusetts!) Check out the fireworks laws in your state, and then plan a home show. Get creative: Set up fireworks in a pattern, time them to match a patriotic song, or use other types of lights to enhance the display. It won’t be as big as a stadium show, but it will still be fun, and you won’t have to fight traffic at midnight. Just remember to take the proper safety precautions, and skip the fireworks in brown packaging.

Take sparkler pictures

Cameras plus sparklers can provide hours of fun. Waving sparklers at dusk can make for some magical photos, with streaks of colored light evoking fireflies or even fairies. Try having family members stand in a line, with each person tracing a different letter of a word (like “love” or “USA”)—it won’t look like much in the moment, but it will show up brightly in the picture. A regular camera phone will work, but photographers with a little more time and skill can use these tips for truly stunning sparkler photos.

Person wearing colorful neon glow sticks at nightStefanieDegner/Getty Images

Craft glow-in-the-dark crowns

Open up a few packages of glow sticks and connectors, place the contents on a table, and let your creativity shine. Kids and adults will love making glow-in-the-dark bracelets, necklaces, belts, crowns, glasses, or other wearable items. Then use your driveway as a catwalk to show off your luminous fashion. You can save any leftover glow sticks for Halloween.

Sihouette of brother and sister running towards ocean at duskCavan Images/Getty Images

Play some night games

What’s a beautiful summer night without night games? Once everyone is decked out in their best glow-wear, head outside in the dark to play capture the flag, hide-and-seek, or sardines. Or throw around a glow-in-the-dark Frisbee or ball. To fill the rest of your day, choose from these backyard games the whole family will enjoy.

Zuckerwatte und Kindby Marion C. Haßold, Images

Set up your own food stand

One of the best things about going somewhere to see the fireworks is all the fun food. Recreate your favorites at home, like DIY cotton candy, funnel cakes, “movie theater” popcorn, churros, corn dogs, or nachos. Or you can go for fireworks-themed foods like Pop Rocks, Fourth of July Oreos, cupcakes topped with sparklers, patriotic M&Ms, or red, white, and blue Jell-O jigglers.

Friends dancing on a rooftop in New York ManhattanLeoPatrizi/Getty Images

Make a funny dance video

Glows sticks get cheeky in popular Internet videos where people use them to outline their bodies then turn off the lights and do a funny dance or silly skit. The video only shows the glow sticks moving, so you can make all kinds of funny optical illusions. Pick a fireworks-themed song and have an online contest with family and friends to see who can create the best video. Learn these fascinating things you never knew about fireworks.

Family party on the beach in California at sunsetLeoPatrizi/Getty Images

Have a patriotic sing-along

A favorite way to get a crowd warmed up before the fireworks begin is to play popular patriotic songs and have a group sing-along. Make your own playlist or use this one from Spotify, and sing your heart out. You can even turn it into a karaoke party. And don’t forget to belt out the national anthem!

Movie Night In Backyardvgajic/Getty Images

Set up an outdoor movie screen to watch fireworks

If you can’t go to the fireworks, bring the fireworks to you! You can watch a televised fireworks display indoors, but for maximum fun, set up an outdoor show. Hang a sheet on the side of your house, set up a Bluetooth projector, and lay out blankets on the grass. Then, when it’s dark, live-stream a fireworks show. Do you know the real reason we set off fireworks on the Fourth of July?

Christmas luminarias in Santa FeSumiko Scott/Getty Images

Line your walk with luminaries

To get in the spirit and share the light with your neighbors, line your driveway or sidewalk with fireworks-inspired luminaries. You can make your own by using a hole puncher to create the pattern on red, white, and blue paper bags. You can also buy precut firework luminary bags. Use LED tealights for durability and safety.

Girl with flag painted on her faceFran Polito/Getty Images

Give little faces a patriotic glow

Face painting is a staple at community fireworks celebrations, but you don’t have to be a professional to do it at home. Transform your families’ faces with luminous face-paint crayons. Kids can color their own faces, or you can draw on flags, fireworks, and words. If you’re artistic, try painting tiger stripes or butterfly wings. For inspiration, check out these incredible photos of animals that glow in the dark.

Kids Watching Fireworks: Fourth of JulyRenphoto/Getty Images

Light up the night in your neighborhood

Congregating in tightly packed groups on a field or in a stadium is a bad idea right now, but walking around outside in your neighborhood is great. Make the fireworks displays a neighborhood affair by organizing times and areas to watch each house’s display in their driveway. Or coordinate a time to block off a street and have your neighbors light off their fireworks in the middle of the road. Just be sure to wear your mask, stay six feet apart, clean up when you’re done, and avoid these 8 most dangerous fireworks.

String Lights, LED Fireworks Copper String Lights Bouquet Shapechee gin tan/Getty Images

Hang LED fireworks

They may say “Christmas decorations” on the package, but these hanging starburst LED light displays are definitely fireworks. They come in multicolor, gold, or white and can be hung indoors or outdoors. You can set them to stay static or cycle through a “bursting” pattern for the firework effect. Bonus: You can reuse them in a few months to decorate for the winter holidays!

Father with children playing under their backyard tent.m-gucci/Getty Images

Build a backyard fort

Use blankets, pillows, chairs, and whatever else you can find to set up the biggest, coziest backyard fort ever—with no worries about blocking the view of people around you. String fairy lights inside, bring in your favorite snacks and drinks, and watch a fireworks show or a Fourth of July movie together.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.