The World’s Best Fireworks Displays
Published 21 September 2016
Bonfire Night is upon us once again: that time of year where we wrap up warm, put on our wellies and head into a muddy field to scoff overpriced burgers, brave stomach-churning fairground rides and gaze up into the night sky to watch the fireworks. These kaleidoscopic explosions are a celebration of Guy Fawkes’ failure to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605, and are used across the world to mark all sorts of occasions. Here’s our guide to the best displays out there.
New Year’s Eve, Sydney
Every year, 1.5 million people welcome in the new year from Sydney Harbour, one of the most electrifying places on the planet to join the festivities. Revellers set up camp in the morning of the 31st December, so get there early to bag one of the coveted spots facing the harbour bridge. Celebrations kick off at 6pm with music and fly pasts, then the harbour’s ships light up before a massive firework extravaganza as the clock strikes midnight.
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Montreal International Fireworks Competition
Every July, Montreal hosts the month-long L’International des Feux Loto-Québec, the largest fireworks competition in the world. Pyrotechnic companies from all over the globe compete for prestigious Gold Jupiter trophy by launching their best rockets, cakes and candles into the skies above La Ronde, accompanied by a catchy soundtrack. With an estimated three million spectators watching the show, organisers sell tickets for the best vantage points, but it’s just as easy to find a patch of grass (try Mount Royal Park) or a viewing spot along the Saint Lawrence River.
Thunder Over Louisville
Starting out as a pre-event to launch the annual Kentucky Derby in early May, Thunder over Louisville fills the skies above the city with colour and light. This spectacular air show and fireworks spectacle is North America’s largest annual fireworks display, with over 650,000 spectators, vastly eclipsing the attendance of the derby itself.
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Fourth of July, New York
Independence Day is a big deal in New York City, with red white and blue taking over and dazzling fireworks displays lighting up the skyline. Grab a beer, join in the party and celebrate all things American as the fireworks erupt over the Statue of Liberty and Coney Island. Your best bet for uninterrupted views is a rooftop bar – try Berry Park in Brooklyn with its 3,500 square foot roof deck and a selection of German and Belgian beers on tap.
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Celebration of Light, Vancouver
One of Vancouver’s largest festivals, the Celebration of Light attracts 1.4 million sky-gazers to the waterfront each year. Whatever the weather, three 25-minute displays on three separate days in late July are accompanied by rousing music and some very loud booms. The rockets explode over the sea, making for some rather photogenic reflections in the water.
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The Hindu festival of Diwali is a celebration of light, so it’s no surprise that lamps, candles and fireworks feature prominently. Pretty much any Indian city will have an event of some kind, but for something extra-special try Varanasi, where lights along the river create a wonderful atmosphere, or Chennai, pictured above, where large scale celebrations include sparklers, firecrackers and plenty of eating.
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Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, Rio de Janeiro
It’s pretty much a given that the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies will feature fireworks by the bucketload, and Rio was no exception. The 31st Summer Olympic Games may have been and gone, but it's never too early to start planning that trip to Tokyo for 2020.
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Katakai Fireworks Festival, Japan
Running for over 400 years, Katakai is the oldest of the festivals on this list and features in the Guinness Book of Records for launching the largest firework in the world, the yonshakudama. Costing US$1,500 to make, this truly gargantuan rocket was over 1.2 metres wide and shot 2,700 feet into the air, exploding with a diameter of nearly 800 metres. Swing by in September to watch the action.
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