For as long as America has existed, the nation has celebrated the Fourth of July by staging grand fireworks shows in public settings and lighting smaller displays at home.

This practice of commemorating Independence Day with pyrotechnics was first envisioned by John Quincy Adams, who was quoted as saying the occasion should be celebrated "with guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other…" Hence, the first commemorative Independence Day fireworks were set off in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777.

Nowadays, cities across the country compete for the honor of having the most spectacular Fourth of July fireworks. Choosing an outright winner is highly subjective and downright difficult — so we’ve selected seven cities where the rockets’ red glare is sure to infuse onlookers with a real sense of patriotic spirit.

San Diego, California

According to organizers, San Diego’s "Big Bay Boom" is the largest fireworks show on the West Coast. The 18th annual staging of the city’s colossal Independence Day celebration gets underway at 9:00 p.m., and features a choreographed 19-minute barrage of fireworks from four barges strategically located around San Diego’s spacious bay.

The best viewing points for the expected audience of nearly a half-million: Shelter Island, Harbor Island, the Embarcadero area, Seaport Village/Coronado Landing, and from boats on the water.

Lake Tahoe’s annual Lights on the Lake show. (Courtesy Tahoe South)

Lake Tahoe, California

Tahoe’s 38th annual Lights on the Lake fireworks display should live up to its reputation among leading travel publications as one of the nation’s best Fourth of July shows. According to a press release from event organizers, "The show offers eye-popping light arrays that transform Tahoe’s night sky into 25 minutes of dazzling Technicolor bursts of multi-colored orbs, exploding stars, butterflies and smiley faces."

The fireworks are visible from just about anywhere around the city of South Lake Tahoe, but the most highly recommended spots are along the South Shore, including Nevada Beach, El Dorado Beach and Timber Cove Marina. The 25-minute display is scheduled to begin at 9:45 p.m. on July 4.

Addison, Texas, is also home to the Cavanaugh Flight Museum, located at the municipal Addison Airport. (Courtesy Kaboom Town)

Addison, Texas

Let’s show some love for America’s top-rated small-town Independence Day fireworks display — Addison’s Kaboom Town celebration. For more than three decades, the wee town of Addison (population 15,000), located about 15 miles north of Dallas, has hosted a show named by USA Today,, Travel + Leisure and even the American Pyrotechnic Association as one of the country’s top 10 fireworks displays.

Nearly a half-million people typically crowd the town where fireworks are launched at dusk (approximately 9:30 p.m.) on July 3.

The Wawa Welcome America July 4th Fireworks, with the backdrop of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Courtesy Visit Philadelphia)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

It should come as no surprise that the City of Brotherly Love pulls out all the stops for its weeklong Wawa Welcome America Fourth of July celebration as well it should, seeing as how it all began there back in 1777. Festivities culminate on July 4 with the largest free concert in the country, followed by a 15-minute, 15,000-shell fireworks barrage.

This year’s live music lineup features global hip-hop superstar Pitbull, Grammy Award-winning Broadway star Heather Headley, R&B singers Tiffany Jones and Alita Moses, and the Philly POPS BIG Band. Prime viewing for both events is Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where the concert and fireworks will go down from 7:00-10:00 p.m. against the backdrop of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is another city that figures large in the history of the nation’s independence, and it is renowned for its annual Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, an event that weds pyrotechnics and a live musical performance by the legendary Boston Pops Orchestra.

Singer/songwriter Rachel Platten will head an all-female lineup of guest artists for this year’s Pops performance. Also featured will be Grammy Award-winning artists Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls.

Joining the cast as well is Rita Moreno, best known for her Academy Award-winning role in "West Side Story." The free, public event gets underway at 8:00 p.m. with a concert at the Hatch Shell (an outdoor band shell) on the Charles River Esplanade. As always, a 20-minute fireworks show set to the sounds of the Boston Pops will top off the evening.

New York City, New York

If you’re looking for maximum firepower on the Fourth, the Big Apple is the place to be. The nation’s largest Independence Day fireworks display will once again ignite the night with an unparalleled barrage of dazzling effects framing the iconic New York City skyline during the 42nd annual Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks.

This year’s spectacle will mark the largest display since the Millennial Celebration with more than 75,000 shells, and effects launched from seven barges positioned in Midtown on the East River. Accompanying the pyrotechnics will be a rousing patriotic score from the West Point Band & Glee Club.

The festivities will also feature a special rendition of "God Bless America" from superstar Kelly Clarkson in honor of the nation’s military. More than 3 million spectators are expected to line the shores of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn for the 25-minute extravaganza, set to begin at 9:30 p.m. The display also will air live on NBC, starting at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Washington, D.C.

It is hard to imagine a more patriotically appropriate place to witness a Fourth of July celebration than the nation’s capital city. It is always a night to remember, as colorful fireworks light up America’s Capitol and its most emblematic monuments.

The Capitol Fourth Celebration gets underway at 8:00 p.m. on the National Mall with a concert (aired live on PBS) hosted by actor John Stamos and featuring performances by The Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffett and The Temptations.

Wrapping up the all-star salute is a D.C. tradition: a National Symphony Orchestra performance of Tchaikovsky’s "1812 Overture" complete with the U.S. Army Presidential Salute Battery providing live cannon fire. Fireworks are launched following the concert, shortly after 9:00 p.m.

The best (but busiest) place to view the fireworks would be anywhere on the National Mall from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the plaza in front of the Jefferson Memorial. Other good spots include the U.S. Supreme Court Plaza, East or West Potomac Park (just south of the Mall), and from across the Potomac River at the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial.

For those wishing to enjoy the show with a drink in hand (no alcohol on the Mall), there are a number of rooftop bars in close proximity to the action, including the POV Rooftop Lounge at the W Hotel and the Sky Bar at the Beacon Hotel, but most of them require tickets that can go for as much as $100.