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How To Celebrate July Fourth In Downtown Austin With '100,000 Of Your Closest Friends'

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
Charley Graham, 3, celebrates the Fourth of July in Buda on Thursday.

The Austin Symphony's July Fourth concert and fireworks show is set to begin at 8:30 Thursday night. Here's what you need to know to get there in one piece. 

The show, officially the H-E-B Austin Symphony July 4th Concert & Fireworks, is encouraging people to come out and spend the Fourth "with 100,000 of your closest friends" on the grassy lawn of Auditorium Shores, just south of the river between First and Lamar. If this is your first year going, bring your walking shoes.

The symphony, which — along with its sponsors — pays for the fireworks show, has a few tips for getting to the best viewing spots: First, don't try to park south of Lady Bird Lake in the downtown area. Lamar Boulevard, Barton Springs Road and Riverside Drive will be packed with cars.

The Congress Avenue bridge and parts of Cesar Chavez Street will close to traffic Thursday night. Riverside Drive through Vic Mathias Shores will be closed from 9 a.m. until midnight. 

The Bouldin Creek neighborhood, just south of the park, will have parking restrictions in place. Only residents will be allowed to enter some neighborhood streets. 

Street Closures

Credit City of Austin

Free Parking And Free Rides

Here's the good news: Free parking is available at state garages A, B, F, G and Lot 18, on Trinity between 13th Street and 17th Street near Waterloo Park, and at the state lots on the corner of MLK & Trinity and MLK & Brazos.

Capital Metro is offering free rides for all of its services after 5 p.m. The transit agency is also providing Saturday-level bus service for the holiday, operating MetroRapid routes 801 and 803 until 2:30 a.m. Plan your Cap Metro ride using the trip planner

Cap Metro has adjusted over the years to the closure of the South First Street bridge on the evening of the Fourth.

“We’ve realized the city comes to a standstill in that area,” said Jenn Golech, director of bus operations and service coordination for Cap Metro. “What we do is we stage buses on both sides of the closure, so that we have buses ready to go to carry people out of the fireworks that don’t have sit on the bridge.”

Golech said people heading south after the show should head toward Barton Springs Road to catch buses, while those heading north should head to the Republic Square area.

AAA Texas estimates 3 million people statewide will travel by vehicle this holiday weekend. Austin Police and the Texas Highway Patrol will have extra officers watching out for speeders and drunken drivers. 

AAA is offering a free Tipsy Tow service as a last resort for drivers trying to get home safely. You can call 1-800-AAA-HELP to get a free tow to your home or hotel at a distance of up to 10 miles. The service will be available from 6 p.m. Thursday until 6 a.m. Friday. 

And some more good news: The National Weather Service is forecasting partly cloudy weather Thursday night, with a slight chance of isolated showers and storms earlier in the day. The high will be near 92 degrees.

Fireworks Safety

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that more than half of the estimated 9,100 firework-related injuries last year were around the Fourth of July.

It's illegal to shoot off fireworks within city limits, but if you're doing your own show somewhere, do a little homework first. Here are some tips:

  • Stay away from powerlines and trees
  • Secure animals inside
  • Always have a bucket of water nearby
  • Always make sure an adult is around

Chester Davis, who owns American Fireworks in the Del Valle area, says it’s important for users to educate themselves about the type of products they’ll be using, too. 
“Be smart about what you’re going to do," he told KUT's DaLyah Jones. "Read the label of what you’re going to shoot. What does it say it’s going to do? Make sure it’s a consumer fireworks, because it has to have the correct label.”

Keep Your Pets Safe At Home

"Fireworks are fun for humans, but not for pets," the Austin Animal Center said this week. Do not bring your pets to the fireworks celebration downtown. 

RELATED | Every Dog Has Its Day, But It's Not The Fourth Of July

If you're planning on leaving your pet at home, the center recommends leaving on the TV or radio to provide a distraction, closing the curtains or blinds, making sure your pets get plenty of exercise before dark and checking your fencing to make sure they can't escape. 

You can get your pet a free microchip and ID tag at the animal center, located at 7201 Levander Loop in East Austin, every day between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. No appointment is needed. 

Read more pet safety tips for the Fourth of July here and at

Andy Jechow is the audience engagement editor for KUT News. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter at @AndyJechow.