If you’re an average American born any time after, say, 1776, then you’ve inevitably been asked to take part in an age-old conflict that’s been brewing since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Which is better: parades or fireworks? Of course, the choice is clear to all but the most addlepated. Face it, a line of big, dumb balloons cannot hold a candle to some well-choreographed explosions. If you’re one of the people who swear by the majesty of a string of trucks covered in papier-mâché, then you haven’t seen some of the world’s most wonderful fireworks displays. You might have to search outside the United States, but the creativity used in today’s fireworks events far surpasses anything you can plod by your TV screen during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Which one is better? Fireworks. Obviously. Still don’t believe us? Check out the effort and capital poured into some of these chart-topping fireworks shows.
1. Dubai’s New Year Celebration
The biggest fireworks spectacle in the history of humankind goes to Dubai. In 2014, the country grabbed a Guinness World Record for the sheer size of their fireworks display which cost around $6 million and lasted for six full minutes. Surprisingly, the spectacular show still got outdone on a few metrics.
2. Philadelphia’s Independence Day Celebration
Trust one of the nation’s first cities to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to celebrating the birth of the United States. Philadelphia’s annual fireworks show may have dropped its budget in recent years, but most still speculate that Philadelphia spends at least $2.1 million on its July 4 show.
3. Beijing’s Opening Ceremony
The opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics, hosted in China, was one for the record books. In addition to a massive choreographed drum and dance performance, the host nation spent more than $1.3 million on a fantastic fireworks display that nearly stole the show — a fitting addition from the country who is credited with inventing fireworks, to begin with.
4. Sydney Rings in the New Year
As one of the first major cities to ring in the New Year, Sydney, Australia is always willing to put some extreme effort into their fireworks displays. The world-famous Sydney Opera House serves as the backdrop for a fireworks show that costs Sydney about $6.3 million every year.
5. Kuwait City Knows How to Go Long
The people of Kuwait City have a fondness for fireworks that might surpass any other country in the world. The town is known for fireworks displays that are not only huge but long-running as well. One show saw the release of more than 77,000 fireworks which lasted for more than an hour. The entire display was said to have cost $15 million.
6. Welcome to Kaboom Town
Every year, the city of Addison, Texas — a suburb of Dallas — drops nearly a quarter of a million dollars on their annual Kaboom Town Independence Day celebration. The event generates thousands of dollars for the town and attracts thousands of visitors.
7. The Burj Khalifa Explosions
Okay, putting Dubai on here twice might be cheating, but the Burj Khalifa fireworks display is pretty spectacular. On New Year’s Eve, the 2,700-foot-tall skyscraper is turned into the world’s tallest fireworks stand as fireworks are set off up and down the entire height of the tower, making for a one-of-a-kind display.
8. Pohang International Fireworks Festival
It’s probably always tempting to defect from North Korea, but that temptation is likely never stronger than over the course of the nine days when South Korea is hosting the Pohang International Fireworks Festival. The widely-attended competition also features a series of activities like watersports and a badminton tournament.
9. Macy’s Annual Fireworks Show
Macy’s doesn’t reveal how much money they’re willing to drop to entertain the people of New York every Fourth of July, but some fireworks experts — which is apparently a real job — have stated that the frequency of shells used in the display (about 1,600 each minute) would put the cost of New York’s fireworks display at around $6 million.
10. Montreal International Fireworks Competition
If you’re in any doubt as to whether or not fireworks can be elevated to an art form, then just check out the Montreal International Fireworks Competition. Every year, dozens of fireworks companies around the world travel to Montreal to play their part in a month-long series of 30-minute fireworks displays. The competition is the largest of its kind anywhere in the world.
11. Abu Dhabi
No other countries in the world can spend on fireworks quite like Abu Dhabi. They might have been usurped as the record holder for size and duration (having lost those titles to Dubai and Kuwait City, respectively), but no one has come close to Abu Dhabi regarding expense. The nation currently holds the record for most expensive fireworks show at a whopping $20 million.
12. The Boston Pops Show
If you hadn’t put it together by now, the United States pulls out all the stops with their July 4 celebrations, and fireworks form the backbone of the festivities. If you need (another) example of that phenomenon, check out the annual Boston Pops show, which is highlighted by a fireworks display that reportedly runs about $2.5 million.
13. Paris’ New Years Festival
Over the course of its long history, the Eiffel Tower has held something of a divisive place in the hearts of a lot of Parisians. Some called the iconic building an eyesore. However, it’s hard not to stand in awe when the city puts on its annual fireworks show, casting the Eiffel Tower in a series of otherworldly hues.
14. Explosions Over the London Eye
Few city skylines are as noteworthy and immediately identifiable as London’s. The city is always willing to drop several hundred thousand dollars on their annual New Year’s spectacular, putting up a yearly display above the London Eye Ferris wheel.