Non-explosive explosions
June 30, 2012 9:00 AM   Subscribe

What are some fun alternatives to fireworks for the 4th of July?

My state is on fire. We will not be engaging in any fire-related activities. I'm collecting some fun ideas for celebrating the 4th without putting anyone in danger. I'm looking for ideas along the lines of Mentos & Diet Coke explosions or water-cannon type stuff, not "make red white and blue crafts". Things that require some engineering ahead of time are totally fine. Thanks!
posted by waterlily to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Water rockets?
posted by The otter lady at 9:13 AM on June 30, 2012

Glow sticks. Any dollar store will have them, and I've discovered that my Target sells a pack of 15 small bracelets for $1, located in the bargain-bin aisle. Those are a big hit with the kids after dusk.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:30 AM on June 30, 2012

You could do some cool stuff with dry ice.
posted by sacrifix at 9:32 AM on June 30, 2012

Shoot confetti or colorful cereal out of a potato gun. The butane ones have a tiny explosion but you can use compressed air too.
posted by vespabelle at 9:32 AM on June 30, 2012

To replicate the sounds of fireworks at New Year, my friend always gets a big roll of bubble wrap (the big bubble size). We all go out at midnight on the driveway and stomp around on it. If you have a rolling office chair or a skateboard, that makes a fun noise too.

Combine this with glow sticks (they come in bracelet/necklace styles, as well as eyeglasses and other random things) this could be a good substitute for fireworks.

If you are going to shoot confetti, see if you can find something to make it glow in the dark. Are there sheets of glow in the dark plastic or paper that you can shred and add to the confetti?
posted by CathyG at 9:55 AM on June 30, 2012

If you can get a hold of sodium, you can drop that into water (carefully!) to get nice explosions. Adding food coloring to barrels of water so that you have blue, white, and clear water that explodes would be pretty cool.
posted by astapasta24 at 10:10 AM on June 30, 2012


A carbide cannon is simply a pipe that you put water and then add calcium carbide (trade name Bangsite). The two react to form acetylene gas, you light the gas (safely) and it makes a great, self controlled explosion. Safe enough that I fired one on Stanford Campus last week without any worries. It just makes a huge boom and fires nothing. Basically a giant noise maker.

It might take a few hours to build, but it can be used over and over again.

The best plans are in the book Backyard Ballistics, but im sure you can find great plans all over the internet. If you're going to do this, you'll need to order the Carbide soon because it takes a few days to arrive.
posted by JimmyJames at 10:20 AM on June 30, 2012

Please don't play with sodium, it's potentially dangerous if you aren't trained in how to deal with it. Storage, transportation and even using it can be extremely hazardous. Thais holds doubly true if you have kids around.
posted by JimmyJames at 10:25 AM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Water rockets can be super fun, especially for kids. If you break open a glow stick and pour the contents in with the water you could even do them at night (although, they would probably be harder to find.)
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:38 AM on June 30, 2012

Suggestion - Don't try to replace cool explosions with non-explodey things, at best you'll end up saying "wow, almost as good as...".

Try doing something entirely different... LAN party?
posted by pla at 12:18 PM on June 30, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far. pla, I should have been more clear in the question but I'm looking for what I asked for and not something else entirely because part of the intended audience is children (10 and under) who are a little easier to impress than grownups who are missing real fireworks. I think most of the fun for the adults would be in setting this stuff up for them in the first place.
posted by waterlily at 12:42 PM on June 30, 2012

The whole Mentos/Diet Coke "explosion" thing is very fun and entertaining for kids and adults. I've done that as an alternative to fireworks with great success. We worked out a whole synchronized display that came off very well. A little messy, but goes well with sprinkler/water gun play afterwards.
posted by agatha_magatha at 2:11 PM on June 30, 2012

You can also try some Stomp Rockets.
posted by CathyG at 7:12 PM on June 30, 2012

Also, I did a google search for "easy fun explosions" and found these sites:

They look like variations on the Mentos style, using Alka Seltzer, citric acid, baking soda and stuff like that. You could have a contest to see which one works the best.
posted by CathyG at 7:16 PM on June 30, 2012

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