Where to Celebrate the 4th of July

July 1, 2015 by

Festivals & Events, North America, Things to Do, Travel Advice & Inspiration

For many Americans, July 4th is a family holiday  it involves backyard barbecues, maybe a parade through town and a local fireworks show. Some people, however, have dreams of celebrating the nation’s birthday with more pizzazz. Thankfully, there are plenty of options around the country that deliver 4th of July festivities worth traveling for.

So, where to celebrate the 4th of July? These 11 places around the U.S. each offer something special for the day, whether it’s a stunning backdrop for fireworks or a party that makes you forget the fireworks altogether.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia 4th of July

Celebrate in Philadelphia with fireworks.  Photo credit: Jim Cairns via Flickr.

What better way to start a tour of excellent places to celebrate July 4th than in the city where the country was born? Philadelphia’s festivities run from morning into the night, and include a parade through the historic city center and a concert on the Parkway. Got a few days in Philly? Tour national landmarks like Independence Hall to really get an appreciation for the holiday. The city’s fireworks display is over the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is a reminder that this is the city that gave rise to another independent spirit  Rocky.

Read about what to eat in Philadelphia while you’re there

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston USS Constitution

The USS Constitution on the 4th of July. Photo credit: Official U.S. Navy imagery via Flickr.

Boston may be more famous for the whole tea party aspect of the American Revolution, but this city celebrates July 4th with a couple different kinds of bangs. The fireworks display, which takes place over the Charles River, is the obvious one  the other bang is a musical one, with the Boston Pops providing live musical accompaniment to the pyrotechnic show.

Washington DC

Washington DC A Capital Fourth

A Capitol Fourth concert. Photo credit: John Athayde via Flickr.

Not to be outdone by Boston, the nation’s capital puts on a pretty spectacular July 4th celebration, too. Washington DC’s 4th of July begins with a parade and continues with “A Capitol Fourth,” which includes performances by the National Symphony Orchestra as well as a roster of famous musical guests, then finishes with a flourish as soundtracked by the live performances its fireworks display lights up the sky over the city’s monuments. Forget about arguing politicians for a moment, and you’ll feel pretty patriotic.

Read more about the 4th of July in Washington DC

New York City, New York

NYC 4th of July

Fireworks from an NYC 4th of July cruise

When you hear “Macy’s” and “New York,” you might automatically think of the Thanksgiving parade  but did you know Macy’s is also behind the city’s July 4th celebrations? The fireworks show takes place over the East River this year (after five years on the Hudson River), and you can certainly have a memorable evening with a great view of NYC’s 4th of July firework festivities while cruising around the city.

Check out a sample New York 4th of July celebration in our video.

Bristol, Rhode Island

Bristol 4th of July

The annual 4th of July parade in Bristol. Photo credit: H.C. Williams via Flickr.

Take part in a little bit of American history by joining the throngs in Bristol, Rhode Island, the scene of the oldest continuous July 4th celebration in the country. The first parade was held in 1785, and the town hasn’t missed a year since  in fact, it’s  increased the size of the celebrations. Technically, the 4th of July celebrations kick off roughly three weeks earlier, on Flag Day on June 14, and includes public events (such as a concerts series) held right up until July 4th. The fireworks are on July 3rd  the historic July 4th parade is really the centerpiece of this celebration.

Las Vegas, Nevada

4th of July in Las Vegas. Photo by Andrew via Flickr.

4th of July in Las Vegas. Photo credit: Andrew via Flickr.

If there’s any city that will take advantage of an excuse to party, it’s Las Vegas  and July 4th is no exception. There are special July 4th parties throughout the city, sure, but feel free to take your pick of any of the world-class shows or events that Vegas is known for already. There are a few fireworks displays to choose from, and although none is terribly long, let’s be honest that’s not why you came to Vegas on July 4th. No, you came for things like the pool parties, which are an excellent way to celebrate the 4th without overheating. Pick up a pool party pass for July 4th and get into pool parties throughout the city, with transport in between by limousine bus. Fireworks? What fireworks?

Read about the Best Pool Parties in Las Vegas

San Francisco, California

San Francisco 4th of July

San Francisco fireworks. Photo credit: Brad Coy via Flickr.

The states on the West Coast may not have been part of the country back in 1776, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to party on July 4th. San Francisco’s Independence Day celebrations take place at Fisherman’s Wharf. There’s a free concert starting at 5 p.m., with the fireworks being launched not far from Pier 39. Locals may tell you there are more interesting areas of the city in which to spend your stay than Fisherman’s Wharf, but on July 4th there’s no better place to be.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Fireworks in Gatlinburg

Fireworks in Gatlinburg

Want to get a head start on celebrating July 4th? Then you’ll want to be in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, home of the country’s first Independence Day parade each year. The parade kicks off at midnight, as it has since 1976, and this small town attracts people from far beyond its zip code. You might need a brief nap after the parade to be sure you’re bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the River Raft Regatta at noon (you can enter “anything floatable”) and the fireworks display over downtown Gatlinburg.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu 4th of July

There’s no better place to watch fireworks than on a beach! Photo credit: Kyle Nishioka via Flickr.

Spending July 4th in Hawaii may make you feel like you’re light years away from the country’s independence celebrations, but most Americans don’t get to brag about snorkeling or surfing by day and watching fireworks the same night. To make friends and family even more jealous with your holiday travel tales, book a spot on a luxury Oahu dinner cruise for July 4th you get to choose between a buffet or gourmet dinner, enjoy music and dancing, and partake in a great view of the fireworks over Oahu.

Key West, Florida

Relax on the Caribbean as you watch Fireworks.

Relax on the Caribbean as you watch fireworks.

Key West is a known as a great party destination all year round, and the small island gets even more festive for the 4th of July holiday. The day starts with the 5k run, and in the afternoon there’s an annual Harbor Walk bar crawl or annual picnic on the beach to choose from. But of course, the real action starts once the sun goes down, and fireworks light up the night sky over the blue waters of the Caribbean.

St Louis, Missouri

St Louis 4th of July

4th of July fireworks behind the St Louis Gateway Arch. Photo credit: mexican 2000 via Flickr

You’d expect a city the size of St Louis to have an all-day party on July 4th culminating in a fireworks show, but the city goes further, extending the celebration for three days total, leading up to the 4th. It’s a party you may need some stamina to survive. The festivities, called Fair Saint Louis, kick off on July 2nd with musical performances, family entertainment and other activities, continuing on to the 4th. The fireworks display caps off the evening of the actual holiday, but pyromaniacs take note  St Louis includes evening fireworks every night during the three-day party.

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

For a more subdued Independence Day, consider Mount Rushmore. With some of the nation’s founding fathers serving as a backdrop, the Independence Day celebration at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, which take place on both July 3rd and 4th, includes ceremonies honoring U.S. POWs, presidential reenactors and cultural celebrations of American heritage. Due to the risk of wildfire, there aren’t any fireworks at Mount Rushmore  but that doesn’t make the celebrations any less impactful.

Contributed by Jessica Spiegel

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One Response to “Where to Celebrate the 4th of July”

  1. Peter Wilson Says:

    Great suggestions! I’ve done Key West, South Beach, DC, and Chicago for 4th in my life and I must say the festivities in Florida are my favorite. DC puts on a pretty great show but it’s got a particular taste to it that some may or may not like…

    I’m really all about parades too so I think for that Boston and Philly take the cake.. What do you think?