Celebrate the Fourth of July in These 14 U.S. Towns

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Between the family barbeques, parades, fireworks, warm summer weather and cold summer drinks, it’s no secret why Americans love the Fourth of July. This national holiday, also known as Independence Day, ignites extravagant festivities across the country. The following are some of the 15 best places to don your red, white and blue and join in on the fun.

#1. Boston, Massachusetts

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Boston’s Fourth of July draw may have originated with the tea party, but this New England city throws an entirely different kind of party these days. The Boston Harborfest starts on July 1 and continues for six days with kids activities, harbor cruises, tours, a Chowderfest and the world-famous Boston Pops fireworks display and concert. Tip: The Boston fireworks are launched from seven barges in the Charles River, and the Cambridge side tends to have smaller crowds for better viewing.

#2. San Francisco, California

Photo credit: Jenn Vargas
Photo credit: Jenn Vargas

What could be better than seeing the Bay Bridge on a warm summer’s day? Watching over 10,000 fireworks blast off behind it. Pier 39 offers tons of family-friendly activities all day long on the Fourth of July as well as live music, and one of the best places to drop your lawn chair and watch the Bay’s two fireworks displays. Tip: Many areas of the San Francisco waterfront are closed to vehicles due to the huge crowds for the fireworks. Take public transit to get to your destination or stay at hotel near Fisherman’s Wharf.

#3. Chicago, Illinois

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The “Windy City” is home to one of America’s favorite Fourth of July celebrations held on one of America’s favorite boardwalks — the Navy Pier. Watch the fireworks over Lake Michigan with over 4 million Chicago locals and visitors, but don’t miss out on the free live music and festivities beforehand. Tip: Grab a seat at the Navy Pier Beer Garden before the fireworks to enjoy tasty brews and some of Chicago’s best local bans.

#4. Key West, Florida

Photo credit: Key West Wedding Photography
Photo credit: Cayobo

July 4th isn’t just Independence Day in Key West, it’s also time for the famous Key West Key Lime Festival, held July 3-5. This island (which already knows how to party) gets even crazier on the Fourth of July with a key lime pie eating contest, the world’s largest key lime pie, a 5K run, an annual July Fourth picnic, the Harbor Walk bar crawl and an out-of-this-world fireworks display. Tip: For an upscale alternative to Key West’s annual July Fourth picnic, buy tickets ahead of time for the “best seats on the beach,” which offer first-class service and an elegant buffet for $125.

#5. Bristol, Rhode Island

Photo credit: alamodestuff
Photo credit: alamodestuff

Learn a little more about America’s vibrant history at the oldest Fourth of July celebration in the country. The city of Bristol kicks off their Fourth of July celebration on Flag Day (June 14), and it continues through The Fourth with free concerts, old-fashioned baseball games, a carnival, a Fourth of July ball, their July 3rd fireworks and a Fourth of July parade that dates back to 1785.  Tip: Surrounding streets of the Bristol Fourth of July parade are closed to traffic between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. and parking lots fill up fast, so arrive at the parade a few hours early if you’re not able to arrive on foot.

#6. Washington, D.C.

Photo credit: Matthew Straubmuller
Photo credit: Matthew Straubmuller

It’s no secret that the nation’s capital throws one of the best Fourth of July festivities in the country. The city’s “A Capital Fourth” celebration begins with the America’s National Independence Day Parade followed by a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra on the U.S. Capitol’s West Lawn and one of America’s best fireworks displays. Tip: Arrive at the Capitol’s West Lawn early with lawn chairs and a picnic, because it fills up quickly.

#7. Las Vegas, Nevada

Photo credit: Andrew
Photo credit: Andrew

Let all of Las Vegas’ resorts compete to show you the best time on the Fourth of July with massive pool parties, bar and restaurant specials, elaborate shows and more fireworks displays than you can count on both hands. Tip: If you haven’t planned your visit to Las Vegas for the Fourth of July yet, you may want to start planning for next year, because resort reservations and show tickets sell out fast.

#8. Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

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Enjoy a low-key and family-friendly Fourth of July at one of America’s favorite monuments — the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Enjoy two days (July 3-4) of live musical performances, military honors, U.S. Air Force flyovers, tons of outdoor activities and unique monument lighting. Tip: The fireworks at Mount Rushmore have been cancelled because of the risk of wildfires in and around the memorial grounds.

#9. Oahu, Hawaiian Islands

Photo credit: Kanaka Menehune
Photo credit: Kanaka Menehune

It’s hard to believe you’re still in the United States when you’re visiting the island of Oahu, but the Kailua Independence Day Parade, festivities at the Turtle Bay Resort and arguably the most scenic fireworks display in the country will make you want to head back every year. Tip: Start your Fourth of July off right by entering in the Da Hui Paddle Race, which starts at Sunset Beach at 10 a.m. and finishes at Waimea Bay.

#10. San Diego, California

Photo credit: Christian Ronnel
Photo credit: Christian Ronnel

San Diego offers a variety of festivities and fireworks shows, so you can celebrate The Fourth anywhere in the city. The Old Town 4th of July at the Old Town State Historic Park recreates and old-fashioned, family-friendly Fourth of July celebration from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the Ocean Beach Pier, SeaWorld San Diego and North San Diego Bay barges all launch fireworks after dark. Tip: View the famous Big Bay Fireworks display at 9 p.m. from Coronado Landing, Harbor Island or Shelter Island.

#11. Wilmington, North Carolina

Photo credit: Donald Lee Pardue
Photo credit: Donald Lee Pardue

The City of Wilmington throws one of the South’s favorite Fourth of July celebrations with an evening packed with live music and food vendors along the city’s riverfront. The unique fireworks display explodes over the Battleship North Carolina — a docked WWI battleship. Tip: Make a reservation at Elijah’s, The Pilot House or The George restaurants on the waterfront to get an uncrowded view of the fireworks. Or hop aboard a cruise with Cape Fear Riverboats for the best view of the fireworks in town.

#12. Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Photo credit: Steve Hall
Photo credit: Steve Hall

The quaint, old-fashioned island of Cape Cod makes the perfect place for a day of classic Fourth of July activities like barbecues, street fairs, concerts and parades. Some of the American Northeast’s most scenic firework displays take place at dusk at Falmouth Heights Beach, Lewis Bay and Provincetown Harbor. Tip: Don’t miss the Falmouth Bike and Carriage Parade featuring tons of participants dressed like Uncle Sam and driving decorated old-fashioned modes of transport.

#13. St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Photo credit: Snap Man
Photo credit: Snap Man

You may feel like you’re light years away from the United States when you’re vacationing in St. John, but this U.S. Virgin Island is home to some of the most extravagant Fourth of July festivities. The St. John Carnival is a month-long celebration that culminates on the Fourth of July with a eccentric festival parade and a jaw-dropping fireworks display on Cruz Bay Harbor. Tip: Night owls will love kicking off their Fourth of July festivities at 4 a.m. with a massive street party that encourages dancing until the sun comes up.

#14. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Photo credit: North Dakota National Guard
Photo credit: North Dakota National Guard

Gatlinburg may seem like a small town other days of the year, but when they kick off their Fourth of July parade at 12 a.m., 100,000 locals and tourists come out of the woodwork. The famous River Raft Regatta (a race featuring anything that floats) takes place about 12 hours later and is followed by a 100th Army Band concert and a 9 p.m. fireworks display with the Great Smoky Mountains as a backdrop. Tips: Anyone can join the fun of the River Raft Regatta, so register your “floatable” unmanned raft at 10 a.m. at the Christ in the Smokies bridge on River Road.

About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a travel writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C, Mexico and around the world. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, experiencing new cultures and surfing new waves.

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