As the granddaughter of Lebanese and Italian immigrants who came to this country to start a new life, the Fourth of July signifies the birthday of a nation that opened its arms to my family, and has given us the opportunity to flourish ever since. For families like mine, this is a holiday of reflection and appreciation. But it's also a day of great celebration for all people across the land. America sure knows how to throw a party -- and what signifies the Fourth better than fireworks?
When I was a child, my family pulled out all the stops on the Fourth, hosting parties complete with our own mini-fireworks display and sparklers for all of the children. These days, my husband and I spend the day with friends on a boat in New York City harbor, tooling around the Hudson River at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. Macy's fireworks spectacular paints the sky with glorious pyrotechnics and the sight is just breathtaking. The bright lights exploding over the Lady Liberty gives me goosebumps every time.
But New York City isn't the only place that holds an impressive Independence Day blowout. Cities and towns across the country mark the Fourth with elaborate fireworks displays of their own, along with parades of pageantry and thrilling live entertainment. Boston holds a weeklong patriotic celebration called Harborfest that includes its famed "Chowderfest" and an appearance by the tall ships, all set to the music of the Boston Pops; Nashville hosts a two-day festival filled with live music on the banks of the Cumberland -- from down-home country to the annual "Let Freedom Ring!" songfest; in Washington D.C., the sky over the National Mall lights up with colorful explosions; and San Diego struts its American pride with fireworks shot from barges on the bay. I wish I could attend them all!
But seeing is the next best thing to being there. So take a look at some of the biggest and best Independence Day celebrations across the country -- and I invite you to add your own photos to our star-spangled slideshow. I can't wait to see them!
Every year this suburb of Dallas boasts one of the nation's biggest and best fireworks shows in the country. Rated one of the best places to celebrate the nation's birthday, this town's celebration is top notch. With a full day's work of activities that include an air show, live music and family-friendly amusements, Addison, Texas concludes the day by lighting up the night sky with a thirty-minute firework show that can be seen from anywhere in the town. Photo compliments of Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/squeezymoose/" target="_hplink">squeezymoose</a>.
What better place to celebrate Independence Day than a city famed for its colonial heritage and maritime tradition? And with a full week of events, Boston, Massachusetts knows how honor America with more than just fireworks. Every year the city kicks off its patriotic festivities with Harborfest, and continues the week with more than 200 events that showcase the city history. On July 4th, Boston culminates the week with the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular over the Charles River, which features the Boston Pops symphony orchestra playing the 1812 Overture, a tradition since 1973.
Voted one of the nation's top five fireworks displays, Lights On The Lake is certainly one of the best ways to celebrate the 4th of July if you find yourself on the West Coast. Spend the day on the beaches of Lake Tahoe but by nightfall you'll want to be on board one of the many lake cruises for front row seats for the incredible fireworks display. But onboard the lake or not, Lights On The Lake can be seen from all around Lake Tahoe. Photo compliments of Flickr User <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/42507736@N02/page4/" target="_hplink">SteveD.</a>
For over 20 years Nashville has celebrated the 4th of July all along the banks of the Cumberland River at Riverfront Park. With a variety of musical entertainment all day, the festivities begin in downtown Nashville at noon and continue throughout the day. This year, the city's festival will span the course of two days with live music at Riverfront Park both July 3rd and July 4th, concluding with the annual fireworks show over the river.
Known as the biggest Independence Day celebration on the Mississippi, the annual Go Fourth On The River celebration in New Orleans is a must see 4th of July event. After spending a day exploring the world-famous French Quarter, which offers live music, a flea market, amazing food and shopping, the real fun begins at nightfall. The main attraction on the 4th of July is the Dueling Barges Fireworks Extravaganza, where tug boats and barges battle it out to be crowned the best pyrotechnics display.
There's certainly no better place to celebrate our nation's birthday than the city that never sleeps. And with a day packed with events like an international hot dog eating contest at Nathan's on Coney Island, concerts in park, street fairs, and the Great July Fourth Festival on Water Street, there is no shortage of daytime events in New York. But it's the famed Macy's Fireworks Spectacular that draws over 2 million people to the shores of Manhattan. Every year Macy's launches 26-minutes worth of pyrotechnics off of several barges located on the Hudson River and from rooftops, parks, boats and riverbanks the view over the city is simply fantastic. Photo compliments of Flickr User <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yukonblizzard/" target="_hplink">mudpig</a>.
Known as a Midwestern destination for a full weekend of 4th of July activities, the Fair St. Louis program has something for everyone. With a family fun run and four mile race, a parade through the city, an air show and live music all weekend long, there's no shortage of entertainment in St. Louis. What's more impressive, the Fair St. Louis boasts three nights of spectacular fireworks that light up the skies over the Mississippi River and the Gateway Arch each night.
There is certainly no place more patriotic to celebrate Independence Day than our nation's capitol, where the monuments of Washington DC and the U.S. Capitol decorate the background. The city's festivities begin early with a parade featuring floats, bands and balloons on Constitution Avenue. On the West Lawn of the White House there's live music by special guests and the National Symphony Orchestra, as well as concerts on the grounds of the Washington Monument nearby. But the most spectacular scene of the day has to be the evening fireworks show that lights up the sky above the Washington Monument.
From live music and marching bands, to family-friendly fun and historical sites, Miami has every celebration style covered. The Miami Beach Fourth of July Celebration kicks off with a swearing-in ceremony of some of the country's newest naturalized citizens, while America's Birthday Bash in Downtown Miami celebrates the day with multicultural food, activities for the kids and lots of music. In Key Biscayne the neighborhood celebrates with a parade of original floats, marching bands, stilt dancers and more. But not matter where you choose to stay in Miami, there is certainly no shortage of fireworks displays, in every neighborhood, pyrotechnics light up the night and top of the day's celebrations.
There are certainly fewer picturesque places to celebrate the 4th of July than the beaches of San Diego. Pacific and Mission beaches are the perfect places to relax by the water and spend time with the family. The Del Mar Fairgrounds boast some old fashioned American fund with rides at the San Diego County Fair, complete with live music. On the Embarcadero at San Diego Bay on July 3rd, 4th and 5th, the San Diego Symphony presents a concert each evening and on the night of the 4th the Big Bay Boom presents the largest fireworks display in the region shooting pyrotechnics form barges floating in the bay.
There is no shortage of things to do in the San Francisco Bay area on July 4th. From picnics in the park and sunbathing on the beaches, to the historical family fun aboard the USS Hornet, a retired World War II aircraft carrier, to the parade in Sausalito to the Marin County Fair. However, the biggest site to see is the mega fireworks display over the San Francisco Bay. Be sure to catch the annual show from historical San Fran spots like Ghirardelli Square, the Cannery, Fisherman's Wharf and Coit Tower. You can even grab one of any number of cruises on the bay for front row seats! Photo compliments of Flickr User <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/bubblelo/" target="_hplink">Bubblelo</a>.
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