For many Americans, July Fourth is a family holiday -- it involves backyard barbecues, maybe a parade through town, and a local fireworks show. Some people, however, have grander dreams of celebrating the nation's birthday with more pizzazz. Thankfully, there are plenty of options around the country that deliver Fourth of July festivities worth traveling for.
So, where to celebrate the Fourth of July? These 11 places around the US each offer something special for July Fourth, whether it's a stunning backdrop for fireworks or a party that makes you forget the fireworks altogether.
What better place to start a tour of excellent places to celebrate July Fourth than in the city where the country was born? The Philadelphia festivities run from 5-11 p.m. 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.
Boston may be more famous for the whole tea party aspect of the American Revolution, but this city celebrates July Fourth 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. Not content to camp out on the riverbank all day for a good view? Hop on a dinner cruise of Boston Harbor -- you'll get a meal, an up-close peek at the historic tall ships in the harbor, and a prime viewing location for the fireworks show.
Not to be outdone by Boston, the nation's capital puts on a pretty spectacular July Fourth celebration too. Washington, D.C.'s "A Capitol Fourth" starts with a parade on the National Mall, continues with a performance by The National Symphony Orchestra (and plenty of famous invited guests), and finishes with a flourish as the orchestra plays along while the 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 things to do in Washington DC.
New York City
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 Fourth celebrations? The fireworks show takes place over the Hudson River, and there are plenty of places on the West Side of the river from which to get a good view, and you can certainly have a memorable evening with a great view of fireworks from a New York dinner cruise -- but it's hard to beat overlooking the whole city while the fireworks are going off. This special July Fourth VIP ticket takes you to the rooftops of NYC for an unforgettable view of the fireworks display. Be prepared with someone to kiss.
Learn more about Fourth of July events in New York.
Take part in a little bit of American history by joining the throngs in Bristol, Rhode Island, the scene of the oldest continuous July Fourth celebration in the country. The first parade was held in 1785, and they haven't missed a year since -- in fact, they've increased the size of the celebrations. Technically, the kick-off is roughly three weeks earlier on Flag Day on June 14, with a series of public events (such as baseball games, concerts and fun runs) held right up until July Fourth. The fireworks are on July 3, but the historic July Fourth parade is really the centerpiece of this celebration.
If there's any city that will take advantage of any excuse to party, it's Las Vegas -- and July Fourth is no exception. There are special July Fourth 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 for July Fourth. No, you came for things like the pool parties, which are an excellent way to celebrate the Fourth without overheating. Pick up a pool party pass for July Fourth and get into nine pool parties, 13 lounges and 16 nightclubs throughout the city. Fireworks? What fireworks?
Read about the Best Pool Parties in Las Vegas.
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 Fourth. San Francisco's Independence Day celebrations take place at Fisherman's Wharf. There's a free concert starting at 4 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 Fourth there's no better place to be.
Want to get a head start on celebrating July Fourth? 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.
Spending July Fourth 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 that 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 Fourth -- you get a lavish seven-course dinner, live jazz music performances and a great view of the fireworks over Oahu.
Key West is a known as a great party destination all year round, and the small island gets even more festive for the Fourth of July holiday. The day starts with the 5k run, and in the afternoon there's an annual Harbor Walk bar crawl or the 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.
You'd expect a city the size of St. Louis to have an all-day party on July Fourth that culminated in a fireworks show, but they take it a step further, extending the celebrations for several days after the Fourth. It's a party you may need some stamina to survive. The festivities kick off with a fun run, and other activities on the Fourth include an air show and music concerts. The fireworks display caps off the evening of the actual holiday, but pyromaniacs take note -- St. Louis repeats the evening fireworks show twice more during the three-day party.
- Jessica Speigel
Photo Credits: Photos courtesy of Jim Cairns via Flickr, U.S. Navy Imagery via Flickr, John Athayde via Flickr, H.C. Williams via Flickr, Andrew via Flickr, Brad Coy via Flickr, Kyle Nishioka via Flickr, Patrick Yodarus via Flickr, all other photos courtesy of Viator.