New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, and San Francisco are all major cities for spectacular Fourth of July celebrations. But there are small towns all throughout the U.S. that capture the true American spirit with homegrown celebrations.
July 4, 2014 marks our nation’s 238th birthday. According to the latest AAA Travel projections, 41 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day holiday weekend—that’s up 1.9 percent from last year. The majority of travelers are road tripping, so check out Peter’s picks for some of his favorite small-town celebrations worth traveling to this weekend.
You can watch the video from CBS Saturday Morning below, and then scroll down to see the best small-town Fourth of July celebrations across the country.
Bristol, Rhode Island
Dating back to 1785, Bristol’s July 4 celebration is believed to be the oldest continuous celebration in the United States. This historic port town has even been nicknamed “America’s Most Patriotic Town,” so this is its time to shine. Celebrations kicked off on June 14, Flag Day, and have continued with a series of concerts, carnivals, and other events. The spectacular fireworks display will take place July 3, followed by an all-day Military, Civic, and Firemen’s Parade on July 4.
Cooperstown, New York
Cooperstown is home to the second-oldest continuously running Fourth of July parade. The Farmers’ Museum celebrates with the sounds of 1776, including muskets blasting with a Militia Muster, a live reading of the Declaration of Independence on the historic village green, living history demonstrations, and traditional 19th century music all day long. Plus, you can take a detour to learn about America’s favorite pastime at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Murrells Inlet, South Carolina
You’ve heard of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, but probably not Murrells Inlet, just 10 miles away. This Fourth of July event is all about being on the water, with a wacky boat parade kicking off at noon, followed by fireworks over the marshwalk. Murrells Inlet is known as the Seafood Capital of South Carolina, where you can go fishing, crabbing or just dine on the freshest seafood by the water.
St. Augustine, Florida
Known as “America’s Oldest City,” St. Augustine is truly one of the most historic cities in the nation. It is, in fact, the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental U.S. This little town is charming all year long, with a historic downtown, trolley tours, and boutique shops and cafes. Come July 4, it becomes all about celebrating history: The All-Star Orchestra performs in the Plaza de la Constitucion, followed by a massive fireworks display over the ancient Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and the waters of Matanzas Bay.
Mark Twain moved to Hannibal, Missouri, as a little boy and this river town became the central location of his most famous novels. Locals remain true to tradition and celebrate July 4 in conjunction with another totally American event: Tom Sawyer days. Kids dress up in costume and participate in activities like fence painting, frog jumping, and a gunny sack race, followed by more traditional Independence Day activities like a parade, live music, and fireworks.
Kaboom Town in Addison, Texas
Now celebrating its 29th year, Kaboom Town is a mega-event in a small city. Addison, Texas, about 15 miles outside of Dallas, has a population of only 19,000 people in its compact 4.4 square miles. But on July 4, this city swells to more than half a million! The festivities kick off with the Addison Airport Airshow, which features dozens of vintage warcraft with world-class aerobatic and stunt pilot performances. Then it’s time to celebrate in Addison Circle park, a 12-acre park, with a carnival, live music, and a spectacular fireworks show. The park only has so much capacity (entrance is free but tickets are required) so, if you can’t get in, head to one of the restaurants to join the locals for a watch party.
Lake Arrowhead, California
How’s this for impressive? Pyro Spectaculars, the same company that produces the fireworks for the grand Macy’s Day Parade, is also in charge of Lake Arrowhead’s Fireworks Over the Lake. This mountain town is only about 80 miles east of Los Angeles, an easy drive to the mountains and the alpine lake. The best spots to see the show are from Lake Arrowhead Village or just book a lake-facing room at Lake Arrowhead Resort.
Want more small-town surprises?
- Check out our 10 favorite activities in the U.S.
- Discover the best of the West with small-town road trips in the Western U.S.
- Find out Peter’s favorite offbeat American experiences in his Hidden Gems series
By Sarika Chawla for PeterGreenberg.com