Everyone has their own traditions when it comes to celebrating the Fourth of July. Every town also has its own way of celebrating, and family travel expert Kerri Zane shares twelve unique events across the country in this month’s Window Seat or Aisle Seat column.
Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. Growing up in Anaheim, just a few blocks from Disneyland, I could walk out my front door at 9:15pm every single night during the summer, guaranteed to see a stellar light show in the sky. So, naturally a night dedicated to fireworks all across America is thrilling for me. In fact, nowadays I like to drive down the freeway on the Fourth. That way I get to see the fireworks displays from every city on either side of the highway. It is 45 minutes of pure joy. For many communities across our great nation, the celebration isn’t just about the nighttime light show. There are activities, shows, and entertainment all day long. Here are 12 great Fourth of July celebrations with fireworks and more, for you and your family to explore.
1. Gatlinburg, Tennesee
The nation’s first July 4th parade happens at the stroke of midnight. It is the annual Gatlinburg 4th of July Midnight Parade in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. More than 100,000 people are expected to line the streets as floats decked out in twinkling lights pass by. The parade route will start on East Parkway and end at Ski Mountain Road. The fun continues with the annual River Raft Regatta at noon on July 4 and of course, the annual fireworks display at 10 p.m. in downtown Gatlinburg.
2. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
The most unique event happening on the Eastern Seaboard will be the Salute from the Shore. It’s a military flyover along the entire length of South Carolina’s coast. It is a one of a kind opportunity for individuals, friends, and families to salute the armed forces, while enjoying South Carolina’s beaches. Then take up a light show at any one of these three Myrtle Beach venues. Murrells Inlet Marshwalk will have a show at the end of the Veterans Pier starting at 10:00 pm. The Broadway at the Beach fireworks show will start at 10 p.m., and Barefoot Landing will celebrate the Fourth of July with a special fireworks display, much bigger than its regular summer shows, starting at 10:15 p.m.
3. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Clearly there is no better spot to celebrate America’s independence than its birthplace, Philadelphia! The Benjamin Franklin Parkway hosts the “largest free concert” in the country on July 4th with great food, fun, and entertainment all day long. The excitement leads up to the incredible Fourth of July Jam and Grand Finale Fireworks at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This year the all-star lineup includes The Roots, Ed Sheeran, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande, Aloe Blacc, and Vicci Martinez. All the events are outdoors, so don’t forget your Mosquitno Bandz. They are all-natural, non-toxic wristbands, colorful fun for kids, and can repel bugs for up to 150 hours.
4. Nashville, Tennesee
Nashville’s River Front Park will host this year’s July 4th event Music City July 4th: Let Freedom Sing. Get your family there early this year for the Jack Daniel’s concert headlined by GRAMMY nominated country singer Billy Currington. The show, set to begin at approximately 6:45 p.m., will also feature country singer Ashley Monroe, singer/songwriting duo Striking Matches, and the GRAMMY winning Nashville Symphony Orchestra. Then, at approximately 9:40pm, a 27-minute fireworks display arranged by Pyro Shows, Inc., choreographed to music played by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, will light up the sky with 30,000 fireworks shells!
The Queen Mary in Long Beach, California will celebrate the national holiday with festivities that span the last century through today. It includes a 1910 Old Fair-style welcome, a roaring 20s Gatsby Buffet, a Beatles Abbey Road tribute band, and lots more. There are day-long shipboard family-friendly activities until dusk, when the decks of the ship become Long Beach’s premier viewing location for the Queen Mary fireworks display. The event opens at noon and ends at eleven. Admission Passes start at $39.99 ($45 day of the event). Child Passes (4 through 11) are $19.99 ($25 day of event) and children 3 and under are free.
6. New Orleans, Louisiana
You can celebrate Independence Day New Orleans style. Start with dinner on the Steamboat Natchez, then grab your lawn chairs and blankets and head to Woldenberg Park or the Spanish Plaza for the Go Fourth on the River celebration. It is a one-of-a-kind event where two dueling barges on the Mississippi River put on a free show. Starting at 9pm sharp the festivities honor the American spirit and the heroes that defend it. Bring your radio to the river and listen while you watch the choreographed patriotic salute. It has been ranked in the “Top 5 Must-See Fireworks Displays in the U.S.” by the American Pyrotechnics Association.
7. Loveland, Colorado
In the Rockies, North Lake Park and Lake Loveland, in Loveland, Colorado is the place to go this Fourth of July. They host northern Colorado’s largest and longest fireworks show over the lake. The patriotic event starts earlier in the day with a flag raising ceremony, food, and game booths. The 30-minute fireworks show begins at 9:17pm.
8. The Finger Lakes Region, New York
The classic Finger Lakes Fourth of July tradition includes the flotilla of boats for each lake. There will be over 30 evening displays shot off over the water. For a unique experience, watch the fireworks from the water. Watkins Glen offers sailboat or schooner rides and amps it up with their celebratory wine boat tours. Don’t miss out on the day-long annual Independence Day festivals in the region with everything from boat parades and live entertainment to vendors offering local cuisine and activities for children of any age.
9. Las Vegas, Nevada
They always do it big in Las Vegas and this year’s Fourth of July celebration is no exception. Next to the brand new luxury boutique hotel, The Cromwell, is The LINQ. The size of three football fields, it’s the first open-air outdoor retail, dining, and entertainment district in Las Vegas. The Linq is also home to the High Roller, the world’s largest observation wheel. You and your children can hop on the High Roller and watch the fireworks from a cabin, which holds up to 40 people. If you’re looking to add a little party to your evening, you can rent out a cabin and have a bar cart rolled in to ride along. The wheel will also light up red, white, and blue in light of the holiday.
10. Bar Harbor, Maine
The resort town of Bar Harbor, Maine celebrates July 4th with a full day of activities. The morning starts at 6am with a blueberry pancake breakfast, followed by a craft fair and marketplace from 9am to 3pm at the local YMCA. If you’d rather sleep in, you can join the festivities at 10am to watch the Independence day parade which winds through downtown Bar Harbor. Then, don’t miss the annual Lobster races. At 4pm there is a free concert in Agamont Park, that will keep you entertained until 9:15 when the fireworks, accompanied by live music, light up the sky over Frenchman Bay.
In Miami Beach, reserve a rooftop table at Juvia for the best fireworks viewing and enjoy a mix of Asia, South America, and classic French cuisine. For nonstop family-friendly fun, go to the North Shore Bandshell at 73rd and Collins Ave. There’s an all day festival of food trucks, live music (Spam Allstars and Marshall Brothers Band), and more. Then, set yourself up to watch the fireworks at 9pm. Or, set sail on the Independence Day Family Fireworks Dinner Cruise Aboard the South Beach Lady Cruise Biscayne Bay. You’ll enjoy views of both Miami and Miami Beach, get a full BBQ dinner, watch the fireworks on the water, and listen to the live DJ spin his records. Prices begin at $90 per person.
12. San Diego, California
The epic 20-minute Big Bay Boom fireworks display over San Diego Bay is the largest display of its kind in the region, attracting more than 850,000 visitors to San Diego’s waterfront. At 9 pm, fireworks are launched simultaneously from four barges placed around the bay and choreographed to music broadcast on 105.7 FM radio. The Big Bay Boom fireworks display is so large that it can be seen throughout downtown San Diego, neighboring Coronado, Point Loma, and many communities throughout the city. Great viewing spots are all along the bay front or aboard a harbor cruise. As one of the country’s original Navy towns, Coronado will be kicking off the 4th with its annual Independence day parade beginning at 10 a.m. The day continues with “Art-in-the-Park” and an afternoon concert at 4 p.m. in Spreckels Park.
For more ways to celebrate the Fourth of July, check out:
- America’s Best Small-Town Fourth of July Celebrations
- 5 Gadgets You Need for the Fourth of July
- The Best Fourth of July Travel Deals
By Kerri Zane for PeterGreenberg.com. Kerri Zane is a family travel expert and author of It Takes All 5: A Single Mom’s Guide to Finding the REAL One, on sale now. For more advice on health, parenting or Kerri’s exclusive MomEscapes, visit her at KerriZane.com.