Every year, the Fourth of July brings parades, barbecues, music, and of course, fireworks. It also brings with it the uncertainty of what event to attend. With so many Independence Day celebrations, it can become daunting trying to figure out which one is right for you. Here are some of the best celebrations across the country. Whether you’re in it for the barbecue or you’re excited for a spectacular light show, these celebrations have what you’re looking for in an Independence Day celebration. Ranging from free family-friendly concerts to unmanned boat races to full hotel packages, there are options for everyone’s celebratory palate.
The Let Freedom Sing! July 4 in Music City is an Independence Day celebration true to Nashville’s roots with a free concert from Chris Young, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Jonny P, and the Sisterhood. Hosted at the Ascend Amphitheater, the lineup plays throughout the day. Then, around 9 p.m., the Nashville symphony takes the stage to rock out to a fireworks display with over 35,000 pounds of explosives.
Permanently docked in the Long Beach harbor, the R.M.S. Queen Mary features a family-friendly event with crafts, live entertainment, and festive tours of the famous ship. General tickets are $44 if purchased before July 4, but can be purchased the day of the event for $49. Since this historic ship doubles as a hotel, there’s the option to stay on board with the VIP All-American 4th of July Hotel Package. The package includes VIP Tickets to “All-American Fourth of July” as well as prime firework watching area access. This event sells out each year, so buy your tickets in advance.
An event that seems to grow exponentially every year is the Red, White & BOOM! event in Columbus, Ohio. What started with 30,000 people in 1981 has grown to into a celebration of over 400,000. One of the reasons this is one of the most recognized fireworks displays in the United States might be the 48,750 pounds of fireworks that are set off above the city. It is also one of the largest overall events for the surrounding states. From June 29 to July 4, there are both family-friendly and adult-themed activities. For the 21 and over crowd, there is the Party on the Park beer garden and then Official After-Party of Red, White, & BOOM! so you don’t have to head home after the fireworks finish. Kids can go to the Columbia Gas’ Children’s Park to enjoy inflatable bounce houses, slides, obstacle courses, and games.
It’ll come as no surprise that New Orleans hosts one of the best Independence Day parties. Fireworks displays start on July 3 at the Goldring/Woldenberg Great Lawn at City Park, with patriotic music from the Marine Corps Band. This is a great warm-up for the larger fireworks display, Go Fourth on the River. The Dueling Barge Fireworks Show takes place on the Mississippi River along New Orleans’ Riverfront between Governor Nicholls St. Wharf and Canal St. Dock.
The National Independence Day Parade starts at 11:45 a.m. on July 4 and runs between 7th and 17th street. If you stick around D.C., you can attend A Capitol Fourth from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. for live performances, famous bands and musicians, and one of the best fireworks displays in the country. Full House celebrity John Stamos will also be there if you’re interested in taking a selfie with him.
If you’re looking for activities to attend over the weekend, Old Falls Street Independence Day Block Party runs from July 1 through July 2. You can participate in family-friendly activities, check out the local food vendors, and listen to live music. Every night, the Falls are illuminated at 9 p.m., and on July 4 there will be a special fireworks show starting at 10 p.m. For some of the best views, grab a chair or blanket and head to Niagara Falls State Park. The firework reflections off the falls give an air of magic to the display.
Billed as the first Independence Day Parade in the nation, Gatlinburg, Tennessee kicks off the celebration right after the stroke of midnight at 12:01am on July 4th with the annual Midnight Parade. At noon on the Fourth, you can attend the River Raft Regatta, with includes an unmanned floatables race, as well as other family-friendly outdoor activities and games. The day ends with a free fireworks display at 10 p.m. You’ll also get to experience Appalachian music from Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales, which runs through July 29.
Scheduled to begin at 9:45 p.m. on July 4, The American Pyrotechnics Association rates this as one of the top events in the country. The fireworks display can be seen all over town, but for the best view, head out onto the lake itself aboard the M.S. Dixie II, a Mississippi-style paddle wheeler. If you’re looking for a fancier outing, you can book a space on Tahoe Cruises’ Safari Rose for its fireworks cruise for $195. This includes music, food, drinks, and a prime spot for watching the fireworks show. If you’d rather watch from the shore, head over to Nevada Beach to set up a picnic and wait for the show to begin.
Looking for a small town with a big celebration? Steven’s Point, Wisconsin, located about two hours north of Madison, gives you both small town charm and traditional 4th of July activities. The main events include a parade through downtown on July 4 that anyone can participate in for $75 and a morning fun run that supports the Veterans Relief Fund of Portage County.
In addition to celebrating the anniversary of America’s independence, Cody, Wyoming will also celebrate several other important events. This year marks the 120th anniversary of the town of Cody, the 100th anniversary of the death of Colonel William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, and the 100th anniversary of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. You can participate in history by attending the 98th Annual Stampede, which starts at 9:30 a.m. on July 3 and 4. This includes the largest parade in Wyoming, which will feature appearances by Longmire actors Robert Taylor and Adam Bartley. You can also attend the Wild West Extravaganza Craft Fair, which runs from July 2 to 4, four PRCA rodeos, outdoor concerts, and both a 5k and 10k run/walk. The events close with a fireworks display on Independence Day.
Possibly one of the most unique 4th of July celebrations is in Charleston, South Carolina. You can watch a fireworks display aboard the Flight Deck of the USS Yorktown. General Admission is $40 and includes entry and the ability to hear the live band. You can upgrade to the VIP experience of the event for $110, which includes complimentary drinks and barbecue as well as seating. Those who don’t want to pay for the experience of watching the fireworks aboard the navy ship can view the display for free onshore.
If you’re in the mood for a 4th of July celebration that includes a healthy dose of nostalgia, visit Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio. Located along Lake Erie, Ohio’s first resort town will host a fireworks celebration you can watch from The Strip—a lakeside boulevard packed with 1950s-era burger joints, ice cream shops, and arcades. You can also ride the old school Ferris wheel for unprecedented lakeside views, and visit the Breakwater Beach at Geneva State Park for free.
For a true all-day celebration, head to Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage’s Delaney Park Strip hosts an annual pancake breakfast at 8 a.m. on the Fourth. After a hearty breakfast, claim your spot early for the Anchorage 4th of July Parade, which begins at 11 a.m. Roll from the parade into a festival from noon to 6 p.m., which includes music, games, food, and a period-appropriate costumed-clad Harvard Club reading of the Declaration of Independence. Then you can head over to Mulcahy Stadium for a double-header between the Anchorage Glacier Pilots and the Anchorage Bucs. The first game starts at 7 p.m. and the second begins at 9 p.m. When it gets close to midnight and the Alaskan sun is setting, the annual fireworks display caps off the day.
Calling all peach fanatics! The 59th Annual Lexington County Peach Festival combines patriotism and peaches. The event goes from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and includes a special reading of the Declaration of Independence, along with a peachy and patriotic parade, peach pageant, peach recipe contest, peach art contest, live entertainment, children’s rides, and a car show. Festival vendors will also offer treats like peach ice cream, peach cobbler, peach slush, and fresh peaches. The festival will conclude with a free fireworks display.
Looking for a mountain getaway this year? Head to Breckenridge, Colorado for the Breckenridge Independence Day Celebration. Colorado’s health conscious reputation shines with an annual celebration that kicks off each Fourth of July with a 10k followed by the Firecracker 50 Mountain Bike Race. The live music includes a nearly 20-year partnership with the National Repertory Orchestra starting at 8 p.m. Fireworks are launched from the Gondola parking lots, making them visible throughout town. You’ll also find parades, a street arts festival, free pony rides, and water activities for kids.
- 5 Gadgets You Need for the Fourth of July
- What are the Most Fun States Around the Country?
- Where You Can Go Stargazing in National Parks This Summer
By Darra Stone for PeterGreenberg.com