The Most Epic Fourth of July Celebrations in America Gallery
June 22, 2018
Patriotic parties across the country
The Most Epic Fourth of July Celebrations in America
Many countries celebrate an Independence Day, but there’s no country that goes quite as hard as the United States of America. Americans tend to be quite proud of their relatively short history, and on July Fourth, millions gather around the country to celebrate the nation’s 1776 independence with fantastic parades, patriotic ceremonies, the best hot dogs, and all kinds of red, white, and blue treats, decorations, and attire.
Of course, some towns have a more intense celebration than others, so we took a patriotic road trip to find the best Independence Day parties across the country. Some are predictably large cities with either historic ties to the American Revolution or simply large populations ready to party, whereas others are small towns with an impressive showing of patriotism, creativity, and attendance. Each has their own style and adds a bit of their local flavor to the festivities, but all show a great love for their country and an enthusiasm for pyrotechnics and delicious all-American food. If you’re looking for a place to honor the history and culture of America, the best places to go are these towns with the most epic Fourth of July celebrations.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Recognized as having one of the best Fourth of July celebrations by the Today Show, ABC News, and National Geographic, Bar Harbor is full of festivities on this national holiday. Start your day off with blueberry pancakes and coffee at a community breakfast before heading downtown for a parade and enjoying the free live music and craft marketplace. Enjoy some good Maine lobster for lunch at the seafood festival, which also features mussels, corn, and delicious strawberry shortcake. After the parade, there’s even a lobster race for you to enjoy, as well as a concert series that ends in the grand fireworks finale.
A Fourth of July trip to the city of Bend, Oregon, means fun for the whole family — including the pets! The July Fourth Pet Parade goes back to the 1930s, featuring kids and pets in costume riding in wagons or marching along. An all-day party in the city’s Drake Park also features sack races, dunk tanks, watermelon-eating contests, and more, but you’d do well to start the day off in the park with the annual pancake breakfast, the proceeds of which go to local charities, before hitting White Water Park where you can float down the Deschutes River.
Given the city’s key role in the American Revolution, it should come as no surprise that Boston hosts an intense celebration of American Independence every year, with nearly 3 million people attending from all over the world. Boston Harborfest is usually held over the course of five to seven days, ending on July Fourth itself. Take a walk on the famous Freedom Trail with a tour guide showing you the historic sites where key moments in the revolution took place, or go on the Freedom Trail Historic Pub Crawl where you can drink where the revolutionaries themselves did. Other events include cruises along the Boston Harbor, a display of local artwork, and of course fireworks over the harbor.
Kenneth C. Zirkel/Wikimedia Commons
Bristol’s Fourth of July festivities date back to 1785, making it the oldest continuous Independence Day celebration in the country. It’s also one of the most elaborate, starting on Flag Day on June 14 and ending on July 4 when the town holds a Military, Civic, and Firemen’s Parade that stretches two and a half miles. Throughout the course of those weeks, the town also has a Fourth of July Ball, a concert series at Independence Park, a firefighters’ muster, a Drum Corps show, and a fireworks display over Bristol Harbor.
The quintessential date spot, Navy Pier is always a must-visit any time you’re visiting Chicago, but it’s an especially essential experience during the Fourth of July. In addition to their fun rides, Navy Pier hosts a barbecue feast and live DJ, and an extra ticket gets you access to a rooftop view of the fireworks show over Lake Michigan. Attend the free concert held by the Grant Park Music Festival at the Pritzker Pavilion, or go to the Lisle Park District in the days leading up to July Fourth for the Eyes to the Skies festival featuring a carnival, hot air balloons, food, music, and of course, fireworks.
Estes Park, Colo.
The prettiest town in Colorado, Estes Park is famed for its gigantic fireworks display, but its Go 4th Festival kicks off with the Tunes, Treats, and Toasts party the day before, where you can enjoy live music and a pig roast along with a beer garden. Wake up the next day to the annual pancake breakfast and hit the bullriding show before enjoying a car show, concerts, and fireworks.
It is said that the town of Flagstaff, Arizona, is so named because of the act of an early settler in the mid-to-late-19th century who stripped a pine tree to fly an American flag. That spirit of patriotism is very much alive today in this town, which often celebrates the Fourth of July weekend with much gusto, including events such as Art in the Park at its Wheeler Park and Hopi Festival of Arts and Culture at the Museum of Northern Arizona. On the day itself, the Greater Flagstaff Chamber parade is also a festive sight to see, and a special outdoor concert is also held by the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, after which visitors can head to the Continental Country Club for “Lights on the Lawn,” where you can enjoy delicious food and cooling drinks along with activities and live entertainment before finishing off the night with a grand fireworks display.
Memphis is a great place to spend the July Fourth weekend, with the days leading up to Independence Day including multiple celebrations including a concert featuring the Memphis Symphony, fireworks, a bus tour of two Memphis breweries featuring live music, and a Stars and Stripes 5K benefiting the American Red Cross. The day itself has multiple celebrations and fireworks shows throughout the city, but most notable is the Central Gardens Fourth of July Parade, a tradition that’s been going on for over 30 years. Enjoy typical Independence Day treats like watermelon, snow cones, and hot dogs, and get the chance to get sprayed by a fire engine hose. You can also enter a costume contest for children, pets, and even automobiles.
New York City
New York City goes big on nearly every holiday, and the Fourth of July is no different. The highlight of the city’s many festivities is Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks Show, a 25-minute spectacle choreographed to music and featuring thousands of shells and effects, including new ones each year, reaching a peak of 1,000 feet and full of amazing colors and shapes. The show, which often features at least one or two big celebrities for a musical performance, kicks off with a helicopter flyover courtesy of the New York Police Department and a boat show from the Fire Department of New York.
Celebrate America’s Independence by going to its birthplace: Philadelphia. The Declaration of Independence was signed here in 1776. All week leading up until the big day, the city has amazing fireworks shows, free outdoor concerts, and movies, free entry to its impressive musems, as well as parades, ceremonies, and activities for kids. Don’t miss the Historic District Block Party, which features two stages featuring a variety of different artists, as well as beer gardens, food trucks, a kids’ zone, and more. Betsy Ross herself hosts a birthday party for America in which you can sing happy birthday to the nation and have one of 2,500 cupcakes set in the shape of the flag.
San Diego is home to both a Marine Corps base and a Navy base; thousands of service members and veterans live in the area along with their families, which means patriotism is at an all-time high during Fourth of July celebrations. Every year, the city holds Big Bay Boom, one of the country’s most epic fireworks displays, in which shells are launched from four barges located throughout the North Bay at the same time. Live entertainment and all-American food stands make this festive day even more fun.
Seward is well-known for its Independence Day celebration in which the small town of about 6,000 hosts approximately 40,000 people, a tradition that goes back to 1868. Events include a car show, a two-mile and a 10K “Freedom Run,” a community breakfast, a pole vault, a grand parade, and fireworks. The city is so acclaimed for its ability to put on a patriotic party that a 1979 Congressional resolution designated it as “America’s Official Fourth of July City – Small Town USA.”
What better place to celebrate the history and triumph of the nation than its capital? Festivities start about a week before and go on for about a week after, with food, dancing, concerts, and more throughout the city. On Independence Day itself, the National Symphony Orchestra holds a free concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol after which the grand fireworks finale sets off. The National Archives, home to the original Declaration of Independence, has special events throughout this time period, and a Declaration of Independence Reading Ceremony is also held on the steps on the day itself, featuring reenactments with historical figures such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John and Abigail Adams, and more. The same morning, the National Independence Day Parade shows off an amazing array of fife and drum corps, servicemen and women, parade floats, drill teams, giant balloons, and more.
One of America’s best weekend getaways, this 301-acre living history museum presents a picture of the nation’s colonial days year-round, so it’s very much in its element on the Fourth of July. Completely decked out in red, white, and blue, Williamsburg hosts a reading of the Declaration of Independence on the steps of its courthouse, as well as a Fife and Drump Corps salute behind the building. Taverns in the Historic Area serve special meals, and you can also have breakfast with Thomas Jefferson at Shields Tavern with a reservation. With special museum events, special picnics, and amazing fireworks, it’s not hard to see why this town is the most patriotic destination in the state.
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