The Best Place to Celebrate the Fourth of July in Every State
From awe-inspiring firework displays to quirky small-town traditions, these are the best spots in every state to celebrate the red, white, and blue this Independence Day.
One of the summer’s simplest pleasures is biting into a juicy slice of watermelon. So on a hot July 4th in Alabama, cool off at the Grand Bay Watermelon Festival where you can eat all the delicious watermelon you want—for free! Find out who is crowned Watermelon Queen, then make sure to leave with a giant melon of your own so you can try one of these savory and sweet recipes the next day.
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The flag isn’t the only thing flying in Alaska on the 4th—you might see some cars soaring through the air, as well. Just outside of Anchorage in the town of Glacier View, residents launch old cars off of a 300-foot cliff while noshing on barbecue and beer. And if you’re worried about pollution, don’t be—everyone cleans up the broken vehicles after the celebration.
What better way to celebrate what this country is about than by welcoming new citizens to the land of the free? At the Arizona Celebration of Freedom in Mesa, you can watch a naturalization ceremony put on by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services followed by live music and fireworks.
Some things are just better on a boat—like watching the Ventris Trail’s End Resort’s fireworks display in Northwest Arkansas. To be fair, you can enjoy the show from shore, but it was designed to be viewed on the water. Apparently, there’s just something about the way the bursts of light and color reflect on the waves of Beaver Lake. Don’t feel like leaving your house that day? Find out the 8 ways to have the best 4th of July at home.
There are a LOT of places you can celebrate July 4th in California, from Los Angeles to San Francisco. But what makes Pacific Palisades stand apart is how they kick off their parade each year: skydivers jumping out of planes overhead. Talk about an entrance! The all-day fun continues with Palisades Rocks the Fourth, 300 minutes of musical performances by local rock artists and bands. Before you leave, check out the patriotic homes that were entered in the home-decorating contest—talk about residents who are proud to be Americans.
Voted one of the top places to spend the 4th of July, Boulder has something for everyone. If you love the outdoors, dive into the cool water of the Boulder Reservoir or soak up some rays on the beach. If you’re a beer enthusiast, order a cold one at one of the dozens of breweries along the Boulder Beer Trail. And if you want some live music in your life, check out 4th on Pearl downtown where you can listen to the sounds of the city’s finest all day.
After spending the day riding the rollercoasters and sipping sweet lemonade at Quassy Amusement Park, stick around for the 3-D fireworks display over the lake. Not only will you get to experience the special effect of bursts coming right at you, you’ll only spend $9 on the glasses, parking and admission—and part of the proceeds go towards preventing blindness with the Healthy Eye Alliance. Don’t miss these 20 things you never knew about the 4th of July.
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All aboard! Take in the fireworks at Rehoboth Beach from the deck of the Cape-May Lewes Ferry which sets sail on a celebratory cruise every July Fourth weekend. You’ll be treated to live music from a local band and can sip on an icy-cool cocktail while you watch. Pro tip: Reserve your spot well in advance as the cruise tends to sell out quickly.
Celebrate Jimmy Buffett-style at the Key Lime Festival in Key West. The fun kicks off with a Key Lime Pie Drop where you can try to drop a pie from the top of a lighthouse… without damaging the dessert. Then, join the Key Lime Pie Hop and stroll from restaurant to restaurant, sampling some of the sweetest bites in town, or sign up for cooking classes to learn how to make your own citrusy pie.
Step onto the streets of Scarlett O’Hara’s hometown in Washington, Georgia for some serious small-town Southern charm. In the Gone With The Wind birthplace—named after George Washington—you can explore some of the 200 elegant antebellum homes, participate in the watermelon eating contest and tour local plantations. And at nightfall, make your way to Historic Downtown Square to see the Freedom Fireworks Extravaganza, of course. Find out the 10 best 4th of July vacations everyone needs to take at least once.
Fourth of July is all about freedom—not just for Americans, but for turtles, too! At the Turtle Independence Day Celebration on Hawaii Island, sea turtles that have been rescued and raised at Oahu’s Sea Life Park are released into the ocean following an authentic hula dance performance. Then grab a bite of barbecue (Hawaiian barbecue, that is) from one of the local joints nearby.
For most of us, the holiday means burgers and dogs. But for the people of Boise, it means pancakes. Before the parade begins, stop by the annual Fourth of July Pancake Breakfast that’s taken place for over 50 years. You’ll get a stack of pancakes, sausage, and juice—all while enjoying patriotic tunes. Get out of town later in the afternoon with a scenic drive through the heartland—but be back in time for the fireworks in Ann Morrison Park at night!
Celebrating Independence Day in what was once voted America’s Best City just makes sense—and Chicago has more to offer than just deep dish pizza and the Cubs. Its Navy Pier features the best view of the 15-minute firework show over Lake Michigan, especially if you hop aboard the 196-foot Ferris wheel or watch from the rooftop at Freedom Fest. Plus, originally built to honor Navy veterans, the pier is the perfect patriotic place to spend your holiday.
Take yourself out to the ball game this 4th of July. There are few things more American than baseball: Buy yourself some peanuts and Cracker Jack, and you may not care if you never get back. Every year, the Indianapolis Indians wear stars and stripes uniforms at Victory Field, where fans receive festive freebies and are treated to a front-row seat for the big firework display downtown after the game.
The best place to experience Independence Day in Iowa? Uh, the town of Independence, obviously. This year will mark its 158th annual celebration, full of music, family-friendly activities and a lot of festive food. And if there’s one thing the residents of Independence are, it’s active. Their 4th of July lineup includes a coed beach volleyball tournament, a horseshoe tournament, and the Wapsi Warrior Challenge, which is an obstacle course race through Wapsipinicon State Park. Now, can you guess what each of these fireworks display are called?
While it might be best known for having “the largest fireworks show in the Midwest,” you’ll want to show up early to KC Riverfest in Kansas City. That’s because from the time the doors open at 4 p.m., there’s a packed line-up of musical performers of all genres (alternative, country, ragtime and more) plus local food trucks where you can snag a bite to eat before the 13-minute spectacular ends the night with a bang.
From nonstop concerts to pony rides to a petting zoo to stunning fireworks over the river, there’s something for everyone at Louisville Waterfront 4th. If you’re feeling extra patriotic, you can help place 15,000 American flags on the lawn to honor the armed forces and veterans. And after all that hard work, you’ll definitely want to hit the bourbon bar for a cool sip of Kentucky’s finest.
New Orleans is a city that knows how to party—and it’s no different on America’s birthday. Post up on the riverfront to watch the dueling fireworks displays from barges on the Mississippi and choreographed to a curated patriotic playlist. For an authentic Louisiana experience (and the best view in the house), board the Creole Queen Paddlewheeler—plus, get treated to a menu of Southern comfort food.
If there’s one thing Maine does best, it’s seafood—in fact, they say you haven’t really tasted lobster until you’ve had a Maine lobster, which you can chow down on at the annual Bar Harbor Seafood Festival along with mussels, corn and a side of strawberry shortcake. Once you’ve gotten your fill, cheer on the crustaceans at the lobster races where fishermen enter their catches to see who can crawl through the finish first.
In this state, Annapolis is where you want to be on the 4th. Grab a coffee from one of the cafes by the water, spend the day window shopping the upscale boutiques or tour the Naval Academy in the state’s capital before finding a spot on Main Street to watch the parade. Led by the famous Naval Academy Band, it doesn’t start until 6:30 and is followed immediately by fireworks over the harbor.
The booms you hear during Boston’s 4th of July celebration aren’t just from the fireworks exploding overhead—there are also real cannons fired during the show, a tradition that started in 1974. Find a spot among the half million people gathered on the banks of the Charles River and listen as the Boston POPS Orchestra accompanies the spectacular light show.
There’s something special about the Old-Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration on Mackinac Island. Maybe it’s the Victorian children’s games you can play at the carnival or the 38-gun salute reenacted by soldiers at Fort Mackinac. But we think the real icing on the cake is the all-American picnic on the lawn of the Grand Hotel where you can load up on barbecue food, potato salad, cornbread, coleslaw, and more. The whole affair is a throwback to Americana days in the best way possible.
First started in 1857, Delano’s 4th of July Celebration is the oldest—and largest—of its kind in Minnesota. It’s four days of fun, fireworks, and, since we are in the Midwest, fried cheese curds. Root for one of the teams in the annual baseball tournament, lace up your sneakers for the annual 5K or just set up camp at the park to listen to some live music.
When you think of Mississippi, you think of Southern cooking, low country, and cold sweet tea. And that’s what you’ll find at Our Lady of the Gulf Crab Festival, one of the state’s summer traditions. Held on the weekend closest to the 4th, you can feast on gumbo, shrimp po’ boys, catfish, buttery biscuits and, of course, crabs. Fun fact: Over the course of the three days, they serve over 3,000 pounds of gulf shrimp and 6,500 pounds of crabs! Learn the real reason we set off fireworks on the 4th of July.
It isn’t called “America’s biggest birthday party” for nothing. The Fair Saint Louis—which is free for all attendees—is a three-day extravaganza at the Gateway Arch National Park where you can find the acrobatic pups of the Purina Pro Plan Performance Team, fireworks over the river, and top musical performances. This year’s lineup includes stars like Jason Derulo, Martina McBride, Danielle Bradberry, and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
Experience the great outdoors this 4th of July at Glacier National Park—after all, the natural beauty of Montana’s mountains and lakes is breathtaking. While there are no “official” events, there are often guided hikes and boat tours led by rangers on the holiday for visitors and the Many Glacier Hotel puts on a small but spirited celebration. Head into a neighboring town to watch fireworks, or catch a glimpse of them from your campsite as you roast hot dogs and s’mores over a fire.
Searching for the quintessential small town celebration? You’ll find it in Seward, Nebraska which has been dubbed America’s “4th of July City.” It’s run by the local high school and college students and involves a freedom run, craft show, pet parade and more. If you’re brave, enter the apple pie eating contest or find out if you can blow the biggest bubble in the bubble gum competition. You might see President Trump when you’re there—although no president has yet to show, the town extends an invitation to the White House every year.
Lights on The Lake in South Tahoe is one of the top fireworks displays in the whole country. And with the beautiful backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains and the glittering bursts of light reflecting off the water, they may be right. Watch the show—which is synchronized to patriotic tunes like the Star Spangled Banner—from the shore if you want; however, locals say the best view is at the top of Mount Tallac, accessible via a short hike. Don’t miss 10 more of the most spectacular fireworks displays around the country.
What began back in the early 1900s is still a rocking party in Gorham, New Hampshire. Some of the must-see events include the classic car show and parade through town, the rubber duck race down the Androscoggin River, and plenty of mouthwatering food contests (there is a chili, chowder, AND dessert cook-off).
Watch a gorgeous firework show light up America’s iconic Statue of Liberty at the Jersey City Freedom & Fireworks Festival. The kids will love the carnival games and amusement park rides, while the adults will love the variety of food truck fare, the beer garden and the price: free! The Manhattan skyline is a striking background for your 4th of July photos—just be sure to follow these tips on how to take perfect fireworks pictures.
Calling all foodies! Each year around the 4th of July, Rio Rancho hosts the Annual Pork & Brew, a festival that’s all about, well, barbecue and beer. Sample all the beef you want from brisket to ribs to a variety of sauces while sipping on pours from local craft breweries. There’s more than just food and drinks, too—you can shop arts and crafts vendors, dance to live music and even stop by the petting zoo.
Gather your friends for a cookout in New York City’s famous Central Park. What makes it so special? Barbecuing is only allowed in the park on three days out of the whole year: Memorial Day, Labor Day, and—you guessed it—July 4th. Take advantage of your free pass by grilling up one of these delicious recipes.
Home to what’s considered North Carolina’s official 4th of July Festival since 1972, the coastal town of Southport plans a whole week of fun surrounding the holiday. The firefighter’s competition, flag raising ceremony, and salute to veterans all sound like perfect ways to celebrate America’s birthday. Go a little early and take advantage of Beach Day, which takes place on July 1st every year. You’ll find sand sculpting, bocce ball games and the highly anticipated Shag Contest at night. (Shagging is a style of dancing that originated in the Carolinas, similar to swing dancing.)
Slip on your best pair of cowboy boots and make your way to North Dakota’s largest rodeo for four days of high energy activities. At the 139th Mandan Rodeo Days Celebration, you can go for a covered wagon ride, stroll through Art in the Park or swap your boots for stilettos and run in the Diva Dash. Of course, you’ll want to attend a few of the bull-riding events as well to cheer on the cowboys and cowgirls. Yeehaw!
If Ohio had Mardi Gras, the Northside 4th of July Parade would be it. It’s a quirky festival that’s anything BUT traditional—you’ll see wacky hats, a men’s drill team (literally just men carrying cordless drills), and costumed dogs. The parade ends with a dance party where the whole crowd can get involved; the kegs are tapped at the Rock n’ Roll Carnival shortly after for a day of good music and better company.
This isn’t your average 4th of July celebration. But the Watermelon Seed Spittin’ World Championship in Pauls Valley should be on everyone’s Midwest bucket list. Held every year, it’s an event that’s attended by hundreds of people who also get to enjoy live music, hot dogs, and fireworks after the spitting is done. In case you were wondering, the record, set back in 1989, is 66 feet and 11 inches.
For those of you who love your pets, check out the perfect parade for your Fourth of July in the town of Bend. Every year since the 1930s, the town has put on the incredibly popular Pet Parade through the park. Anyone can participate—simply show up dressed in a costume with your furry friend (stuffed animals count too!) and you’re eligible to walk the mile-and-a-half route. Don’t miss these fascinating things you never knew about 4th of July fireworks.
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Pay homage to our nation’s first president, George Washington himself, by spending your holiday at Washington Crossing Historical Park in Pennsylvania. That’s where President Washington led his troops across the Delaware River in the middle of the night. Fast forward to today and you can interact with live historians, walk the grounds, and listen to readings of the Declaration of Independence. Don’t forget to whip up one of these picnic-worthy recipes to enter in the park’s community picnic contest.
Head to Bristol, Rhode Island for the oldest Independence Day celebration in the country—it’s been going on since 1785! And while they do have fireworks over the harbor and a patriotic parade on the 4th of July, the festivities actually begin on June 14 with a Flag Day ceremony and continue through the holiday weekend. One of the highlights? The drums and bugle corps competition on the evening before July 4th.
The Salute From The Shore (where armed forces fly over the Carolina beaches as Americans wave their flags proudly below) isn’t the only thing Beaufort, SC, has going for it. They also host one of the wackiest 4th of July traditions in the country: an underwater bike race in the coastal waters. Residents decorate regular bicycles, don scuba gear, and then swim, pull, or carry the bikes to the finish line.
Party with the presidents at Mount Rushmore: Presidential re-enactors will mingle with guests throughout the day, followed by a flag folding ceremony and a patriotic performance by the United States Air Force Academy Band. While there are no longer fireworks set off at the park due to safety concerns, you can drive into nearby Rapid City for a breathtaking light show. Find out the 10 mistakes you didn’t know you were making concerning the American flag.
Why wait until the afternoon to kick off your 4th of July festivities? In Gatlinburg, you don’t have to. The Tennessee town, nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, hosts the very first parade of every Independence Day—they start it at midnight. It’s so popular that people even camp out the night before to secure their spot. Keep the party going the following day at the River Raft Regatta where handmade floats race down Little Pigeon River to the tune of Appalachian bluegrass music.
If you think all 4th of July parades are the same, you haven’t heard about “The Best Small Town Parade in America.” Chappell Hill’s main attraction is unlike any other you’ve attended. Sure, you’ll see the usual classic cars, eclectic floats, and baton twirlers. But you’ll also see the World Famous Marching Kazoo Band (there are 80 kazooers in it) along with the Official Gunner, who fires a real cannon to announce the start of the parade. Afterward, stick around for food, wine tasting, pony rides and more.
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Welcome to the Wild West: Bucking broncos and rodeo queens are the real stars of Independence Day in Utah at the annual Oakley Rodeo and 4th of July Celebration. The four-day competition features some of the world’s best cowboys competing in barrel racing, bull riding and more. If this ain’t your first rodeo, you know to snag some juicy barbecue (messy but worth it!) before you find a seat in the stands.
Join the two-day festivities in downtown Bristol for classic fanfare and fireworks, but especially to witness the state’s oldest continuously running parade. Another highlight is the town’s quirky 4th tradition of racing outhouses: Locals build their own “outhouses” (essentially, crates on wheels) and race down the street in hopes of winning the famed trophy, which is shaped like an outhouse, of course.
Colonial Williamsburg might be the most quintessential Independence Day destination seeing as it is America’s birthplace. There’s no shortage of festive events throughout the July 4th week. Some of the must-dos include the reading of the Declaration of Independence on the courthouse stairs, the fifes-and-drums performances, and the children’s colonial fair. If you get hungry, stop by the Governor’s Palace Picnic where you can fill up on fried chicken, potato salad, and homemade cupcakes before the fireworks begin.
Here’s something you may not have known about Washington State: It’s home to the Chainsaw Carving Capitol in Sedro-Woolley. Every 4th, the town hosts the Loggerodeo—the oldest chainsaw carving competition in the world. Men and women compete in whittling, carving, and pole climbing. As if that’s not enough entertainment, you can see the finalists in the beard-growing contest, take in the carnival, run the foot race, and settle back for fireworks in the evening.
Looking for a “wild and wonderful” Independence Day? You may want to stop by the gorgeous Greenbrier, also known as “America’s Resort,” for a fun-filled day. Compete in the family scavenger hunt on the lawn, watch the golf cart parade (better yet, decorate your own to drive around!), then pile your plate with all the delicious eats at the patriotic picnic buffet on the terrace. The day wraps up with spectacular fireworks above the golf course. Prefer to stay in this 4th of July? Check out the best 4th of July movies the whole family can enjoy.
Independence Day is about the Revolution, George Washington, the Declaration of Independence, and the American flag. But this day is also an excellent chance to honor the people who really founded this nation: Native Americans. Celebrate their heritage and culture by attending the annual Red Cliff Traditional Pow-Wow, which always takes place on the weekend nearest to the 4th of July. Native American dancers and drummers perform; you can indulge in a delicious Native American feast following the ceremony.
Residents of Jackson Hole show up to Town Square for a pancake breakfast and fireworks that evening, but in between, there’s a Wild West-style shootout put on by the Jackson Hole Playhouse. It’s a reenactment of an old frontier legend and has become the longest continuously running gunfight in the United States. Next, find out the U.S. history facts you never learned in school.