The 13 Most Patriotic Places to Spend Fourth of July
Whether you're looking for cool fireworks displays, a taste of small-town Americana, or you want to indulge in some of our country's most beloved pastimes, these are the perfect spots to spend Fourth of July.
Perhaps no other American city can claim more bragging rights to our patriotic roots than Washington, D.C. If exploring our nation’s history is high on your to-do list this Fourth of July, you’ll love checking out one of the original copies of the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives and Records Administration, the many historical treasures at the numerous Smithsonian museums, the famous paintings of presidents at the National Portrait Gallery, presidential and war memorials, and more incredible sites. To celebrate the big day, find your spot along—what else—Constitution Avenue to catch the marching bands, fife and drum corps, floats, and more taking part in the National Independence Day Parade. Come evening, enjoy the longest-running live TV tradition on our nation’s holiday, “A Capitol Fourth,” on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. This year’s entertainment will include Carole King, the National Symphony Orchestra, and a few beloved characters from Sesame Street. For those who love to hear the Fourth’s famous crackle and pop, the World War II Memorial and areas around the Reflecting Pool will be open to the public for the first time in years, providing the perfect perch from which to watch the fireworks display. Not surprisingly, Washington, D.C. also makes our list of the top 16 American cities for history buffs.
Referred to as the birthplace of America and nicknamed the City of Brotherly Love, this is the perfect spot for Fourth of July festivities. Home to the Liberty Bell and a copy of the Declaration of Independence, it’s also where the First Continental Congress was held, so it’s no surprise there are literally dozens of Fourth of July events on the calendar in the days leading up to the big day. Catch a staged reading of the Declaration of Independence; visit the home of Betsy Ross, who is thought to have designed the American flag; and see the floats and marching bands during the Salute to American Independence Day Parade. Catch both Jennifer Hudson and Meghan Trainor for free during the Wawa Welcome American Concert. Wrap your night with the fireworks display over the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
It’s a living history museum year-round, so perhaps it’s no surprise that Colonial Williamsburg and the surrounding area is one of the best places to spend the Fourth of July. Catch a reading of the Declaration of Independence on the courthouse steps in Colonial Williamsburg followed by a fife and drum corps salute behind the U.S. courthouse. Join a guided or self-led tour of Colonial Williamsburg’s 300 acres and nearly 600 buildings, including dozens of restored 18th-century structures. Explore Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America, then head over to the American Revolution Museum in nearby Yorktown, site of the final major battle of the American Revolution, to watch military exercises take place, tour the battlefield, and explore the 18th-century town. Wrap it all up with an amazing fireworks display in either Colonial Williamsburg or historic Yorktown. You may be surprised to learn these unexpected facts you didn’t know about Independence Day.
Fair Saint Louis returns this year for America’s Biggest Birthday Party under the famous Gateway Arch. The three-day Independence Day festival includes live music, air shows, and a fireworks display so fantastic, it’s been called one of America’s 10 most spectacular Fourth of July fireworks. America’s Birthday Parade kicks off in downtown St. Louis on July 4th with marching bands, colorful floats, and live music (this year’s theme is “We the People”). Families with young kids can celebrate America’s birthday at O’Fallon’s Heritage & Freedom Fest July 2nd to the 4th with carnival rides, kids activities, and great food (admission is free). History buffs should make time to explore St. Louis’ Gateway Arch, which celebrates America’s expansion to the West, and the Old Courthouse, which played a key role in the Civil War. According to this essay, we’ve forgotten how to teach patriotism. Here’s how we’ll bring it back.
Cooperstown, New York
What’s more American than baseball, hot dogs, and the Fourth of July? Enjoy all three in Cooperstown, New York, where you can take in the second-oldest continuously running Fourth of July Parade, the epitome of small-town Americana. At the bucolic village known as the Farmers’ Museum, you can see—and hear!—muskets blast with a Militia Muster, and watch reenactors demonstrate 19th-century farming life, silversmithing, open-hearth cooking, and more. Another must is a visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, which features thousands of artifacts of the national pastime, before catching the Fourth of July fireworks by Otsego Lake.
Country music fans—and stars—take their patriotism seriously, so perhaps it’s no surprise that Music City is home to one fabulous Fourth of July celebration. “Kick” things off a day early by catching some of the world’s best soccer players play during the CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinal on July 3rd. Then on July 4th, spend the day taking in live music and free family activities throughout downtown Nashville before catching everyone from Brett Eldridge to the Nashville Symphony during the Let Freedom Sing! Concert. It all wraps up with one of the biggest fireworks displays in the country over downtown Nashville.
The city that was so key to the American Revolution is also the site of the famed Boston Harborfest, a multi-day festival that includes live entertainment, special Freedom Trail walks, and a Changing of the Guard that will transport you back to 1775 to see colonists interact with British soldiers. Join the expert guides at Boston by Foot on July 3rd for Footloose on the Freedom Trail, which takes you through the 16 historic sites on the trail, detailing America’s colonial history. On both July 3rd and 4th, the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra plays patriotic favorites, complete with real cannon fire, on the Boston Esplanade along the Charles River. From marching bands to veteran floats, the city’s Fourth of July Parade culminates at the Old State House with a reading of the Declaration of Independence. Finally, catch the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, one of the largest annual outdoor concerts in the world, on both July 3 and July 4 (the headliner for the 2019 event is Queen Latifah).
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and Montana
America’s first national park is another great place to spend the Fourth of July. You’ll have to leave the park for parades and fireworks, but many of the small towns surrounding it have plenty to offer. Inside the park, cruise the Firehole Lake Drive to see national treasures including the Great Fountain Geyser and White Dome Geyser from your car (there are parts where you can view from a boardwalk), and take in the tranquility of Yellowstone Lake. Lay down a blanket in nearby West Yellowstone for its Fourth of July Festival complete with a hometown parade, barbecue, and live music by day, with fireworks at night. The nearby small town of Cody is holding its 100th Annual Fourth of July Cody Stampede complete with rodeos, parades, and a family-friendly craft fair. Ennis, another small town near Yellowstone, starts its Fourth of July with a pancake breakfast at the fire station followed by a 4th of July car show featuring classic American cars. Not sure where you’re heading yet this Fourth of July? Find out the best place to spend the Fourth of July in every state.
The Oregon Coast
The place where famed U.S. explorers Lewis and Clark completed their historic quest across the continent is right on the border of both Washington and Oregon. Explore the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center near Long Beach, Washington, then drive over the bridge to Astoria, Oregon, to visit Fort Clatsop, where the explorers spent the winter months. July is the perfect time to explore the historic lighthouses, fishing villages, and beaches along the Oregon Coast. In Seaside, Oregon, a must-do is the 4th of July Old Fashioned Social. With food, music, games, and a hilarious cake walk, there’s a lot to do for the whole family. Evening fireworks are synchronized to music and go up at dusk, which is usually about 10 p.m. in this part of the country.
OK, so it wasn’t integral to the birth of our nation, but the Alamo is a historic site that was pivotal in Texas’s fight for independence from Mexico, and the locals take the Fourth of July very seriously. Patriotic festivities at the Alamo include musket and rifle firing demonstrations, live performances and reenactments, and a reading of the Declaration of Independence—and everything’s free. You can also catch the live bands and food trucks at the Freedom Fest in Market Square, stroll through the Fourth of July Artisan River Walk event and take a boat ride on the San Antonio River, and catch the Freedom Flyers perform overhead during the annual Stinson Airport Independence Day celebration.
The largest city in America’s heartland, Chicago is home to a spectacular red, white, and blue-only fireworks display at Navy Pier that syncs up with patriotic tunes. Just across town, the Independence Day Salute at Millennium Park’s Grant Park Music Festival features rousing marches and patriotic anthems. Music, dancing, and incredible views can be found on the Navy Pier rooftop for its annual Freedom Fest, a ticketed event that’s become a Chicago tradition and is the best place in the state to celebrate Independence Day. If you prefer to catch the fireworks—and the skyline— from Lake Michigan, there are a number of cruise companies with special sailings on the Fourth of July that include food, drinks, and live music. While in Chicago, partake in quintessentially American activities, like watching the Cubs play at Wrigley Field and indulging in the city’s famous deep-dish pizza.
The birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr., Atlanta is the hub of American Civil Rights. Visit the National Center for Civil and Human Rights for important lessons about America’s turbulent past. Explore the treasures in the Margaret Mitchell House, home of the iconic American author of the classic Gone With The Wind, and see how the nation’s most popular soda, Coca-Cola, is made at World of Coca-Cola. Spend the Fourth at the Red, White, and Brew festival at the Georgia Aquarium, considered one of the country’s best aquariums, then stick around for the fireworks over Centennial Olympic Park.
New York City
A city at the intersection of culture and commerce, New York is the perfect place to spend the Fourth of July. For a taste of Americana, ride the 90+-year-old Cyclone roller coaster and more old-school carnival rides in Coney Island. While there cheer on the winners at Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest. Back in Manhattan, take in incredible views from the Empire State Building and explore America’s history at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. For small-town America charm, take the ferry to Staten Island, where the village of Travis traces its roots to colonial times. The town’s annual Fourth of July parade is one of the U.S.’s oldest—since 1911! When night falls, Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Show illuminates the New York City skyline (this year it will take place from the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time). Catch the show from one of the city’s many rooftop bars, anywhere along either side of the East River, or opt for a cruise and watch the fireworks from the water. Feeling pumped? Check out 15 Fourth of July images that will get you excited for the holiday.