America the Beautiful celebrates its independence (a.k.a its birthday) on the 4th of July, and boy, does it throw one hell of a party. Americans love spending this day dressed in their best American flag-printed attire, Budweiser in hand, celebrating their beloved country.
Cities across the United States show their pride by putting on HUGE events. We’re talkin’ free music festivals, hot dog eating contests and quirky Revolutionary War reenactments. It gets weird. And in a totally awesome and patriotic way. Prepare for a hot summer day filled with parades, barbecues and EPIC fireworks. Here are the best places to celebrate the 4th of July in America.
New York City
Obviously, the most bustling city in the world knows how to party on the 4th of July! If you know you want to celebrate America’s birthday in NYC, expect large crowds and VERY hot weather. During the day, take the train to Coney Island to check out Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. Watch competitors stuff 70 hot dogs (yes, SEVENTY) down their mouths in 10 minutes. It’s a 4th of July tradition that’s been going on for over 100 years!
While you’re at Coney Island, hit up the rides (the Cyclone roller coaster is a classic) or grab a hot dog and people watch at the boardwalk. You can stay at Coney Island all day and watch the fireworks at night, or head back to Manhattan to watch the Macy’s 4th of July Firework Show along the East River.
The fireworks are stationed between East 24st and East 41st Street. Secure a spot along FDR drive, or better yet, find a rooftop bar in Midtown or Brooklyn to watch the fireworks in style.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
If you’ve never heard of Myrtle Beach before, it’s a lively coastal town in South Carolina that knows how to celebrate the 4th of July. The city plans a whole day of festivities — so you have plenty of options for things to do and see!
Start the day with a traditional 5k or 8k Independence Day run with the local community (think of it as a healthy start to a day of debauchery). Then re-hydrate and head to Pawleys Island for the annual 4th of July parade where participants construct patriotic floats out of golf carts and flatbed trucks. Don’t be surprised if you hear loud noises overhead. It’s not fireworks, it’s the Salute from the Shore, a military flyover with classic Air Force planes.
After that, make your way to the real party at Broadway by the Beach to watch a cupcake eating contest (can you tell that Americans love their food competitions??) End the day with a firework show starting at 10 p.m. at Broadway by the Beach, Cherry Grove Pier, Murrells Inlet Marshwalk or Barefoot Landing.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Does the party ever really stop in New Orleans? Nahhh. Head over to NOLA to celebrate the 4th of July in style. Spend the day exploring the lively French Quarter, then head to Crescent Park for food trucks and music. Even better, snag tickets to New Orleans’ Essence Festival, which celebrates African American culture and music. It’s an annual event that runs from July 5-8. This year, performers such as Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige and Janet Jackson are headlining. Bring your dancing shoes.
NOLA puts on an annual “Go 4th on the River” extravaganza on the Mississippi River. It shoots off a HUGE fireworks display synchronized to the beat of patriotic music (think, songs like “Yankee Doodle Dandy” or “God Bless America”). It usually begins at 9 p.m. and you can find a spot at Woldenberg Park or at the Moon Walk. If you want to get really fancy, watch the fireworks from a riverboat such as the Creole Queen or the Steamboat Natchez. That guarantees the best spot!
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
If you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, but no less traditional, head to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. The celebrations in the Black Hills region are filled with Old West shootouts, cook-offs, car shows, music, picnics, ice cream socials, re-enactors and arts and crafts vendors. It’s a little quirky, but a whole lot American.
Head to the monument during the day, which features the granite faces of four American presidents, and check out professional re-enactors of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. You won’t find fireworks at the monument, but head to the annual Black Hills Roundup to catch an evening rodeo and fireworks display. That’s how you celebrate America in the Old West!
📷: Ronda Darby
Lake Tahoe is an insanely scenic place located on the border of California and Nevada. It’s an adventure lover’s DREAM with heaps of outdoor activities during the summer months, such as hiking, boating or rock climbing (to name a few). Even better, the city hosts one hell of a firework show during the 4th of July.
Expect parades, apple pie and barbeques during the day. Then at night, check out Tahoe South’s Lights on the Lake, a top-ranked pyrotechnics display that you can see from all over town. If you want to get up close and personal, head to Nevada beach at around 9 p.m. to snag a quality spot to view the fireworks.
Pro tip: Kenny Chesney is performing at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena on July 3. Grab tickets to his show if you want a true, American 4th of July experience.
📷: Robson Abbott
Speaking of country music, head to Nashville, a.k.a Music City, for the annual “Let Freedom Sing!” country music festival during the 4th of July. The best part… it’s FREE! Yup, you’ll get to see some of country music’s biggest acts belt out their love of the country for FREE on the 4th of July. What a bargain.
Music starts on the main stage at 4 p.m., then after the concert, there’s a 30-minute fireworks show synchronized to a live performance from the Nashville Symphony. Epic. For the best view of the fireworks display, head to Ascend Amphitheater or Riverfront Park. It doesn’t get more American than that.
Boston is home the one of the largest 4th of July festivals in America — and rightfully so! The city played a key role in the American Revolution with events such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party and the Battle of Bunkerhill. Millions of visitors flock to this colonial city each year to celebrate America’s independence.
The city throws an annual Boston Harborfest throughout the day where you’ll find historical reenactments, music, walking tours, Harbor cruises and events along the Freedom Trail. At night, check out the famous Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular located on the Esplanade along the banks of the Charles River. In 2018, celebs such as Andy Grammer, Melissa Etheridge, Leslie Odom Jr and Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell will join the Boston Pops for the annual pre-fireworks concert. And it’s FREE.
It’s not all boring meetings and politics in Washington D.C. The nation’s capital turns into a raving celebration on the 4th of July and it’s definitely something to experience. Start your morning by checking out the original Declaration of Independence, which is housed in the National Archives. From there, make your way to the National Independence Day Parade starting at 11:45 a.m. between 7th and 17th street. Don’t forget your American flag!
Next, check out the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival, a free event held on the National Mall. You’ll find little concerts, food, markets and quirky performances throughout the festivities.
If you have a chance, take a car or bus to George Washington’s Mount Vernon (about 30 minutes south of the city). You’ll step into a major blast from the past with military reenactment and drills from the Revolutionary War, colonial-style ice cream (whatever that is?!), War-era music and special day-time fireworks over the Potomac River. It’s an event so out of this world that you need to see it for yourself!
Then find a spot at the West Lawn for the annual “A Capitol Fourth” celebration. It’s a free concert that’s broadcast live to the nation beginning at 8 p.m. Spend the rest of the night there and watch the spectacular grand finale of fireworks over the National Mall. Obviously, the nation’s capital is going to throw one hell of a birthday party; and you should definitely attend.
📷: Tim Brown
San Diego, California
San Diego is home to many service men and women as it’s a Navy town that played a crucial role during World War II. And it’s all about the fireworks in Southern California during the 4th of July. The city hosts the annual Big Bay Boom, which is a massive fireworks display launched from four barges throughout the North San Diego Bay.
Head to the USS Midway flight deck for the best spot in town. Head there early and bring a lawn chair and a picnic basket. Spend the day enjoying live entertainment and patriotic celebrations before the fireworks go off at 9 p.m.
You can also watch the fireworks from Shelter Island, Harbor Island, North Embarcadero and Marina District. If you want to get reallyyyy adventurous, go to Coronado Island, which has its own 4th of July celebrations complete with a parade, live music and fireworks over Glorietta Bay.
📷: Tristan Loper
In case you didn’t pay attention in history class (who did?!), Philly is where it all went down. This is the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, so you know it’s going to throw a massive party for America’s birthday. If you’re planning on celebrating the 4th of July in Philly, it’s best to arrive a few days early as it hosts SEVEN full days of festivities.
During the week of the 4th of July, the city is bustling with free museum entry (score!), parades, outdoor movies, Philadelphia’s Historic Block Party, street performances and fireworks. Make sure to check out the annual United States of America Independence Day Parade starting at 11:00 a.m. on Chestnut street.
Marching bands, floats and military members will get you amped up before heading to the Party on the Parkway, which includes five blocks of games, music, dance and cultural events. At 7:00 p.m. be sure to head to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for one of the largest FREE concerts in America. And of course, it ends with a fireworks show that will knock your socks off.
📷: Tyler Sprague
Chicago comes alive during the summer months and it gets especially rowdy on the 4th of July. It hosts a full week of food, music and cultural festivals that you don’t want to miss (including a hot air balloon festival!).
On the 4th of July, check out the Grant Park Music Festival, which is a free annual concert from 6:30-8:30 p.m. where you’ll hear patriotic music from talented musicians. Or head to Navy Pier for a full day of rides, barbeque and music. Make sure to grab tickets to watch the firework show from the Navy Pier rooftop. The fireworks start at 9:30 p.m., and it’s the best spot in town!
About the author:
Marina Nazario is a food and travel writer from America, currently living in the land Down Under. She’s passionate about meeting people, immersing herself in different cultures, and eating her way around the world. You can follow her misadventures on Twitter and her blog Marina’s Milestones.