Where to Spend July 4th This Year
Happy birthday, America! You’re officially 243 years old, but damn you still look good. In honor of our sweet land of liberty, here are eight Independence Day celebrations to make Uncle Sam proud.
Chelsea is Brooklyn-based travel writer, editor, and photographer. When not home eating her way through NYC, she's gallivanting across the globe, sailing the coast of Croatia or hiking the peaks of Peru. Her superpowers include booking flight deals and sleeping in small plane seats.
For 45 years, Beantown has been toasting to our freedom with a concert on the riverbanks. As the tradition goes, the Boston Pops orchestra will play while fireworks explode over the Charles River. But new to this year are live performances by Queen Latifah, Arlo Guthrie, and the Texas Tenors. For history buffs, there's also Harborfest, where you can attend the opening ceremony at Faneuil Hall, take a walking tour of the Freedom Trail, and sail on a fleet of tall ships. And yes, there's even a re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party at the "hah-bah" (harbor).
Since the holiday is all about history, it’s fitting to include Bristol, a charming New England town that’s home to the country’s oldest Independence Day parade. Since 1785, residents have lined the streets clad in red, white and blue while decked-out floats and bands march down main street. That night also kicks off a summer-long concert series featuring local musicians.
New York City, NY
Just because it’s a family-friendly holiday, doesn’t mean you can’t party. In NYC, a lively crowd takes over Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways for beach parties featuring live music, pop-up shops, and the best beach eats around. Pair your lobster with reggae during their "Friday Night Sunset Lobster Jam" or save your energy for Saturday's "Level Beach Party" when local DJs take over two sound stages.
We can’t let the East Coast get all the credit; western towns like Flagstaff also know how to have a good time. Besides the parades, fireworks and concerts by the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, the city stays true to its artsy roots. Every month it hosts an Art Walk, where galleries and exhibits open their doors to the public, and in July the big event is Art in the Park. This judged arts and crafts show in Wheeler Park showcases works from more than 100 artists along with live music and a wine garden featuring vintages from Arizona's best vineyards.
As America’s birthplace, Philadelphia throws a major Independence Day bash with the week-long Welcome America ceremony (June 29 through July 4). The Philly POPS concert at Independence Mall kicks it off, followed by concerts with superstar singers Jennifer Hudson and Meghan Trainor. There's also parades, street festivals, outdoor movie screenings, and even a reading of the Declaration of Independence, which was written and signed in Philadelphia. On Free Museum Days, take advantage of complimentary admission to the city's top institutions like the Ben Franklin Museum, Rodin Museum, National Constitution Center, African American Museum, The Barnes Foundation and more. Then, see fireworks over the Museum of Art as the festival's grand finale.
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When the nation’s capital celebrates Fourth of July, you know it’s going to be big. No matter how touristy, you have to catch the fireworks at the National Mall and stop by 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. There are also a handful of smaller (yet still awesome) patriotic festivals and museum exhibits worth seeing. Check out the America’s Presidents collection at the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which hosts evening concerts and Basque food stands.
Lake Tahoe, CA
It’s not hard to see why Lake Tahoe is one of the most popular Fourth of July spots in the west. Every year, a crowd of 125,000 people comes to see the 25-minute firework display and have a laid-back weekend in California’s outdoor playground. There’s hiking Tahoe’s epic peaks, fishing on the lake, and picnicking in the parks.
St. Louis, MO
Backyard BBQs are fun and all, but St. Louis really knocks it out of the park with its annual Fair St. Louis celebration in the recently reopened Gateway Arch National Park. Dubbed America's Biggest Birthday Party, the three-day fest includes an impressive lineup of headliners like the Flaming Lips, Brett Young, beer tastings from Anheuser-Busch (ahem, Budweiser) and a demonstration from the U.S. Army's aerial parachuting team.
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