No matter where we come from, when we hear the words ‘The Fourth of July’ we all have the same images in our mind: a sea of red, white and blue, parades, hot dogs, fireworks, barbecues, family, music, festivals, eating contests, flags and ice cold beers with friends.
Anywhere in the USA is a magical place to be at this time of year, but some towns and cities go the extra mile to celebrate Independence Day and should be sought out by anyone who enjoys revelries and visual spectacles that will stay with them forever.
1. New York, NY
The Big Apple is the ideal backdrop for any occasion and the Fourth of July festivities demonstrate this perfectly.
The spirit of patriotism has always been strong in this urban paradise, which is home to the Statue of Liberty, but this was significantly heightened during the events of 2001, and their current Independence Day festivities are testament to this feeling of solidarity.
During the day the greenspaces of the metropolis come alive with street performers, food stalls, musicians and revelers.
To see a parade, get the ferry over to Staten Island, but make sure you have chosen the perfect place to witness the legendary Macy’s 4th of July Spectacular fireworks by 9 pm.
The display takes place over the East River and can be seen for miles lighting up the iconic Manhattan skyline, but watching from one of a myriad of cool rooftop bars will really complete this unique New York experience.
It can only be considered a privilege to join the New Yorkers and their visitors during this celebration of all things Americana.
2. Oahu, Hawaii
If you prefer to combine an island paradise with the biggest annual party in the USA, then you can’t do better than being in Oahu.
Spend the day in this slice of paradise enjoying the usual sea and sun with the addition of flags, festivities and food stalls, before choosing your spot on the beach to spend the evening watching a spectacular fireworks display.
The Ala Moana Beach Park will be full of locals and visitors all staring open mouthed into the sky as this beautiful location is lit up and all in time to music that you can tune into on the radio.
For the best of both worlds you really can’t beat this destination.
3. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
It was here in Philadelphia in 1776 that the Declaration of Independence was agreed upon by the founding fathers and one year later Congress was suspended in order for the town to celebrate the anniversary with bonfires and music.
It took a while for this to grow into the national holiday that is now celebrated across the country, but the people of Philly are understandably very proud of this heritage, which is reflected in the stature of their Fourth of July festivities.
In Philadelphia the commemorations start days in advance of July 4th with specially themed open days at museums, history walks, installations at City Hall, outdoor cinemas, hoagie-eating contests, block parties and several nights of fireworks set to music played by orchestras and military bands.
All this is the lead-up to the big day, which is marked with a spectacular parade that leads to a five-block street party with big-name performers on various stages.
Needless to say, the day ends with a phenomenal pyrotechnic display accompanied by rousing music that can be heard all over the city.
Yes, this is without doubt a celebration that shouldn’t be missed.
4. Seward, Nebraska
It may seem odd to find a town of approximately 6,000 residents making it onto a list that takes all of America’s great capitals into account, until you discover that Seward Nebraska is America’s Official Fourth of July Small Town USA, as declared by a resolution of Congress!
This small town swells to take in over 40,000 visitors every year when it celebrates the Declaration of Independence in the same small square that has hosted the event since 1868.
As you would expect from Small Town USA, Seward has maintained a traditional, family-orientated approach to the festivities, which is definitely the main appeal; however, they are aware of their reputation and make sure that it is the best traditional celebration that there is to see.
In addition to the parade, incredible fireworks and musical entertainment on the schedule of events gets bigger every year, and they even have a website just so you can see what’s happening and make sure you don’t miss out on anything.
With car shows, pet parades, aerobic displays and apple pie eating contests, just some of the spectacles on offer, there is going to be something for everyone.
Visit www.julyfourthseward.com and decide how you’re going to enjoy the biggest small town event in the country.
5. Bristol, Rhode Island
Bristol in Rhode Island has the honor of having the longest running festivities, with Fourth of July being celebrated here every year without fail since 1785.
As a result, they really pull out all the stops, and in addition to a fun parade and the obligatory fireworks you can also experience a live music concert and the rather grand Fourth of July Ball.
It may be of note that there is a prize awarded each year for the person who has traveled the furthest distance to reach the celebrations, and there could even be a place in the parade for the winner.
This is a traditional event that really focuses on the military and local heroes and brings the entire town together in a special way.
Try to make it if you want to experience a real slice of American history.
6. Boston, Massachusetts
Here is another city steeped in historical significance for this particular memorial. Famed for the Boston Tea Party that kicked off the events leading to the Declaration of Independence, this city makes sure it celebrates in style.
There are days of events leading up to the big day itself, which is commemorated with the world famous Boston Pops orchestra playing the William Tell 1812 Overture with canons and fireworks used as percussion over the Charles River.
If it is an overdose of patriotism that you want to enjoy then you really should consider visiting Boston at this very special time of year.
7. Washington, D.C.
The nation’s capital is a very fitting place to celebrate this birth of the nation, and the plethora of exhibitions and museums dedicated to this time in history take on a very distinct meaning during the festivities.
Seeing original copies of the Declaration is special at any time, but on this particular day it can be particularly significant.
The day itself is defined by military parades, brass bands, a spectacular flag-waving extravaganza, concerts and, of course, seeing the outstanding fireworks display from the National Mall in front of the White House is a once in a lifetime experience.
8. Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
For a very different style of commemoration but with significant historical brevity, it is worth considering visiting this iconic monument to American history.
The most notable difference here is the absence of fireworks out of respect for the monument and the wildlife living in the Black Hills of South Dakota; instead, there is a lighting ceremony that has a quieter but more austere ambiance that gives the ceremony the gravitas and solemnity it deserves.
There are musical events put on by local military bands, historical re-enactments and, finally, a heart-warming performance of the national anthem while the faces of George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln are illuminated to the delight of the watching crowds.
This is definitely one to consider if you are looking for something poignant and a little different from the norm.
9. Las Vegas, Nevada
From serene to extreme, who says Independence Day celebrations have to be traditional?
If it’s a star spangled extravaganza of opulence that you’re after, then of course the playground that is Las Vegas will have all that you desire.
If you thought it wasn’t possible for the party capital of the Western world to get more glitzy, then think again.
Over the Fourth of July weekend you will find each resort putting on its own version of the traditional celebrations with lavish pool parties, well-stocked barbecues and constant entertainment.
It goes without saying that they will all be competing to put on the most spectacular pyrotechnics display too.
You will also find that all the bars and restaurants will be vying for your business with themed drinks and menus.
If you think that you will crave something a little more patriotic, don’t forget that this urban sprawl is a stone’s throw from some iconic American landmarks, so take some time to visit the Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon before returning to the mayhem on the strip.
It is fair to say that you will be spoilt for choice on how to commemorate the birth of a nation that made this crazy city a possibility.
10. New Orleans, Louisiana
This eccentric city of diverse culture, food and music does everything a little differently than mainstream America and the Fourth of July is no exception.
Famed for the steamboats that lazily make their way up and down the legendary Mississippi River, New Orleans has taken its celebrations to the water.
All along the river in the French Quarter of this cool and relaxed destination there will be friends and families setting up barbecues, and food stalls will be selling their wares as people get ready to see two barges in the middle of the river duel to win the honor of putting on the best fireworks display.
You can choose to join the crowds along the bank or you can opt to take any of the cruises on offer; they will be putting on a full day of entertainment for all of their passengers including food, music and the best view in town.
The competing barges will be illuminating the city and the waterways in a display unlike any other so why shouldn’t your experience be just as unique?
A truly magical experience that is likely to be absolutely unforgettable.
However, and wherever, you choose to celebrate the Fourth of July you are guaranteed to get swept along with the patriotic displays of solidarity and pride, but I hope some of these have inspired you to sample something a little different for your next Independence Day revelries.
P.S. What, in your opinion, are some overlooked US cities and small towns to explore and enjoy on the 4th of July?