A city that cradled the American Revolution and once threw wild tea parties, today Boston hosts a party of a different kind, as one of the nation’s premier July 4th destinations. More than 200 events make up a fun-filled six-day calendar during the annual Boston Harborfest, which kicks off on July 1st and continues through the Independence Day holiday.
Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard
With their sand dunes and salty air, lighthouses and quaint fishing villages, Cape Cod and its neighboring islands make superb Independence Day retreats, with dozens of parades, picnics and fairs that will have you humming the “Star Spangled Banner” all holiday long. Three of our favorite Independence Day events are the barbecue at the Old Whaling Church in Martha's Vineyard (in Edgartown), where you'll get a taste of New England cooking and a dose of nostalgia for the country's old maritime days; the Bike and Carriage Parade in Falmouth (on Cape Cod), where participants dress up as Uncle Sam and parade around in these decorated modes of transport; and Nantucket's Grucci fireworks display on Jetties Beach.
Chicagoans get so amped for the city’s annual Independence Day festivities that they actually kick off the revelry days in advance. Spectacular firework displays, fun festivals, rockin’ concerts and ballgames make the city an obvious choice for a holiday hurrah. Of course, no 4th of July would be complete without a colorful fireworks extravaganza — the most elaborate display is set to patriotic music and lights up the sky over the Navy Pier, a superb location with sweeping skyline views along Lake Michigan.
Acclaimed as one of the ten man-made wonders of the world, Mount Rushmore is as grand a tribute to American history as one can get and, not surprisingly, a prime national monument for Independence Day celebrations. The imperial visages of four of the country’s most venerated leaders — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt — are etched into the Black Hills of South Dakota, and visible from multiple spots in the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
Where better to celebrate America’s independence than in the city of our nation’s birth — Philadelphia? The old stomping grounds of the Founding Fathers, this history-rich city lays claim to being the place where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were both drafted. More than 200 years later, Philadelphians are still ready to get all riled up in the name of independence, with a superb week-long celebration. Start off your visit to the city of Brotherly Love by visiting its most iconic symbol of freedom, the Liberty Bell; it, and the historic sites in Independence Mall will have extended viewing hours over the holiday.
Queen Mary 2
The Cunard Line’s prestigious Queen Mary 2 embodies the essence of luxury cruising, and the ship's six-night "Independence Day Getaway" over the July 4th weekend is a brilliant opportunity to hail the Queen stateside (while celebrating our separation form the British monarchy!) This rare local sailing — most QM2 itineraries cover transatlantic or Caribbean jaunts — departs from New York on July 2 and calls on Boston, Bar Harbor and Halifax.
Barbecues, beer, bonfires and fantastic fireworks — if there's one beach town that packs a party on July 4, it’s San Diego. The sprawling shores along Mission and Pacific beaches are crowded with merry sunbathers from dawn 'til dusk — some dedicated holiday celebrants even camp out overnight to ensure a prime spot on the sand. Plenty of oh-so-American activities will keep you occupied both on and around the holiday — like the three-week San Diego County Fair on the Del Mar Fairgrounds. But the real action starts after dark, when a no-holds-bar pyrotechnics show lights up the sky before fizzling into the ocean.
San Juan Islands
Watching a bald eagle fly overhead is bound to get you into a stars-and-stripes state of mind and the San Juan Islands, off the coast of Washington state, are one of the few places in the U.S. where such sightings are commonplace. Of the more than 700 islands that make up the chain, your best bet for July 4 is the eponymous San Juan Island, where you’ll find the aptly named Fourth of July Beach along Griffin Bay; claim your spot along the sand, and spend your day swimming, playing softball, and roasting marshmallows on bonfires below the tide line.
U.S. Virgin Islands
St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John are the only American-owned islands in the Caribbean and they pull out all the stops with two celebratory holidays: their own Emancipation Day, on July 3rd (to commemorate the end of the slave trade), and Independence Day, on July 4 (since joining the U.S. in 1917), culminating with a parade on St. John, the tiniest, and, arguably, prettiest, of the islands. Not only is airfare to the isles cheaper in late June and July, but hotel rates are nearly half off their winter highs as well, making a visit here a cultural treat and a bona fide bargain.
Of course the nation’s capital is going to rank as a top ten place to celebrate the nation’s birthday! Several exciting events lead up to the culmination of the July 4th festivities, one of which is the Smithsonian Folklife Festival along the National Mall. The festival runs until July 6 and features artists, artists, performers, and craftspeople. Next up is Constitution Avenue, where the massive National Independence Day Parade incorporates a stream of lavish floats, bands, giant balloons, and military groups and makes for an impressive spectacle against the backdrop of imposing national monuments. Finally, as night falls on July 4, the free A Capitol Fourth concert kicks off on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building, with special guest performances accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra.