Best Fourth of July Celebrations in the U.S.
July 4 is America's birthday. And Americans have been perfecting the art of throwing an Independence Day party since 1776.
Throughout the United States, almost every community hosts some version of a Fourth of July celebration with fireworks and parades. In some places, those celebrations get kicked up a notch and become travel-worthy destinations for the holiday.
Here's where you'll find the best Fourth of July celebrations in America.
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Name of celebration: Independence Day Fireworks
Ingredients: Fireworks, lake fun, parties, music, boats
Bottom line: Beautiful Lake Hamilton is the backdrop for this Fourth of July celebration in the Ouachita Mountains. The fireworks are set off from the middle of the Highway 7 Bridge.
If you really want to get the party jumping off, secure a place at the Mountain Harbor Resort, where a lot of fun happens.
Really want to turn it up a notch? Rent a pontoon boat.
Pensacola Beach, Florida
Name of celebration: Fireworks at the Beach!
Ingredients: Fireworks, bushwackers, sugar-white sand beaches
Bottom line: Some places are all about the fireworks on the Fourth of July, and some places are all about the party. Picturesque Pensacola Beach is going to tilt pretty massively toward the latter.
You aren't going to find anywhere with a better setting for the Fourth of July weekend than Pensacola Beach, which has some of the best beaches in the United States and is the gem of the Emerald Coast.
You can watch the fireworks from anywhere on the beach — they go off over the sound — or you can grab a spot on the boardwalk. Make sure you hit The Sandshaker and order a world-famous bushwacker while you're there. It's like a creamy, chocolate piña colada.
New Britain, Connecticut
Name of celebration: Great American Boom
Ingredients: Fireworks, festival, children's rides, live music
Bottom line: New Britain went ahead with its trademark Fourth of July Festival in 2020 as a drive-in event instead of canceling. We're keeping our fingers crossed they can get back to the way things were before.
They're known to draw up to 40,000 people, and Stanley Quarter Park is usually where it all goes down.
Visitors to picturesque New Britain should take a second to embrace the town's great Polish heritage. They host the Little Poland Festival every year as well. So grab some pierogis at the Staropolska Restaurant, and report back to us.
Name of celebration: July 4th Fireworks on Whitefish Lake
Ingredients: Fireworks, live music, arts festival
Bottom line: Whitefish Lake is the backdrop for this Fourth of July celebration, which gives new meaning to the term "Big Sky Country" when the fireworks start to fill up the night beginning about 10:30 p.m.
The Flathead Valley is home to not just beautiful lakes, but majestic mountains around Whitefish and one of the must-visits for spending Fourth of July there is hitting the Whitefish Arts Festival, which is from July 2-4 every year.
Oh, and while we have you here, please watch "Yellowstone."
Redondo Beach, California
Name of celebration: Fourth of July Celebration at King Harbor Yacht Club
Ingredients: Fireworks, Redondo Pier, beach, parties, surfing, music
Bottom line: When it comes to Fourth of July celebrations, having your fireworks show at the beach gives you a big headstart. Redondo Beach might do that better than anyone in the country.
Based around the Redondo Beach Pier, the Fourth of July Celebration at King Harbor Yacht Club always makes for a memorable time.
Redondo Beach isn't popping? Feel free to trek over to Hermosa Beach.
Name of celebration: Ashland Fourth of July Celebration
Ingredients: Fireworks, famous people, great food, nature
Bottom line: Ashland is a haven for culture. It's sometimes referred to as "Little San Francisco" because of an amazing downtown area that opens up into picturesque Lithia Park. It's also home to the world-famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
One of the greatest parties of the year in Ashland, every year, is the city's Fourth of July Celebration where in past years you could bump into part-time Ashland residents like Robert Redford and the late Robin Williams wandering around downtown.
If you ever get the chance, head to Ashland in early July.
Name of celebration: Fourth of July Weekend in Denver
Ingredients: Fireworks, live music, Friday Night Bazaar, Colorado Rockies (MLB), Colorado Rapids (MLS)
Bottom line: Few cities in American celebrate the Fourth of July like Denver, which has all-out fireworks displays for visitors on both July 3 and July 4.
The Independence Eve Celebration on July 3 features free live music, and the July 4 celebration somehow manages to top that, with the fireworks display's central hub being Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park.
Even for Denver's storied history of Fourth of July parties, 2021 promises to be the most over-the-top show of them all — including a July 1-4 homestand by the Colorado Rockies against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Idaho Falls, Idaho
Name of celebration: Melaleuca Freedom Celebration
Ingredients: Fireworks, Riverfest, live music, helicopter rides
Bottom line: Billed as the "largest fireworks show west of the Mississippi River," the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration draws people from all over the Rocky Mountain region to its annual blastoff, which includes almost 18,000 shells and lasts over 30 minutes.
Snake River Landing is a pretty epic place to watch a fireworks display. And the key to any good trip to Melaleuca is taking part in Riverfest, a party that goes on along the Snake River leading up to the Fourth of July.
Name of celebration: Fireworks at Navy Pier
Ingredients: Fireworks, Lake Michigan, Chicago (in our best Sinatra voice)
Bottom line: If experiencing the Fourth of July in a big city sounds like fun to you, a good place to be is Chicago, where Navy Pier lights up the sky over Lake Michigan.
Navy Pier is doing something pretty cool in 2021 with fireworks on every Saturday beginning in May to celebrate the reopening after being closed in 2020.
Most importantly, once the fireworks are done, you've got the entire city of Chicago right there at your fingertips.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Name of celebration: Go 4th on the River
Ingredients: Fireworks, Essence Festival, water show, Bourbon Street, French Quarter
Bottom line: This is another one of the celebrations that we're really looking forward to seeing back on the calendar in 2022 after both the 2020 and 2021 editions were canceled — the former because of the pandemic and the latter because of lack of corporate sponsorships.
It's hard to compete with New Orleans when it comes to throwing a party, and the Fourth of July represents one of the biggest opportunities to do that. We're rooting for you, NOLA, and we'll definitely be there for you when you bring this party back.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Name of celebration: Bar Harbor's Fourth of July
Ingredients: Craft fair, farmers market, live music, parade, fireworks, seafood festival
Bottom line: The best Fourth of July celebration in Maine is also one of the best Fourth of July celebrations in the whole country, according to no less than "The Today Show" and National Geographic.
Fireworks in Bar Harbor go off over Frenchman Bay, but you've got a whole day to experience all that the wonderful hamlet on Mount Desert Island has to offer. There's no better, unique location we can find for Fourth of July than Bar Harbor, and other people have found it too. An estimated 3.5 million visitors came to the island in 2017.
Oh, and after the fireworks, there's a seafood festival. Bring your appetite.
Name of celebration: Baltimore's Fourth of July Celebration
Ingredients: Fireworks, live music, dog show
Bottom line: You can see Baltimore's fireworks from the Inner Harbor all over downtown and other areas — Federal Hill, Fell's Point and Harbor East among them.
The Inner Harbor Amphitheatre has live music beginning in the evening and eventually syncs up with the fireworks. If you're looking for something fun to do during the day, head over to the American Visionary Art Museum's dog show at the West Shore Park on the waterfront.
Mow down some crab cakes while you're at it.
Traverse City, Michigan
Name of celebration: Fourth of July Fireworks
Bottom line: Traverse City's Fourth of July fireworks are put on by the TC Boom Boom Club and fireworks expert Bruce Tyree, who keeps the entire production in step with a custom-made soundtrack — even going so far as to use computer simulations to make sure everything matches up correctly.
West Grand Traverse Bay is where the big show goes down, and there's ample places to watch, including in the marina. This is truly a town effort, so you get to see a community come together to put on something magnificent.
Pro tip: Get on a boat and watch the show.
Name of celebration: Mississippi Gulf Coast Fourth of July Fireworks
Ingredients: Fireworks, casinos
Bottom line: Mississippi's signature fireworks show takes place on the Gulf Coast centered around Biloxi and explodes over the Mississippi Sound when they're set off from Deer Island.
If you want to do Biloxi's Fourth of July in style, the way to do it is to get a spot on one of the famous schooners that sail around Biloxi.
After the fireworks, you'll need to hop on the opportunity to go make some money at one of Biloxi's many casinos. We suggest the Beau Rivage, where you'll also find some top-notch accommodations.
Name of celebration: Red, White and Boom!
Ingredients: Fireworks, live music, street festival, children's park
Bottom line: The scope of Columbus' Red, White and Boom! celebration is something to behold. The metropolitan area of 2.2 million welcomes some 400,000 people to take part.
Everything takes place on July 3, like some other famous spots on our list, but that's not going to matter this year because officials couldn't get approved for their proposed date of July 2.
That just means we'll be ready for an even bigger party in 2022.
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
Name of celebration: Fourth of July at Patriots Point
Ingredients: Warships, fireworks, museum tours
Bottom line: Few, if any, Fourth of July experiences are as unique as what's offered at Patriots Point, where most years you can book a spot to watch the fireworks from the deck of the USS Yorktown, although it will have to be 2022 before we can do that again.
Right across the river from Charleston, the USS Yorktown is the centerpiece of the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.
The USS Yorktown was a military centerpiece in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam before it was retired and went on to a film career, most notably in "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and the science-fiction film "The Philadelphia Experiment."
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
Name of celebration: Fourth of July in the Black Hills
Ingredients: Fireworks, Mount Rushmore, Old West shootouts, car shows, rodeo
Bottom line: There are a significant number of Fourth of July celebrations going on throughout the Black Hills and Badlands — and it all circles around what goes down at Mount Rushmore.
Say whatever you want about the guys who ended up with their faces carved into the rock, but you'll have your breath taken away when the fireworks start to go off.
There's also rodeo. The famed Black Hills Roundup in Belle Fourche is only about an hour north and worth the trip.
Name of celebration: Seafair Summer Fourth
Ingredients: Fireworks, block parties
Bottom line: The Seafair summer party in Seattle has been going on since the late 1940s. But it didn't officially get a July 4 fireworks celebration over Lake Union until 2013 and quickly became one of the Emerald City's signature events.
It's definitely the place to be if you're in the Pacific Northwest, where Lake Union serves as a gigantic amphitheater.
Whenever you're in the Great Northwest, check out the Seafair party. You won't be disappointed.
Charleston, West Virginia
Name of celebration: Fourth of July Celebration
Ingredients: Fireworks, beer, burritos
Bottom line: You can spend your day riding bikes or hiking along the Kanawha City Bike Trail or on the Kanawha River before the Fourth of July celebrations hit in full force at Charleston, West Virginia.
What sets Charleston apart from other places is the length of the fireworks show. They go for a full hour of fireworks in Charleston. We're not the first to recommend it, but you also can't go wrong if you hit Charleston's Black Sheep Burritos and Brews before the show.
You'll deserve it after all that hiking and bike riding.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Name of celebration: Jackson Hole Fourth of July
Ingredients: Pancake breakfast, 10K race, parade, live music, fireworks, rodeo
Bottom line: Jackson Hole asks the question: How much can you fit into one Fourth of July holiday? If you make it to Jackson Hole, you can find out. Start your day off with a pancake breakfast, but don't eat too much because you've got a 10K to run not long after that.
Next, there's a parade followed by the Red, White and 2 concert series on July 3 and July 4 in Teton Village.
Had enough? You've still got more coming up — a "Town Square Shootout" re-enactment and a rodeo, then the big finale of fireworks over the Teton Mountains.
Coney Island, New York
Name of celebration: No specific name
Ingredients: Nathan's World Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, fireworks, carnival rides, baseball, beach, boardwalk
Bottom line: We all know what the draw is here. Come see humans try to defy physics and eat more hot dogs in 10 minutes than we think is possible in the Nathan's World Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, which can draw up to 40,000 spectators.
That's not all Coney Island has to offer on the Fourth of July, though. You'll also get a pretty decent fireworks display, and the local baseball team, the Brooklyn Cyclones, always play on the Fourth of July.
As far as bucket list Fourth of July destinations, this one should be right up there. Don't forget to hit the boardwalk.
Wilmington, North Carolina
Name of celebration: City of Wilmington Fourth of July Fireworks
Ingredients: Fireworks, river fun, barbecue, beach
Bottom line: Wilmington is one of North Carolina's treasures — and not just because its the hometown of Michael Jordan.
The city has a stand-up-and-clap fireworks display that you can see anywhere along the city's 2.5-mile Riverwalk area that bustles up to a quaint downtown area where there's fun (and Carolina BBQ) to be had.
After the fireworks are done don't be afraid to head out to the beach. It's only about a 10-miinute drive.
San Diego, California
Name of celebration: Big Bay Boom!
Ingredients: Fireworks, boats, beach, Gaslamp Quarter
Bottom line: We haven't included a lot of the bigger American cities on this list on purpose — bigger doesn't always mean better.
We'll make an exception for San Diego, which puts on a breathtaking fireworks display over the San Diego Bay called the Big Bay Boom! that will make you feel like your heart is going to leap out of your chest.
You can watch this one from almost anywhere within striking distance of the bay, and the city recommends that you don't drive. They've got shuttle services set up that will get you where you need to be.
Name of celebration: Let Freedom Sing!
Ingredients: Music, music, more music, and fireworks
Bottom line: Music lovers need to make their way to Nashville for the Fourth of July, where they are planning the largest fireworks display of all time in 2021. They'll also have the Grammy Award-winning Nashville Symphony synchronized with the display.
Country music star Brad Paisley is going to headline this year's Fourth of July concert, but that's not the only music you'll be able to catch in town by a long shot.
Virginia City, Nevada
Name of celebration: Fourth of July Parade
Ingredients: Parade, fireworks, live music
Bottom line: You're going to get a different experience in Virginia City on the Fourth of July than in many places. And you have to respect the organizers promising to "make you feel the boom of fireworks in your bones."
You can get a good idea of what the party is like in Virginia City around a couple of events. They have live music all day at the Bucket of Blood Saloon and the Ponderosa Saloon, and there's also a "Second Amendment Party" later in the day.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Name of celebration: Stars and Stripes Explosion
Ingredients: Fireworks, boardwalk, beach
Bottom line: Stroll along the beach and take in the massive Fourth of July celebration at Virginia Beach. You can also take it in from the boardwalk.
Located right on the Atlantic Ocean and at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, we're warning you ahead of time that this party can be a little overwhelming. There's already almost a half-million people living in Virginia Beach.
When the party goes off, it goes off. And you'll be happy you were there.
Name of celebration: Kaboom Town
Ingredients: Fireworks, air shows, flyovers
Bottom line: If you're trying to double up on great Fourth of July celebrations one year, you can make your way to Addison, Texas, where they get things cracking on July 3 with almost a half-million visitors and 1,500 pounds of fireworks.
Located just outside of Dallas, the fireworks show in Addison is so well-known it goes by Kaboom Town.
It's a massive tip of the hat to the absolute shockwaves coming out of Addison Circle Park.
St. Louis, Missouri
Name of celebration: Fair St. Louis
Ingredients: Fireworks, parties, Soulard District, live music, debutante balls
Bottom line: This, my friends, might be the party of all Fourth of July parties.
Nothing about St. Louis' Fair St. Louis goes small. You've got party after party in the days leading up to the Big Day.
Fair St. Louis went totally virtual in 2020 and dedicated itself to raising money for various charities but should be back under the Gateway Arch for 2021. Just make sure if you do make it to St. Louis for this particular holiday, go to the Soulard District and live it up a little.
Laconia, New Hampshire
Name of celebration: Weirs Beach Fourth of July Display
Ingredients: Fireworks, boats, lake, beach
Bottom line: The best fireworks show in New Hampshire takes place over Lake Winnipesaukee, where hopefully you'll be able to score a house on the shores of the lake or get aboard one of the cruise ships taking people on the water to see the show.
There's also a boardwalk to enjoy the fireworks from if you're so inclined, but Weirs Beach is where it's really going down. If you want to impress the locals, don't ask where Weirs Beach is.
Just ask how you get to "The Weirs" and ask about other things to do there as well.
Name of celebration: Cheyenne Fourth of July Celebration
Ingredients: Car shows, live music, fireworks
Bottom line: Just about three hours north of Denver, Cheyenne's Fourth of July is a great party that serves as an appetizer for a larger party to come after — Cheyenne Frontier Days.
That's not for everybody, however, so if you find yourself in Cheyenne for the Fourth of July, you'll be more than happy to see what the city has to offer for Independence Day.
Cheyenne Frontier Days hosts the Fourth of July celebration, so you know it's a good time.