Best July 4th Vacations Across America

Chicago Convetion & Tourism Bureau

With its day-long beach parties, afternoon parades, nightly concerts, and dazzling fireworks, July 4th isn't an everyday holiday – it's the birthday of the good ol' U.S. of A., and everyone's invited to the countrywide party.

With its day-long beach parties, afternoon parades, nightly concerts, and dazzling fireworks, July 4th isn't an everyday holiday – it's the birthday of the good ol' U.S. of A., and everyone's invited to the countrywide party.

Whether paying tribute to American history or just enjoying traditional summer pastimes is the name of the game, our compatriots at put together a list of top places to celebrate July 4th. 's list is solely domestic, for obvious reasons, and includes some blatant picks (Washington, D.C.) but some surprises as well (Virgin Islands).

For those Americans who want to get down with the patriotism, check out these 10 places across the country and let us know what you think.

Have other plans for July 4th? Let us know about those, too.

July 4th Locations
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Best July 4th Vacations Across America (PHOTOS)

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 destinations for July 4th vacations.

More than 200 events make up a six-day calendar during the annual Boston Harborfest, which kicks off on June 29th and continues through the Independence Day holiday. This patriotic celebration focuses on the city’s strong maritime and colonial heritage, and unfolds, as such, along the waterfront, on the Harbor Islands, and in the city's downtown area. Expect a slew of events (many of them free), ranging from fireworks, concerts, kids’ days, cruises, tours, reenactments, and more.

Barbecues, beer, bonfires, and fantastic fireworks – if there's one beach destination that packs a party on Independence Day, it’s San Diego. The sprawling shores along Mission and Pacific beaches are crowded with merry sunbathers from dawn till dusk – some dedicated holiday celebrants arrive at daybreak to ensure a prime spot on the sand.

There are plenty of oh-so-American activities t enjoy – like the three-week-long San Diego County Fair on the Del Mar Fairgrounds. But the real action starts after dark, when a no-holds-barred pyrotechnics show lights up the sky before fizzling into the ocean. Explosions go off all night long, but the largest display (and’s favorite) is the Big Bay Fireworks show at 9pm.

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, Philly is a no-brainer pick for July 4th vacations, as Philadelphians are still ready to get all riled up in the name of independence, with a superb weeklong celebration. Head to the most iconic symbol of freedom, the Liberty Bell, as well as the historic sites in Independence Hall. 

Expect free concerts, a July 4th parade, and fireworks on view above the Philadelphia Museum of Art while listening to Earth Wind & Fire and The Roots rock out.

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, July 4th vacations wouldn't be complete without a colorful fireworks extravaganza – the most elaborate display is set to patriotic music and lights up the sky over Navy Pier, a superb location with sweeping skyline views along Lake Michigan. Be sure to grab a seat at the Navy Pier Beer Garden before the show to listen to free performances by stellar Chicago-area bands, which jam to the blues, classic rock, and pop.

With their sand dunes and salty air, lighthouses and quaint fishing villages, Cape Cod and its neighboring islands make superb retreats for July 4th vacations, with dozens of parades, picnics, and fairs that will have you humming the “Star Spangled Banner” all holiday long.

Three of’s favorite Independence Day events are the barbecue at the Old Whaling Church in Martha's Vineyard (in Edgartown), where you'll get 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 fireworks display on Jetties Beach.

Watching a bald eagle fly overhead is bound to get anyone 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, spend July 4th on the eponymous San Juan Island, where visitors will find the aptly named Fourth of July Beach along Griffin Bay. Claim aspot along the sand, and spend the day swimming, playing softball, and roasting marshmallows on bonfires below the tide line.

Don’t miss the annual Pig War Picnic, named for the so-called “Pig War” waged on the island between Brits and Americans in 1859. The commemorative picnic takes place on nearby Price Street, following the Friday Harbor parade, and serves up equal parts burgers and hot dogs with good old-fashioned fun.

The Cunard Line’s prestigious Queen Mary 2 embodies the essence of luxury cruising, and the ship's five-night Fourth of July Getaway over the July 4th weekend is a brilliant opportunity to hail the Queen stateside (while celebrating our separation from the British monarchy!).

This special local sailing – most QM2 itineraries cover transatlantic jaunts – departs from New York City on July 1st and calls on Boston and Halifax . Spend the July 4th vacation sampling the ship's numerous restaurants, five pools, and a calendar jam-packed with activities during the additional days at sea.

St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John comprise a tantalizing trio of Caribbean isles with U.S. territory status (no passport needed here), 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 4th (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 July 4th vacations a cultural treat and a bona fide bargain. Imagine celebrating July 4th drinking a rum punch instead of beer and painting the town red, white, and blue at Caribbean-flavored bashes at night.

Of course the nation’s capital is going to rank as one of the top 10 places to take a July 4th vacation and 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 on the National Mall. The festival runs June 30th through July 11th and features 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; it makes for an impressive spectacle against the backdrop of imposing national monuments. Finally, as night falls on July 4th, 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. As a grand finale, the concert is followed by one of the nation’s largest and most visually impressive fireworks displays, illuminating the night sky above the Washington Monument.

Acclaimed as one of the top 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 July 4th vacations.

he 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 at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Follow the Avenue of Flags from the Concession Building to the Presidential Trail – a half-mile path with a close up view of the mountain carvings. Or head to the Grandview Terrace above the Lincoln Borglum Museum or the memorial’s amphitheater.

July 3rd is the day to be there (with some additional events carrying over to the 4th itself) as a slew of commemorative events are scheduled – note that the fireworks display, typically held that night, is canceled for 2011, due to fire hazard.


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