Whether you like fireworks, contests, parades, or picnics — our nation’s birthday party has something for everyone. There are patriotic concerts, rodeos, and historic re-enactments. Yahoo Travel went in search of the best places to ooh and ahh in every state. From sea to shining sea, here are the 51 best Fourth of July celebrations.
Alabama — Grand Bay Watermelon Festival
Refreshing watermelon is a part of celebrations across the country, but in Grand Bay it is the focus of the day. Slice your way through the Grand Bay Watermelon Festival that includes a car show, pretty baby contest, and family entertainment.
Alaska — Seward Independence Day Celebration
Every year, participants celebrate the 4th by racing up and down a mountain for Seward’s annual Mount Marathon Race. (Photo: Design Pics Inc / Alamy)
Egg and spoon races, water balloons, and a nail driving contest are the hallmarks of an old-fashioned fourth at the Seward Independence Day Celebration. Of course, the fireworks are a bit later than in the other forty-nine states. You’ll have to wait until midnight for the sky to darken enough for the show.
Arizona — Celebration of Freedom in Mesa
At the Celebration of Freedom in Mesa, it’s mostly about the music, performed on three stages. But they do manage to squeeze in a revolutionary war re-enactment, a naturalization ceremony welcoming new citizens, and splash zones for the kids. Now that’s a party!
Arkansas — 5th Annual Cardboard Boat Race Ozark
Races of all types take place on the Fourth, but the 5th Annual Cardboard Boat Race in Ozark is one of the most unusual we found anywhere. After the winners are crowned, you can enjoy the fireworks display from your boat—assuming it’s still afloat.
California — 4th at the Wharf
Chow down on some chowder then watch the fireworks over Fisherman’s Wharf. (Photo: Fisherman’s Wharf/Facebook)
Small-town celebrations stir our nostalgia on our nations’ birthday, but big cities know how to light up the skies. San Francisco has an amazing show, with fireworks coming across the bay from two locations. 4th at the Warf includes afternoon activities and fireworks cruises on the bay.
Colorado — Colorado Springs Philharmonic July 4th Concert
In Colorado, celebrate with the perfect blend of class and patriotism. (Photo: Colorado Springs Philharmonic/Facebook)
Colorado Springs Philharmonic July 4th Concert kicks off with the Fort Carson 4th Infantry Division Band and the USAF Academy Band’s Blue Steel. The Philharmonic takes the stage before the grand finale of fireworks at dusk.
Connecticut— Red, White, and Blues BBQ in Norfolk
Nothing is more American than baseball. Cap your celebration in Bridgeport by watching the Bridgeport Bluefish take on the York Revolution on Saturday, followed by a USA Birthday Fireworks Extravaganza held at the stadium.
Delaware — Dover Fourth of July Celebration
What better place to celebrate than in the capital of the first state in the union? The Dover Fourth of July Celebration includes a bell ringing ceremony at the Old State House and a concert by the Army Band of the Delaware National Guard.
Florida — The Key Lime Festival
Love Key Lime pie? Then this is the festival for you! (Photo: The Key Lime Pie Festival)
In Key West, they put a new twist on the American tradition of pie eating contests on the Fourth. Down here the pies are cool and green. Enjoy The Key Lime Festival as part of the annual island picnic that includes fireworks over the water.
Wrap up your celebrations on the Fourth by watching the Atlanta Braves play the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field, followed by the All-American Fireworks Spectacular.
Hawaii — Picnic on the Pier at the Battleship Missouri Memorial
The freedoms we celebrate have come with a high price. Remember those who fought for our continued freedom during an old-fashioned Picnic on the Pier at the Battleship Missouri Memorial.
Idaho — Children’s Bike Decorating Contest Idaho Falls
In Boise, they put the kids in the center of the action with a Children’s Bike Decorating Contest. There’s also a chalk art festival, live entertainment, fireworks, and a 3-D outdoor movie after the fireworks.
Illinois — Ribfest in Naperville
Ribs + beer + rides + fireworks + music + more ribs = best 4th of July ever! (Photo: Naperville Ribfest - Presented by Exchange Club/Facebook)
Food.Fireworks. Craft Beer. The Band Perry. There really is nothing more to say. Ribfest happens in Naperville Thursday through Sunday.
Indiana — Fourth of July Picnic on Mass Avenue in Indy
The Fourth of July Picnic on Mass Avenue includes an all-you-can-eat buffet and prime viewing seats for the fireworks. It’s a small town sort of thing that takes place in the heart of the city.
Iowa — Freedom Fest Pancake Breakfast Cedar Rapids
In Cedar Rapids, they take freedom seriously. They started the celebration in mid-June. Kick off your busy day on the Fourth at the Freedom Fest Pancake Breakfast. Have a big stack; it’s going to be a busy day filled with car shows, concerts, and a hotdog throwdown.
Kansas — 144th Wamego Independence Day Parade
The 144th Wamego Independence Day Parade is one of the few evening parades in the country. That leaves you all day to enjoy the ice cream and cake socials, the Hot Wheels races, and the homemade pie dinner.
Kentucky — 4th of July Celebration in Independence
The 4th of July Celebration in Independence is your chance to celebrate the nation’s birthday in an appropriately-named town. Enjoy classic cars, music, and fireworks at the end of the day.
Louisiana — Go 4th on the River
Go forth, watch the fireworks on the NoLa riverfront, and then drink some celebratory cocktails on Bourbon St. (Photo: Tim Vo/Flickr)
Go 4th on the River is a spectacular celebration that features the red, white, and blue water cannons of the General Roy S. Kelley fireboat and dueling fireworks on the Mississippi.
Maine — Blueberry Pancake Breakfast in Bar Harbor
Bar Harbor may not be the only place to have a pancake breakfast on the fourth, but they serve the only Blueberry Pancake Breakfast we could find. Just don’t eat too many; there’s a Seafood Festival all afternoon.
Maryland — Fireworks at Inner Harbor
Francis Scott Key penned the Star-Spangled Banner after witnessing the Battle of Baltimore. Enjoy Fireworks at Inner Harbor in a patriotic tribute to the beginning or our nation.
Massachusetts — Independence Day Celebration in Old Sturbridge Village
Enjoy a traditional Independence Day Celebration in the 1830’s living history museum of Old Sturbridge Village. Make your own tri-cornered hat, learn dances from the 19th century, and enjoy traditional food and music.
The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular is also a much-anticipated show.
Michigan — Mackinac Island’s Star Spangled Fourth
Experience the 38 Gun Salute cannon firing from one of only two remaining Revolutionary War Forts while enjoying modern activities during Mackinac Island’s Star Spangled Fourth.
Cannon blasts, musket firing, dancing, and more! (Photo: Minnesota Historical Society)
Minnesota — Independence Day Celebration at Historic Fort Snelling
The Independence Day Celebration at Historic Fort Snelling includes egg races, fife and drum performances, and mock battles. Follow that with free fireworks watched from Indian Mounds Regional Park in St. Paul.
Mississippi — Celebrate America Balloon Glow in Ridgeland
The Celebrate America Balloon Glow and fireworks takes place on Friday the 3rd in Ridgeland and in Canton on the Fourth. There’s a hot air ballooning competition flight early on the Fourth and activities throughout the day.
Related: Survival Guide for 4th of July
Missouri — KC RiverFest
Bring your lawn chairs, coolers, and sunscreen for a day of fun at the Berkley Riverfront Park. The KC RiverFest features food, two stages of musical performances, and of course, fireworks.
Montana — Madison Valley Fourth of July Rodeo
If you are west of the Mississippi, Fourth of July Celebrations often include rodeos. One of the oldest in the country is the Madison Valley Fourth of July Rodeo. And every good rodeo starts with a parade. There’s also a pancake breakfast and barbecue.
Nebraska — Firecracker 50 Bike Ride
Grab your penny-farthing (or a more standard model) and ride through Seward. (Photo: Sarah (Rosenau) Korf/Flickr)
Seward has been celebrating the Fourth for more than 140 years in small town fashion. The schedule of events includes the Firecracker 50 Bike Ride. Choose the full fifty miles, or any distance you want. Ride at your own pace, then head for “Food Alley” to refuel.
Pony Express horseback riders present the flags at the head of the Freedom to Celebrate 4th of July Parade in Ely. There are firetrucks, police cars, and children’s floats. End the day with the craziest fireworks show you will ever see. It is probably the only place you can ride a train while watching a fireworks show shot from the train itself. It’s called the Fireworks Express.
New Hampshire — Log Rolling Contest in Umbagog
In Umbagog, the nation’s birthday is celebrated with an outdoor flair. Events include a Log Rolling Contest, whitewater rafting and kayaking, fishing, and pontoon boat tours. Fireworks start at dusk.
New Jersey — Beach n’ Boardwalk 5K Run
The Beach n’ Boardwalk 5K Run and 1 Mile Family Fun Walk have special awards for the most patriotic dressed in every age group. Round out your day stretched on a blanket enjoying the sounds of the Philly POPS in concert that leads up to the fireworks.
New Mexico — Pancakes on the Plaza
Pancakes on the Plaza has been Santa Fe’s way to start the party for more than forty years. Enjoy your pancakes amid classic cars and live music.
New York — Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island
Because what’s more American than watching people shovel insane amounts of hot dogs into their faces? (Photo: John A. Angelillo/Corbis)
While most American’s toss down a dog or two on the Fourth, the entrants in Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island may gobble as many as sixty. Witness the fun then head into the city for the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks.
North Carolina — Faith 4th of July
The celebration has already begun at the Faith 4th of July. Join the party this weekend that includes an egg toss and a non-professional hot dog eating contest.
North Dakota — Mandan Rodeo Days
The state’s largest rodeo has been part of the Fourth of July celebration for 136 years. Mandan Rodeo Days is the main event, but there’s also a car show, a 5K run, and two parades.
The Cleveland Orchestra Star-Spangled Spectacular features gourmet food trucks, Jumbotron video, and fireworks set to the 1812 Overture.
Oklahoma — LibertyFest in Edmond
Libertyfest fireworks at the University of Central Oklahoma. (Photo: Poromshunno/Flickr)
LibertyFest in Edmond on Route 66 has eleven events including a parade, concert, a kite festival, and beauty pageant. The rodeo and fireworks round out the crazy busy week.
For something completely out of the ordinary, try the Oregon Coast Railroad 4th of July Excursion. You board the train in Garibaldi and ride to Rockaway Beach for the fireworks show.
Pennsylvania —Celebration of Freedom and Independence Day Parade in Philadelphia
The party in Philly is as big as you would expect. The Celebration of Freedom and Independence Day Parade features more than 6,000 floats, marching bands, and antique cars. The day wraps up with fireworks over the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Rhode Island — 4th of July Parade in Bristol
4th of July in Bristol is full of rhythm, soul, and history! (Photo: Bristol Fourth/Facebook)
The 4th of July Parade in Bristol is thought to be one of the oldest in the country. It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to see bands and drum corps from all over the country.
South Carolina — Lexington County Peach Festival
The Lexington County Peach Festival is where you celebrate America’s birthday with peach cobbler, peach ice cream, and peach iced tea. There’s a car show, a parade, and Revolutionary War re-enactments to round out the day of peachy indulgence.
South Dakota — Independence Day Celebration at Mount Rushmore
The lighting of the monument ceremony is the highlight of Independence Day Celebration at Mount Rushmore. Enjoy Native music, the USAF Concert Band, and presidential reenactors throughout the weekend.
Tennessee — Music City July 4th Concerts
Music City July 4th Concerts is certainly about music performed by Nashville’s biggest stars, but there are also water slides, climbing walls, and fireworks set to a live performance by the Nashville Symphony.
Spend the 4th rockin’ out with a true American icon. (Photo: Circuit of The Americas/Facebook)
Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic has been a holiday staple for more than forty years. This year the day-long party features twenty artists on two stages in a return to its roots in Austin.
Utah — Park City 4th of July Parade
Park City 4th of July Parade has more than 70 floats. Follow that with food and music in City Park and at Park City Mountain Resort, where the fireworks begin at dusk.
Vermont — Old Fashioned Fourth of July in Stowe
Old Fashioned Fourth of July in Stowe includes not one, but two parades, hay rides, and the World’s Shortest Marathon. The 1.7 mile fun run is open to all.
Virginia — Spirit of America Laser Show
The Virginia Living Museum in Newport News offers an prelude to evening fireworks in the presentation of the Spirit of America Laser Show featuring American rock and country music. Follow the laser show with the 4th of July Stars in the Sky fireworks show with music performed by the USAF Heritage of America Band ensemble.
Washington — Firecracker 5000 5k Midnight Run
Break out your running shoes and your craziest, most festive outfits and get ready to run! (Photo: Firecracker 5000 5K/Facebook)
Get a jump on the celebration by starting the night before. The Firecracker 5000 5k Midnight Run in Seattle is the cool way to start your celebration.
West Virginia — Fayetteville Lions club Fourth of July
Race your way through the holiday at the Fayetteville Lions Club Fourth of July celebration. The fun includes frog jumping and turtle races, followed by 3-legged and sack races. Rest up from the races, then settle in for an evening of live music and fireworks.
Wisconsin — Boat Parade Greenlake
The Boat Parade in Greenlake follows a morning of pancakes and rubber duck races. A traditional street parade comes next, with the busy day wrapping up with fireworks on the bay.
Wyoming — Historic Jackson Hole Rodeo
After a day surrounded by cowboys at the Jackson Hole Rodeo, head to the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar for steak and beer. (Photo: Hemis / Alamy)
In Jackson Hole, the entertainment includes a wild west-style shootout performance in the street and of course, the famous Jackson Hole Rodeo
Washington DC — National Mall Fourth of July Celebration
4th of July. Fireworks. The National Mall. Could this BE any more patriotic? (Maybe, but it would have to involve a bald eagle crying). (Photo: Shutterstock)
Our list would not be complete without the biggest celebration of all–the National Mall Fourth of July Celebration. The National Parks Service states that the fireworks are “BIG and LOUD.” We would expect no less in celebrating America’s birthday.