Nothing says summer like a 4th of July weekend getaway. The United States is at its best, with big cities and small towns putting on their red, white, and blue finery to welcome everyone to celebrate the nation's birthday. Extra hours of daylight and warm temperatures make it an ideal time to explore new places, whether planning a beach day, a hike through nature, or hoping to soak in some history. Add some patriotic fireworks, and you've got all the makings of a memorable vacation in these top 4th July weekend getaway destinations.
Without Boston's rabble-rousers, there might never have been an Independence Day to celebrate. Tip your tricorn hat to the original patriots at stops along the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile walking tour through the event that led to the Revolutionary War. Then head to the Charles River Esplanade for the Boston Pops' annual July 4 concert and fireworks show. If you're lucky, you can also catch a home game at Fenway Park, America's oldest ballpark.
For the West Coast's biggest fireworks show, head to San Diego for Big Bay Boom. During this pyrotechnic extravaganza, fireworks are launched from four separate areas around the bay, making it easy to catch the show anywhere from Shelter Island to the downtown highrises. You can also reserve a place on the deck of the USS Midway, which provides music and special activities while you wait for the sun to set.
Rapid City is the gateway to Mount Rushmore, which provides a uniquely patriotic setting for July 4th fireworks. In the town itself, you can get a taste of the Old West at Fort Hays or explore Native American arts and culture at Prairie Edge & Sioux Trading Post. Plus, Rapid City is a great jumping-off point for exploring the beauty of the Black Hills.
The Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia, so it's no wonder the City of Brotherly Love goes all out on the Fourth. Visit Independence Hall to immerse yourself in the history of the founding document, then head to Penn's Landing for the best view of the fireworks.
This tiny New England town kicks off summer with several old-fashioned celebrations that will charm you into wanting to move here. There's a block party, bike parade, and music at the town gazebo. You can also take in the festivities at Asbury Grove, a historic camp meeting place that's still in operation today. If you need to cool off, head to Crane Beach in the neighboring town of Ipswich for soft sand and calm waters.
Bristol is home to America's oldest Fourth of July Celebration, which includes a parade that has been held annually since the early 1800s. There's also live music, road races, and fireworks over Bristol Harbor. You can also wander down Hope Street to browse the shops and grab an ice cream cone to lick as you watch the boats cruise the waterfront.
Stillwater is a small town located on the St. Croix River, which divides Minnesota and Wisconsin. Its natural beauty makes it a popular place for hikers, bikers, and campers all summer long. The annual Fourth of July celebration includes a parade, live music, and a fireworks display over the river.
Ever wonder what life was like when the Declaration of Independence was signed? A visit to Colonial Williamsburg lets you see for yourself. This living history museum recreates eighteenth-century Virginia's clothing, architecture, and even food, making it a truly immersive experience. On the Fourth, you hear the Declaration read aloud and special, period-appropriate festivities before fireworks at night.
For many years, residents of Vicksburg refused to celebrate the Fourth of July, as the date was also the anniversary of the town's surrender after a devastating siege during the Civil War. That all changed after D-Day, and now this gracious Southern town outdoes itself with fireworks, cannon demonstrations, outdoor concerts, and more.
Lititz is in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, making it an ideal spot for summertime family fun. The town goes all-out for the Fourth, with outdoor concerts, food trucks, a baby parade, and family games in Lititz Springs Park. The town is full of quaint bed and breakfasts, shops, and eateries that will keep you occupied for the rest of the weekend. Don't miss a tour of the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, where you can try your hand at pretzel twisting.
Niagara Falls is a classic summer vacation location, thanks to the refreshing mist that rises from the falls to cool the area. The falls form the backdrop of a spectacular light show in the evenings, and the effect is only heightened by the holiday fireworks. The best views are from Clifton Hill or—for those with excellent timing—the Niagara SkyWheel.
Looking to escape the hustle and bustle of an urban Independence Day? Take the ferry to car-free Mackinac Island, where everyone gets around on foot, by bicycle, or in a horse-drawn carriage. Enjoy an 1880s-style celebration at Fort Mackinac, or enter the annual stone-skipping tournament at Windemere Beach.
Milwaukee's Summerfest bills itself as the world's largest musical festival, and the timing couldn't be better, as it takes place over three weekends that span the July Fourth holiday. The city's stages host some of the biggest names in music, from country artists to Top 40 bands. Best of all, the venues are right along Lake Michigan, so you're in the perfect place to see the fireworks show, too.
Portsmouth combines historic architecture with the grit of a working waterfront and the class of upscale shops and restaurants, making it a popular destination for summer day-trippers. Head to Strawbery Banke for An American Celebration, a July 4th festival featuring historical games and demonstrations. The event opens with New Hampshire's annual US Naturalization Ceremony, where the country's newest citizens are made. It's a moving way to remember what the day—and the country—is all about.
Summer is the best time to visit Alaska, and it's a completely unique place to watch fireworks since most towns won't even start the show until midnight when the sky finally gets dark enough. Anchorage hosts a holiday carnival, or you can head to the small town of Glacier for the annual 4th of July car launch, where residents celebrate by launching their clunkers off a cliff.