5 Spectacular Spots for Celebrating the Fourth of July

Some of America’s best birthday bashes.

By Hannah Doyle

On the Fourth of July, there’s hardly a city in the U.S. where you can’t find dazzling sparklers or daylong barbecues in honor of the nation’s birthday. But some celebrations are bigger than others. To make sure the holiday is one to remember, we’ve rounded up standout events around the country, from a fireworks extravaganza taking place over the Pacific to a small town’s parade, each of which is worth driving a few extra miles for.

St. Louis, Missouri

The Lou spends a full three days celebrating the red, white, and blue at Fair Saint Louis (Gateway Arch National Park; 314-434-3434; admission, free; July 4–7). The festivities range from an air show to musical acts, headlined this year by Jason Derulo and Martina McBride. But in 2018, the star attraction is the unveiling of a $380 million renovation of Gateway Arch National Park (11 N. Fourth St.; 314-655-1600; entrance to the Arch, $3), which opens on July 3rd. The park’s 100 acres are more pleasant and accessible than ever thanks to a new land bridge stretching over Interstate 44. The on-site museum has also been overhauled, with new interactive exhibits detailing the creation of the Arch as well as the country’s westward expansion.

San Diego, California

Four barges loaded with fireworks spread throughout San Diego Bay for Big Bay Boom, the largest Independence Day celebration on the West Coast. The 18-minute pyrotechnic party draws in more than 500,000 people. Though the fireworks can be seen from almost anywhere along the bay, it’s hard to beat the view from the water. You can rent a boat for the occasion from Seaforth Boat Rentals (888-834-2628; prices vary; bookings for the fourth of July fireworks must be made by phone).

Aspen, Colorado

If you prefer your holiday on a quainter scale, there are few towns more charming than Aspen, whose Old Fashioned 4th of July includes a parade, live music, a carnival with bounce houses and face painting, and even a kids’ bicycle rodeo. The Rocky Mountains are a dreamy backdrop for the fireworks show.

Washington, D.C.

Is there a more iconic place to ring in America’s birthday than the nation’s capital? There’s plenty to do, from a free concert at the U.S. Capitol to a baseball game (the Washington Nationals vs. the Boston Red Sox) at Nationals Park (1500 S. Capitol St. SE; 202-675-6287; tickets, from $12) to the main event, a fireworks show along the National Mall, where bright zingers are set off above the reflection pool and Washington Monument. And then there’s the National Independence Day Parade, complete with giant floats and a fife-and-drum corps.

Charleston, South Carolina

The Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum puts on a show bound to appeal to both kids and history buffs. Tickets to its Fourth of July Fireworks Blast (tickets, from $40) secure you a spot aboard the USS Yorktown, a WWII aircraft carrier, from which you can watch the fireworks. Beforehand, stop by Riverfront Park (1061 Everglades Ave.) to play games and fuel up at one of the many food trucks that park here.

  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: June 2018