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6 Places to Have a Blast on the Fourth of July

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Whether you’re looking to bliss out on a sleepy shoreline, cheer at a hot dog-eating contest or run a 5K, TPG Contributor Adam Erace highlights six destinations — besides the usual Fourth of July holiday hotspots like Boston, Philly and D.C. — where you can be sure to have a fantastic Independence Day.

1. New York City

Arrive: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA) or Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).

Do: Let everyone else decamp to the Hamptons and deal with the crowds and traffic. There’s a ton going on for the holiday right here in New York City, from the ESPN-televised Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Championship (pictured below) to the Roaring ’20s-inspired rooftop burlesque Liberty Belle Costume Extravaganza. Finish off an exciting day by watching Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks — happening on the East River side of Manhattan this year — as the event celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. When it’s time to eat, be sure to check out one of the 10 best restaurants in New York for Broadway dining.

Nathan's 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island.
Don’t miss Nathan’s Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest each year in Coney Island, Brooklyn. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Stay: Have you been saving up those free-night certificates from your Hyatt credit card? This holiday weekend would be a good time to use them at the Park Hyatt New York, a luxury tower in Midtown where The Points Guy enjoyed a brief stay in 2014. Rooms start at $642 or 30,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night over the weekend — you should be able to book your free nights over the phone through a hotel representative even if there’s no award availability. For more hotel suggestions in NYC, check out these reviews of the Radisson Martinique, the Sheraton Tribeca, W New York Times SquareAndaz Wall Street and Andaz 5th Avenue.

2. Amelia Island, Florida

Arrive: Jacksonville International Airport (JAX).

Do: Located just northeast of Jacksonville, Florida, Amelia Island is home to a gorgeous shoreline, a pair of state parks and charming towns like Fernandina Beach, which hosts a family-friendly farmers’ market every Saturday. Pick up some picnic provisions for lunch and while the day away on the beach ’til it’s time to head over to the Ritz-Carlton’s annual barbecue buffet, concert and oceanfront fireworks display — admission is $99 for adults and $29 for children ages 5-12).

The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island in Florida. Photo courtesy of the resort.
Treat yourself to beachside BBQ at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island in Florida. Image courtesy of the resort.

Stay: You don’t necessarily need to be a guest at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island to attend the barbecue and fireworks extravaganza, but wouldn’t it be nice to just amble back up to your room and pass out, suntanned and satisfied, after the last embers die? The property is currently unavailable for check-in on July 2, but is showing availability July 3 and 4 from $499 per night or 50,000 points per night. (Use your Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card at this rate, and you’re entitled to a complimentary bump to a Club Level room.)

As an alternative, the nearby Hampton Inn Amelia Island at Fernandina Beach is just a block from the beach, and rooms through the holiday weekend start at just $189 or 30,000 Hilton HHonors points per night.

3. Newport, Rhode Island

Arrive: T.F. Green Airport (PVD).

Do: With its historic mansions and lively marinas, Rhode Island’s posh boating capital makes a classic American getaway for the Fourth. The parade in nearby Bristol — which, by the way, is the oldest Fourth of July celebration in America — begins at 10:30am. Spend the rest of the day at Easton’s Beach before fireworks over Newport Harbor begin at around 9:15pm.

The lawn at Castle Hill Inn, Newport, Rhode Island. Image courtesy of the hotel.
The lawn at Castle Hill Inn, Newport, Rhode Island. Image courtesy of the hotel.

Stay: The Castle Hill Inn is a 140-year-old Relais & Châteaux stunner situated on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic. You’ll find a fantastic restaurant on site and prime fireworks-viewing perches on the resort’s rolling emerald lawn. There’s also a dedicated water taxi from Castle Hill’s marina into town.

Cardholders of the The Platinum Card from American Express and its The Enhanced Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN version can book a stay at the Castle Hill Inn through the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts portal to receive a $100 hotel credit. Or, if you hold any American Express Membership Rewards card — like the EveryDay Preferred, for instance — you can redeem Membership Rewards or earn bonus points by booking through the American Express Travel portal.

4. Park City, Utah

Arrive: Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC).

Do: An active, outdoorsy Independence Day kicks off in Park City with a 7am pancake breakfast, followed by a 5K run and a parade that rides 70 floats deep. Games and free live music get going in City Park’s pop-up beer garden by 5:30pm, culminating with a barbecue and fireworks. For more on what to do here, check out this post: 7 Winter Ski Destinations to Spend Your Summer Vacation.

The Fourth of July parade in Park City, Utah. Image courtesy of Park City Mountain Resort.

Stay: Hyatt Escala Lodge is a handsome stone-and-timber compound where the beds have mahogany-and-wrought-iron headboards and the pools have adjacent fireplaces. Rooms start at $309 per night over Fourth of July weekend, though rooms start at just $144 or 15,000 Hyatt points on the holiday itself (there’s no award availability on July 2 or 3). For more lodging suggestions, check out our Destination of the Week: Park City post, and reviews of the Silver Baron Lodge and The St. Regis Deer Valley.

5. Orlando, Florida

Arrive: Orlando International Airport (MCO).

Do: July is the most consistently crowded month at Orlando theme parks. That said, the central Florida city still makes an excellent Independence Day destination — without ever setting foot in Disney or Universal. Don’t miss the 24th annual 5K and watermelon-eating contest in Winter Park (also home to great restaurants) and Fireworks at the Fountain in Lake Eola Park, downtown.

Orlando’s fireworks are pretty spectacular. Image courtesy of City of Orlando.

Stay: Located within the same development as the Wyndham Grand Orlando and Waldorf Astoria Orlando, the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek has comfortable, spacious rooms starting at $119 or 40,000 HHonors points the night of July 4 (unfortunately, the hotel is sold out the rest of the weekend).

6. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Arrive: Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport (MSP).

Do: Threaded with greenways, canals and lakes, Minneapolis offers the best of the big city and the best of nature this Fourth of July. Weekend programming includes the city’s annual Red, White & Boom! half-marathon and an amazing fireworks display.

Uncle Sam appears at the Red, White and Boom! Fourth of July race in Minneapolis. Image courtesy of Twin Cities in Motion.

Stay: Conveniently located downtown and within walking distance of prime fireworks-viewing areas, the W Minneapolis – The Foshay is available over the holiday weekend, with rates starting at $106 or 12,000 Starpoints per night. Rates July 4 start at an unbelievable $88 per night if you’re sticking around to enjoy the festivities til Tuesday.

Where are you celebrating the Fourth of July this year? Let us know, below.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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