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From world class airshows to city-wide parades and fife corps, the nation sure does know how to throw a big birthday bash. In honor of the red, white and blue, we’re highlighting some of the greatest July Fourth celebrations and fireworks displays across the country, so you can plan your Independence Day festivities in style. From the shot heard round the world to the biggest bang for your buck, find the perfect July 4 for you.
During Boston Harborfest, now in its 37th year, visitors can attend musical reenactments, dramatic readings, Freedom Trail walks, boat tours and more from late June through July 4. (If you have a penchant for colonial fife music, this is the city for you.) The celebrations continues with the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, a concert and fireworks show along the Charles River Esplanade, on Independence Day. This year’s headliner, Rachel Patton (of Fight Song fame), will be accompanied by the much-celebrated Boston Pops Orchestra. The show often ends with an epic cannon-laden finale of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and a fireworks finale for all of Boston and Cambridge to enjoy.
New York City, New York
Macy’s, the host of many citywide celebrations, pops off with a serious firework display along the East River every year on July 4. First launched in 1958, the show designers have had a lot of time to perfect their game, and this year they plan to showcase 20 new kinds of pyrotechnic effects and launch a whopping 75,000 shells. To kick things off, Kelly Clarkson has been tapped to perform a soulful tribute to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” alongside the West Point Band & Glee Club with fireworks to follow. Start planning your own viewing party in Williamsburg or Greenpoint, in Brooklyn, or along Midtown’s East Side for the best glimpse of the show.
If you’re looking for a particularly patriotic display with drum corps, floats, giant balloons and marching bands, Washington DC’s National Independence Day Parade should be your July Fourth destination this year. You’ll find many a flag-waving opportunity along the parade route on Constitution Avenue NW. If you’re looking for a star spangled musical salute, be sure to check out PBS’s “A Capitol Fourth” on the West Lawn of the US Capitol. Hosted by John Stamos, this event has acts ranging from Pentatonix, The Beach Boys and Renee Fleming to Jimmy Buffett and the Broadway cast of Escape to Margaritavilla. For TPG sports fans out there, catch the Nationals playing the Red Sox at Nationals Park. With the first pitch at 11:05am, it might be best to stay overnight at the luxurious W Washington DC, conveniently located along the National Mall (rooms start at 20,000 Starpoints). Make sure to make your way back to the Jefferson Memorial for an epic view of the fireworks starting at 8:00pm.
Music City holds an appropriately melodic birthday bash for the nation each year. The annual Let Freedom Sing! concert and fireworks show features a block party along downtown Broadway. With Lady Antebellum as the headliner and a show-stopping fireworks display choreographed to song selections from the Grammy award winning Nashville Symphony, it’s sure to be quite the musical event. If you’re looking for some local fun during the day, check out the 13th Annual Music City Hot Chicken Festival. Enjoy Nashville’s take on hot, buffalo chicken with pickles, fire trucks on parade, cooking competitions and even a Hot Chicken art show.
If you’re heading to Chi-Town for your July 4 festivities, make your way to the Navy Pier for the annual lakefront fireworks starting at 9:30pm. For the best views, make a reservation on one of the many cruises hosted by boat companies such as Shoreline Sightseeing, Tall Ship Windy and Spirit Cruises. For those staying ashore, take a spin on the iconic Centennial Wheel, which boasts spectacular views of downtown and Lake Michigan. Music lovers should head over to the Shedd Aquarium, on the shores of Lake Michigan, which has an unobstructed fireworks view from its terrace. For access, buy tickets ($25) to a July Fourth edition of Jazzin’ at the Shedd. At this weekly after-hours event you’ll enjoy live jazz music, cocktails and — most importantly — terrace access.
Attention all AvGeeks: Addison “Kaboom Town!” Texas hosts an an extensive July 4 airshow with aerobatic maneuvers, skydiving, day show flyovers and a spectacular night flight by Gene Soucy Airshows. A day before, on July 3, this tiny enclave just north of Dallas attracts half a million visitors from all over Texas with its world-class fireworks display. This lauded spectacle has even received accolades from the American Pyrotechnics Association. For travelers with small children, the celebration hosts a carnival with face painting and games, while adults can check out one of the many viewing parties hosted by the town’s litany of breweries, restaurants and hotels. Stay at the Le Méridien Dallas by the Galleria (from 7,000 Starpoints) — it’s just 10 minutes away from all the action.
San Diego, California
San Diego claims to have the largest fireworks display in southern California, and quite possibly the West Coast. A quartet of barges makes it easy to get a great view from a number of popular viewing spots along the bay. For a bit of military history, step aboard the San Diego USS Midway Air Museum, a real aircraft carrier and museum that hosts an annual family picnic-style fireworks viewing. For the best pyrotechnic views, reserve a dinner on the Hornblower 4th of July VIP Fireworks Dinner Cruise — or make reservations at one of the many participating restaurants for dinner and an electric show. During the day, head to San Diego’s Historic Old Town. The highly photogenic neighborhood hosts a Gold Rush-inspired day of egg tosses, cherry pit-spitting contests and contra dancing.
Know before you go.
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