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How AFAR Celebrates the Fourth of July

From small-town parades to camping in Yosemite—here’s how we celebrate.

We’re a festive bunch here at AFAR. Whether we’re Crashing a Japanese Karaoke Party or planning an epic trip around Southeast Asia’s New Year Celebrations, we’re always down for a good time in the name of a national holiday. This year, as we count down the days (four to go!) to America’s birthday celebrations, we’re asking each other the big question: How do you ring in the Fourth of July? 

“Fireworks all the way! Because you can’t beat the beauty and excitement of Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks over the New York City skyline!” —Katie Galeotti, marketing & special projects director

“Fireworks! One Fourth of July celebration that really sticks out in my memory was in Ouray, Colorado. The morning began with a 10k run through the mountains, followed by the annual small-town parade. The day ended with a BBQ and fireworks show—and at the same time as a lightning storm appeared in the distance. It was beautiful!” —Samantha Juda, audience marketing specialist

“I love a good fireworks display, and while my favorite lives at Disney’s Magic Kingdom (don’t judge), Boston’s Independence Day show is a close second. The Boston Pops orchestra plays along to the loud, twinkling affair, set along the Charles River.” —Danielle Walsh, associate editor

“Fireworks! I grew up in Laguna Beach in a place called Emerald Bay and the fireworks show is always the best! Nothing better than being under the stars and the watching fireworks with the ones you love!” Onnalee MacDonald, West Coast sales director

Piedmont's Fourth of July Parade.
“Fireworks by far!  I love fireworks so intensely that I joined a friend who has a fireworks business in Rhode Island one Fourth of July and helped launch a city- wide event.  It was incredibly cool, even if I was a little too close to the action.” —Elizabeth Allerton, executive director of international sales

“Fireworks! I liked parades as a kid, but ever since high school marching band my enjoyment of them has been tainted by memories of thick polyester uniforms and mile of parading through intense heat and humidity. The coolest fireworks I’ve seen have been on trips—weeping willows with palm tree silhouettes in Kona, rings reflecting off Manhattan skyscrapers, Roman candles made to look like shooting stars in Disneyland. I’m a sucker for anything extra shiny in the night sky.” —Nicole Antonio, editorial production coordinator 

Click here for the best U.S. hotels to watch Fourth of July fireworks 

“I feel like I’ve had pretty tough situations with both, to be honest. I’ve definitely tried doing the fireworks on the beach thing, only to be stuck in traffic for hours on end both arriving and leaving. And two years ago I tried going to the parade in Bristol, Rhode Island, and there was a thunderstorm the whole morning (although we were troopers and still watched). I have to say, from the experiences I’ve had, it’s not the fireworks or the parades that have made it a great time. It’s the after, when you’re pretty worn out from the patriotic occasion, and go with your friends and family to the nearest diner and binge eat while cracking up about why we didn’t just do the eating thing in the first place.” —Nicoletta Richardson, assistant editor

“We’ll be camping with friends in Yosemite for the second year in a row, and I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the good ol’ U.S. of A.—plus, it’s quiet!” —Alex Palomino, assistant photo editor 

“I’m a recent convert to fireworks. I grew up in a smallish town so when it came to 4th of July, our town parade was what made the holiday for me. It was all about people I knew marching in the parade, barbecue hopping along the parade route, and the spectacle of it all in our little downtown. Plus I was 6 and there was just so much candy. But, even then I always looked forward to the sparklers at the end of the day. And these days? I’ve gotta admit, fireworks are just so mesmerizing.” —Maggie Fuller, editorial assistant

Have fun with a sparkler (and keep all your fingers intact!)
“I’ve always found them both to be ultimately disappointing—crowds, difficult parking, nothing one hasn’t seen before, etc.  My favorite way to celebrate the 4th is around a campfire, maybe with a few sparklers to commemorate the day. ” Lou LaGrange, business development director

“I definitely prefer fireworks on the 4th. I’ll never forget the year when my friends and I all turned 21. Being the cool 21-year-old college kids that we were, we had a party at my friend’s house in Pacific Beach. As the sun started to set, we took beach chairs up to the roof of the garage so we could get a better view of the fireworks. When we woke up in the morning, the chairs were still on the roof. I guess we were all too lazy to take them down.” —Erin Jeffery, marketing coordinator 

“Fireworks! They are participative and spectacular, and there is a thrilling element of danger. My family in North Carolina generally keeps a tradition of lighting firecrackers in the woods around my aunt and uncle's farm. Fireworks on the beach are fun if you clean up afterward. The ecological damage is real, and the bits wreak havoc in the ocean. These days, I usually take the opportunity to head for the woods on the long weekend—no fireworks, no parades. This year, my girlfriend and I are hiking the Lost Coast! How better to celebrate this nation than by exploring the incredible wild spaces that we've agreed to protect?” —Thomas Alexander, guides intern 

>>Next: Test Your Knowledge of Independence Days Around the World