7 Festive Places to Visit for a July 4 Weekend Getaway

Because where else would you be?

Red, yellow, and blue fireworks over a city skyline at night

New York City’s annual Fourth of July fireworks show lights up the Manhattan skyline.

Photo by Songquan Deng/Shutterstock

No other holiday encapsulates summer quite like Fourth of July, when people revel in outdoor barbecues and parades (and, in the case of New York City’s Coney Island, gorge on hot dogs at breakneck speed). Complete your festivities with a nightly fireworks show, and you’ve got yourself an Independence Day celebration that would make the Founding Fathers proud.

Giving us even more of a reason to celebrate, July 4 lands on a Thursday this year. So if you’re lucky—or plan ahead—and can get your Friday off, you can let the good times roll over a four-day weekend getaway.

Feeling a red, white, and blue kind of summer trip? Here are the best places to be in the United States on July 4 that double as great weekend trip destinations.

1. New York City, New York

You won’t get much shut-eye with all of those fireworks, so why not see them in the city that never sleeps? The country’s biggest fireworks display is conducted by Macy’s, which launches a fireworks show from barges on either the East or Hudson River in New York City (visit their website for the most up-to-date information for viewing locations). Considering that more than 3 million live spectators come out to see the fireworks, your best bet to avoid the crowds is to find a restaurant or friend’s rooftop to see the event. Alternatively, you can consider smaller shows like the one on Coney Island, where you can walk down a nearly three-mile boardwalk and spend the day on the beach before the fireworks.

Daytime events abound for Independence Day as well, including Nathan’s annual hot dog–eating contest, which is held in Coney Island every July 4. Though star player Joey Chestnut will not be making an appearance this year, it’ll be exciting to see who takes Chestnut’s place after his eight-year winning streak.

Adults dressed in British red coats from the American Revolution march in a parade.

If you come to Bristol for Independence Day, expect a parade that goes all out—Revolutionary attire included.

Photo by James Kirkikis/Shutterstock

2. Bristol, Rhode Island

While the big cities duke it out to determine which place has the splashiest celebration for July 4, this Rhode Island town has gone the longest. The town of about 22,000 people started celebrating the nation’s independence in 1785 with a parade, and it’s become the longest continuing Independence Day celebration in the United States.

It’s a title the town fully embraces, with festivities that make Independence Day a weeks-long event. The festivities start on June 14 with a Flag Day Ceremony—complete with a town crier—and conclude with the town’s famous July 4 parade. In between, celebrate events like a summer concert series and Fourth of July Ball. After Independence Day, take advantage of the prime weather and check out the Ocean State’s many beaches.

3. San Francisco, California

San Francisco’s Pier 39 hosts several citywide celebrations throughout the year: One of them is a fireworks display every Independence Day. (Pro tip: Avoid the traffic in Fisherman’s Wharf by choosing to come and go using public transportation.) For daytime events, look to smaller locales like Sonoma for parades with a hometown feel. Or take the trip across the Oakland Bay Bridge to the USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum. Every Independence Day, the retired warship hosts a Fourth of July BBQ on its flight deck.

If you can swing a weekend in San Francisco, there’s plenty of sightseeing to do, starting with a visit to the Golden Gate Park and to the Saturday farmers’ market at the Ferry Building. The city was ranked as one of the World’s Best Cities of 2024 because of the car-free street movement that has been rolling out since the COVID-19 pandemic—so definitely take a bike and bring your best walking shoes.

Concerts and fireworks are July 4 staples in Washington, D.C.

Concerts and fireworks are July 4 staples in Washington, D.C.

Photos by Redswept/Shutterstock and Roberto Galan/Shutterstock

4. Washington, D.C.

Quite the no-brainer when it comes to places to celebrate Independence Day, but if you’re heading to this city for the first week in July, there are quite a few events to put on your calendar. There’s the annual National Independence Day Parade on Constitution Avenue, where drum corps and bands march alongside floats in front of hundreds of thousands of spectators. You can also head to the National Mall and see top musicians perform at A Capitol Fourth, the U.S. national Independence Day celebration; 2023’s lineup included performances from Chicago and Boyz II Men.

The main fireworks show, hosted by the National Parks Service, draws hundreds of thousands of people to the heart of downtown. Want a less-crowded alternative viewpoint? Bring a blanket and go to Gravelly Point Park, a couple of miles north of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. You’ll be able to see the fireworks from across the river, with the added bonus of seeing planes take off from DCA. Afterward, read advice from locals and check out what you can do over four days in Washington, D.C.

5. Nashville, Tennessee

You can count on music being a big part of Nashville’s July 4 celebrations, namely in its Let Freedom Sing! Music City July 4th event. Last year’s party featured headliner Brad Paisley, along with Ben Rector, The War and Treaty, Langhorne Slim, and Tiera Kennedy. The annual show concludes with fireworks in downtown Nashville. Catch the event from the rooftop of hotels like Bobby Nashville (last year’s tickets included a BBQ cookout), The Pool Club at Virgin Hotels, and W Nashville.

But while July 4 celebrations are great and all, you can’t leave Nashville before digging into its famous hot chicken or checking out a music museum. Take at least 48 hours to explore its distinct neighborhoods and outdoor spaces—including a replica of Athen’s Parthenon—to make the most of your time in Tennessee.

Ship decorated with American flags and smaller flags on the water, tall buildings in the background

More than 200 years after the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Harbor is a place for Independence Day festivity.

Photo by Keith J Finks/Shutterstock

6. Boston, Massachusetts

Since that whole Boston Tea Party incident hundreds of years ago, Boston has been tied to the country’s independence. The city celebrates its history with Harborfest, a weeklong event that’s one of the country’s largest Fourth of July festivals.

From July 1 to 7, listen to the live music acts in Downtown Crossing and try different renditions of clam chowder at Chowderfest. At night, settle down along the Inner Harbor to see Harborfest’s fireworks launch from a barge at Boston’s Long Wharf. Spend the weekend to check out some of the new developments that have been happening in the historic city, such as the MGM Music Hall at Fenway, opened in 2022.

7. St. Louis, Missouri

Travel to St. Louis for July 4 and celebrate the nation’s independence in Gateway Arch National Park, the smallest national park in the country. The city celebrates with its America’s Birthday Parade, which has been going on since 1878 and was modeled after New Orleans’s Mardi Gras celebration (floats from New Orleans were even shipped to St. Louis during the first few years of the parade). You can watch 2024’s parade along Market Street in Downtown St. Louis and catch the nightly fireworks by the Gateway Arch.

After chowing down on classic Independence Day burgers and hot dogs, take the weekend to discover St. Louis’s iconic eats—gooey butter cake and pork steak, anyone?

The article was most recently updated on June 26, 2024 to include current information.

Chloe Arrojado is the associate editor of destinations at AFAR. She’s a big fan of cafés, dancing, and asking people on the street for restaurant recommendations.
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