People performing atop a moving patriotic stage during the Fourth of July Parade in Washington, D.C. Editorial credit: Roberto Galan /

The Best Fourth of July Celebrations in America

The Fourth of July, also known as Independence Day, is a cornerstone of American culture. It celebrates the birth of the United States on July 4, 1776, the date the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence (a landmark document drafted by Thomas Jefferson). This document marked the official separation from British rule of the original Thirteen Colonies after two years of conflict. Ever since, this important date on the country’s cultural calendar has been a poignant symbol of American freedom and patriotism.

Chock-full of festivities, including parades, fireworks, barbecues, and concerts, this important national holiday was signed into law on June 28, 1870. It was one of four original holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, that Americans could enjoy without being required to work. Over the years, many cities have developed their own way of celebrating, and some stand out as the best Fourth of July celebrations in America. From concerts throughout the day to amazing food and drinks, these ten celebrations are worth a visit.

Bristol, Rhode Island

People marching in red coats during the Fourth of July celebration in Bristol, Rhode Island.
People marching in red coats during the Fourth of July parade in Bristol, Rhode Island. Editorial credit: James Kirkikis /

Bristol, Rhode Island, is home to the oldest continuous Fourth of July celebration in the United States. Held annually since 1785, "America's Oldest Fourth of July Celebration" this year celebrates the 239th anniversary of a tradition that predates the Constitution itself by a couple of years.

Festivities kick off weeks in advance, with a calendar of events including concerts and community gatherings leading up to the big day itself: the Bristol Fourth of July Parade. This grand spectacle draws thousands of spectators from across the East Coast and features marching bands, floats, military units, and community groups, all decked out in patriotic outfits. Festivities conclude with a harborside fireworks display that provides a dazzling finale to the day’s events.

Boston, Massachusetts

The Boston Waterfront cityscape.
View of the city and the Boston Waterfront, where the Fourth of July fireworks show takes place.

Boston's Fourth of July celebration is another well-established event that everyone should experience at least once. It features various events such as the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, Boston Harborfest, and a concert by the Boston Pops Orchestra along the banks of the Charles River. In addition to playing plenty of patriotic music guaranteed to get the flags waving, it’s the finale of the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky that gets the biggest thumbs up.

The evening concludes with real cannon fire and the ringing of the city’s church bells, followed by a dazzling fireworks display over the river. Attracting over half a million people each year, Boston’s rich history and its role in the American Revolution add a profound sense of patriotism to the celebrations.

Washington, D.C.

A band playing music and marching for the Fourth of July Parade in Washington, D.C.
A band playing music and marching for the Fourth of July Parade in Washington, D.C. Editorial credit: Roberto Galan /

The nation’s capital is another great place to celebrate American independence as it hosts America's National Independence Day Parade. The parade starts bang-on at 11:45 am on Constitution Avenue and proceeds from 7th to 17th Street, with hundreds of thousands of spectators lining the route. Participants include military units, marching bands, elaborate floats, and giant balloons.

Afterward, the city’s most iconic landmarks, including the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial, serve as the ultimate backdrop for one of the most impressive fireworks displays in the country. Also fun is the “A Capitol Fourth” concert, broadcast live and featuring performances by renowned artists and the National Symphony Orchestra.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

People celebrating Independence Day in front of the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
People celebrating Independence Day in front of Philadelphia's Independence Hall. Editorial credit: PW Staples /

Famous as the birthplace of American independence, it should be no surprise that Philadelphia hosts one of the country’s most historically significant Fourth of July celebrations. Festivities here include a series of fun events leading up to Independence Day that culminate in the Wawa Welcome America Festival, a series of free concerts, a massive parade through the historic district, and a spectacular fireworks show over the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Before or after the celebrations, visitors will want to allocate time to visit the Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the famous Liberty Bell, a much-cherished symbol of the country’s independence from Great Britain.

New York City, New York

People watching the Macy's 4th of July Fireworks show in New York City.
People watching the vibrant display during Macy's 4th of July Fireworks, one of New York City's Independence Day celebrations. Editorial credit: Ron Adar /

New York City’s Fourth of July celebration is grand in every sense. For many, the main event is Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks, the country’s largest Independence Day pyrotechnic display. Launched from barges on the Hudson River, these spectacular fireworks include over 75,000 shells andects, all synchronized to a patriotic music score.

The city also hosts a variety of other fun events throughout the day, including the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island, a quirky tradition that sees contestants devour as many as 60 hot dogs in 10 minutes. It’s also a great day to hit the city’s parks and waterfronts for a picnic or some people-watching.

Nashville, Tennessee

View of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
View of the Grand Ole Opry, one of Nashville, Tennessee's musical landmarks. Editorial credit: Grindstone Media Group /

As is expected from the nation’s “Music City,” Nashville boasts a one-of-a-kind Fourth of July celebration. Dubbed the “Let Freedom Sing!” event, Nashville’s musical celebration includes free concerts by top country music artists and culminates in a fireworks display synchronized to a live performance by the Nashville Symphony. Festivities in 2024 are set to start in Downtown Nashville and continue to the scenic Ascend Amphitheater along the Cumberland River.

Along with the activities, visitors can also explore Nashville’s cultural attractions, such as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Ryman Auditorium, and the Grand Ole Opry, for an added dose of music fun.

San Diego, California

People marching during the Fourth of July parade in San Diego, California.
People marching in patriotic uniforms during the Fourth of July parade in San Diego, California. Editorial credit: Janson George /

San Diego features various events that many believe make for the most picturesque Fourth of July celebrations. One of the most popular festivities is the Big Bay Boom, an event full of spectacular fireworks launched from four barges placed strategically around San Diego Bay. This creates a 360-degree spectacle that can be viewed from multiple locations, including Coronado, Harbor Island, and Shelter Island. The city’s waterfront parks and beaches offer the best views and become prime real estate for picnics and gatherings.

Other San Diego Fourth of July celebrations include daytime activities such as parades, concerts, and historic events at the Old Town Historic Park. Here, visitors can enjoy a range of eating contests, music, and even wagon rides reminiscent of 1800s America.

St. Louis, Missouri

Fireworks in front of the Gateway Arch during the Fourth of July celebrations in St. Louis, Missouri.
Fireworks in front of the Gateway Arch during the Fourth of July celebrations in St. Louis, Missouri.

Missouri is home to Celebrate Saint Louis, one of the Midwest’s largest Fourth of July celebrations. This massive event starts with a July 4th Parade, filled with performances and floats along the lively Market Street in downtown St. Louis. Following this, there are concerts, air shows, and family-friendly activities, culminating in a superb fireworks display over the city’s iconic Gateway Arch. The celebration includes performances by nationally known artists, offering a diversity of musical genres. To top it off, the air shows feature both modern and vintage aircraft, adding a unique and thrilling element to the festivities.

Seattle, Washington

An American flag hoisted atop Seattle's Space Needle building to celebrate America's Independence Day.
An American flag hoisted atop the Space Needle building in Seattle, Washington to celebrate the Fourth of July. Editorial credit: TalieNst /

Known as Seafair Summer Fourth, Seattle’s Fourth of July celebration is one of the biggest and best on the Pacific coast. Held at Gas Works Park and Lake Union Park, it features a full day of activities, including live music, food vendors, and family-friendly games. The celebration culminates in a fireworks display over Lake Union synchronized to a patriotic soundtrack. Seattle’s scenic backdrop is stunning, even if you can’t make it for Independence Day. Options range from activities along Angle Lake Park that start many days before and are available for a few days after the 4th of July.

Charleston, South Carolina

View of the American flag outside a home in Charleston, South Carolina.
View of the American flag outside a home in Charleston, South Carolina.

The lovely old city of Charleston is a great place to visit in South Carolina for a splendid Fourth of July celebration. Festivities include fireworks over Charleston Harbor, viewable from multiple waterfront locations such as Patriots Point and Riverfront Park. Adding onto the fireworks, visitors have access to a range of great food trucks selling everything from seafood to rolls. The celebration also features patriotic concerts, parades, and family-friendly events. Charleston’s historic district, with its cobblestone streets and antebellum architecture, adds a unique and picturesque backdrop to the festivities.

The Final Word

When it comes to celebrating the country’s independence on the Fourth of July, Americans know how to party. From the historic streets of Bristol, Boston, and Philadelphia to the people-thronged avenues of New York City and Seattle, each of these destinations puts on a show that will stir the soul. Whether it is amazing fireworks along lovely waters or endless options for delicious food, there is something for everyone. Together, these 10 best Fourth of July celebrations in America are guaranteed to have you swelling with pride.


More in Society