The sizzle of hotdogs on the grill. The cheer of the baseball crowd. The sonorous melody of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Loud footsteps and marching down the street for the parade. These sounds, heard every July 4th across America, encompass what makes the day great. However, something is missing from this soundtrack: the heart-stopping, headache-inducing, jaw-dropping boom of fireworks, the emblematic icon of Independence Day.
From small towns to big cities; exotic locales and historic monuments, we have picked the 10 best places to have a blast on the Fourth:
Best Daytime Fireworks
An American Celebration at Mount Vernon—Mount Vernon, Virginia
If you’re not familiar with daytime fireworks, perhaps it’s time to plan a visit to George and Martha Washington’s historic estate nestled along the Potomac River. The Mount Vernon Ladies Association, the country’s oldest national historic preservation society, maintains the estate and hosts a fantastic 5-minute display for an estimated 7,000 guests each year in celebration of Independence Day. The made-for-daytime display features smoky trails of patriotic colors blazing through the sky. While you’re there be sure to take part in the ice-cream cranking demonstration, view the annual naturalization ceremony for 100 new citizens and the Revolutionary War military reenactments and grab a piece of free birthday cake. Events begin at 10 a.m. and are included in regular admission prices.
Most Patriotic Event
A Capitol Fourth—Washington, D.C.
Celebrate Independence Day in the place most emblematic of America—Washington, D.C. Beginning at 8 p.m. on the West Lawn of the Capitol, Dancing with the Stars emcee Tom Bergeron will host musical guests Kool and the Gang, Voice winner Javier Colon, Josh Turner, Matthew Broderick and the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jack Everly. The NPS does not disclose attendance estimates, but PBS says more than 11 million viewers tuned in for the 2011 broadcast, which aired around the world via PBS, NPR and the American Forces Network. This year’s display will feature around 3,000 “high-end” fireworks, according to Col. Tom Stiner, public information officer for the award-winning, Tennessee-based Pyro Shows Inc. The 17-minute show will cost more than $250,000, he says.
Most Exotic Location
Ala Moana Center 4th of July—Honolulu, Hawaii
Escape from the stresses of everyday life and celebrate Independence Day on a beautiful, flower-filled tropical island. The five-day celebration at Ala Moana Center, the world’s largest outdoor shopping center, begins June 30 and concludes with Hawaii’s biggest fireworks display at 8:30 p.m. July 4. The 15-minute show, launched from Magic Island, a small manmade peninsula adjacent to the center, features nearly 1,300 shells, according to Robyn Gee, Ala Moana’s associate marketing manager. The 21st annual celebration also includes live entertainment and discounts at more than 55 stores.
Most Historical Fun
Salem Celebrates the Fourth—Salem, Massachusetts
Salem, often referred to as the “Witch City” due to a series of witch trials held there in the late 1600s, might come to mind as a great place to celebrate Halloween, but it’s July 4 events are just as spell-binding. An afternoon of free events sponsored by The Gathering in Salem, The MeetingHouse Church and the First Universalist Society of Salem includes crafts, games and face painting for the kids. Live music from local rock and folk bands will fill the air, along with the Hillyer Festival Orchestra later in the evening. At 9:15 p.m., experience a magnificent 25-minute fireworks display from one of Salem’s wharves or even from a boat in the Salem Sound! Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem, says she expects about 30,000 people to attend the event this year. While you’re in town, check out the House of the Seven Gables, the Nathaniel Hawthorne Birthplace and the famous Salem Witch Museum.
Best Integration of Other Media
Fantastic Fourth Celebration—Stone Mountain Park, Atlanta, Georgia
How do you make fireworks more amazing? Add lasers, of course. Where do you find a sensory-pleasing, laser-enhanced fireworks display? Stone Mountain Park, where for nearly 30 years, the Lasershow Spectacular has been consistently named one of Atlanta’s and the nation’s best places for a quality Fourth of July experience. The Fantastic Fourth Celebration itself has been running for 45 years, and more than 33 million people have viewed the amazing display, according to Jeanine Jones, Stone Mountain public relations manager. The park is preparing for 75,000 visitors this year during the July 3-4 holiday. July 4, however, is the only night when fireworks launch from both the top and base of the park’s centerpiece quartz monzonite mountain, which depicts massive carved images of Confederate leaders Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. Entrance to the 50-minute fireworks and lasershow event is free with paid parking. While the pyrotechnics launch at 9:30 p.m., the park’s ropes courses, full size locomotive, mini golf and new water attraction, Geyser Towers, will fill your day with fun. Park gates open daily at 6 a.m.
Most Military Pride/Coolest Man-Made Backdrop
Battleship Blast—Wilmington, North Carolina
Celebrate our nation’s independence by watching fireworks burst forth from behind the <i>USS North Carolina</i>, a decommissioned World War II battleship! Gather along Wilmington’s riverfront for a 20-minute display by Pyro Shows Inc., the same company that produces the fireworks show at A Capital Fourth in Washington, D.C. You may feel like you’re experiencing a naval battle, but with prettier colors and more exciting music. Bring your radio and tune it to WGNI 102.7 FM to listen to choreographed music to accompany the presentation. Promotions Director Heather Loftin expects this year’s Battleship Blast to draw 40,000-60,000 spectators. Head downtown early and take a tour of the ship and explore Wilmington’s Riverfront Celebration, which features food vendors, live music, games and other fun activities. Events are free, but the sight of fireworks exploding from behind one of our nation’s most powerful vessels is priceless.
Best Family Destination
Symetra Bellevue Family 4th—Bellevue, Washington
Want to see your kids’ eyes sparkle this Independence Day? Bring them to the Bellevue Family 4th where they can experience loads of child-friendly live entertainment in the Family Fun Zone, which will feature jugglers, mascots, inflatables and a bungee trampoline. After dark, nearly 4,000 fireworks ignite for a 16-minute show. Jordan Slaymaker, marketing and communications manager for the Bellevue Downtown Association, says around 60,000 people attended 2011’s show, and this year, the event’s 21st, should draw a similar size crowd. Parking and entry is free, but a small fee is charged for some activities.
Most Amazing Influx of People
July 4th Fireworks—Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Rehoboth Beach is a small community of about 1,300 year-round residents, but when July 4th rolls around, the population swells to an amazing 80,000! At 9:15 p.m., 4,500 shells burst across the beautiful Delaware sky creating a spectacle viewable for miles. But the fireworks are not the only aspect of this town’s Independence Day celebration that draws a crowd. Visitors can listen to the U.S. Navy Cruisers Ensemble and local bands while experiencing the exquisite dining options and enjoying the wonders of Rehoboth’s boardwalk, one of American Profile’s picks for Best Boardwalks in America. “Our boardwalk and beaches provide an amazing backdrop for the festivities, and our seaside city is hopping,” says Annmarie Westerfield, executive director of Rehoboth Beach Main Street.
Nation’s Largest Display
Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks—New York City
For the 36th consecutive year, Macy’s will light up the night sky over the Hudson Riverfront with the nation’s largest Fourth of July fireworks display. The show will feature more than 40,000 shells fired at a rate of around 1,600 per minute during the 25-minute show, according to Orlando Veras, Macy’s Media Relations Manager, who says more 3 million spectators are expected to watch the display which will include live performances by country star Kenny Chesney and pop sensation Katy Perry. The fireworks are choreographed to a patriotic playlist chosen by Macy’s Facebook fans. Macy’s does not disclose the price of this extravagant event, but Veras says, “It is our gift to the city and nation.” The Wall Street Journal estimates the cost of the display at $500,000.
Best Small Town Display
Biggest Little Fourth in the North—Barton City, Michigan
Barton City, a tiny resort community along the shore of Jewel Lake in Huron National Forest, lures visitors with its pristine natural scenery and superb fishing and hunting. But it’s the town’s July 4 celebration–and overflowing patriotic spirit– that sets it apart from its northern Michigan counterparts. Each July, 2,000 to 5,000 locals and visitors come together for food, fun and fellowship. This year will be no exception with an action-packed lineup including a parade, food and beer tents, inflatable bounce toys for the kids and a 25-minute fireworks extravaganza. “People, families come back every year,” Town Supervisor Jim Burger says, noting the event has been held for more than 50 years. “It’s the highlight of the summer.”
While fireworks are fun to watch and enjoy, they can be dangerous. Check out our fireworks safety tips, and stay safe this Fourth.