Five great Fourth of July destinations

Arguably the most American holiday of all (sorry, Thanksgiving!) the Fourth of July occupies an undeniably special place in the hearts of millions. Remarkably, the enthusiasm of so many for the holiday seemingly floats independently of patriotism. It’s a family holiday, a time for picnics and fireworks and the sheer enjoyment of hot summer temperatures. The following are a few places where the Fourth of July can be celebrated with some attention to history, or, if you prefer, hot dogs and fireworks.

1. Bristol, RI. Bristol Fourth of July Celebration.

Since 1785, Bristol, Rhode Island has continuously held a Fourth of July Parade, the nation’s longest-running. Bristol does it up for several days around July 4, with a visit by the USS Squall, concerts, a drum corps show, a parade, a fireworks display, and a ball. This is the Fourth of July at its New England best, small-scale and dripping with historical significance.

2. Philadelphia, PA. Wawa Welcome America! Festival.

On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted in Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love has pride of place in the history of the emergence of the United States as an independent nation. The Welcome America! Festival is one of the country’s biggest, an 11-day celebration featuring a food festival, a photography exhibit, a block party, fireworks, a parade, and a Bell Tapping Ceremony, in which descendants of signers of the Declaration of Independence ceremonially tap the Liberty Bell.

3. Brooklyn, NY. Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest.

The Fourth of July and hot dogs are inextricably linked, and Nathan’s hot dog eating contest on Coney Island in Brooklyn, held on the Fourth of July, only intensifies the association. The event’s nexus of competition and gluttony is enjoyable and mind-blowing to watch. For those who cannot make it to Brooklyn, don’t fear. ESPN will broadcast the competition.

4. South Lake Tahoe, CA. Star Spangled Fourth – Lights on the Lake.

The largest synchronized fireworks display west of the Mississippi River is held on the south shore of Lake Tahoe on the evening of July 4. The size of the Lights on the Lake fireworks display itself is a big deal, and the lake’s enormous reflective surface adds significantly to the effect. Fireworks are set off from a small island located in the center of Lake Tahoe. Local radio stations KRLT and KOWL even soundtrack the fireworks display.

5. Washington, DC. General Pageantry in the Nation’s Capital.

The nation’s capital may be the most obvious choice for an Independence Day getaway, but it is indeed a great place to celebrate the holiday. In addition to a parade, fireworks, and concerts at the US Capitol and Washington Monument, there are special events scheduled at the National Archives and the White House Visitor Center.

(Image: Flickr/Ed Yourdon)