Fourth of July travel deals from Viator

Sometimes the best things come to those who wait. If you’re looking for some last minute Independence Day deals, our pals at Viator have pulled together a list of Fourth of July bargains to help travelers get the most out of their three-day weekend. From New York to Oahu, below are some suggestions that will have you seeing red, white and blue without spending a whole lot of green.

New York: Watch one of the best fireworks displays in the country with Viator’s once-in-a-lifetime July 4th VIP Exclusive: Fireworks from the Empire State Building’s Observation Deck. A limited number of tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis to this two-hour, private evening event, guaranteed to sell out quickly.
Washington, D.C.: See 100 of the most popular monuments and points of interest in America’s capital after the sun goes down on the Washington DC Monuments by Moonlight Night Tour by Trolley, currently more than 50 percent off.
Philadelphia: There’s no better time to visit our nation’s first capital than during a weekend to celebrate America’s Independence. Travelers will save more than 45 percent on admission to six of the city’s premier attractions with a Viator Philadelphia CityPASS.
Las Vegas: Hit the highway out of Las Vegas and spend the day touring two major tourist attractions on the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam Day Trip, currently on sale with savings more than 50 percent.
Orlando: Get two days for the price of one at Kennedy Space Center, a short drive from Orlando and the launch site for every U.S. human space flight since December 1968.
San Diego: Tour one of the largest aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy fleet at the USS Midway Museum, San Diego’s newest visitor attraction. A visit to this historic naval aircraft carrier museum is an essential experience for patriots of all ages.
Boston: Travel north from Boston to historic Marblehead, the birthplace of the American Navy. Along the way, visit Salem, the Witch City and learn about the history of witchcraft and the reasons why the trials occurred.
Niagara Falls: Visit New York’s first state park on an overnight trip to Niagara Falls from New York City. Along the way, experience the state’s diverse ethnic heritage and the rolling hills of the Finger Lakes, one of the country’s premier wine producing areas.
Oahu: Take a sobering journey through U.S. history on a tour of the Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri, the last battleship built by the U.S. Navy. Tickets include skip-the-line access to make the most of a day at Pearl Harbor, complete with a tour of downtown Honolulu and a drive through Punchbowl National Cemetery of the Pacific. An added bonus: receive one free child ticket for each adult ticket purchased.
Memphis: Walk in the footsteps of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll at Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland Mansion – the number one thing to do in Memphis, Tenn. Upgrade to the Elvis Entourage VIP Package and also receive entrance to a VIP Only Exhibit, Front of the Line Access to the Mansion, and more.

[Photo by J.W. Photography, Flickr]

Spend Independence Day in a national park

Celebrate Independence Day in the National ParksThe Fourth of July holiday has always been a popular one in the U.S. This coming weekend, millions of people across the country will gather with friends and family to celebrate the day our country won its independence with food, music, and fireworks. It is a tradition like no other, and one that is made all the better when combined with another great American tradition – the national parks.

With the three-day holiday weekend nearly upon us, the National Park Service has a number of activities planned across the entire park system. For instance, Valley Forge National Park will play host to the annual community picnic, which features plenty of hamburgers and hotdogs, arts and crafts for the kids, Revolutionary War reenactors, and a reading of the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson himself. Festivities get underway at 11 AM and run throughout the afternoon.

Similarly, Adams National Historical Park in Massachusetts has a full schedule of events planned for July 4th as well. Things will get underway at 1 PM with storyteller William Hogeland sharing the tale of how the Declaration of Independence was drafted and eventually signed. Later in the afternoon, visitors will have the opportunity to join the second Continental Congress itself and take part in the drafting of that document themselves. Finally, the evening will wrap up with a dramatic re-telling of the friendship of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. A friendship that not only withstood the test of time, but would also help forge a nation.Visitors to Mt. Rushmore will have two days to take in that park’s annual celebration, which is always amongst the best in the entire park system. Starting on Sunday, July 3rd and running through the 4th, there will be a variety of live music, and presidential reenactors wandering the park. On Sunday evening the U.S. Air Force will also conduct several dramatic flyovers, including a B-1 bomber. Other events include a flag folding ceremony, a salute to veterans, a military swearing in ceremony, and more.

Those looking for the ultimate in fireworks displays, should plan on dropping by the National Mall in Washington DC. Those that beat the rush, and get there early in the day, can claim one of the better viewing spots near the reflecting pool, and where the fireworks are launched on the evening of the 4th. Starting just after 9 PM, the night sky will explode in spectacular colors, illuminating the Lincoln and Washington Memorials, as well as the Capitol Building itself. It is truly a patriotic sight to behold.

There are, of course, plenty of other parks that are holding their own celebrations as well. Checkout the National Park Service website for more details on what is happening in your area, and start making plans to celebrate Independence Day 2011 in your favorite national park.

[Photo credit: UpstateNYer via WikiMedia Commons]

Gadling’s 2011 New Year’s travel resolutions

New Year'sIt’s that time of year again. A time when we all make certain promises to ourselves, in an attempt to make our lives more organized, our bodies stronger or leaner. We vow to spend more time with loved ones, give back to others, or ditch that cubicle job. And some of us…well, we just want to keep on traveling, any way we can manage to finagle it.

In the spirit of New Year’s, I asked my fellow Gadling contributors about their travel resolutions for the coming year, and came up with some of my own. Our goals are all over the map (no pun intended), but a common theme emerged. Despite our love of exotic adventures, most of us want to spend more time exploring in our own backyard (that would be the United States). That, and invent musical underwear.

Leigh Caldwell

  • Go on my first cruise.
  • Spend a weekend somewhere without Internet access, and, if I survive that…
  • Celebrate the Fourth of July with my family in Banner Elk, North Carolina, home of the quintessential small-town Independence Day. There’s a three-legged race, a rubber ducky race down a mountain stream, and a parade filled with crepe paper, balloons, and every kid and dog in town.

McLean Robbins

  • Quit my “day job” so I can do this full-time.

[Photo credit: Flickr user nlmAdestiny]New Year'sLaurel Miller

  • Get back in shape after a two-year battle with Oroya Fever (contracted in Ecuador), and climb a volcano in Bolivia.
  • Finally start exploring my adopted state of Washington, especially the Olympic Peninsula.
  • Visit India for the first time; see if it’s possible to subsist on street food without getting dysentery.
  • Learn to wear DEET at all times when traveling in countries that harbor nearly-impossible-to-diagnose diseases like Oroya Fever.

Sean MacLachlan

  • Get back to Ethiopia.
  • Explore Green Spain (the north part of the country).
  • Show my son a non-Western culture.
  • Invent an underwear stereo that plays cheap jazz music when subjected to a TSA patdown.

New Year's
Mike Barish

  • Drive cross country.
  • See the Grand Canyon (finally).
  • Finally learn how not to overpack.
  • And, for the fifth year in a row, I resolve to learn how to play the keytar (2011 has got to be the year!).

Darren Murph

  • Bound and determined to visit my 50th state, Alaska.
  • Dead-set on relocating a childhood friend of mine back to North Carolina, and then taking him on a road trip of some sort.

Meg Nesterov

  • Visit more places where I know people.
  • Be in more travel pictures and get my husband out from behind the
  • camera occasionally.
  • Take at least one guidebook-free and paperless trip. Okay, maybe one map.
  • Take better notes. I might think I’ll always remember the name of that fun-looking restaurant or weird sign I want to translate, but it’s easy to forget when you’re taking in so many new things.
  • See more of Turkey while I still live here. I spend so much time traveling to nearby countries, I have to be sure to see the landscape of Cappadocia and eat the food in Gaziantep before I go back to the U.S..New Year's

Grant Martin, Editor-in-Chief

  • Travel a bit less and work a bit more [Sure, Grant!].

Annie Scott Riley

  • Travel less alone, and more with my husband.

Alex Robertson Textor

  • More open-jaw travel, flying into one destination and traveling by land to another before returning home. It’s my favorite way to see a new or familiar territory–gradually and without any backtracking. I need to do it more often.
  • More thematic consistency in my travels. Instead of scrambling to meet whatever assignment comes my way, I want my travels in the next year to be focused on a region or two, and on a number of overarching questions or issues. I’m still collecting ideas: Remote European mountain villages? Neglected second-tier cities? The Caucasus?
  • Northern Cyprus. Have been wanting to visit since I was a kid. 2011’s the year.

New Year'sDavid Farley

  • To take back the name “Globetrotters” from the Harlem basketball team.
  • To introduce eggnog and lutefisk to southeast Asia.
  • To eat fewer vegetables.

[Photo credits: volcano, Laurel Miller; Grand Canyon, Flickr user Joe Y Jiang; Cappadocia, Flickr user Curious Expeditions; lutefisk, Flickr user Divine Harvester]

Photo of the Day (7.4.10)

Happy birthday, America. What better way to celebrate this great day than with some fireworks? While we’ve seen plenty of stellar fireworks photos over the years, we’ve got to hand it to Flickr user ohad*, who captured this quirky shot during a visit to Delray Beach, Florida. True, the fireworks in question were for New Year’s. But no matter, the feel of the image is great – the slow shutter speed makes this burst look like it was some kind of glowing palm tree.

Take any great fireworks shots during this year’s holiday weekend? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

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)