Top 10 Fourth of July Celebrations

Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops lead the celebrations on the Fourth of July
Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops lead the celebrations on the Fourth in Boston, MA

Fireworks on the Fourth of July is one of those classic summer holiday tradition, along with the burgers  and hot dogs of course. But instead of going to the same small town fireworks display, why not try something a bit different this year? Here’s a top ten (provided by that will may just spark your interest in celebrating our nations independence with a big boom!

Washington D.C.

Where’s a more historic place to celebrate the Fourth than in our nation’s capitol? Here the first official independence explosions were hosted by  Thomas Jefferson over 200 years ago! Accompanied by the National Symphony, the fireworks accentuate the D.C. skyline beautifully.  Booms start at 9pm sharp.


Oh well I lied, there might be a more historic location than D.C., but as a Boston native, I am a bit biased. The Fireworks at the Half Shell is the perfect finale to Boston’s Harborfest, the annual celebration of the city’s colonial and maritime heritage. Mostly events are free, but if you do wander to the lawn to picnic, I recommend you do so early to snag a good spot! You don’t want to miss the Boston Pops performances, especially their rendition of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture while fireworks ascend above the Charles River.

San Francisco

The Bay Area offers up a few different options for the Fourth.  Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf  is host one of the more fun events. Starting at 1pm, local bands and other live performances play to your delight, with the  fireworks beginning at 9:30.  For the best view, sign up for an Alcatraz Cruise in the dark, but be sure to do so in advance!

San Diego

San Diego’s Fourth celebration is perfect for you beach bums out there.  Carnivals, Ferris wheels, parades and county fairs spring into action days before the event. On July 3rd, people set up a firework fanatics camp out on the sand all the way from Mission Beach to Pacific Beach to snag the best viewing spots! The Big Bay Celebration starts at 9 pm as lights skyrocket from the Harbor and Shelter Islands.

Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard

This is another local I can personally attest to; The Cape and the Islands will give you a great snapshot of the heart of New England tradition. There are tons of events going on on all three locations, with both locals and tourists alike intermingling to celebrate in style.  Martha’s Vinyard’s own Old Whaling Church hosts an annual barbecue that’s not to be missed.  And for the boaters, check out the Hyannis Boat Parade or Nantucket’s Independence Day Celebration on Jetties Beach to see boats and yachts get decked out in their finest. For Fireworks, your best bet is to hop on a cruise from Woods Hole to the Vineyard Sound. The $40 cruise charge can be a bit much, but the view is priceless.


Technically the birthplace of our country, Philadelphia does not disappoint when it comes to Fourth of July celebrations. Festivities last the entire week leading up to the Fourth, and events like concerts and movies fill the calendar. Fireworks start around 10:30 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, but the best views can be seen from Lemon Hill, Boathouse Road and Kelly Drive. This year, the Goo Goo Dolls will play a concert at 8:30 leading into the display.


Chi-town has a reputation for doing things right, and it does it again with the Fourth of July. While the Navy Pier has fireworks shows throughout the entirety of the summer, the ones on the Fourth are blatantly worthy of more attention. Take a dinner cruise before the show, or head outdoors to catch them from the shores of Lake Michigan while the symphony plays outside.

U.S. Virgin Islands

This archipelago might not be the first place you think of when you recall true blue American pastimes, but it gives a fantastic twist to the summer holiday. St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John are the only U.S.-owned islands in the Caribbean, and usually celebrate with more coconut rum than they do beer. Visit St. John for the biggest parties, both on July 3 (Emancipation Day) and July 4, when marching bands, parades and dancing troupes happily infiltrate Cruz Bay.

Lake Tahoe, Nevada

“Lights on the Lake” is considered to be the largest light show in the West. Droves of partiers flock to the south shore of Lake Tahoe to see brilliant fireworks shoot from a barge – so high and bright that they can be seen from anywhere on the lake. Music is broadcasted by local radio stations, and shores and docks fill with food vendors and entertainment. Grab a paddleboat and watch from the water for a truly captivating experience.

New Orleans
It doesn’t have to be Mardis Gras for New Orleans to have a good time. NOLA beats out other firework displays because it doesn’t just showcase their lights in a typical way – it doubles the action by having two barges battle it out in a fireworks competition on the water. Grab some jambalaya and experience this bluesy town’s unique version of the Fourth.