As Americans begin to emerge from quarantine, cities from sea to shining sea are ready to celebrate the Fourth of July. Made a federal holiday in 1941, the US celebrates Independence Day on July 4th commemorating when the Declaration of Independence was adopted.
From patriotic parades and fireworks to battle reenactments and readings of the Declaration of Independence to barbecues and competitive eating contests, there are a multitude of ways to mark the holiday that celebrates freedom, which is even more meaningful this year as many cities are offering events in person. Here’s how you can celebrate the USA’s 245th birthday.
4th of July celebrations begin early on July 1 with the opening of America’s largest Fourth of July festival, Boston Harborfest: a four-day festival packed with events throughout downtown Boston. The festival includes fireworks on Boston Inner Harbor on July 3 and the City of Boston’s Independence Day Celebration on July 4, which consists of a parade, wreath laying, and the reading of the Declaration of Independence. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has fully reopened with capacity increased to 100 percent (making it a super cute and quintessential Boston date idea for the fourth), but revelers can still participate remotely with self-guided tours and virtual exhibits of Faneuil Hall, King’s Chapel, and the Freedom Trail.
Get ready to celebrate the 4th of July in Gettysburg with battle reenactments commemorating the 159th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, honoring fallen soldiers with Taps playing nightly as part of the One Hundred Nights of Taps, and admiring fireworks at A Gettysburg Fourth! at Gettysburg Rec Park. The festivities start at 6 p.m. with food trucks and live entertainment and culminate with fireworks at 9:20 p.m. State mask mandates and most COVID restrictions are expected to be lifted by the Fourth of July and the fireworks will be livestreamed from the Destination Gettysburg Facebook page.
Philadelphia’s 30th annual Wawa Welcome America returns in person this year with 50 free city-wide events beginning June 19 with events commemorating Juneteenth. The patriotic fun continues with Wawa Hoagie Day, a July 4th concert, and the Wawa Welcome America Fireworks Spectacular, which will be broadcast live on NBC10 and TeleXitos and live streamed here.
Gather on the Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg, the largest outdoor educational living museum in the US, to listen to readings of the Declaration of Independence from the courthouse steps and enjoy live musical performances. Finish the day with the Lights of Freedom fireworks display, which illuminates the skies over the 18th-century community. Visitors riding Colonial Williamsburg shuttle buses must wear face masks.
The iconic sculpture of four former presidents carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills has become a symbol of freedom and hope, making it a fitting place to visit on Independence Day. There won’t be fireworks at Mount Rushmore, but there will be presidential reenactors of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt roaming the national park, posing for photos and giving out autographs. The National Park Service requires visitors who are not fully vaccinated to wear a face mask outside on NPS-managed lands where physical distancing cannot be maintained and in all federal buildings.
Don’t miss America’s oldest Fourth of July event in Bristol, Rhode Island, which is often called “America’s most patriotic town.” The Bristol 4th of July celebration actually starts on Flag Day, June 14. Since 1785, the town has celebrated the holiday with patriotic exercises. This year’s in-person celebration includes a 2.5-mile Military, Civic, and Firemen’s Parade, fireworks, and a Fourth of July Ball at the Herreshoff Marine Museum.
Hannibal, Missouri offers one of the more unique July 4th events in the US with the 67th annual National Tom Sawyer Days: a four-day festival that includes a carnival, frog jump contest, mud volleyball tournament, patriotic parade, fireworks, and fence painting. Hannibal was the inspiration for the fictional town in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the fence painting contests are a nod to the main character of the book fooling his friends into painting his aunt’s home.
For more than a century, spectators have gathered at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island to watch Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, but this year they will gather steps away at Maimonides Park to see competitive eaters battle for a yellow mustard belt. Two years ago, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut set a new world record eating 75 hotdogs and Miki Sudo ate 48.5 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Fans must sign up for free tickets and observe local Covid-19 guidelines, or they can watch the women’s competition telecast live on ESPN3 and the ESPN App and the men’s competition live on ESPN.
The National Park Service is hosting its annual Fourth of July celebration, which includes the Salute to America, flyovers from different branches of the military, and a massive fireworks display on the National Mall. During the 17-minute show, fireworks are launched from both sides of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool casting a red, white, and blue glow over the 12 memorials that punctuate the civic space. Revelers must practice social distancing and wear a mask.