Independence Day without fireworks is like cookies without milk. Seeing the “rockets’ red glare” is the classic finale for any Fourth of July celebration. In 2014, rather than seeing the same show you’ve probably already watched year after year, how about planning an upcoming vacation around this patriotic holiday? These cities are known for putting on some of the best fireworks shows that are well worth making the trip to see.
The nation’s capital offers one of the most magnificent fireworks displays in the country against an especially patriotic backdrop that includes the Capitol building and other Washington, D.C., monuments. This all-day event begins with a parade along Constitution Avenue and culminates with the grand finale of fireworks that are launched from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, lighting up the dark night’s sky over the Washington Monument and bringing to life the choreographed sounds of the National Symphony Orchestra on the West Lawn of the Capitol.
In celebration of America’s 238th birthday, Tom Bergeron, host of Dancing with the Stars will return to host this year’s A Capitol Fourth, which will include performances from some of the nation’s most popular musical artists. Last year’s event included Barry Manilow, Darren Criss from Glee, American Idol winner Candice Glover and country singer Scotty McCreery, who was Season 10’s champion.
While in D.C., take the time to explore our country’s past for the total “America” vacation. Visit the White House, Mount Vernon and one or more of the 16 free museums, such as the National Museum of American History with its collection of over 3 million artifacts, such as the original Star-Spangled Banner and George Washington’s uniform.
Of course, the city of Boston is also steeped with history and knows how to put on an incredible show. The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular is now in its fourth decade, as one of the best and the biggest, drawing over a half-million attendees every year. Taking place over the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge, and shot from four barges on the water, it continues to be the show that others throughout the country try to emulate.
There are numerous sites and attractions found in Boston and throughout the area to help complete your patriotic holiday. Don’t miss the walking tour along the Freedom Trail, which includes 16 historic sites, beginning at the oldest park in America, Boston Common. The trail passes through downtown Boston and ends at the USS Constitution, with highlights that include the Paul Revere House, Faneuil Hall and the old State House.
In Philadelphia, the Fourth of July is celebrated with an 11-day festival that culminates with a grand finale of fireworks over the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The City of Brotherly Love is also known as the place that birthed America’s independence, and with such heritage, throws a pretty incredible party. The Wawa Welcome America festival is one of the most extravagant in the nation.
The dazzling fireworks show begins just after the July Jam concert. This year’s guests have not yet been announced, but 2013’s production included recording artist John Mayer and country music star Hunter Hayes. While in Philly, be sure to visit Independence National Historical Park, the home of the Liberty Bell Center, Independence Hall, Congress Hall, the New Hall Military Museum, Franklin Court, the Bishop White House and the Graff House. The Franklin Institute, which features a massive marble statue of Benjamin Franklin, offers patrons the chance to take a journey through many American milestones in history, including the largest collection of artifacts from the Wright brothers’ workshop and a simulated earth-orbit research station.
New York City
Thanks to Macy’s, the Big Apple also hosts an incredible 4th of July fireworks extravaganza. The country’s largest pyrotechnic show is quite the marvel, with some 75,000 pounds of fireworks shot from six barges along the Hudson River and choreographed to a score that features pop, country and Americana favorites. Hudson River Park is a good spot to view the show, but for an especially unforgettable night, book a spot on a schooner like the Adirondack, an ideal place to see the fireworks as well as the New York City skyline. While here, add to the historic celebration by learning about the immigration experience at Ellis Island and getting a closer look at the Statue of Liberty.
Another one of the most dramatic settings in the nation for a fireworks display is Mount Rushmore, set in the lush Black Hills of South Dakota. This show creates a unique challenge as the fireworks have to be hoisted up the face of this magnificent monument using a pulley, and then lowered into the canyon behind it. The result is a fireworks display that seem to burst out of nowhere, illuminating the presidents’ faces for quite the breathtaking spectacle.
There is a lot more to see and do in this beautiful area of the country. Custer State Park, the largest state park in the nation, is the home of 1,300 buffalo roaming free throughout its 71,000 acres. Here you can glimpse a wide array of other wildlife too, including bighorn sheep, deer, elk, mountain goats, wild turkey and wild burros. Go back to the days of the Wild West by taking a ride on a vintage steam train or watching an old-fashioned shootout in Hill City. The entire region is filled with Old West history and has been the home of many legendary characters such as Crazy Horse, Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Jim Bridger, General George Custer and many others.
On the West Coast, the Golden Gate City puts on an amazing waterfront celebration with more than 10,000 shells fired off the Municipal Pier at Aquatic Park and a barge off Pier 39. One of the best ways to experience the show is from the water, with the Red and White Fleet as well as the Blue and Gold Fleet offering popular cruises that sail out to an ideal spot on San Francisco Bay to take it all in.
The beauty of San Francisco draws millions of visitors from all corners of the globe, often ranked as one of the most loved cities on the planet. While here, take a stroll across the Golden Gate Bridge, explore museums, fly a kite on Ocean Beach or ride one of the city’s famous cable cars.
For a Fourth of July celebration with all the fireworks needed to create memories of a lifetime, you won’t miss the mark by traveling to any of these fantastic cities. Each one, from sea to shining sea, instills patriotism and pride in the fact that we live in this wonderful, feisty, democratic experiment of a country. So grab your American flag, pack your bag, and hit the road this July 4th weekend!