Five Best Fourth of July Celebrations in Smaller Cities

By Raven Petty on July 1, 2014 at 6:00 am EST
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Don't just assume that because a city is large, it has the best fireworks show for the Fourth of July. While cities such as New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia always get attention for their July 4th celebrations, several smaller cities host spectacular patriotic parties worth checking out – especially if you're looking for a more intimate Independence Day experience.

Bristol, RI, Bristol Fourth of July: Established in 1785, this annual fest is the oldest continuous celebration of its kind. Visitors can enjoy a summer concert series, drum and bugle corps competition, a ball, Miss and Little Miss 4th of July pageants, and parade. The three-week long celebration begins on Flag Day and concludes with the nearly 3-mile long parade on July 4. Residents can also decorate their houses and enter the Patriotic Home Decorating Contest for cash prizes. Bristol also draws visitors year round to enjoy one of the state's most prominent boating communities with more than 800 moorings, miles of accessible coastlines, and plenty to do in or out of the water.

Lake Tahoe, CA, 4th of July in Lake Tahoe: Drawing more than 100,000 spectators, this Independence Day celebration is split into five Lake Tahoe regions. One of the most popular is Lights on the Lake in the area's largest city South Lake, which offers multiple locations to view the fireworks. Tahoe Queen and M.S. Dixie II provide access on the water, while families can visit beaches or hike up Mount Tallac for a bird's-eye view. Lake Tahoe's July 4th events have earned national attention from USA Today, Travel and Leisure and ForbesTraveler.com as on of the nation's top Fourth of July festivals. Lake Tahoe is also known as one of the top vacation destinations with year-round entertainment and events.

New Orleans, LA, Go Fourth on the River: This four-day event celebrates with activities in and around the historic French Quarter, full of participating boutiques, art galleries and shops. The fireworks can be seen from either side of the Mississippi and has been touted as a “Top Five Must-See Fireworks Displays in the U.S.” by the American Pyrotechnics Association. Both the paddlewheel Creole Queen and steamboat Natchez offer river tours with reservations for the big show. This fest is one of many special events in New Orleans, which is well known for its spicy foods, late-night entertainment and historic neighborhoods.

Gatlinburg, TN, July 4th Midnight Parade: The small but hopping city of Gatlinburg lays claim to having the first July 4th Parade in the nation. The city's downtown fills with 100,000 parade goers and honors veterans and other heroes. Additional participants include the 572nd U.S. Air Force Band, and members of the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, U.S. Air Force and more. Guests can also watch the River Raft Regatta before the fireworks show display. The fireworks show was ranked a top 20 event by the Southeast Tourism Society, adding even more accolades for this popular mountain destination.

Addison, TX, Addison Kaboom Town!® 2014: This lively Dallas suburb notes Kaboom Town as the city's most explosive party of the year. This July 4th celebration includes fireworks synced to music, food, family-friendly activities and the Addison Airport Show. The show features the Cavanaugh Historic Warbird Flyover and air stunts by pilots Dan Buchanan and Bill Leff. Many restaurants also host watching parties complete with outdoor seating and special menus. Addison, one of the most popular destinations in the Dallas area, also offers more than 170 restaurants and abundant shopping and entertainment all within less than five square miles.

*Photo courtesy of Ron A. Parker, available under a Creative Commons license.

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