Sure, you could spend a happy Fourth of July barbecuing, hanging out with family and watching your neighbor set off firecrackers inside a trash can. Or you could celebrate America’s birthday as our founding fathers intended by attending one of the greatest parties of the year. Several Southern cities do the holiday justice with epic pyrotechnic displays, soaring patriotic music and historical performances. Here are our favorite places to celebrate the Fourth of July.
Go Fourth on the River in New Orleans
You can find a party in New Orleans any time of year, but on July 4 the action is around the river, where you can see the Go 4th on the River celebration. Find a spot along the shore (or, if you prefer to ball out, book a ticket on an old fashioned steamboat) to see the famed dueling barges launch fireworks in one of the most intense Fourth of July celebrations this side of the— well, on both sides of the—Mississippi. Be sure to tune in on the radio or a smartphone app to hear the musical accompaniment to the show.
Fantastic Fourth Celebration in Atlanta
Stone Mountain Park hosts families all summer long with its adventure park and locomotive tours, but on the Fourth the park really goes all out with its laser light show during its Fantastic Fourth party. The laser show, projected on an 800-foot mountain face, headlines each night during a weeklong celebration, with shows and attractions every day. In the past the laser show has featured a range of music, 3-D effects and even a laser Elvis. God bless America.
Fourth of July Fireworks Blast in Charleston
Board the USS Yorktown in the Charleston Harbor for a Fourth at sea—well, on the water, anyway. The massive WWII aircraft carrier is parked at the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, and it offers the perfect vantage point for a shoreline fireworks display. Festivities start long before evening, though, with activities for kids all afternoon, and plenty of space to set up some beach chairs and a beverage-packed cooler.
Let Freedom Sing in Nashville
Of course the Fourth of July arrives in Music City with a blaring street concert. Each year the city puts on a free concert, Let Freedom Sing, usually headlined by a few of country music’s best. The city also choreographs the 30-minute fireworks show to accompanying tunes by the (Grammy-award-winning) Nashville Symphony. Ring in Independence Day loud and proud in Nashville.
Fire on the Fourth in Miami
There are few better places to watch fireworks than Miami Beach, so it’s no wonder the crowds head to the shore when it’s time to light up the sky. The Fire on the Fourth festival launches the display each year from the North Beach Bandshell, but you can catch the show from nearly anywhere along the sandy isle. With the sand between your toes, the perfect Florida breeze gently cooling you, and a stellar light show overhead, you’ll nearly forget you’re slammed shoulder to shoulder with half the city’s residents.
Relive history in historic Williamsburg
The Independence Day celebration in Williamsburg, Virginia, skews historical, making it a great trip for families. The town marks the holiday with a reading of the Declaration of Independence by historical actors like Thomas Jefferson on the courthouse steps, a parade by a fife and drum corps, military exercises at the American Revolution Museum (over in nearby Yorktown), and of course, the obligatory fireworks.
Kaboom Town! in Addison, Texas
Just north of Dallas, the town of Addison has earned itself the moniker Kaboom Town with its ridiculous Independence Day display. The folks here are so excited about our nation’s independence they begin festivities an entire day before everyone else on July 3. The town launches thousands of pounds of fireworks every year, and visitors generally live it up on the holiday with rides, musical performances, county fair-like food vendors and even an air show.