Each year, Americans mark the birth of the United States with Fourth of July celebrations. The national holiday recognizes the day the Declaration of Independence was adopted during the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia, PA.
For those who love to travel, Independence Day delivers some of the best sights, sounds, and stops of the year. And, while the East Coast is rich with “independence” sites, there are also a plethora of significant museums, attractions, activities, and fireworks displays throughout the country that represent the United States and its independent, bold spirit.
Made in the USA, American Coach is an ultra-luxury brand of recreational vehicles that’s celebrating its 30th anniversary. The company recommends these road stops begin with some lesser-known sites and end with more traditional ones. All the destinations have been selected based on their historic, patriotic, or All-American flair.
While each Fourth of July stop has been researched, be sure to call ahead to confirm hours of operation, advance ticketing requirements, and other relevant attendance details.
Lesser Known Fourth of July Stops
Kaboom Town!, Addison, TX
Everything is bigger in Texas, so it is not surprising that on July 3 there’s a “best of” fireworks show that lasts for a solid 30 minutes just outside of Dallas. It is not only locals who brag about the patriotic display, but it’s also received accolades from the American Pyrotechnics Association, too! Spectacular views can be found throughout Addison but one of the best ways to take in the show is to book a watch party at a local restaurant or hotel. The parties typically include live music and special Fourth of July morsels and libations, served with a side of festivities.
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Near Dayton, OH
For more than a century, the U.S. Air Force has defended the United States in the air, space, and cyberspace through the skill and bravery of American Airmen and Airwomen. Located on the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the free National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is the world’s largest military aviation museum. The museum features more than 350 aerospace vehicles and missiles and thousands of artifacts.
One of the historic events showcased at the museum is the moon landing. On July 20, 1969, the United States’ Apollo 11 became the first crewed mission to land and walk on the moon. Touch actual rocks from the lunar surface of the moon and the planet Mars as part of “SPACE: A Journey to Our Future,” a highly interactive special exhibit that showcases the country’s space exploration program.
Let Freedom Sing!, Nashville, TN
Known as America’s home to country music, downtown Nashville is hosting a free Let Freedom Sing! event that includes a concert by three-time, Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Brad Paisley. The city is also putting on its largest fireworks show ever, synchronized to live music from the Nashville Symphony.
Cody Stampede Celebration & Parade, Cody, WY
To truly experience the spirit of America’s Wild West, plan to attend the four-day Independence Day celebration in Cody that runs July 1-4. Since 1919, Cody has been showcasing the toughest and most talented cowboys and cowgirls, legitimately earning its title as “Rodeo Capital of the World.”
During the holiday, Cody is hosting the PRCA Rodeo where contestants compete for $400,000 in prize money. The weekend also includes three parades where the red, white, and blue will be on full display – a Kiddies’ Parade on July 2 and a Stampede Parade on July 3 and 4. At dusk on July 4, fireworks will explode above the Wyoming River. Cody is also home to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West with five museums under one roof. Explore Plains Indian cultures, trailblazing cowboys and cowgirls, classic and modern western artworks, and more.
Cody is 55 miles from the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park, which became the country’s first national park on March 1, 1872. In addition to its exploding geysers, bubbling paint pots, mesmerizing hot springs, and travertine terraces, Yellowstone is also home to the United States’ national symbol, the bald eagle.
Independence Rock Historic Site, Alcova, WY
Travelers who happen to be in southern WY traveling on State Route 220 should keep an eye out for the Independence Rock Rest Area. The granite rock is approximately 130 feet high and was a well-known landmark on the Oregon, Mormon, and California emigrant trails. More than 5,000 names are carved on the rock by 19th century pioneers who traveled treacherous trails and braved tough conditions in search of their American dream in the Western states. One of the earliest names carved into the rock is M.K. Hugh and is dated 1824. Hiking is allowed on and around the rock.
Freedom Park, Omaha, NE
Located along the banks of the Missouri River in the heartland of the country, Freedom Park honors the United States Navy. The free outdoor park and museum showcase two impressive pieces of military hardware – the minesweeper USS Hazard, which received three battle stars for its service during World War II, and the Cold War-era training submarine USS Marlin.
AmericaFest, Pasadena, CA
AmericaFest, held at the Rose Bowl Stadium, promises to deliver the largest Fourth of July fireworks display west of the Mississippi. The day-long event is a celebration of all things red, white, and blue and includes tailgating, live entertainment, motorcycle stunt show, and a world-renowned fireworks show.
While the Gold Rush produced great wealth for some, it also transformed the United States. As miners rushed in, the population of California swelled, helping to accelerate its admission to the Union as the 31st state.
Two years after gold was found in 1848 at Sutter’s Mill, the town of Columbia was established. Today, visiting Columbia State Historic Park is like traveling back in time. Visitors are surrounded by the largest collection of gold-rush-era structures in the state of California. Merchants are dressed in 1850s attire, there is the smell of coal smoke from the blacksmith shop, and the rumble of a stagecoach as it arrives in town. Stroll down Main Street, stop in the vintage shops and eateries or try to strike it rich by panning for gold.
Columbia is one of three gold-rush towns clustered together on the outskirts of Yosemite National Park, which is famous for its giant sequoias, dramatic waterfalls, and granite cliffs.
Traditional Fourth of July Stops
Since Boston is considered the “birthplace of the American Revolution,” a stop in this seminal city is a must. Boston-based events that led up to the Revolutionary War include the Boston Tea Party and Siege of Boston. Naturally, many of the leading American Patriots, James Otis, Samuel Adams, John Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere, hailed from Boston.
A 2.5-mile walk along the Freedom Trail includes 16 locations that are significant to the United States’ fight for independence. The trail, most of which is marked by a red brick path, includes the Old South Meeting House, Old State House, and Paul Revere’s House, each of which charge an admission fee. The Boston Common, Granary Burying Ground (the final resting place of John Hancock, Paul Revere, and several other historic figures), Bunker Hill Monument and ground markers that denote a historic site or event round out the stops along the Freedom Trail. Visitors can take their own self-guided tour or book a private tour, many of which feature knowledgeable guides in 18th century garb.
The National Park Service offers free guided tours and brochures for self-guided exploration of the Black Heritage Trail. The trail is a 1.6-mile walking tour of 14 historic sites that explores the history of Boston’s 19th century African American community who primarily lived on the north slope of Beacon Hill. The tour, which is the largest collection of historic sites relating to life within a free Black community prior to the Civil War, includes the Museum of African American History, 54th Regiment Memorial, and the African Meeting House. The trail also features several stations on the Underground Railroad, which escaped slaves used to flee from the South to freedom in the North and Canada. In 1783, Massachusetts was the first state to abolish slavery.
While the USS Constitution (also known as “Old Ironsides”) was not part of the American Revolution, she is a testament to the honor, courage, and commitment of U.S. sailors to protecting our country. Launched in 1797 from Boston, she fought in the War of 1812 and survived a barrage of cannonballs fired from by British. She remains a commissioned vessel with a crew of officers and enlisted personnel.
The Declaration of Independence (a list of grievances against the King of England to justify separation from British rule) and The Constitution (a charter of the United States government ratified by the states) are foundational documents of the United States. Take a guided tour of Independence Hall to see the Assembly Room where both were signed in 1776 and 1787, respectively. Independence Hall, originally known as the Pennsylvania State House, also features an original draft of The Constitution.
Just steps from Independence Hall is the Museum of the American Revolution. Opened in 2017, the museum shares the compelling stories of the diverse people and complex events that sparked America’s path toward liberty, equality, and self-government. Amazing artifacts include an extensive collection of Revolutionary War weapons, diaries, and personal letters. See a replica of the Boston Liberty Tree (where the revolution was first discussed), General George Washington’s tent, and a 13-star flag. Don’t miss the special exhibit, “Flags and Founding Documents, 1776-Today,” that showcases dozens of rare American flags, a copy of the first newspaper printing of the Declaration of Independence, and historic early state constitutions.
Statue of Liberty, New York, NY
At a graceful 305’ tall, the Statue of Liberty is a towering symbol of American freedom. The statue was sculpted by French artist Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi and gifted to the United States by France in 1875 to commemorate the countries’ alliance during the American Revolution. In her right hand, Lady Liberty holds a torch above her head. In her left hand, she carries a tablet inscribed with JULY IV MDCCLXXVI (July 4, 1776 in Roman numerals), the date of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
The statue can be viewed from various vantage points along the Hudson River. For an up-close- and-personal look, take the ferry that departs from Battery Park to Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty stands.
The National Mall, Washington, D.C.
The nation’s capital is packed with patriotic things to do and see – many of which are free.
To “meet” all the presidents of our great country, visit the National Portrait Gallery, which showcases the stories and people who shaped America. The “America’s Presidents” exhibit, features the largest, most complete collection of presidential portraits outside of the White House. The gallery also includes paintings of Martha Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Michelle Obama, and several others.
The free Smithsonian museums located on the National Mall include the National Museum of American History (see the flag that inspired the “Star-Spangled Banner”), National Museum of the American Indian (shares the diversity of culture, language, history, tradition, and futures of indigenous peoples of North and South America), and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in 2017. It’s the only national museum devoted to the documentation of African American life, art, history, and culture. Significant artifacts include garments worn by slaves, a Bible owned by rebellion leader Nat Turner, Emmett Till’s glass-topped casket, training aircraft used by the Tuskegee Institute, and an invitation to President Obama’s 2009 inauguration.
Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C. area
Just outside of D.C., it’s worth a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. Rich with American history on acres of well-manicured grounds, everyone can deepen their knowledge of our great country.
Visit the gravesites of Presidents Taft and John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery. Taft, the 27th president, was the first president to be buried in Arlington after his death in 1930. Kennedy, the 35th president, was laid to rest in 1963 after his assassination. Most presidents choose to be buried in their home states.
According to the cemetery website: First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy wanted her husband’s gravesite to be accessible to the American public. In selecting a location, she consulted with the president’s brother, Robert F. Kennedy, and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara—both of whom are also buried at Arlington.
In addition to the presidential graves, the cemetery is the final resting place for many notable Americans, including veterans of the American Revolutionary War, military leaders, astronauts, Supreme Court Chief Justices, and many others.
Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon, VA
Just a short drive from Washington, D.C., is Mount Vernon – an American landmark and the historic home of America’s first president, George Washington, and his wife, Martha. The Washingtons lived in a two-story Georgian mansion overlooking the Potomac River on an estate that was originally 8,000 acres.
Step back into history and tour the Washingtons’ plantation home, a blacksmith shop, stable, smokehouse, slave quarters, and other outbuildings that supported daily life. An extensive museum shares background on Washington’s life prior to becoming president and the legacy he left behind. The site also includes a memorial to the hundreds of enslaved men, women, and children who worked the plantation.
A unique way to visit Mount Vernon is by boat. Families can travel down the Potomac River and see the Washington Monument, United States Capitol, and other historic sites from a completely different vantage point. The boat trip is narrated and takes approximately three hours round trip. Families disembark at Mount Vernon and have four hours to explore the estate. Mount Vernon can also be reached by bike via the scenic Mount Vernon Trail. The ride takes approximately one hour, and bikes can be rented in Alexandria.
Founded in 1699, Williamsburg was established by England as the capital of the Virginia Colony. Today, Colonial Williamsburg is dedicated to preserving and sharing 18th century colonial life during the time when the United States was being formed.
Recognized as the world’s largest living history museum, a visit to Colonial Williamsburg is an immersive experience. Costumed and wigged interpreters stroll the streets talking in the language and diction of the 1700s. The city’s colonial shops, taverns, homes, kitchens, and gardens are tended to by weavers, wigmakers, and residents of the time. Watch as blacksmiths recreate weapons and hardware that supplied the armies during the Revolutionary War. Tour the Capitol and Courthouse to learn about the founding principles of Virginia government and justice in the 18th century. Book a carriage or wagon ride and dine at a historic tavern serving Colonial-inspired fare, including Welsh Rarebit, Savory Pasty, and Salet of Snipped Greens.
Learn about the role American Indians played in creating a new country and the impact of the Declaration of Independence on African Americans in Williamsburg. When the Declaration was written, more than 52 percent of Williamsburg’s population was enslaved. Take in a museum theatre exploration of African American perspectives on the Declaration, the revolutions it inspired, and the ongoing struggle for equality and freedom in America.
To commemorate the Fourth of July, the city is hosting a celebration on historic Duke of Gloucester Street with patriotic festivities, public readings of the Declaration of Independence, musical performances, and a fireworks display.
Colonial Parkway, VA
An entire Fourth of July can be spent in Virginia’s Historic Triangle of Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. The 23-mile Colonial Parkway connects the three towns and has numerous scenic pull-offs with historical markers that provide descriptions of the view. A day-long Liberty Celebration at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown features outdoor living-history experiences that allow visitors to explore life in Washington’s Continental Army, see artillery demonstrations, and watch performances by the Fifes and Drums of York Town. In the city of Yorktown, evening activities include a bell-ringing ceremony, patriotic concert, and an amazing fireworks display booming over the York River.
Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, Atlanta, GA
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an African American Baptist minister and one of America’s foremost Civil Rights activists from 1955 until 1968, when he was assassinated. At the age of 35, he was the youngest man to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and donated the $54,123 cash prize to advancing the Civil Rights movement. See Dr. King’s boyhood home, the original Ebenezer Baptist Church, and The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (“The King Center”). The National Park Service has restored many of the neighboring buildings to reflect the 1930s and 1940s, the time when Dr. King grew up. Today, visitors can step into that era and imagine themselves walking down the street, hearing the noise of the lively neighborhood, and experiencing what life was like in those tumultuous times.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone, SD
This colossal stone edifice in the Black Hills of South Dakota took 14 years to complete from 1927 to 1941 and cost approximately $1 million. The heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln are 60 feet tall and were carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore. The four presidents were chosen to represent the nation’s birth, growth, development, and preservation.
On July 3, presidential reenactors George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt will be strolling the grounds, giving talks about their presidency, posing for photographs, and providing autographs.
And, while Mount Rushmore isn’t hosting its typical Fourth of July fireworks display, many of the surrounding small towns are. Throughout the Badlands and Black Hills American pride will be on full display with parades, re-enactors, Old West shootouts, cook-offs, car show ‘n shines, live music, ice cream socials, farmers markets, and more.
Source: American Coach