4th of July: How it’s Celebrated Across the USA
July 4 has a few different names in the US: Independence Day, America’s birthday, the 4th of July. Although the 13 original colonies actually agreed to separate from Britain on July 2, it was on July 4 that the Founding Fathers formally accepted the Declaration of Independence.
The 4th of July is best associated with barbecues, patriotic parades, and fireworks displays. Independence Day is a national holiday, so most people have the day off work and spend time with family and friends. There are large celebrations in major cities, but local towns often have their own fireworks displays, fairs, carnivals, and parades.
America turns 240 this year, so we've put together a list of some of the best places and ways to wish it a happy birthday!
No one can claim a closer connection to the 4th of July than the city where the Declaration was signed. Philly celebrates from June 27 all the way through the 4th itself, so the real difficulty is deciding which events you want to choose! Festivities include free concerts, movie screenings, three different fireworks shows, the Historic Philadelphia Block Party, kids’ events, and the fan favorite, Free Hoagie Day. The day of the 4th is packed with events, including a parade, the famous Party on the Parkway, and a concert with a mix of pop music and patriotic songs. The 8 days of celebration ends with a huge fireworks display taking place over the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There are loads of historical buildings to visit here so why not spend a few weeks while learning English in Philadelphia.
Another historic city of the American Revolution, Boston offers a true taste of Independence Day. The Boston Harborfest, the nation’s largest Fourth of July festival, includes over 220 events from July 1-4, including tours, concerts, historic reenactments, and the chance to sample the best of New England clam chowder at the famous Chowdafest. The Boston Pops perform their patriotic concert in the outdoor Hatch Shell by the Charles River, including national marches and the ever-popular 1812 Overture featuring real cannon fire, which the Boston Pops made into a national 4th of July staple beginning in the 1970s. Catch the televised version on the 4th itself, or beat the crowds and attend the rehearsal the day before! The evening concludes with an impressive fireworks display over Boston Harbor.
Additional note: those hoping to venture a bit further can head to Bristol, Rhode Island, which boasts the oldest continuous 4th of July celebration in the country, first started back in 1785. The festivities start on Flag Day, June 14, so you can even sample a bit of both cities if you’re in the Boston area!
New York, New York
The nation’s biggest city comes with the largest fireworks display, and our English school in the Empire State building means you'll have first class tickets to the show! The location changes year to year, but this year the display will be over the East River, offering great views from downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. What better place to celebrate the US than in the quintessential American city? Another yearly tradition is the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest. Contestants gather on Coney Island to try to outdo each other and beat the record of 69 hot dogs eaten in 10 minutes. If that stomach-churning feat doesn’t sound appealing to you, consider instead trying out historical walking tours of the city or going on a harbor cruise.
The bustling northwestern city of Seattle connects its famous music and arts culture with national pride to celebrate the 4th. Whether its the Seattle Wind Symphony, big band music, salsa dancing, chamber music, or more contemporary selections, you’re sure to get a taste of something you’ll enjoy. If you prefer eating or drinking, assorted local vendors are offering a variety of goodies, along with boating events and of course the essential fireworks. Festivities run from June 29-July 4.
San Francisco, California
Although California didn’t become an American state until 1850, Californians don’t celebrate the nation’s birthday any less enthusiastically than the rest of the country! As is the case for many cities, the highlight of the evening is the fireworks display, which takes place over Fisherman’s Wharf. Before the fireworks, PIER 39 offers a variety of concerts and events, including the locally beloved ‘80s cover band Tainted Love, so be ready to dance! The festivities are sponsored by Discovery’s Shark Week and offer patriotic shark-themed fun for the whole family. Enjoy everything else this city has to offer and choose to learn English in San Fransisco – a beautiful, sophisticated city!
Those hoping to enjoy their Independence Day by the sun and sand will enjoy the Miami Beach Fire at the Fourth Festival in Miami. The day starts at 9am with yoga on the beach, and afterward you can take advantage of a variety of food trucks and DJs. Performances by the Family Stone and Grand Funk Railroad dominate the evening, leading up to fireworks over the water. If you've got a few weeks to spare and enjoy the sunny Florida climate, study English in Miami and soak up everything the city has to offer.
Although DC was still a swamp at the time the colonies declared independence, the seat of the American government – which has been the capital since 1800 – takes its celebrations very seriously. There’s no better time to see the document that made it all possible: the Declaration is on display in the National Archives. Catch the National Independence Day Parade on Constitution Avenue and celebrate America surrounded by some of the most iconic American landmarks, or enjoy A Capitol Fourth, the free concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol. And, at the end of the day, the DC skyline has never looked more American than during the fireworks display over the National Mall. To fully soak up everything the capital city has to offer, why not study English abroad in Washington?
Wherever you are in the US, you’re sure to find a great way to celebrate the 4th. The celebrations are as varied and as interesting as the states and cities themselves! Happy Independence Day!