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The Biggest (and Best) Fourth of July Celebrations in America

By Fiona Mokry
Read time: 4 minutes

Marking the day the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776, America’s Independence Day is celebrated throughout the country with fireworks, parades, and backyard barbecues. Some people might prefer a low-key affair; others are looking for a grand spectacle to commemorate the birth of our nation. If you count yourself among the latter, check out these six Fourth of July celebrations that are renowned as the nation’s biggest and best.

Bristol Fourth of July Parade – Bristol, Rhode Island

Participants dressed in Revolutionary War garb in the Bristol Fourth of July Parade in Bristol, Rhode Island
Credit: kickstand/ iStock Unreleased via Getty Images 

The Bristol Fourth of July Parade in Bristol, Rhode Island, is the centerpiece of the nation’s oldest Independence Day celebration. The festivities began in 1785 when Reverend Henry Wright led patriotic exercises in the town of Bristol that featured hymns and speeches. As community members gathered and marched toward the meeting point, this set in motion what would become the longest-running Fourth of July celebration in the country. Today, Bristol takes its honorary title seriously. The celebration gets underway on June 14 with Flag Day festivities and concludes a full three weeks later with the epic 2.5-mile-long Fourth of July parade that draws up to 200,000 spectators from across the state and around the world. 

Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks – New York City, New York

Aerial view of Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks on Hudson River in New York City
Credit: DLe/ Shutterstock 

The highly anticipated Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks attract several million people each year, who come to see the country’s largest Fourth of July fireworks show take place from barges on the Hudson River in New York City. (An additional 15 million people watch the spectacle on TV.) Tens of thousands of fireworks produce the extravagant display, which is accompanied by pyrotechnics, dancing, and live musical performances around the viewing area of the fireworks. There’s no parade with colorful floats and marching bands, but New York City still hosts one of the largest and most spectacular Fourth of July celebrations in the country. 

Harborfest – Boston, Massachusetts 

Sailors in parade at Harborfest Fourth of July celebration in Boston, Massachusetts
Credit: NB/ROD/ Alamy Stock Photo

It’s only fitting that, as one of the oldest cities in the nation, Boston would also throw one of the biggest parties in the country to celebrate Independence Day. Harborfest is a multiday festival that takes place in Boston from July 1 to July 4 each year. The festival features an array of events and activities catering to all ages and interests, including historical reenactments, boat tours, live music, food vendors, art markets, a chowder festival, and the famous Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular fireworks display. 

The morning of July 4 starts with a flag-raising ceremony and a wreath-laying ritual at Granary Burying Ground, followed by a reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Old State House and an oration at historic Faneuil Hall. The event concludes with fireworks, as well as the USS Constitution sailing from Boston Harbor to Castle Island and back. In 2022, Boston’s Harborfest drew an estimated 2 million spectators.

Huntington Beach 4th of July Celebration – Huntington Beach, California

Fourth of July parade in Huntington Beach, California
Credit: Jeff Gritchen/Orange County Register/ MediaNews Group via Getty Images

Southern California’s surf capital has been celebrating America’s birthday in style since 1904. The original Huntington Beach 4th of July Celebration coincided with the opening of the first electric train connecting Huntington Beach with nearby Long Beach and Los Angeles, which brought 50,000 people to Huntington Beach’s shores to celebrate. Though that train no longer exists, today the renowned party attracts upwards of 500,000 revelers

Activities and events include the Surf City 5K Run, a parade, fireworks, and a house-decorating contest for Huntington Beach residents. The celebration reaches its peak with a July 5 block party, in which the city’s Main Street is transformed into a lively pedestrian-only zone featuring live music, with bars and restaurants opening their doors to the crowds. 

Let Freedom Sing! – Nashville, Tennessee

Fireworks spectators in downtown Nashville, Tennessee
Credit: Danielle Del Valle via Getty Images Entertainment

Music City certainly lives up to its name with the annual Let Freedom Sing! Fourth of July celebration. The party kicks off on the afternoon of July 4 with a star-studded lineup of musical artists — the 2024 show features Chris Young, YOLA, Girl Named Tom, and many more. Following the free concerts is one of the largest fireworks shows in the nation, synchronized to a live performance by the Grammy Award-winning Nashville Symphony. The party also features a family-fun zone with inflatables, face painting, and other activities, as well as a wide variety of tasty food vendors and food trucks. 

A Capitol Fourth – Washington, D.C.

Fireworks over Washington, D.C.
Credit: Ana Maria Tudor/ Alamy Stock Photo

As you might expect, America’s capital stages one of the country’s biggest and best Fourth of July celebrations. The festivities kick off in the late morning of July 4 on Constitution Avenue with the National Independence Day Parade, consisting of marching bands, drum corps, floats, military and specialty units, giant balloons, equestrians, drill teams, national dignitaries, and celebrity participants. Happening simultaneously are family-friendly activities on the grounds of the Washington Monument. As night falls, a free concert gets underway with a lineup of popular musical artists. (Boyz II Men, Chicago, and Babyface were among the sperformer in 2023.) The night concludes with Fireworks at the National Mall, an annual spectacle that attracts roughly 700,000 people.

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