Independence Day in Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia

15 Unique Fourth of July Celebrations Across America

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Independence Day in Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia

Festivals of Freedoms

Independence Day is known for parades and fireworks spectaculars, and both of those are great. But some of the best Fourth of July celebrations in America focus less on lighting up the sky and more on the culture, character, and traditions of the region — and those unique events are often the most underrated and the most memorable. Break the mold this year with a trip to one of the country's great, unsung holiday celebrations.

Key Lime Festival, Key West, Florida

Key Lime Festival | Key West, Florida

Although Key West has the feel of a remote tropical paradise, it's still part of Florida, which is part of the United States and therefore goes all out on the Fourth of July — but they do it in their own Florida Keys type of way. The Key Lime Festival runs July 4-7, and organizers think this year's bash is shaping up to be the best one yet. Key lime cocktails, a pie-eating contest, lime rum samplings, cocktail classes, and a fireworks picnic are all part of the fun.

Lake Tahoe Freedom Fest, Olympic Valley, California

Lake Tahoe Freedom Fest | Olympic Valley, California

Lots of Independence Day celebrations have food, most have fireworks, some have live entertainment. What you're not likely to encounter, however, is skiing — unless you're in Squaw Valley. The Lake Tahoe Freedom Fest runs July 4-6, and it features an impressive array of live music, including a tribute to the famous Jerry Garcia Band concert that was held there in 1991. The real attraction, however, is the powder. Grab your sticks and head down — or up, rather — to the snow-filled party, which run a bit longer than the festival, July 3-7, and is a summer skiing celebration.

Parade of Boats, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

Parade of Boats | Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

The motto "Liberty, Justice, and a Good Time for All" is the theme of the annual Parade of Boats, which is now in its 36th year. Join spectators who line the water for all-day fun that starts at 9 a.m. Line up with them or, if you have a vessel of your own, join the fleet for just $5 per boat. Proceeds benefit the local Scouts.

The S.F. Mime Troupe, San Francisco

The S.F. Mime Troupe | San Francisco

You know it's July 4th in San Francisco when the streets are filled with people in costume with painted white faces who don't speak. In a long-running tradition, the famed San Francisco Mime Troupe leads the festivities this year in the Bay Area city, this time performing "Treasure Island" on the 4th, 6th, and 7th, although they're moving from their usual location at Cedar Rose Park to parks and venues around the city.

Boston Harborfest, Boston
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Boston Harborfest | Boston

Without the city of Boston, there would be no Fourth of July, so it's only fitting that the birthplace of the American Revolution hosts a first-class Independence Day celebration. Now in its 38th year, Boston Harborfest is one of the biggest, grandest holiday festivities in the land. The family-friendly affair, which runs July 1-7, is a celebration of art, music, the long and storied tradition of Boston's maritime culture, the spirit of the revolution, and, of course, clam chowder.

Join the Parade, Jekyll Island, Georgia
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Join the Parade | Jekyll Island, Georgia

Lots of places have parades on the Fourth of July, but you'll be stuck on the sidelines in a lawn chair for most of them. Not at the holiday parade in Jekyll Island. There, organizers encourage both island locals and tourists — they call them "guests" — to decorate their bikes, golf carts, themselves, and even their pets and join in the festivities.

Let Freedom Sing, Nashville, Tennessee

Let Freedom Sing | Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville hosts one of the biggest and most spectacular fireworks shows in America, but pyrotechnics aren't the reason you should consider traveling to Music City this year — you should travel there, of course, for the music. Just like the fireworks show, the Let Freedom Sing celebration is free to the public, and the daylong party is packed with food, vendors, family fun, kids' areas, and some of the biggest stadium acts on Earth. Brett Eldredge will be there this year, as will Dylan Scott and Jessy Wilson.

The World's Shortest Parade, Aptos, California

The World's Shortest Parade | Aptos, California

Although it runs only two city blocks, the World's Shortest Parade in Soquel and State Park in Aptos runs as long as two hours. The 0.6-mile route is miniature by parade standards, but the fun is super-sized. Head down before the parade for a pancake breakfast and hang around after for the Party in the Park.

Old World Wisconsin Independence Day Celebration, Eagle, Wisconsin
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Old World Wisconsin Independence Day Celebration | Eagle, Wisconsin

Step into the past with a trip to the Old World Wisconsin Independence Day Celebration, which is put on every year by the Wisconsin Historical Society. A recreation of the wild and rugged state as it was in the 19th century, the festival is a family-friendly affair that gives visitors the opportunity to participate in throwback activities like making their own ice cream and riding in horse-drawn wagons.

Cody Stampede Rodeo, Cody, Wyoming

Cody Stampede Rodeo | Cody, Wyoming

Known as the rodeo capital of the world, Cody is home to the Stampede Rodeo, a multi-day celebration of America's Western horse culture. Tickets vary by date, but Buzzard Roost seating is not available for most of the events, and if you know what that is, you're already ahead of the game.

Independence Weekend, Flagstaff, Arizona

Independence Weekend | Flagstaff, Arizona

Flagstaff Independence Weekend is an amazing celebration that blends the rich and unique culture of the American Southwest with modern July 4 fanfare. There's a big parade, and the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra puts on a concert. The real fun, however, is in local traditions. The Hopi Festival of Arts & Culture offers a glimpse into the region's Native American heritage, and the Flagstaff Folk Festival is a bouillabaisse of banjos, mandolins, and guitars. Other happenings include the Festival in the Pines and the Babbitt Ford Car Show.

Independence Day in Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia

Independence Day in Colonial Williamsburg | Williamsburg, Virginia

In terms of importance to the American Revolution, Virginia is the Massachusetts of the South — and Colonial Williamsburg is the heart of the state's Independence Day culture. The Lights of Freedom fireworks show is legendary, but you can get fireworks anywhere. What you can't get is the deep dive into America's past that is Colonial Williamsburg's bread and butter. Aside from live music and great food, there are authentic re-enactments, readings of the Declaration of Independence, a tavern breakfast with Thomas and Martha Jefferson, the Salute to the States party, and the "Created Equal" museum theater performance, which reflects on both the Declaration's message of equality and Virginia's slave culture of the time.

Celebration in the Heartland, Moore, Oklahoma

Celebration in the Heartland | Moore, Oklahoma

From 10 a.m.-10 p.m. on July 4, Buck Thomas Park in Moore becomes a hodge-podge of Americana that includes food trucks, car shows, crafts, vendors, live music, children's fun, and, of course, fireworks at dark. The real draw, however, is the Midwestern small-town feel that keeps crowds from around the region coming back every year to the Celebration in the Heartland.

Hughes Music Independence Day Show, Branson, Missouri

Hughes Music Independence Day Show | Branson, Missouri

As the outdoor playground of the Midwest, Branson hosts a nice menu of July 4th parties, festivals, and celebrations. Among the best is the Hughes Music Independence Day Show. You'll watch as 30 years of family show business experience comes to life as the Hughes Brothers put on their legendary performance, an experience that includes 50 singers, musicians, dancers, and performers.

Seward July 4th Celebration, Seward, Nebraska

Seward July 4th Celebration | Seward, Nebraska

The town of Seward's July 4 Celebration is famous across not just the Midwest, but all of America for a reason. The town of 6,000 welcomes 40,000 guests to its Independence Day party, which has run annually with almost no interruptions for 150 years starting in 1868. Come for the antique car show, but stay for the Grand Parade — or maybe come for the National Guard Museum events, but stay for the live entertainment and craft show. Either way, just come to Seward, as tens of thousands of revelers do every year.