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Photo: iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

Nothing is more closely associated with the Fourth of July than thundering booms and colorful explosions. But there’s more to the Fourth than fireworks. Aside from being a celebration of America’s independence, it’s also the unofficial midpoint of summer and a great time to get away. From sea to shining sea, here are the best places to celebratethe 4th of July with parties, parades and, of course, pyrotechnics.

Louisiana didn’t become a state until 1812, but they’ve done a spectacular job of catching up on the celebration with the annual fireworks display in New Orleans. Go 4th on the River is a full day of concerts and free events culminating in an explosive finale. Two barges are sent into the Mississippi River for dueling fireworks displays set to music from the U.S. Navy Band. There’s prime viewing on both banks of the river and some local riverboats offer night cruises that bring you even closer to the action.

Kaboom! Town near Dallas, Texas is the fireworks celebration endorsed by the professionals: the American Pyrotechnics Association has said that it’s one of the best 4th of July shows in the country. What sets Kaboom! Town apart is the sheer volume of fireworks. The show lasts for more than 30 minutes and uses 1,500 pounds of explosives. There’s also an air show featuring historic warplanes and skydiving demonstrations. Fortunately for the aerial acrobats, the air show takes place before the fireworks display.

No one knows how to throw a birthday party for America like Philadelphia, the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Philly celebrates for an entire week with music, parades, and parties. There is a fireworks show, but the real highlight of the week is the annual 4th of July Jam. Billed as the “largest free concert in America,” this year the festival will feature John Mayer, the Roots and other top talent.

If your musical tastes are a little more old-fashioned, Colonial Williamsburg is the place to be for a very traditionalIndependence Day celebration. The living-history museum puts on a “militia muster” with a salute to the 13 original states and the firing of muskets and cannons. The daylong celebration also features performances of American popular music through the ages. The Williamsburg Lodge will be at the center of the festivities as the host of a sumptuous evening buffet. Guests of the Lodge will be given a fife and drum escort to the Williamsburg Palace Green for an evening performance by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, followed by—you guessed it—fireworks.

If yours is a more peaceful kind of patriotism, the Black Hills of South Dakota are a quiet place to appreciate America’s natural beauty. The Black Hills and the nearby Badlands share six national parks, more than a hundred miles of scenic byways, and some of the most majestic landscapes in the country. This area is also home to Mount Rushmore, the unique monument to Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. A visit to the monument known as “The Shrine of Democracy” is an excellent, explosion-free way to celebrate America’s independence.

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Jamie Smith

Jamie Smith

Jamie Smith is a writer, traveler and lover of cities currently living in Austin, Texas. Follow her on Twitter at @shameonseamus.
Jamie Smith

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