By Cassie Shortsleeve
Summertime means something different to everyone, but most people can agree that there’s still something magical about a dark, night sky lit up—just for a moment—by fireworks. That’s why, every July, travellers flock to city rooftops, quiet beaches, and city streets to see the show. These five destinations are worth a weekend trip for more than just the fireworks, too.
1. Boston, MA
Boston natives tend to head north (to New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine) or south (to Cape Cod or the islands) on summer weekends, which means the history-rich capital can be quieter come summer (a perk for travellers). The history-rich city also celebrates the holiday for a week (the event’s called Harborfest https://www.bostonharborfest.com).
The grand finale takes place on Wednesday at 8 p.m. when boats flood the Charles to watch fireworks over the river. The Esplanade, though crowded, will provide a front row view (bring a blanket); so will a kayak (and many companies run outings https://paddleboston.com/rentals/events/forth-july-fireworks).
2. Nantucket, MA
Thirty miles out to see, July 4 brings warmer weather and a summertime buzz to Nantucket. Avoid daytime beach crowds by skipping south side Nobadeer or Surfside, though beautiful, in lieu of westernmost Madaket or picture-book Siasconset to the east. Or, stay in town for an annual reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Unitarian Church Nantucket https://www.unitarianchurchnantucket.org/about-us/annual-events.
The lights display takes place at Jetties Beach, a short walk from town (you’ll see the crowds headed that way), but a late reservation at CRU http://www.crunantucket.com/ downtown or a stroll along the docks will provide a view, too.
Chicago’s short summer season makes it a perfect pick for a July jaunt, particularly around summer’s peak holiday. First-time travellers can get away with being tourists, too, as the weekend’s festivities are centred around Navy Pier (and the ferris wheel runs during the show).
Otherwise, the beaches—Oak Street or North Avenue—of Lake Michigan are prime posts come both day and night as are rooftops (and there are plenty).
4. New Orleans
New Orleans promises all that you’d expect from a trip to The Big Easy: food, drink, and over-the-top festivities. Go early: City Park http://neworleanscitypark.com/events/3rd-of-july hosts a concert and fireworks on the Third, then one of the largest shows in the country takes place on the Mississippi the next day—a fire boat spewing red, white and blue plumes of water and fireworks from duelling barges. Just about anywhere along the river will work.
5. New York City
Manhattan has no shortage of extravagant birthday parties for America (with exorbitant prices, to accompany them)—. But head to the city’s parks—Grand Ferry, Brooklyn’s East River State Park, or just about anywhere along the FDR—and you’ll find a more rustic city experience.