Thinking about summer vacations?
The first week of July is a great week for travel. It’s nice and warm in most places, and it’s fun to celebrate the 4th of July anywhere in the United States. Bonus: Independence Day is a school/work holiday for most, so we don’t have to use as many precious vacation days.
My family has especially enjoyed spending the 4th of July in patriotic places. Favorite destinations have included Washington D.C., Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park.
If you are planning a family vacation over Independence Day, consider one of these destinations to make the holiday extra special this year! Each is uniquely American, with plenty of fun activities to fill an entire summer vacation.
Washington D.C. is a city of monuments and museums dedicated to the great people who helped found and build our nation. Independence Day in Washington D.C. is especially festive, with a parade, fireworks, concert at the Capitol and other special events.
Any patriotic trip can include a visit to the monuments on the National Mall and Tidal Basin, the National Archives, a tour of the Capitol Building and the Smithsonian museums. My family enjoyed spending one full day at George Washington’s Mount Vernon in nearby Alexandria.
- Tips for Celebrating the 4th of July in Washington D.C.
- 3 Days in Washington D.C.
- Touring Washington D.C. Monuments at Night
- Best D.C. Museums for Families
- 15 Ways to do Washington D.C. on a Budget
The United States was born in 1776 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The city celebrates the 4th of July with a reading of the Declaration of Independence at Independence Hall, a big parade, Party on the Parkway, and of course, fireworks.
The Liberty Bell and other important historical sites and museums are also located at Independence National Historic Park. Valley Forge National Historical Park is a few miles outside of Philadelphia.
New York City
New York City hosts the nation’s biggest fireworks show on the 4th of July. This city’s other patriotic destinations include the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the 9/11 Memorial Museum and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.
After that, there is an endless list of all-American activities in New York City. Explore Central Park. Visit the top of the Empire State Building. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. See a Broadway show. You can’t go wrong!
- Tips for Visiting the Statue of Liberty
- The 9/11 Memorial Museum for Families
- Your Guide to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum
Boston was home to the first stirrings of Independence and the first shots of the Revolutionary War. You can get your patriotic fix on the 4th with the free Boston POPS and fireworks event on the Esplanade. Many of Boston’s historic sites host special events on Independence Day as well.
Spend the rest of your trip walking the Freedom Trail, climbing the Bunker Hill monument or taking a day trip to Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord.
Located in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota, Mount Rushmore is an engineering feat dedicated to four of our greatest U.S. Presidents. The memorial hosts a patriotic program every night, and special events on the week of the 4th. We attended the small town 4th of July celebration and fireworks in nearby Custer, and it’s a lot of fun!
Mount Rushmore is neat, but there is so much more to do in the Black Hills. Custer State Park is top notch. Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave National Park are close by. This gorgeous destination is filled with outdoor recreation, historic sites and quirky roadside attractions.
- Tips for Visiting Mount Rushmore
- The Ultimate Black Hills Itinerary for Families
- Fun Things to Do at Custer State Park
This area is rich in American history. Jamestown, was the first permanent settlement on American soil. Later, the colony’s capitol moved to nearby Williamsburg. Finally, British troops surrendered in Yorktown twelve miles from Williamsburg, which ended the Revolutionary War.
These destinations go all out for Independence Day. Start with a reading of the Declaration of Independence and finish with fireworks. Enjoy picnicking, historical re-enactments, Busch Gardens theme park or Virginia Beach in between.
- 10 Fun Things to Do in Colonial Williamsburg
- How to Experience Living History at Jamestown
- 5 Fun Things to do in Virginia Beach
Yellowstone National Park
Where better to celebrate our great nation than in its first national park? We spent the 4th of July in Yellowstone with extended family, and it was a lot of fun! We spent the day exploring the park, then laid down our blankets in West Yellowstone’s city park for fireworks.
You need a minimum of three full days to really see Yellowstone. Then save at least one day to go sightseeing in Grand Teton National Park nearby.
- Tips for Your First Trip to Yellowstone National Park
- 5 Fun Things to Do in Yellowstone National Park
- 5 Fun Things to Do in Grand Teton National Park
Baltimore, Maryland is one of America’s great cities. The original Star Spangled Banner was made here, and civil rights activist Frederick Douglass called Baltimore home. Parades, fireworks, parties and much more are part of Baltimore’s Independence Day celebrations. Baltimore is a short distance from Washington D.C.
Our national anthem The Star Spangled Banner was written at Fort McHenry, near Baltimore, Maryland. Fort McHenry National Monument hosts some fun activities on July 4th, including flag ceremonies, fife and drum performances, cannon demonstrations, kids activities and more.
Fort Ticonderoga is important because it was the site of the first American victory in the Revolutionary War. This historic destination celebrates U.S. Independence all week long with re-enactments, demonstrations and special activities.
Fort Ticonderoga is set in New York’s Adirondack park, within view of the Vermont border. You can build a lot of fun summer road trips around it. We made Lake Placid our base, and spent time exploring the Olympic venues and swimming in the lake at Golden Arrow Resort.
- Fort Ticonderoga for Families
- Tips for Visiting Lake Placid’s Olympic Venues
- Why We Loved Golden Arrow Resort
Lewis and Clark completed their historic quest across the continent at the mouth of the Columbia River, which creates the border of Washington and Oregon. Today, you can visit the modern Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center near Long Beach, Washington. Then drive over the bridge to Astoria, Oregon and visit Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark spent the winter.
There are so many fun things to do on the Oregon Coast, and the weather is perfect in July. Whether you prefer outdoor adventure, historic lighthouse, or soaking up some rays on the beach – this is a no-fail family vacation.
- Top Stops for Families on the Oregon Coast
- Tips for Visiting Yaquina Head Lighthouse
- Free and Cheap Things to Do in Portland
The United States has many unique and special places that make great summer vacation destinations for the 4th of July. Some are directly connected to the founding of our nation. Others exemplify the qualities that make us proud of to be Americans. I hope you’ve found some good ideas for your family’s Independence Day or American history-themed trip.