While Washington D.C. may be the obvious choice for those wishing to celebrate, smaller towns offer quaint and quirky charms that can’t be replicated in the one-size-fits-all celebrations of larger cities. As eclectic towns across the nation, each with their own unique traditions and ways of celebrating, come together to commemorate this special day, America’s patriot spirit comes alive! Here are the 20 best small-town celebrations across the country.
In a recent poll conducted by Travel + Leisure Magazine, Flagstaff, Arizona, came out on top as America’s best town to celebrate the Fourth of July. So, just what makes Flagstaff one of the best places to celebrate America’s birthday?
Well, if the name doesn’t already suggest, the citizens of Flagstaff are arguably some of the most patriotic in the nation. And on the Fourth of July, the whole town is branded in everything red, white and blue. Get ready for watermelon eating contests, town-wide BBQs and fireworks displays throughout the area. On Independence Day, Flagstaff, Arizona, has it all.
The biggest town on our list, Boulder makes up for having no relation to 1776 by the sheer festiveness of their Fourth of July celebrations. Although a larger city, every citizen in Boulder seems to take part in the celebration, making this special day feel like some of the much smaller towns on the list.
Take a hike along Boulder Creek and witness the city’s four official fireworks displays, as the spirit of 1776 and the American frontier are alive, felt and beautifully represented in Boulder. While a big city, Boulder is still quaint and accessible for all those looking for a festive space to celebrate the Fourth of July along with their fellow neighbors. Better yet, it was voted as the number one friendliest place to celebrate the Fourth of July by Conde Nast Traveler.
Lambertville, New Jersey & New Hope, Pennsylvania
In Lambertville, New Jersey, the celebration takes on a palpable historical element that cannot be replicated anywhere else. On a parade through the city, you can trace the same steps George Washington walked along with the America’s Liberation Army.
In New Hope, Pennsylvania, you can even visit the place where Washington and his army camped out for the night, which is now a pizza joint. Quaint and unique, Lambertville and New Hope have a similar vibe that every American should experience this July 4th!
Chatham, Massachusetts & Homer, Alaska
If what you want out of your Fourth of July celebration is quaint bed & breakfasts, great wine, pubs and restaurants, as well as attractive locals, Chatham, Massachusetts, and Homer, Alaska, are said to be the best in the nation. The two towns score at the top of Travel + Leisure magazine’s lifestyle category for small towns with the best appeal when celebrating the Fourth of July.
Although just a small town of 9,520 people, Cody, Wyoming’s Fourth of July celebrations are still said to be the best in the West. For over 97 years so far, the town which is at the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park, celebrates America’s birthday over the span of five days known as the Cody Stampede. The quirky event begins on July 1st and includes a huge craft fair, kid’s parade on July 2nd and musical acts at venues throughout town, as well as a rodeo, celebrating the town’s equestrian tradition.
The original home of Scarlett O’Hara, the town is the first to have adopted Washington as its formal name in honor of George Washington back in 1780. Washington, Georgia’s small-time appeal as the grand dame of the South still boasts over 200 well-preserved antebellum homes, which served as inspiration for Gone with the Wind, making it one of the most picturesque towns to celebrate the Fourth of July.
The family-centric celebrations include small-town competitions, including a good old fashioned southern dance-off and a watermelon eating contest, which is said to have originated here. You’ll find most of the action along historic downtown buildings on Robert Toombs Avenue.
Grand Lake, Colorado
A sleepy mountain town, Grand Lake, Colorado, takes on a festive, quaint yet quirky charm during the Fourth of July that makes it quite unique. Add to this the picturesque scenery on a lake at the western entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, and visitors as well as locals can’t help but immerse themselves in the pioneering spirit which makes America so great. Don’t miss the town’s fireworks extravaganza, which is set off on barges on the lake, creating a breathtaking spectacle as the fireworks are reflected on the water.
Knoxville, Tennessee & Raleigh, North Carolina
In a study of last years’ Fourth of July celebrations conducted by FourSquare, a social networking app, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Raleigh, North Carolina, came out on top as America’s most patriotic cities. FourSquare essentially gets people to check-in to locations they visit through their smartphones. By tallying check-ins at Fourth of July events, FourSquare determined that the largest spike in percentages occurred in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Raleigh, North Carolina.
And thus, the social networking site concluded that these cities are two of America’s most patriotic. Even so, the two are still quaint enough to give off a charming and low-key vibe during Fourth of July celebrations.
Put-In-Bay, Ohio, which sits on a small island on Lake Erie, is said to hold the nation’s most patriotic Independence Day. The town holds special historical significance as the location of Commodore Perry’s victory over British forces during the War of 1812.
As such, the town goes all out for the Fourth of July. Muskets and carronades are fired throughout the celebration, while the Central Ohio Symphony plays a yearly concert in the town’s al-fresco amphitheater. The whole event is set in an awe-inspiring scenery, surrounded by limestone cliffs, small islets and islands, as well as the town’s harbor and marina decorated in full national regalia.
According to anyone who has been here during the Fourth of July, Williamsburg, Virginia, is said to host the nation’s ultimate patriotic Independence Day celebration. To start, no other place is as thoroughly associated with the revolutionary movement or as equally thoroughly decorated with red, white and blue.
Celebrating everything to do with American nostalgia, Colonial Williamsburg’s Fife and Drum Corps salute, as well as the reading of the Declaration of Independence, are set apart as something truly powerful and unique. Add to this the town’s quaint colonial charm, and visiting Williamsburg, Virginia during the Fourth of July should be something every American should do at least once in their lifetime.
Boyne City, Michigan
If it’s quirk that you want to experience this coming Fourth of July, Boyne City, Michigan, has got you covered. Soapbox derby, cornhole, pie-eating contests, duck races all take center stage in Boyne City’s celebration. The town epitomizes the small-town celebration and has an equally quaint and quirky feel to it, too.
Celebrating with these Michiganders makes it seem like you have gone back in time. Don’t miss out on the commemorative raft race, where participants race down the Boyne River on makeshift rafts and boats. The town’s traditional duck race along the river comes next. The night is capped off by a massive firework display once everyone has dried off.
Virginia City, Nevada
Virginia City, located just 35 minutes outside of Reno, is a small, historic mining town of less than 900 residents that was often the setting for many Hollywood westerns back in the 1930s and 1940s. But during the Fourth of July, the population swells with people that want to take part in the town’s special celebrations.
The family event has got some true quirk, as its unique cowboy gun show is said to be the funniest west of the Appalachians. Virginia City also holds one of the longest firework displays in the same region but is unique in that the fireworks are launched from the canyon next to the town that sits below street level. It’s a truly unique experience as you feel as though the dazzling arrangement of red, white and blue explosions are happening right in front of you—because they are!
Bryson City, North Carolina
Although a small town of only 1,500 people, Bryson City likes to go BIG on the Fourth of July. The town’s Smoky Mountain spirit ramps up with quirky celebrations throughout the day. They include the nation’s only Fourth of July dog costume and dress-up contest for the pooch with the best patriotic outfit. That’s not all though, this dog-loving town also has ribbon awards for “Best Tail Wag” and “Looks Most Like Owner.”
Next, you can take a ride with Uncle Sam along the freedom train for some spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains. Then end your night with a town-wide BBQ dinner and a fireworks display to rival towns with 10 times the population.
Asheville, North Carolina
This Blue Ridge Mountain town claims to have the largest number and longest firework displays out of anywhere else in the nation for a town its size. Framed by the Blue Ridge Mountains, the event takes on added beauty.
A special tradition for Asheville natives also involves catching a baseball game at the home of the Asheville Tourists, who play their home turf every Fourth of July, then watching the fireworks display from the stadium. The town also has a lively town-wide BBQ that includes seemingly endless food trucks. With great food and great fireworks, it’s hard to go amiss with Asheville’s Independence Day traditions.
Bristol, Rhode Island
Bristol, Rhode Island, is said to host America’s oldest 4th of July celebration. The annual celebration began here in 1785, making the coming Independence Day the town’s 232nd consecutive celebration.
Have you ever wondered why fireworks are used during the Fourth of July to commemorate America’s founding? Well, the tradition started here to let people know America had been liberated.
With that said, Bristol, Rhode Island’s firework display, along with its traditional parade, is the oldest in the nation. If you’re visiting Bristol, don’t miss out on the town’s annual Fourth of July ball, held in an outdoor tent and filled with national regalia galore and beautifully crisp American flags.
Another town said to hold one of our nation’s first is the mountain town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Gatlinburg, which is mostly known as a resort town, hosts its annual Independence Day parade, which it boasts as being the first July Fourth parade in the nation (drawing in 100,000 participants).
The parade, lined with patriotic flags, is also one of the most patriotic, honoring female war veterans and others who have served America from all divisions of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. But the small-town charm is not lost in Gatlinburg, with its River Raft Regatta and awards for the most creative American rafts.
What else can you expect from Independence Day in Independence, California, but one of the country’s most quirky Fourth of July celebrations! The day kicks off with a flag-raising ceremony and a pancake breakfast, where the goal is to eat the most pancakes!
The rest of the day is filled with community activities, including fun-filled games and contests, an arts and crafts shows, a float parade, a 4K run and the town’s special American BBQ (as everything is America-themed, of course). There is also an apple pie and ice cream social and ho-down, which has us convinced it doesn’t get more American than that!