Parades, barbecues, children waving flags, and fireworks bursting in air. The long July 4th weekend is tailor-made for a quintessential all-American summer getaway, and destinations around the country woo families with events that celebrate all that's red, white, and blue.
The options for fun are as varied as the colors in those fireworks: head to a city for big parades and a splash of culture, sprawl on a blanket under the starry sky, or experience a little bit of both. Here's a sampling of some top packages for families this Independence Day weekend.
Where: St. Pete Beach, Florida.
Why: Because this beachfront property has plenty of family-friendly activities both on and off the sand. Kids can take a ride (or several) down the waterslide, play mini-golf, bounce on the bungee trampoline, or learn how to make shark-tooth necklaces from Red Beard the pirate.
For the holiday weekend, there will be paddleboat rides, face painting, carnival games, patriotic-themed contests, and a classic American cookout. The three-night "Red, White, and Boom" package starts at $536 for a family of four and bundles entertainment and buffet tickets. Additional nights can be added for half price.
Where: Thompsonville, Michigan.
Why: Because this family-owned ski resort turns into a summer adventure playground, with Michigan's only alpine slide, a 32-foot climbing wall, family golf, a kids' activity program, a beach house, and an adventure zone where tubing, kayaking and bike rentals are available.
For the long holiday weekend, a carnival kicks off on July 3 with face painting, games, and bike decorating -- followed by a bike parade and evening fireworks. The "Old-Fashioned Fourth" package includes 20 tickets to the carnival, complimentary ice cream cones, free family tickets for the alpine slide, chairlift ride, and rock wall, plus discounts on tubing trips, the kids' adventure camp, and golf lessons. Kids can spend hours in the one-acre outdoor water playground with a lily pad walk, splash zone, cargo nets, and water slide. Rates start at $179 a night based on a two-night stay.
Where: Litchfield Park, Arizona.
Why: Because this AAA four-diamond golf and spa resort hosts the "Great American Picnic" during the long holiday weekend. In addition to the picnic barbeque featuring local artisans and a fireworks finale, there will be a vintage car show and family tee time when kids golf for free. At night you can take in a family-friendly poolside movie, or gather around the campfire to roast s'mores.
In addition to the holiday activities, there are historical tours of the resort, a kid's camp, tennis clinics, a full-service spa, and a cabana-lined lap pool. The three-night "Fourth of July Great American Picnic" package starts at $399 for a family of four, and includes daily breakfast and admission to the picnic and events. To book, call 800/327-0396.
Where: National Harbor, Maryland.
Why: Because you can see firsthand why this waterside hotel's Fourth of July celebration drew more than 10,000 people last summer. The holiday festival kicks off with live musical entertainment, clowns, balloon artists, jugglers, plenty of cotton candy and popcorn. Kids can play in a bounce house and take a ride on the Ferris wheel or carousel before cooling off in the Olympic-size pool.