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.
Finally, to truly evoke the patriotic spirit, there will be a fountain show followed by a dazzling fireworks display over the Potomac with the Washington skyline in the background. The "Fourth of July Celebration" package is priced from $199 a night and includes accommodations, free parking (normally $19), and admission to the holiday events and entertainment (normally $30 per adult and $15 per child). Carnival rides are an additional charge.
Where: Pine Mountain, Georgia.
Why: Because the circus is coming to town for the holiday weekend, with daring trapeze acts, tight-wire walks, and juggling routines. There will also be mini golf, swimming, rock climbing, a spider jump, live music concerts, fireworks and a floating playground on Robin Lake featuring log rolls, water trampolines and an enormous inflatable water slide.
For a break from the beach, families can visit the butterfly center, explore the resort's many nature trails, or see wildlife first hand at the Birds of Prey show. The "July Fourth Star Spangled Beach Party" package starts at $159 a night and includes accommodations, a barbecue lunch, red, white and blue pancakes the morning of the Fourth, and most activities.
Where: Blaine, Washington.
Why: Because this lakefront golf and spa resort makes a great home base for outdoor adventure tours such as whale watching, kayaking and fishing. The "Moo" also offers daily scavenger hunts, tennis, swimming, and when night falls, families can catch a flick at the resort's own movie theater or roast marshmallows at a beach bonfire.
Celebrate the Fourth with live music and a salmon and burger barbecue before snagging a seat for the fireworks show over Semiahmoo Bay. The "Fourth of July Salmon BBQ" package starts at $209 a night and includes two tickets to the barbecue cookout (normally $20 each). Kids' tickets are $10 extra.
Where: Whitefield, New Hampshire.
Why: Because this eco-friendly resort overlooking two mountain ranges boasts a slew of scenic hiking trails and a location that's perfect for families who love the Great Outdoors. In addition to horseback riding, carriage rides, and golf, guests can take a short stroll over to a working farmhouse that's home to goats, chickens, horses, and even a llama.
The holiday weekend roundup features old-fashioned favorites like water-balloon relay races, a pie-eating contest, tug o' war, and potato sack races. Kids can get their faces painted before heading to a party of their own for dinner, ice cream sundaes, and s'more roasts by the campfire. Rounding out the weekend will be the "Family Bluegrass Barbecue" with live music and a fireworks finale. Rates for the "Independence Weekend Celebration" start at $189 a night and include most activities. The barbecue and kids' party are an additional charge.
Where: Brainerd, Minnesota.
Why: Because the long holiday weekend at this family favorite on beautiful Gull Lake means horse-drawn trolley rides, beach games, bonfires with marshmallow roasting, lake cruises, bingo, evening entertainment and a dazzling fireworks display.
The resort also features a huge indoor pool, spa, and top-notch golf course. Camp Cragun's offers kids scavenger hunts, relay games, bike rides, treasure hunts, and more. Four-night Fourth of July weekend packages start at $149 a night and include a breakfast buffet, free round of golf, festivities, and lodging for four. Two and three day packages are also available.
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