From the New England coast to the mountain mining towns, small town USA loves a good Fourth of July party. While big-city celebrations tend to steal the spotlight, there are plenty of smaller-scale places to celebrate our nation's independence worth checking out.
Click through the next few pages for 10 of the best small towns to celebrate July 4.
Although its box-canyon location makes it tough to get to, Telluride draws a spirited crowd for a parade, party and firemen's picnic that takes over the downtown strip. Local businesses such as Hotel Telluride and the Telluride Historical Museum join in the fun, and fighter planes perform tricks above.
One of the smallest and cutest towns in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Duck celebrates the Fourth with a fun, kid-friendly parade featuring funky homemade floats and stars-and-stripes costumery. Local participation is encouraged, even to the extent of a "canine" section for four-legged friends. There's a party in the park afterward, and in the late afternoon, people make their way over to Nag's Head 15 minutes away to watch the fireworks from the beach.
|Bar Harbor, Maine|
In New England, summertime means fresh seafood. The Independence Day Seafood Festival at Bar Harbor is a casual but sumptuous feast, followed by a free concert and fireworks. Oh, and there are lobster races too, featuring different crustaceans than the ones on your plate.
Several of the celebrations in the Northeast have a seriously historic bent, such as Saratoga's annual All-American Celebration, which kicks off with the "Family, Freedom and Founding Fathers" parade. Following is a party at Congress Park, where attendees can take historic tours and meet "Ben Franklin," "General Burgoyne" and many other historical re-enactors.
This Arizona mining town turned artisanal colony has been a July Fourth hot spot since 1914, when the first Bisbee Coaster Race took place. The gravity-powered, for-youths-only race claims to be the granddaddy of soapbox derbies. It's followed by a parade and a "hard rock mining and mucking" competition, celebrating mining traditions.
|Florida Keys, Fla.|
The Lower Florida Keys are an idyllic chain of islands connected by the Overseas Highway. From Islamorada all the way down to Key West, a succession of small, quirky towns cater to boaters as much as drive-in traffic. For those who don't like crowds, viewing fireworks from a boat is the way to go.
Another historically rich program can be found in Cooperstown, home of the second-oldest continuously running Fourth of July parade in the country. At the Farmer's Museum, a Militia Muster, Declaration of Independence Reading and many living-history demonstrations hark back to the 19th century. Stop by the Baseball Hall of Fame to pay homage to another great American pastime.
If you want a mountain experience and you're in the Northeast, Stowe is the place to go. Stowe Village hosts an "Old-Fashioned July Fourth Celebration," while Stowe Mountain Resort finishes the day in epic style, with a fireworks display set off from Spruce Peak.
Much more than just a Fourth of July party (though it certainly is that), the Smokey Bear Stampede Rodeo is the nation's largest open rodeo weekend. From July 4-7, it's a jam-packed program of cook-offs, performances, night-time dances, Independence Day fireworks and competitive events for professionals and amateurs, kids and adults.
Once a mining region, the Sierra Nevada foothills are known more for wineries and family-friendly tourism these days. Ironstone Winery, which incorporates elements of all three, is the go-to spot for annual fireworks, an all-ages afternoon party and outdoor concert. In 2012, it has been bumped to Saturday, July 7.