By Alison Fox
June 09, 2019
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Watching fireworks on the 4th of July is as traditional as hamburgers and apple pie.

But while the fireworks displays themselves are fantastic explosions of color and light, they’re also often over in just a matter of minutes. Instead, make a day of it and see a concert and eat some great local food at some of the totally free events planned in cities large and small across the country, from sea to shining sea.

“July 4th is a time that family and friends get together. It’s a great way to celebrate each other, celebrate all of the traditions of the holiday and be together with maybe 10,000 other people who are all celebrating at the same time,” said Jill Hurwitz, a spokeswoman for the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago.

“It’s a wonderful Chicago tradition and people love to come year after year,” she said. “It’s really a day to celebrate our country and what better way [than] with beautiful music in downtown Chicago.”

So throw on your best red, white, and blue outfit (or pack some stylish clothes for the holiday) and head out for an entire day celebrating the birth of our nation throughout the country, all without breaking the bank.

Los Angeles, CA

Head to Downtown Los Angeles this July 4th for the ultimate free, outdoor celebration covering more than six city blocks and complete with live music (like salsa and Latin funk) at the Grand Park + The Music Center’s 4th of July Block Party. There’s even a 75-foot Ferris wheel ($3 for a single rider) and more than 40 vendors and food trucks on hand to sample the best tacos, barbecue, vegan food, and more. Stick around when it gets dark for the fireworks display, launched nearly 500 feet in the air from the roof of the The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

San Francisco, CA

With views of the San Francisco Bay and, of course, the beloved sea lions, Pier 39 in the North Beach area has been a family-friendly destination for years. July 4th is no exception: Show up early to hear the soft rock stylings of Mustache Harbor before settling into a good spot to watch the fireworks, put on by the City and County of San Francisco.

Nashville, TN

Head to Music City for a country music celebration. Brett Eldredge will headline hours of free live music for the annual Let Freedom Sing! Music City July 4th celebration in Nashville, which also features a performance from the Nashville Symphony, a large fireworks display, and a “Family Fun Zone,” with inflatables for kids to play.

Chicago, IL

Join a few thousand other people as you take in some culture in Chicago’s iconic Millennium Park (home to that famous “bean” sculpture). Grab a free spot on the Great Lawn in front of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and settle in with a drink (there will be beer and wine available for purchase). The annual Independence Day Salute will entertain with performances ranging from Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever and the Armed Forces Salute to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. After the concert, move toward the back of the lawn to catch a glimpse of the fireworks taking place at nearby Navy Pier.

Philadelphia, PA

Rock out to sets by Jennifer Hudson and Meghan Trainor on Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway as they headline the Wawa Welcome America July 4th Concert before the fireworks launch later that evening (the finale is choreographed to a custom soundtrack by the U.S. Army Field Band). But get there early to take advantage of the Party on the Parkway, a block party featuring an interactive kids' zone with a zip line, bungee jumping, and free sweet treats.

New York City

Nothing says July 4th quite like the annual Macy’s fireworks show. But instead of just jostling for a spot along the river and waiting for the fireworks to start, head to the LIC Flea & Food for their special holiday night market (admission is free). Located conveniently near the East River for viewing the fireworks themselves (the market is one block behind the famous Pepsi-Cola sign), eat and drink your way through the festivities all the way until midnight.

Miami Beach, FL

Bring a towel and settle down on the beach to watch the fireworks burst from one of America’s most iconic beach locales. The annual Fire on the Fourth Festival in Miami Beach celebrates in style from the North Shore Park Bandshell with the waves crashing just nearby. Get there early to find celebrations like yoga and food trucks to pick from. And don’t worry about driving: there’s a free trolley around the North Beach Loop, Collins Link, Middle Beach Loop, and South Beach Loop until midnight.

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