12 Unconventional 4th of July Celebrations That Are Way Cooler Than Fireworks
Every 4th of July, you might feel like you always do the same thing. Head to the nearest big city, navigate through traffic and struggle to find a place to park, then camp out on a blanket for the big fireworks show.
Of course, fireworks can be spectacular, and sitting out in the dimming summer air while they shower the sky in sparks above is the quintessential summer experience.
But there are other ways to celebrate America’s birthday. You might hit the movie theater, even an old second-run theater to take in a showing of "Jaws" (the perfect 4th of July movie, really). Or you could take advantage of the summer weather and do an unusual outdoor activity you haven’t tried before. Or visit a new place that’s an important part of America’s history, but not as obvious as Boston, Philadelphia or Washington, D.C.
Here is a sample of unconventional places where you can celebrate the 4th of July.
Rodeo in Cody, Wyoming
This northwestern Wyoming destination has a massive four-day 4th of July celebration that includes days of nightly rodeos, parades, festivals and other events. The event was started by friends of Buffalo Bill Cody to honor his legacy after his death. And if you wanted to pick a year to go, this might be a good one, because it’s the 100th anniversary of the huge event, so the celebration will be even more grand. Parades have famous Grand Marshals, including John Wayne and Chuck Yeager.
Barn Dance at The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch
This luxury dude ranch in Saratoga, Wyoming hosts an annual Independence Celebration from June 30th to July 7th. During the week long extravaganza, guests can check out a professional rodeo, nightly live western entertainment, a July 4th fireworks show and barn dance. For kids ages four to eight, there’s the Lil’ Wranglers program with special youth dining and twilight events.
Fly fishing at The Resort at Paws Up
This Wild West ranch in Greenough, Montana has a Fourth of July celebration each year that many families make into an annual trip. The Wild West celebration includes outdoor activities like fly-fishing, horseback riding and hiking, plus live music, craft cocktails, line dancing, float-decorating contest, lawn games, gunnysack races and glamping in the fresh mountain air. There’s a car and go-kart parade, carnival-style dinner and of course a fireworks display.
Skiing at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
This ski resort in North Lake Tahoe got so much snow over the winter that it will be spinning lifts until July 7 (this is only the fifth time that’s ever happened). That means the annual Freedom Fest from July 4 to 7 can include a chance to hit the slopes, plus live music and a dj, fireworks and the High Camp Pool & Hot Tub at 8,200 feet, which is reachable by ski and aerial tram. The scene at the lifts is expected to be festive — think bikinis and patriotic costumes.
History Tour at The Bella Vita Bison Ranch in Elbert, Colorado
For the first time this year, this working Colorado buffalo farm will have a Fourth of July celebration that takes you straight back to the 1800s when buffalo were on the brink of extinction and settlers were pouring into areas west of the Mississippi. The celebration this year will have a performance from the Lakota Sioux native dancers; Team Bearsheart; a history reenactor, Kurt Skinner, who plays Teddy Roosevelt; and up-close bison feeding and hay wagon tours. Plus, live music during a catered barbecue meal.
Yacht Tour in Maui, Hawaii
Forget the fireworks and try a private charter aboard Island Star Maui’s 57' sailing yacht. The crew will help you enjoy the holiday with a bar and meals on board, including barbeque so you won’t fully miss the Fourth of July experience. Take snorkel excursions to explore the caves, coasts, and coral reef, and maybe even the chance to see dolphins and humpback whales.
The Great Schooner Race in Maine
For the past 43 years, Maine has been ringing in the Fourth of July with boat races. You can see a race of working schooners and windjammers, and the night before check out dinghy races in Gilkey Harbor, off the island of Islesboro in Penobscot Bay, Maine. Windjammer guests and crew compete against each other in funny costumes featruing everything from suspenders to Speedos.
Celebrate the Moon Landing in Houston
Houston’s Freedom Over Texas Fourth of July celebration happens every year, but this year it’s focusing on celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. During Houston’s July 4th party in Eleanor Tinsley Park at Buffalo Bayou, check out NASA’s Destination Station exhibit. This traveling exhibit gives you an up close look at the international space station.
Fishing in Bristol Bay, Alaska
For something completely different this Fourth of July, try Bristol Bay Alaska’s Tikchik Narrows Lodge. You can only get there by sea plane, and once you arrive you can stay in the luxury lodge while doing personally curated fishing excursions, boat trips, flightseeing tours, kayak tours and day trips to the world famous Brooks Falls where brown bears gather.
Adult Summer Camp in Berkshire Mountains
This camp, Club Getaway, covers 300-acres in the Berkshire Mountains of Kent, Connecticut. The adult camp's July 4th weekend includes activities from rock climbing, mountain biking and zip-lining, to color wars, paint-and-sip, and nighttime walks at the camp's aerial park. There are also campfires with live music and gourmet s’mores, archery tag, disco workouts and axe throwing. Plus, happy hours, live music and boathouse-themed dance parties.
Late Night Baseball and Running in Alaska
It’s a little tough to do fireworks in Alaska, where it’s still light late into the night, with almost 20 hours of functional daylight or even 24 hours in some places. So instead, Alaskans spend their Fourth of July at late-evening ball games, hiking trips, and running races like The Mount Marathon Race, known as the “toughest 5K on the planet.”
"JAWS" on the Water in Leander, Texas
Volente Beach Resort in Leander, Texas takes this quintessential Fourth of July movie up another notch by allowing you to watch it on the big screen — from the water. Buy admission for the movie and also get to spend time at the resort, with its Lazy Lagoon, volleyball, and beachside bar and grill. You can buy or borrow an inner tube to watch the movie, or bring your own.