When it comes to celebrating the Fourth of July, not all events are created equal. Some are rowdy, with free concerts and carnivals. Others let you experience it all without being smack dab in the middle of the crowd. There are plenty of star-spangled salutes to choose from, so take your pick.
1. Fireworks over Matanzas, St. Augustine, Fla.
What better place to enjoy July 4 than the nation’s oldest city? The fun-filled night begins with the All Star Orchestra’s performance in the Plaza de la Constitucion at 6 p.m. At 9:30, fireworks fill the sky above the ancient Castillo de San Marcos, their bright colors reflected in Matanzas Bay. The prime-viewing spots are along the bay front between the Castillo and the Bridge of Lions.
2. Fireworks on The Rooftop, The Embassy Row Hotel, Washington, D.C.
If you’ve never been in Washington on the Fourth of July, you’re in for a treat. But if crowds are not your thing, make a beeline to The Rooftop at The Embassy Row Hotel and stake out your spot. Perched 10 stories above Dupont Circle, it’s one of the city’s best kept secrets. With teak deck chairs, a covered lounge and a saltwater swimming pool, it’s a great spot to celebrate. Bring your camera for skyline views of the District and Virginia. Grab a DC Mule cocktail and listen to the live DJ while you take in the fireworks over the Washington Monument. After the show, grab a wireless headset and rock out to the Silent Disco, hosted by Art Soiree from 10 p.m. until the wee hours.
3. Fourth of July Celebration, Salida, Colo.
The charming mountain town of Salida along the Arkansas River makes for the perfect Fourth of July getaway. For starters, it’s Colorado’s largest historic town; the brick Victorians and community theater take you back to yesteryear. It’s also a haven for artists, packed with studios, galleries and public artwork. Pick a spot along the parade route and stay for music, food and fireworks at dark. When you’re all tuckered out, rest your head at the Palace Hotel, a boutique hotel established in 1909. The next day, consider whitewater rafting, cycling or strolling down the paved quarter-mile river walk.
4. Music City July 4th: Let Freedom Sing! Nashville, Tenn.
Not only do you get free live music on July 3, but you also get to see what event organizers say is one of the largest fireworks displays in the country. The Southern rock group The Weeks headlines “A Prelude to the 4th,” which also features singer/songwriter/pianist Gabe Dixon, singer/songwriter Elise Davis and DJ DU. On July 4, listen to a concert by Martina McBride, the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year and three-time ACM Top Female Vocalist of the Year. The lineup also includes Grammy-nominated songwriter Mikky Ekko and the Grammy-winning Nashville Symphony Orchestra.
5. July 4 celebrations at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Fla.
If you’re looking for an over-the-top way to celebrate, Disney is the place to be. Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios all have special shows. The one at Magic Kingdom usually draws the largest crowds and includes a fireworks display accompanied by music. Epcot offers an impressive fireworks display and Hollywood Studios offers a fun dance-party atmosphere with a live band performance right before the fireworks. The shows are included in the admission price.
6. Freedom 4th, Albuquerque, N.M.
Live entertainment includes national headliner Thompson Square. And with singles like "If I Didn't Have You," "Everything I Shouldn't Be Thinking About" and "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?” the band will likely draw large crowds. Roam around early to sample food from more than 25 vendors, cool off with a drink at the Microbrew Garden, walk through a car show and enjoy free activities for kids. Don't miss a special dinner with a spectacular view of the main stage and fireworks at the Firecracker Café.
7. Delano 4th of July Celebration, Delano, Minn.
For 159 years, the small city of Delano has hosted Minnesota's oldest and largest Fourth of July celebration. Located 35 minutes west of Minneapolis-St. Paul, the town of 5,000 swells to more than 30,000 revelers in red, white and blue who come for the festivities, which include a carnival, sports tournaments, 5K race, local craft beer showcase, bingo, wrestling, a Frisbee-dog show, parades, plenty of food and, of course, fireworks.