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Fourth of July festivals: 7 different ways to celebrate America

How do you celebrate America’s birthday?

How about a wild rodeo? Or a parade with your patriotically-dressed pet? Or maybe you want to see some Revolutionary-era weapons fired?

Of course, on the Fourth of July, there will be fireworks, patriotic music, burgers and beer everywhere you go — maybe even a red, white and blue cocktail. But there are also plenty of unique ways to add something new and different to this year’s festivities: 

1. Go back to where it all began.

Meet some of the founding fathers at the brand new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, which is dedicated to telling the story of the American Revolution in the city where the Declaration of Independence was written. There will be a huge collection of revolutionary weapons, theater experiences and historical moments brought to life. Also new is the The American Revolution Museum in Yorktown, Va., where the July Fourth Liberty Celebration will include military drills and artillery demonstrations as well as immersive indoor exhibits. Meet up with Continental Army soldiers where the British surrendered to end the Revolutionary War.

2. View a Washington D.C. wonder.

Go to the nation’s capital for the 50th Smithsonian Folklife Festival; this year they’re celebrating circus arts and the culture of migration. It starts on the National Mall on June 29, with concerts, a marketplace, food, dances and presentations continuing through July 9. There are even more ways to celebrate July Fourth in this museum-filled city, like seeing the original Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the National Archives.

Only THREE days until the 2017 Smithsonian Folklife Festival begins! Join us under the Big Top starting this Thursday, June 29! 🎪

A post shared by Smithsonian Folklife (@smithsonianfolklife) on

3. Celebrate the outdoors.

Get outdoors in ski country, where you’ll find plenty of celebrations. In Breckenridge, Colo., for instance, there's a 10K Trail Run followed by the popular Firecracker 50 Mountain Bike Race, Viper Car Show and Street Arts Festival. A few hours north you'll find Steamboat Springs’ celebration, which starts on June 30 and includes Cowboys’ Roundup Days and a Pro Rodeo series — there’s even a ski jumping competition. At the family-centric Keystone Resort, less than 90 minutes west of Denver, there will ba petting zoo and face-painting, as well as boat rentals, snow-tubing, and, of course, live music and a BBQ before the fireworks.

And in Stowe, Vermont, all of the floats are put together on the morning of the parade — the rule being that no more than $10 can be spent on decorations.  

4. Be a daredevil.

See a human slingshot at Fair St. Louis, July 2-4. There’s plenty of live music, fireworks each night, and even a zipline. Browse local artists’ wares on the Fairway.

5. Relax at a resort.

Join the Fourth of July Freedom Fest at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Arizona, which salutes America’s heroes with a vintage airshow featuring 30 military aircraft piloted by retired Veterans. There's also plenty of red, white and blue frozen drinks served at the huge pool complex.

At the Four Seasons Resort Vail, guests can attend the Vail America Days parade celebrating Great Moments in American History. Vail also has a children’s carnival complete with potato sack races, home-smoked barbecue, a make-your-own ice cream bar, a live DJ and pool games for all.  

The Omni Mount Washington Resort in New Hampshire will celebrate all American soldiers, from the Revolution to today, at its Annual Salute to Freedom with music, demonstrations, and massive water balloon fight and pie-eating contest.

6. Parade around with your pet.

See llamas, turtles, sheep, and pigs at the Fourth of July Pet Parade in Bend, Ore., a community tradition since the 1930s that now draws thousands. And in Hailey, Idaho, the Old West Fourth of July weekend includes horses, which might drop “road apples” in front of you, making you eligible to play Road Apple Roulette (a fund raiser for the local Rotary Club). If a horse drops a “road apple” on the GPS designated “square” that you’ve purchased, your name goes in the drum for a prize. 

7. Chill out this summer.

Hit the ski slopes in California where you can Catch the Winter Wave on July Fourth. Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows in North Lake Tahoe will be open July Fourth. In Southern California, snow enthusiasts can ski or ride at Mammoth Mountain. With record-breaking snowfall in recent months, California’s springtime snowpack is at nearly double its normal level.

Wherever you are and however you celebrate, raise a glass to all those brave men and women who keep our country safe. And have fun!

Eileen Ogintz is the creator of the syndicated column and website Taking the Kids. She is also the author of the ten-book Kid’s Guide series to major American cities and the Great Smoky Mountains. The third-edition of the Kid’s Guide to NYC has just been released.