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4th of July Travel Ideas: Celebrate Independence Day in a New City

July 4th Fireworks, Brooklyn Bridge, 2014
July 4th Fireworks, Brooklyn Bridge (photo: Dan Nguyen)

Editor's Note: Thank you, Travelocity, for sponsoring this 4th of July travel story. While this was a sponsored opportunity from Travelocity, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Every year, close to 50 million Americans travel 50 miles or more from home for the July 4th holiday. And this year, I'll be one of them.

I'm headed to a travel blogging conference the last week of June in Boston. It'll be my first time in Boston, and I couldn't be more excited to explore one of the nation's oldest cities. 

I'm not one to get on a plane and visit just one place, so I thought, why not add a stop to celebrate the 4th of July in Nashville, another city I'm curious about, on my way home. 

The timing is that I'll be turning what's always been more of a holiday spent at home with friends into an adventure in Tennessee, which got me thinking about the 4th of July travel ideas. 

New York City

I'm originally from a suburb of New York City, so my earliest 4th of July travel experiences were spent at the beach.

Some of the best beaches in New York City are easily accessible via public transport, including:

  • Rockaway Beach in Queens
  • Brighton Beach in Brooklyn
  • Coney Island in Brooklyn

And, there's always the lure of bourgeoisie partying a few hours away in The Hamptons on Long Island. 

The annual fireworks display, which is moving back to the Brooklyn Bridge this year, is one of the biggest in the country. 

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Seeing the fireworks over the National Mall in Washington, DC is one of many popular 4th of July travel ideas
Fireworks over the National Mall

Washington, DC

The National Mall in Washington, DC, is another beautiful space for the July 4th fireworks.

In 18 years of living in northern Virginia, I'll admit that I never made a day of picnicking on the National Mall to watch them. It's packed and often hot and humid.

However, I did watch one year from the US Marine Corps War Memorial on the Virginia side of the Potomac River.

Of course, there's more to our nation's capital than epic fireworks displays. Washington, DC is full of historical monuments, beautiful parks, and incredible museums (the Smithsonian museums line the Mall). 

Boston

Year after year, Boston ranks as one of the top 4th of July travel destinations.

Boston's Harborfest is a multi-day festival celebrating Independence Day, and the city's Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular is one of the biggest shows in the country. 

I can't believe it's taken me 42 years to visit Boston, but it's finally time for me to soak up some US history in Beantown (and visit all the scenes from Goodwill Hunting while I'm at it). 

Ladybird Lake in Austin, Texas
Ladybird Lake in Austin, Texas

Austin, TX

Austin probably isn't the first city that comes to mind when thinking about places to visit during the July 4th holiday; however, I believe it has a lot to offer since moving here. 

First, the airport is only a 20-minute ride from the city center. It's easy to get around downtown Austin on foot, plus there are rideshare apps and electric scooters galore.

There are tons of bars, from the cheap college hangouts on “Dirty 6th” Street to relaxing rooftops and excellent speakeasies

Americans love to barbecue on July 4th, and Austin has some of the best BBQ in Texas.

Franklin's is the most famous, though you have to be prepared to wait in line for hours to get a taste of it.

Thankfully, there are plenty of other options, including La Barbecue and Terry Black's. 

After you've filled up on brisket at lunch, take a refreshing dip in Barton Springs, and then catch the fireworks display over Ladybird Lake in the evening.

Nashville, TN

Nashville prides itself on having one of the country's biggest July 4th celebrations. I can't attest to that just yet, but I have high hopes for Music City. 

Why the curiosity to visit Nashville?

I think it came from living in Austin, another city where live music is central to the nightlife scene. My early research is also turning up plenty of restaurants and bars to check out. 

And while downtown Nashville will indeed be crowded for the fireworks in the evening, I think it's safe to say it won't be the crush of humanity one can encounter in bigger cities like New York and Washington. 

Are you thinking of traveling this 4th of July?

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