Celebrating July 4 in Great Places

Communities nationwide are gearing up for their annual July 4 celebrations. Our Great Places in America celebrate Independence Day with befittingly fantastic displays of patriotism.

Each of these celebrations represents excellent community programming, planning that is conducive to all sorts of celebrations, and a commitment to celebrating what makes America (and its places) great.

Centennial 4th of July, Historic Hilton Village

Historic Hilton Village parade attendee wears the colors in 2017. Photo by Flickr user Tony Alter (CC BY 2.0).

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Historic Hilton Village in Newport News, Virginia. The 2009 Great Neighborhood designee kicked off its centennial year in January and enthusiastically continues with numerous Centennial Events all year.

Underscoring the connection to community planning, there are Architectural Walking Tours to spotlight the architecture and history of the neighborhood.

In tandem with Independence Day, the village will commemorate its history with the July 7 Grand Celebration on Main & the River with music, food trucks, dancing, and an overall good time for residents and visitors.


Fireworks are the quintessential hallmark of Independence Day festivities.

The July 4 celebrations in Lahaina, Hawaii, are capped with a fireworks display from an offshore barge visible from the wide sidewalks and historic balconies along Front Street (Great Street 2011).

Virginia City, Nevada, residents and visitors are encouraged to bring blankets up to the sloping terrain of C Street (Great Street 2013), known for its 100-mile views over Nevada's basin-and-range, to view the pyrotechnic spectacle of its 4th of July Celebration.

Freedom Over Texas in Houston will light fireworks to twanging country tunes over Buffalo Bayou’s (Great Public Space 2012) finely landscaped open spaces.

Maui Lahaina Fireworks. Photo by Flickr user belindah-Thank You!-500,000 Views Now (CC BY 2.0).


The pageantry and revelry of parades are also an essential part of Fourth of July celebrations.

Denver's diverse Greater Park Hill (Great Neighborhood 2008) hosts a parade that celebrates the spirit of modern America along the longest continuous street in the U.S.

The living museum of Annapolis, Maryland’s Main Street (Great Street 2008) is the perfect venue for its 4th of July parade.

Downtown Decatur, Georgia (Great Neighborhood 2013) holds its annual Pied Piper Parade, where bikers, skaters, and floats alike will enjoy the strategic streetscape that resulted from 1995 road diet and enhancement with more than 400 street trees, public art, and upgraded street furnishings.

Historic marching band in Annapolis, Maryland. Photo by Flickr user DiverseTraveller (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).


Because July 4 represents such a historical moment for our nation, history features prominently in its observance.

The Dover (Delaware) Fourth of July Celebration features a number of 18th-century games and amusements on the acre of its historically steeped Green (Great Public Space 2009).

The visionary and enthusiastic community planners of Historic Ninth Street Hill in Lafayette, Indiana (Great Neighborhood 2010) organize a special display of over 600 patriotic flags and colors in the week leading up to July 4.

The Fifes and Drums corps will march along the motorized vehicle-free Duke of Gloucester Street (Great Street 2009) in historic Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.

The former capital of the U.S., Philadelphia, celebrates the Fourth of July with spectacular fanfare, concluding with fireworks along the monumentally expansive (and appropriately named) Benjamin Franklin Parkway (Great Street 2013).

Fireworks over the Art Museum in Philadelphia on July 4, 2011. Photo by Flickr user trpnblies7 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).


All this patriotism making you hungry? No Fourth of July celebration would be complete without an All-American barbecue!

The glorious 19th century edifices lining Broadway (Great Street 2012) will serve as a stunning backdrop to the BBQ & Dessert Fest at the All-American Celebration in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Waterfront Blues Festival on the 4th of July in Portland, Oregon. Photo by Flickr user Roger (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).


Many Great Places ring in Independence Day with musical jubilees.

Fair St. Louis leads up to the big day with concerts and fireworks starting July 2 in the city’s spectacularly restored and expansive Forest Park (Great Public Space 2013).

The Waterfront Blues Fest kicks off July 1 along the pedestrian-friendly riverfront Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park (Great Public Space 2012) in Portland, Oregon.

The intricate path system, performance lawn, and sweeping views of the downtown skyline in Los Angeles’s Grand Park (Great Public Space 2013) are perfect for the music, food, and fireworks at the 4th of July Block Party.

Fair St. Louis Fireworks. Photo by Flickr user Dave Herholz (CC BY-SA 2.0).


These unconventional Independence Day celebration demonstrate the diversity of interests in America that make it worth celebrating.

Culpeper, Virginia’s 4th of July Car & Bike Show will fill the revitalized Davis Street (Great Street 2011) with vintage automobiles and bicycles.

Kansas City, Missouri, will host its Four on the 4th race, advertised as “Uncle Sam’s Favorite Race,” along the sweeping curves, manicured greens, and 90-foot-wide-median of Ward Parkway (Great Street 2012).

Great Places in America

To learn about all of APA’s 275 Great Places in America, check out our website at www.planning.org/greatplaces.

Top image: Fireworks over the Portland, Oregon, skyline. Photo by Flickr user Sam Churchill (CC BY 2.0).

About the Authors
Claire Warner is the communications fellow for APA's Great Places in America program. Samantha Schipani is a former fellow.

July 2, 2018

By Claire Warner, Samantha Schipani