Editor’s note: Summer travel season has officially begun! The following guest post was written by Robert Reid, the US travel editor for Lonely Planet. He will be guest blogging on Savvy for the next two months, helping you find some great ideas of how to get your vacation on this Summer.
For most of us, July 4 — unlike family-oriented holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving — is a true Americana community day. It’s when the modern world takes a backseat to simple pleasures like hot dogs and Little Leaguers marching in small-town parades. Basically we all become a bit more like a character in a John Cougar Mellencamp video.
For Lonely Planet’s 15 Summer Weekends website, we’re highlighting a drive that cuts through the heart of Americana — Route 66. But that’s only one of a few classics to consider if your July 4 plans aren’t set in stone. Probably the best place to be – everyone should try it once – is where it all started, Philadelphia, where independence was signed and the first Fourth of July celebrations were staged a year later in 1777. The parade, centered around Independence Hall downtown, is a colorful mix of international dancers, Civil War reenactors, drummers, and the like. At night, homegrown band the Roots takes over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, capped with a fireworks show. Stick around to July 8 for the reenactment of the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. I volunteered as a Loyalist last year.
Read on for more places to celebrate Independence.
For celebration on a smaller scale, Edgartown, MA, on family-friendly Martha’s Vineyard has an all-timer day of outdoor fun. The Old Whaling Church runs a serious barbecue festival from 4 to 8 p.m., and the timeless parade’s most beloved participants are from the island’s Camp Jabberwocky, a camp for disabled visitors. Fireworks pop over the water after dark. Out west, Lake Tahoe, of all places, hosts the biggest fireworks celebrations on the Pacific side of the Mississippi. Actually they do it in two shows: on the north and south shores. Beyond the light shows, Truckee — a thriving mountain town off I-80 on Tahoe’s north side — pulls out the 19th-century horse carriages for its small-town parade. Before, consider a visit to Donner Memorial State Park, where in 1846 to 1847, survivors of the infamous Donner Party had to resort to cannibalism to survive. Take a big picnic (and swimming trunks for a dip in the lake).
If you’re starting a trip on July 4, it may sound unpatriotic, but don’t forget Canada. Canada Day’s three-day weekend ends July 3, but crowds will be thinning out by Monday, the Fourth. Just across from Niagara Falls, you can bike B&B to B&B on a bike network trail based in the vineyard country of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The best Independence Day present to yourself? Vacation. Don’t forget to enter Lonely Planet's contest for a luxurious trip to Napa Valley, valued at $4,000! Be sure to download Lonely Planet's free miniguides for ideas and tips for Summer trips.