Even if you didn’t make Fourth of July plans, you don’t have to be relegated to a backyard barbecue and faraway glimpses of fireworks. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors scoured the country to find some outstanding, but still available quick getaways that go beyond the typical Fourth of July festivities. For your holiday weekend, enjoy everything from a weekend-long pulsating party to family-friendly cultural offerings to a relaxing sunset cruise.
Where to go: Charleston
In this endearing Southern city, you’ll find fireworks almost everywhere you look — they blast off from the flight deck of the USS Yorktown in Patriots Point, at local favorite Folly Beach, along the harbor at the South Carolina Aquarium and at Lowcountry’s biggest show at Riverfront Park. Rather than choose among these colorful options, head to the rooftop of Four-Star Market Pavilion Hotel. From the fifth-floor alfresco Pavilion Bar, you can see most of the displays around town. The checkerboard floor and pool with jets shooting arches of water provide a fun setting — in fact, the rooftop bar is a hot spot among locals, who line up outside to gain entry. Spend the day at one of the coveted metal woven tables and sip strawberry-kiwi mojitos until the fireworks begin.
Where to go: Nantucket
This small, charming island regularly tops our list of summer getaways, but its Fourth of July offerings make it even more of a destination. Kick off your weekend by climbing aboard the Wauwinet Lady for a relaxing sunset cruise around the bay. Afterward, you’ll head to Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Topper’s for a fresh-from-the-ocean dinner: Retsyo oysters scooped up from a bed just 300 yards away (you’ll spot it while on the cruise). While The Wauwinet, home to Topper’s, is booked solid for the weekend, you can still score accommodations at one of its sister properties: The White Elephant, which sits on Nantucket Harbor; White Elephant Village, a family friendly inn near Nantucket Town; and The Cottages & Lofts at the Boat Basin, shingled cottages right on the wharves.
Where to go: Cape Cod
If you want a celebration fit for the family, head to Four-Star Wequassett Resort and Golf Club. The picturesque 27-acre Cape Cod hotel ushers in the holiday with a barbecue featuring grilled fish, chicken, a salad and potato bar and — in true New England style — a shrimp and lobster bar. Children get their own buffet, with kiddie staples like chicken fingers, sliders, grilled cheese and mac and cheese. Party band the Allnighters will perform for parents while kids will be entertained by clowns and get their faces painted. Then everyone can gather on the Grand Lawn for a waterfront view of the fireworks over Pleasant Bay.
Where to go: Washington, D.C.
A Fourth of July in the nation’s capital is an obvious choice, but you can avoid the masses at Capella Washington, D.C., Georgetown. The Fourth is with D.C. package gives you a room with a vista of the historic C&O Canal or Georgetown, but you’ll also get access to the boutique hotel’s guest-only Rooftop Bar & Lounge (a fantastic amenity) to watch the fireworks over the Potomac River. Of course, Capella will make it a full-blown party with a barbecue, cocktails, wine and beer. The following morning, you’ll receive a complimentary breakfast for two in The Grill Room.
Where to go: Las Vegas
To some, the holiday weekend means one thing: non-stop partying. If you want to dance all weekend long, make your way to Sin City. Hakkasan Las Vegas’ nightclub turns it up with Grammy Award-winning DJ Tiësto on the decks July 3. Swedish duo Dada Life will spin on July 4 and New York City-based DJs/musicians Chainsmokers will step up July 5. Stay at Five-Star Skylofts at MGM Grand and take breaks from the dance floor at Hakkasan restaurant, which serves upscale Cantonese (roasted silver cod with champagne and honey) in a chic Chinoiserie-inspired dining room, and the MGM Grand Pool Complex, which includes four pools, three whirlpools and a lazy river. Skylofts guests also have free access to Wet Republic, MGM Grand’s exclusive club-style pool area that will keep the party going with its own slate of entertainment, including DJ sisters Krewella (July 3), Calvin Harris (July 4) and Afrojack (July 5).
Where to go: Sea Island, Georgia
This private island off of the southern coast of Georgia usually is a quiet retreat. But if you stay at Five-Star sister hotels The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club or The Cloister, you’ll be in for a flurry of kid-friendly Fourth of July activities. Highlights include a Family Olympics (three-legged and potato sack races), a Lowcountry boil along the marsh (with seafood and live music), a Fabulous Fourth Ice Cream Sundae Challenge (help devour a 50-foot banana split), a Firecracker 5K Beach Race, an annual luau (with Polynesian dancers and a Hawaiian buffet with a roasted whole hog), the 15th annual July 4th Parade (join the participants on foot, strollers, bikes, golf carts, vintage cars, floats and horseback along Sea Island Drive), the Lodge County Fair (which includes a barbecue pit, fireworks and a Ferris wheel) and, of course, fireworks on the beach.
Where to go: San Diego
You could find endless activities at Fairmont Grand Del Mar: Visit the equestrian center to plan a horseback ride through the surrounding Los Peñasquitos Canyon Reserve, play golf on the Tom Fazio-designed course, soak in one of four pools or a indulge in a massage at the spa. You can do these and more on the Fourth. But you’ll have to choose how to you want to celebrate: You can go the elegant, low-key route with a prix fixe dinner at Amaya (nab a seat on the terrace). A children’s menu also is available. Or you can do the more traditional route with a hotel-guests-only sunset barbecue, live music by The John Stanley Band and a fireworks show on the gorgeous Aria Lawn.
Where to go: Chandler, Arizona
Head to this city just outside of Phoenix for Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa, a hidden oasis in the desert. The Forbes Travel Guide Recommended hotel offers a Sip, Soak and Splash package that grants access for a family of four to the resort’s waterpark all weekend long, accommodations, complimentary early check-in and entry to the fireworks-viewing party. But the resort’s celebration stands out with its cultural offerings. Participate in Native American classes to learn how to make ancient chemeith (a Native American flatbread), create beaded jewelry and paint gourds. Watch Native American artisans as they show a variety of traditional crafts, or see Grammy-nominated artist Aaron White perform Native music. For the best taste of Native culture, enjoy an amazing meal at Five-Star Kai Restaurant.