The Fourth of July and crowds go hand in hand - or at least, they sure seem to in those moments just before the fireworks start, when you find yourself in a local park crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone and their cousin. There’s a better way to live, friends! If you’re willing to venture far enough, you can enjoy the relaxed, under-the-radar July 4th of your dreams. Here’s where to make it happen.
Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon, Arizona
Bypass the crowds at the Grand Canyon and head straight for the nearby desert oasis of Havasu Falls. Accessible only by hike, horse, or helicopter, Havasu Falls are situated on Havasupai tribal land, just next to Grand Canyon National Park. Havasu’s electric blue waters, rugged desert cliffs, and lush vegetation look like a scene straight out of a tropical paradise. There’s a lodge onsite, but if you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can camp near the falls and sleep under the stars.
Telluride might be a ski town, but it’s just as vibrant in the summer months - with way fewer crowds. Telluride pulls out all the stops for the holiday, starting with Rundola, a charity race for the Telluride Foundation. After that, you’ll get a slice of Small Town USA at its finest: there’s a parade, a BBQ hosted by Telluride’s local firemen, and breathtaking fireworks over the nearby mountain peaks.
Hawaii’s Big Island
Most travelers flock to Oahu for Fourth of July celebrations, leaving the Big Island’s to enjoy its celebrations with low-key flair. You can start the party at Mauna Lani Bay’s Turtle Independence Day Celebration on the Kohala Coast, where you’ll see baby sea turtles who’ve been raised in local ponds released into the wild for the first time. Then, skip on over to Kailua-Kona for fireworks over Kailua Bay, which you can enjoy from the shore or aboard a luxe fireworks cruise. How’s that for a tropical Independence Day?
City Island, New York City
Little known fact: there’s a lovely little fishing village in the middle of New York City. It’s just off the coast of the Bronx, and is more reminiscent of coastal New England than Manhattan. You’ll find a treasure trove of historic homes, fresh seafood, and old-fashioned Americana. You can sign up for a sailing lesson, kick back on land with a fishing pole between eating lobster rolls, and take a boat tour in the evening to catch the New York City Fourth of July fireworks up close. If you’d rather stay on land, you’ll likely still get a great view: City Island’s waterfront viewing spots are some of the least crowded in New York.
If you’re looking for untouched wildlife with a side of quaint small towns, Northern Michigan is your ticket. Start your adventure by biking your way through Mackinac Island, a car-free island in Lake Huron that oozes charm. You’ll enjoy historic buildings, a slower pace, and plenty of the island’s most famous export: fudge. The island can get crowded on the weekend of the Fourth, so the trick is to spend just enough time there to get a feel for the scene before hopping in the car and heading north. Your next stop is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, in Michigan’s rugged and sparsely populated Upper Peninsula. Here, the waters of Lake Superior take on Carribean-like shades of blue as dense forests, bright sand dunes, and jutting sandstone cliffs take you straight to paradise. You can spend the rest of your holiday off the grid enjoying the wildlife, or you can join in on Independence Day celebrations and fireworks in the nearby waterfront town of Grand Marais.
This small, artsy town is the perfect place to relax off the grid. You’ll find a beautiful beach, a thriving community of friendly creatives, and a charming harbor. It has all the views and ambiance of Cape Cod, without the crowds or the cost. Walk along Ogunquit’s charming seaside trail, chow down on lobster, and catch the Fourth of July fireworks with a summer brew in hand.
New Orleans, Louisiana
NOLA isn’t exactly a hidden gem, but it’s sorely under-appreciated when it comes to the Fourth of July. New Orleans doesn’t vanish for the rest of the year as soon as Mardi Gras ends! NOLA’s parks, pools, and fun-loving attitude are all perfect ingredients for a delightfully lazy Independence Day. The city’s fireworks event on the Mississippi River features “dueling barges” who launch a stunning show in time to music. The next day marks the beginning of Essence Fest, a 25-year tradition. (This year’s headliners include Missy Elliot, Mary J. Blige, and Teyana Taylor - yas.) There’s only one rule: keep refilling that daiquiri cup!