10 great ways to celebrate the Fourth of July

You'll find parades, powwows, picnics, patriotic music and, always, fireworks.

Children celebrate Canada Day at Fort William.
Children celebrate Canada Day at Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay.

Over the Fourth of July holiday, every town worth its salt holds a celebration.

There are band concerts, parades with antique cars and cute kids dressed in red, white and blue: It's all good.

But it's an especially good time to travel along the border of the United States and Canada, which celebrates Canada Day on July 1.

That's a Saturday in 2023. In the United States, the Fourth of July is on a Tuesday.

Fireworks in two countries

On July 1, Canadians celebrate the day in 1867 when their country was created from three British colonies. In Thunder Bay on Lake Superior, celebrate Canada Day at Fort William Historical Park and in Marina Park.

In Marina Park, you'll have a lovely view of the Sleeping Giant as you listen to music on four stages, and you can try drumming in a circle or paddling dragon boat, kayak or canoe.

Then, drive 80 miles south to Grand Marais, Minn., for music and fireworks on July 4.

On opposite end of Lake Superior, you can do same thing but without the driving in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

The Ontario side features family entertainment and activities in Roberta Bondar Park along the St. Mary's River July 1, and the Michigan side features a 7 p.m. parade downtown before the fireworks July 4.

And don't forget your passport!

Island time in the Apostles

Some of the best celebrations are the smallest. For an old-fashioned Fourth, go to Madeline Island, the largest of Wisconsin's Apostle Islands, for A Day on the Green.

Fourth of July parade on Madeline Island.
Madeline Island holds an old-fashioned celebration.

At 10:30 a.m., there's a home-grown parade that ends with historical figures giving patriotic speeches at the Madeline Island Museum, which tells the story of the Great Lakes fur trade and the local Ojibwe. Music and fireworks follow.

Times past at Old World Wisconsin

Near Milwaukee, the large open-air heritage museum Old World Wisconsin holds an Independence Day Weekend July 1-2.

There will be a pie-eating contest, old-fashioned games, a brass band and a reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Excelsior on Lake Minnetonka

Since 1888, this former resort town on Lake Minnetonka, west of Minneapolis, has been hosting the Lake Minnetonka 4th of July.

Dancers at Upper Sioux.
The Fourth of July is a big holiday for attending powwows.

Festivities are based at Excelsior Commons, the lake's largest city park. There will be a petting zoo, a kids' parade, a sand-sculpture contest, a Popsicle social and music before fireworks.


The Fourth is a big weekend for powwows, and the indigenous people of the United States are some of its most patriotic citizens.

Among them: the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa traditional powwow near Bayfield, Wis.; Oneida Powwow near Green Bay, Wis., and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians contest powwow in Manistee, Mich.

Be sure to catch the Grand entries, generally at 1 and 7 p.m.

Music festivals

Some of the biggest music festivals are over the Fourth.

At the giant Summerfest in Milwaukee, the rock band Mt. Joy and the indie-pop brothers band AJR, with Carly Rae Jepsen, perform July 4 in 2024.

Concert in Chicago

At the beautiful Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, listen to a free Independence Day Salute on July 4 in 2024, featuring favorites by Leonard Bernstein, John Williams, Florence Price and John Phillips Sousa.

It's part of the Grant Park Music Festival, which offers free world-class concerts most evenings from June 12 to Aug. 17. Many people bring tablecloths and vases of flowers and make a dinner party out of it.

Min-Aqua Bats skiers in Minocqua.
In Minocqua, the Min-Aqua Bats perform after the parade.

Water-ski show in Minocqua

The Fourth of July in this northern Wisconsin lake-resort town includes a street parade, a band concert, boat parade, a water-ski show by the Min-Aqua Bats and fireworks — the very best small-town Wisconsin has to offer.

The Fourth on Mackinac Island

In the straits between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island celebrates a Star Spangled Fourth with 38-gun salutes, patriotic music and Victorian children's games. Guests join the party and participate in Victorian dances and games on the fort parade ground.

At Windermere Pointe Beach, there's a Stone Skipping Tournament on July 4, with categories for amateurs as well as professional skippers.

The Fourth at Historic Fort Snelling

Before the Twin Cities existed, Fort Snelling was built at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers.

On July 1, it holds Independence Day 1898, with a mock battle, cannon salutes, music, baseball game, suffrage speech and parades.

Navy Pier in Chicago

Chicago's most visited tourist attraction, Navy Pier, cultivates a party atmosphere all year, but especially on the Fourth of July.

Go on a dinner cruise, sail on the tall ship Windy or ride the Ferris wheel. The grand finale is the fireworks show at 9:30 p.m.

Last updated on June 30, 2021

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