MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

10 great ways to celebrate the Fourth of July

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

Min-Aqua Bats skiers in Minocqua.

© Beth Gauper

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

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 2018. In the United States, the Fourth of July is on a Wednesday, so you can bookend a long weekend with two sets of fireworks. 

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 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, and the Michigan side features a 7 p.m. parade downtown before the fireworks.

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.

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.

Fireworks on Mackinac Island.

© Torsten Muller

Fireworks burst over Mackinac Island.

Times past at Old World Wisconsin

Near Milwaukee, the large open-air heritage museum Old World Wisconsin holds an Independence Day Celebration that includes making ice cream, a picnic and old-fashioned games, such as tug-of-war and a greased-pole contest. 

It's July 4, with a pie-eating contest, ice-cream-making and an old-fashioned parade.

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.

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.; the Leech Lake Band of Chippewa traditional powwow in Cass Lake, Minn.; the Oneida Nation competition powwow in Oneida, Wis., just west of Green Bay; 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.

In Milwaukee, the giant Summerfest runs June 27-July 1 and July 3-8, with 11 stages and zones. The July 4 acts include Journey, Def Leppard, Kesha and The Fray.

Dancers at Upper Sioux.

© Beth Gauper

The Fourth of July is a big holiday for attending powwows.

In the Chicago suburb of Naperville, the Stray Cats with Melissa Etheridge will play July 4 at Ribfest in Knoch Park, where there will  also be magic shows, kids' games, food and fireworks. It's July 4-7.

Gershwin in Chicago

At the beautiful Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, listen to a free Independence Day concert by the Grant Park Orchestra. It's playing Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue,'' as well as pieces by Copeland, John Williams and others. 

Many people bring tablecloths and vases of flowers and make a dinner party out of it.

Water-skiing 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 ó 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 childrenís 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, with categories for amateurs as well as professional skippers.

The Fourth at Fort Snelling

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

On the Fourth, it holds an Independence Day Celebration, with a mock battle, cannon salutes, egg races and an infantry parade.

Navy Pier in Chicago

Chicago's most visited tourist attractions 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 27, 2018