Sometimes, the anticipation before a big holiday is the most fun. It was for us as we'd get ready to celebrate July 4th, in Evanston, Ill. The day before the big parade, we'd go with the kids to stake out our spot, leaving lawn chairs behind. We'd decorate their bikes if they were marching in the parade -- with soccer, little league or scouts -- and bring flags to wave and plenty of water.
It didn't matter that it was hot. There was always ice cream to cool us off.
Maybe this July 4th you'll be home marching or watching a local parade. Maybe you'll be visiting the relatives and cheering on nieces and nephews as they march. Maybe you'll be celebrating some place new, joining in special and unique celebrations.
How about a pirate cruise to watch the fireworks in San Diego (www.pirateshipadventures.com) or a party with Shrek at the Gaylord National Hotel (www.gaylordhotels.com) in National Harbor, Md. Or watch the fireworks from your hotel room in New York City at The Westin New York at Times Square (www.westinny.com). (Call 866-837-4183 and request a west-side facing room.)
And while there are special fireworks on July 4th at SeaWorld San Diego (www.seaworldparks.com/SeaWorld-SanDiego), you can see fireworks all summer long during Summer Nights at SeaWorld, which also features special nighttime animal shows and extended hours to enjoy it all.
Wherever you are you this year, you have a chance to create a new family tradition while celebrating the nation's birthday -- whether running in a race (how about a midnight race three miles up and three miles down a mountain in Seward, Alaska, www.seward.com), indulging in a pancake breakfast, checking out a local arts festival and, of course, watching fireworks. (Yes, there were years when the kids were scared, but we went anyway, sometimes leaving early.)
Have your kids ever entered a watermelon rolling contest? They can as part of the festivities in Southport, N.C., part of the North Carolina Brunswick Islands (www.nc4thofjuly.com). Line up at the popular dunking booth in Stowe, Vt., (http://www.gostowe.com/index.php?option=com_eventlist&view=details&id=2717&Itemid=251) or march along with the fife and drums at Colonial Williamsburg where you might bump into Thomas Jefferson (www.history.org).
Here's your chance to see the fireworks in the Fireworks Capital of America (www.fireworkscapitalofamerica.com) -- New Castle, Pa., where Zambelli Fireworks Internationale and Pyrotecnico got their start in the mid-1800s. This region was once the largest producer of fireworks in the world and today, the festival in downtown New Castle promises a terrific display, along with music, entertainment and more.
You might meet up with Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders at Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay Long Island (http://www.nps.gov/sahi/index.htm) where the free Fourth of July celebration also includes a visit and speech from Theodore Roosevelt.
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