As the country’s bona fide birthplace, it’s only fitting that New England would be in a league of its own on Independence Day. Fourth of July is arguably the region’s most exciting holiday, marked by festive parades, all-American cookouts, and dazzling fireworks displays that light up the skies and reflect on the waters of the Atlantic.
From charming coastal celebrations to large-scale bashes, here’s where you can take in the best Fourth of July celebrations this summer, each accessible by Tradewind Aviation’s shuttle or charter flights.
Each year, Nantucket hosts a unique July 4th celebration among its Colonial-style buildings and picturesque beachfront. The hallmark of Nantucket’s Independence Day festivities is the annual water fight between Town of Nantucket’s Fire Department and the Boynton Lane Reserves, a tradition that began back in 1981 when local real estate broker H. Flint Ranney (who had acquired a 1927 LaFrance ladder truck) challenged Nantucket’s then-fire chief Bruce Watts to a friendly battle. The event has endured, and for its 38th year, visitors can make their way to Main Street at “high noon” to cool off (the festivities officially commence two hours early at 10am).
Following the water fight, children’s games begin at 5pm, including potato-sack races, three-legged races, wheelbarrow races, and tug-of-war, followed by live music on the bandstand at 6pm. Those arriving for the weekend are in luck — this year’s fireworks show will be held on Jetties Beach on Friday, July 5th.
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
While there are six main towns on the island of Martha’s Vineyard (each with their own distinct Fourth of July events), the community of Edgartown in particular stands out for its time-honored traditions. The day centers around a late-afternoon parade at 5pm, where onlookers watch as elaborate floats, antique cars, marching bands, and more travel down Main Street and its surroundings. For prime viewing opportunities, arrive early to claim a spot in the historic town center, known for its white Greek Revival-style architecture (which, ironically, feels quintessentially New England).
The festivities continue on the harbor with a fireworks show at dusk, best viewed from Memorial Wharf. Past years have also included the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust’s annual barbecue on the lawn of the Dr. Daniel Fisher house on Main Street, featuring cookout classics from burgers to hot dogs. St. Elizabeth’s Church has been known for their lobster rolls during the afternoon, and live music has been held at Old Whaling Church.
Bar Harbor, Maine
An old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration can be found on Mount Desert Island in the town of Bar Harbor. Just off of Maine’s Down East shoreline, their festivities are regularly voted among the top Independence Day events in the country, and it’s not hard to see why, given the town’s seemingly endless things to do on the holiday.
The day commences with a blueberry pancake breakfast from 6am to 10am. Or, for a more athletic kick-off, runners can sign up for a 100-kilometer relay in teams of two to nine participants, with start times beginning at 6am. The race route offers a scenic overview of the rocky Maine seaside against the lush backdrop of Acadia National Park, along with every town and village on the island.
Make sure to be back in time for the community parade through downtown Bar Harbor at 10am and the seafood festival at 11am, where fresh lobster, mussels, corn, and more are paired with an outdoor concert and followed by the annual lobster races (betting on your favorite crustacean is encouraged, as proceeds go toward the MDI YMCA Scholarship Program). The day also includes a nonprofit showcase, a craft fair and marketplace, and plenty of live music throughout the town, from Agamont Park to Bar Harbor Village Green. The festivities conclude with breathtaking fireworks over Frenchman Bay at 9:15pm.
Recommended Airport: Hancock County Bar Harbor Aiport (BHB) via Tradewind Private Charter
Bristol, Rhode Island
Known as “America’s most patriotic town,” Bristol, Rhode Island boasts the world’s first Fourth of July celebration, and its revelry has only grown in the 234 years that have passed. In true over-the-top fashion, the town doesn’t wait for July 4th to begin celebrating — activities and events officially commence on June 14th with a Flag Day Ceremony. In the weeks that follow, local organizations hold events including a free concert series at Independence Park, the Bristol Stomp Block Dance on June 15th, the annual Fourth of July Ball on June 21st, the Bristol Independence Rhode Race Half Marathon on June 29th, and even a Patriotic Pet Photo Contest from June 17th -30th.
Rather than mark the end of the holiday, the town’s fireworks show is held on June 3rd at 9:30pm on Bristol Harbor, building excitement for Independence Day itself. The next morning, the town wakes to the churches’ Ringing of the Bells at 6am, followed by the Military, Civic, and Firemen’s parade at 10:30am, viewed by more than 200,000 onlookers. Blending small-town charm with grand spectacle, it’s an unforgettable gathering for both locals and visitors.
Recommended Airport: Newport State Airport (UUU) via Tradewind Private Charter
Boston is steeped in colonial history year-round, but its revolutionary beginnings are fully celebrated on the Fourth of July. The mayor starts with a speech at City Hall Plaza at 9am, and from there, a festive parade makes its way toward the Old State House, where a stirring reading of the Declaration of Independence takes place on the balcony. Recited by the Captain Commanding of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, it’s a meaningful annual tradition for the city of Boston as a reminder of the nation’s roots.
Before this tradition takes place, the parade stops at the Granary Burying Ground on Tremont Street for a fitting tribute to the founding fathers. Here, officials lay wreaths on the patriots’ graves, including John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Robert Treat Paine.
The day’s entertainment culminates with the renowned Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. This free (and televised) orchestra concert at the Hatch Memorial Shell on the Charles River Esplanade begins at 8pm (though gates open at 9am for those dedicated to getting a seat). Led by famed Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, this year’s event will also feature Queen Latifah, Arlo Guthrie, and more. The fireworks lend a dramatic, awe-inspiring touch at 10:30pm, closing out the evening with a bang.
Recommended Airport: Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) via Tradewind Private Charter