Looking for a break from the usual Fourth of July doings? Want to take in a really big fireworks show instead of your local town display, or just looking for an excuse to get out of town for a few days?
Here are a few ideas for places where you can turn this year's Fourth into a little vacation, some familiar and some a little out of the ordinary.
You can't beat this backdrop for a party. There's an annual July 4 celebration (although the fireworks are on July 3 this year) at Mount Rushmore National Memorial www.nps.gov/moru/index.htm in the scenic Blacks Hills of South Dakota. Click on "Plan Your Visit" and then "Things to Do" for details. As long as you're in the neighborhood, check out Black Hills & Badlands www.blackhillsbadlands.com/ for places to stay and things to see and do.
How about a little dust and wild excitement? The July 4 weekend is time for the St. Paul Rodeo www.stpaulrodeo.com/ a few miles southwest of Portland, Ore. Along with the "meanest, baddest" bulls and steers, they promise barbecue, a parade, fireworks and dancing. Same weekend, different climate, try the World's Oldest Rodeo http://www.worldsoldestrodeo.com/ at Prescott, Ariz. Don't worry about the desert heat; Prescott's high elevation means it's usually 15 to 20 degrees cooler than Phoenix.
You might also do something cooler and more relaxing and closer to water at spots such as Wisconsin's Sturgeon Bay www.sturgeonbay.net/ where you and the kids could try the old-fashioned ice cream social, followed by a concert and fireworks. The next day, you can head out on Lake Michigan to go fishing.
Close to the water but not the Great Lakes? San Diego is the scene of lot of July 4 festivities tinyurl.com/5cbpbk and you can round out your visit at one of the area's beaches (look under "What do Do").
On the opposite coast, they're promising "Freedom, Fanfare and Fireworks" at Jacksonville, Fla. tinyurl.com/64kcph with free admission to Metropolitan Park for a concert, ice skating and, of course, a big fireworks show. Go to the top left corner of the page and click on "Visitors" for more info for your stay.
Maybe you were thinking about something you've seen on TV.
The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular www.july4th.org/ has it all, from the annual July Fourth concert by the Boston Pops orchestra to a stupendous fireworks show along the Charles River. They promise more than 20,000 pounds of pyrotechnic explosives. Look for "Helpful Links" for Web sites of Boston visitors' information and public transportation.
There's also Washington tinyurl.com/4w8zbb where you could start with the celebration at George Washington's Mount Vernon, and move up through observances all over the city. The day winds up with a star-studded concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol and fireworks over the Washington Monument.
Really big fireworks? That's the Macy's 4th of July show in New York tinyurl.com/4quf72 with an advertised barrage of more than 30,000 shells launched from a fleet of barges on the East River. Get there early to get a decent viewing spot, or watch on NBC.