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July 4th has arrived.  In my eyes, the holiday has always been geared towards youthful nostalgia over adult recreation.  Big wheel races, hot dogs, and bottle rockets somehow hold more appeal sub-12 years old…not to mention that inferno sunshine that doesn’t even penetrate that freckled-face kid, even as it turns the parents into whiny overheated tomatoes.  Perhaps this is why my memories of July 4th invariably become more visible the longer in time I go back.  I really couldn’t tell you what I did 2 years ago but somehow can still feel the ladyfinger firecracker that almost blew up my hand on the beach at age 11.  Without further delay, here are my top 3 locations to spend July 4th.

Charleston, SC 

This southern gem of a city has an abundance of features that fit a festive 4th: Abundant beaches that still don’t qualify as overcrowded, spacious waterways for boating, and an overflow of historical relevance.  The city is home to Ft. Sumter: the site of the first shots of the Civil War.  An ordinance against skyscrapers coupled with scores of archival buildings makes one feel like they’ve stepped back in time. Catch some fireworks on the harbor over the USS Yorktown, barbecue out on Sullivan’s Island, or take in a carriage ride downtown for risk-free fun.

Washington, DC

The pinnacle of the “July 4th experience”, this is where it all comes together in a symphony of patriotism.  Fireworks on the national mall with the monuments surrounding can make even the most hardened cynic bleed red, white, and blue.  Throw in a star-studded line-up of musicians, politicians, and entertainers and DC offers the complete package.  For a full-taste of July 4th, visit the White House, Arlington Cemetery, the Smithsonian museums, and of course the exquisitely detailed monuments.  My last trip to DC on the 4th found me on a Dupont Circle rooftop, sharing fireworks from all directions as at least 5 cities have shows.

Boston, MA

My earliest memories of watching a July 4th on television come from my Dad forcing me to watch the famous Boston Pops Orchestra on PBS television.  Despite an aversion for orchestra music (who didn’t have that at 7 years old), it was hard not to get swept away in the sounds of Souza’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” and Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”.  The dynamic celebration over the St. Charles River became popular in 1973, and now draws over 500k foreign visitors.  It helps that Boston is a patriotic city that still holds great intimacy. Take in a walk on the freedom trail, a game at Fenway Park, or a lobster roll by the water to get the full Boston experience.