Being the oldest clearly defined U.S. territory, New England is by no surprise home to some of the most epic Independence Day celebrations in the country. The northeastern states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont have been known to put on extravagant Fourth of July parades, lavish fireworks displays, and a slew of other family-friendly events. Many of them, however, have been altered or canceled in 2020. Check details below and websites of the organizers for more information.
Although Boston Harborfest has been canceled in 2020, it's usually the centerpiece of Independence Day celebrations in Beantown and the New England region, if not the entire country. The multi-day extravaganza draws many thousands of visitors and receives national television coverage. It usually includes a free concert on the Charles River Esplanade headlined by the Boston Pops Orchestra, which ends with a stirring rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” complete with real cannon fire and the ringing of church bells around Boston. The entire event ends with a spectacular fireworks show over the Charles River. Get there early, pack a picnic, and prepare for crowds.
Bristol's annual Fourth of July celebrations have been canceled in 2020. The lovely town along Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay shore holds the record for the longest-running Independence Day celebration in America, which has been held every year since 1785. The holiday parade is laced with as much apple-pie patriotism as you'd expect, with marching bands, floats, and plenty of families lined up for flag-waving. The route is well marked with a red-white-and-blue-striped line painted along Hope and High streets, and it finishes at the town common. A Fourth of July concert, part of a summer-long series, and fireworks over Bristol Harbor are the highlights of this day-long event.
March Back in Time in Sturbridge, Massachusetts
This event has been canceled in 2020. Old Sturbridge Village is what New England was like in the 1830s. A living history site with old buildings and interpreters in period dress who convey what life was like nearly two centuries ago, Old Sturbridge Village throws a fittingly old-fashioned celebration on Independence Day, complete with a rousing reading of the Declaration of Independence and even a giant reproduction for guests to sign. You can make your own tri-cornered hat, do drills with the Sturbridge Militia, watch musket demonstrations, and play an early version of baseball at this annual celebration.
Bar Harbor's July Fourth happenings have been repeatedly named one of the best Independence Day celebrations in America. Typically, events would begin with a blueberry pancake breakfast, craft fair and marketplace, and a classic flag-waving Independence Day parade, but in 2020, the event will be held "in reverse." Instead of watching a parade pass by, guests will do the walking to take in some festive sights. Businesses and residences alike will be decked out in patriotic decor. The modified parade route will be posted online on June 29. The annual lobster races, seafood festival, free concerts in Agamont Park, and fireworks over Frenchman Bay have been canceled this year.
The beautiful town of Stowe is perhaps best known as a ski destination, but New Englanders know that it's a gorgeous place to visit in the summer, too. Every July Fourth, Stowe throws a day-long party with a parade, food, live music, entertainers, 7 Miles of Sales (dozens of independent retailers along Mountain Road offering holiday deals), the World's Shortest Marathon (1.7 miles), and kid-friendly attractions such as face painting, magicians, clowns, and balloons. There's also an annual carnival at Mayo Events Field followed by an impressive fireworks display. Check the Stowe website for updates and event schedules.
Portsmouth's annual American Celebration is hosted by Strawbery Banke Museum, a 10-acre living history museum with costumed actors that put on a charming and old-fashioned salute to Independence Day every summer. The day begins with a U.S. Naturalization Ceremony, then treats families to a classic Fourth of July featuring a penny-farthing bike and wagon parade, potato sack races and other field games, live music, historic garden tours, food, and more. The city usually holds its annual fireworks the night before, on July 3, but that event is canceled in 2020.
For families looking for a traditional celebration of the nation's independence, Smugglers' Notch in Vermont is a swell choice. In the morning, the village of Jeffersonville hosts a parade on Main Street and a fair with live music, food, and games. Later in the afternoon, at the resort, there's a firemen's barbecue followed by a stirring performance by the 40th Army Band, and at dusk, see fireworks against the backdrop of the Green Mountains. Summer stays at this family resort include the use of eight heated pools and four waterslides, the FunZone indoor entertainment center, daily guided hikes and walks, and regular family activities like lawn games.