5 Things to Do for the 4th of July (That Aren't a Picnic)

Looking for a fun way to celebrate the Fourth of July this year? Read these five suggestions from Camping & Hiking Expert Elizabeth H.

Someone holds a sparkler up on the 4th of July.

Photo by Christian Bowen

The Fourth of July is a great time to celebrate this country, gather with friends and family, and get outside to enjoy some beautiful summer weather. Many families celebrate with picnics or camping trips, but this Fourth of July, I challenge you to try a new activity.

Adventure outdoors to a glamping resort, host a backyard lawn games tournament, or get out on the water! Chat with a Curated Expert today to get set up with all the gear you need to have an awesome, safe, and adventurous Fourth of July.

1. Watch a Parade

A mother and son sit in blue lawn chairs and watch a parade while wearing American flag sunglasses.

Photo by Andy Calhoun

Check out your local Fourth of July festivities! Small towns and big cities across the country host events ranging from a night of fireworks to a full weekend of celebrations. Events like parades, carnival rides, concerts, food and craft vendors, classic firework displays, and even rodeos are common.

Head to the city of our nation's independence, Boston, for a full week of celebrations. The Boston Pop’s Fireworks Spectacular, Freedom Trail tours, firework dinners, and Boston Harborfest offer patriotic celebrations for all.

If you don’t want to brave the crowds of the big city, check out a local event like Hyrum, Utah’s Star Spangled Celebration. I have spent almost every Independence Day there with family friends, arriving bright and early to get a spot on the parade route and then celebrating for the whole day. The high school marching bands, rodeo queens, and the local cheese company are some of our favorite floats each year! After the parade, we have a huge potluck barbeque, sing a few patriotic songs, and then play a round of croquet.

2. Go Glamping

A large canvas tent with a deck outside that two leather chairs sit on.

Glamping at Mendocino Grove. Photo by Michela Herbert

Take your Fourth of July camping trip to the next level by going glamping! There are lots of great options spreading throughout the country. Most Kampgrounds of America will have several different types of sites, ranging from basic tent or RV sites up to full cabins. Some KOAs offer oversized patio sites with outdoor furniture, and others offer unique lodging opportunities such as Airstream trailers, Conestoga wagons, treehouses, and cabooses. Check out the KOA website for more details on your local KOA.

Many local campgrounds also have different glamping options. Indian Canyon Ranch, outside of Monticello, Utah offers tent spaces and vintage RVs for rent with an amazing communal kitchen and beautiful outdoor shower. This offers an off-the-beaten-path adventure in Southern Utah.

A view of a lightly wooded hill at sunrise through a window.

The view from the outdoor shower at Indian Canyon Ranch. Photo by Elizabeth H.

Under Canvas is another excellent glamping option, with 10 locations located outside of 10 of America's most iconic national parks—Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Lake Powell, Yellowstone, Glacier, Acadia, The Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, and the Great Smoky Mountains. Under Canvas resorts offer amenities such as an adventure concierge, nightly fire and smores, on-site dining, organic bath products, West Elm furniture, optional ensuite bathrooms, woodburning stoves, and camp activities. Take your next National Park vacation to the next level with a glamping trip that is sure to be remembered.

For those wanting a more remote glamping experience, check out El Cosmico in Marfa, Texas. This high desert ranching community turned artist Mecca has become an amazing destination for artists, foodies, and music lovers. The site offers many camping and glamping options, from bring-your-own-tent sites, yurts, safari tents, and teepees to vintage trailers and the Cosmic Kasita. Heated blankets make all the difference in an early February trip to the high desert of Texas! While you are in town, check out some of the art at the Chinati Foundation and stop at any of the locally-owned restaurants for an incredible meal.

3. Go Tubing, Rafting, or Swimming

The author sits in a doughnut-printed inner tube on a lake.

A relaxing tube at Bear Lake State Park, Idaho. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth H. 

The hot weather in early July is the perfect time to get out onto the water. Whether that means swimming at your local aquatic center, visiting a water park, tubing down the river, or going full-blown whitewater rafting, there are options for everyone almost everywhere.

Spend the Fourth of July at King’s Pointe Resort in Storm Lake, Iowa, at Knott’s Soak City in Buena Vista, California, or stay nearby and check out a public pool or even a splash pad at a local park.

If you want something with a bit more adventure, try out river tubing! Rivers across the country offer tubing tours or rentals for a fun day out on the water. Just make sure to follow safety precautions and wear your life jackets—drowning incidents are more likely on holiday weekends, so please be safe!

For those adrenaline seekers, try whitewater rafting this Fourth! Rafting opportunities from scenic floats to Class V rapids can be found on rivers across the country. Some of my favorite daily floats include the Salmon River in central Idaho, the Colorado River outside of Moab, Utah, the Arkansas River near Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the Kennebec River in Maine. In any river town, there will be a plethora of companies that provide safe and fun river trips for those at all experience levels.

4. Camp Somewhere New

Four women stand next to each other holding lit sparklers and laughing on their camping site.

Photo by Nick Dunlap

If you don’t want to go for a glamping experience, take your regular camping gear out to explore a new campground. With 423 National Park Service sites and over 6,600 state parks, there is bound to be a new site for you to explore, or check out dispersed camping on public land near you. Head to recreation.gov to find more information about campground reservations, or search for your own state’s recreation website. Campsites at state parks start around $25 a night and often have great amenities like free showers, flush toilets, fire pits with grills, and cool locations.

Need to get geared up for your next camping trip? Chat with a Curated Camping & Hiking Expert to get personalized gear recommendations to fit your budget.

5. Have a Lawn Games Tournament

Someone holds a croquet mallet and lines up to hit a green ball.

Photo by Erol Ahmed

The options are endless for lawn games—there is bocce ball and croquet, corn hole and ring tosses, and the ladder game and lawn darts—or make up your own game! This Fourth of July, organize a tournament and add some friendly (or not-so-friendly) competition into your celebrations. What good is a holiday if no one ends up crying or frustrated? I’m kidding!! Keep it fun…enough! Bring out an Eagles Nest TrailFlyer or just a classic frisbee for something less competitive.

My family's Independence Day celebrations include the Hyrum Star Spangled Parade, a big barbeque, and the most important part of the day, the croquet tournament. Our friends have what can only be described as an industrial croquet set imported from Canada, and the tournament has grown from friendly competition to aggressive shots, power plays, and a betting pool. I should also mention that we have croquet tournaments many times throughout the year and have engraved trophies for each event! Winning is mainly for bragging rights, but having your name on the winners' board, adding a trophy to your collection, and winning some money takes the stakes high. I don’t recommend taking your Fourth of July Tournament to this extreme level, but it is very fun!

The author stands between her parents who are kissing her cheeks. She wears a sash and holds up a trophy while beaming.

Still one of my proudest achievements! Photo courtesy of Elizabeth H. 

I hope that this inspires you to try out something new this Fourth of July weekend. Please be safe, practice leave no trace principles, and most importantly have fun! Chat with a Curated Expert today to get ready for this summer’s adventures. Hope to see you out there!

Camping & Hiking Expert Elizabeth H.
Elizabeth H.
Camping & Hiking Expert
Elizabeth here! How can I help?
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Written By
I've grown up in a family of outdoor lovers. I've been camping and being carried on hikes since before I could walk and that love has continued throughout my life. I absolutely love spending time outdoors and exploring the National Parks and Monuments. My early years hiking, camping, and rafting ins...

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