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July 4th Weekend Getaway Ideas: Small Towns that Are Big on Charm

by Wendy Perrin | July 3, 2014

Wow, July 4th weekend is already upon us, and we want to know where you’re headed for Independence Day. To help you make a quick getaway, Wendy has already revealed (to her husband’s dismay) her family’s favorite 4th of July small-town escape. Which made us wonder which small towns are calling to you. We asked friends and fans on Facebook (many of whom are in the travel business themselves) to share their picks for great small-town July 4th weekend getaways, and here’s what they had to say. Be sure to share your own picks in the comments below.


Lake Burton, Georgia

Reader Chris McGinnis, who’s also the expert behind TravelSkills, is off to Lake Burton, in Georgia’s lake-dotted Rabun County. “There’s a fun boozy flotilla of boats at sunset, then fireworks!” he says. The sparklers, shot off Billy Goat Island, have been a tradition here for more than 25 years.


Laurel, Montana

Laurel Montana July 4th parade

Laurel puts on a popular July 4th parade and the largest fireworks display in Montana.  Photo: Courtesy Laurel Chamber of Commerce

Facebook fan Lisa Orr says, “I’m headed home to Laurel, MT, where they go all out for the 4th. There is a street dance on the 3rd, a parade, and the best fireworks in the state!” Those fireworks are the largest display in the state, in fact, and according to the city government, 5,000 to 10,000 people travel to Laurel every year to see them. The Independence Day festivities aren’t the only attraction in the area: Billings is just 13 miles away, the Lewis and Clark landmark Pompeys Pillar is 40 miles away (Clark himself was the reason the town was created in the first place), the site of Custer’s last stand is 77 miles away, and four of Yellowstone National Park’s entrances are within a one- to three-hour drive. But Lisa probably knows all of this already—she’s a Montana vacation rental specialist with Mountain Home.


Langhorne Borough, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania's Langhorne Borough

Pennsylvania’s Langhorne Borough is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Photo: Kari C. Thomas

This tiny historic village is home to just 1,600 people and spans only one square mile, but it packs in more than 300 years of history: George Washington’s soldiers occupied four buildings in town after crossing the Delaware, and many Revolutionary War soldiers were buried in a now-protected site. The borough is on the National Historic Register of Places and makes a fitting destination for Independence Day: “As our town was part of the American war for independence,” says reader Donna Thomas, “it is the perfect place to be.”


South Padre Island, Texas

South Padre Island Texas

South Padre Island is in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Texas.  Photo: Courtesy City of South Padre Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

For beach time, Facebook fan Darlene Fiske hightails it to this barrier island off the southeastern tip of Texas. Fireworks go off every summer weekend, including July 4th, of course, when you’ll also spot a procession of revelers parading down the beach. The rest of the holiday weekend can be spent taking in the island’s usual offerings: surfing, fishing, kiteboarding, sandcastle workshops and contests, swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, or just soaking up the sun.


Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor Maine July 4th Parade

Bagpipers play in the annual July 4th parade in Bar Harbor, Maine.  Photo: Courtesy Mount Desert Islander

Where else but Maine would you celebrate Independence Day with lobster races? As Janet K. Keeler, food and travel editor of The Tampa Bay Times, told us on Facebook, the crustacean competitions are one of her favorite reasons to spend the holiday in this small town on Mount Desert Island. But Bar Harbor’s July 4th activities include much more: a blueberry pancake breakfast, a seafood festival, a concert series, and of course a float-filled parade and fireworks extravaganza. The town’s island location means there is plenty of water and beach fun to keep you busy between events, and a large part of Acadia National Park is right on the island too, so you can escape for some peaceful hiking and biking when you want to be reminded first-hand of America’s natural beauty.


Duck, North Carolina

Duck North Carolina Outer Banks July 4th parade

Even canines show off their patriotism during the July 4th parade in Duck, North Carolina.  Photo: Courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

Outer Banks fans are closely watching the weather forecast this year to see if Tropical Storm Arthur is going to ruin their 4th of July plans. If it stays dry, this North Carolina stretch of beaches will be packed come the weekend. And while there are many popular destinations in this area, our Facebook friend Vivian Deuschl says the charming small-town beach resort of Duck is where she’ll be spending the holiday. “It has a great old-fashioned mini parade [with] wagons full of kids; dogs in red, white, and blue collars; and a real feel.”

What’s your favorite small town for July 4th, or for any weekend getaway?


Be a smarter traveler: Follow Wendy Perrin on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

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  1. Maggie Gerlacher

    Kennebunkport , ME! Can’t get much more Americana than there…best lobster and blueberry pie !

  2. Tanya Ward

    One of our favorite places for the 4th of July is Ouray, Co. The Little Swtzerland of the U.S. nestled in the mountains. There is a parade with the local firemen where they spray the crowd and locals parade and throw candy The town park has food, music, games and competitions. They do a Water Battle downtown where they block off the streets and firefighters in full gear with hoses hooked up to fire hydrants compete. At night the locals parade down the moutain with their lights on and then there is a fireworks show.

  3. Cyndy Simons

    Laurel MT IS the HQ for all things July 4th in Montana. Street dance…pancake breakfast…kiddie parade…main parade….things going on all day in the park followed by THE biggest and best fireworks in the state!!!! Thanks for mentioing us!! :)

  4. Carolyn Spencer Brown

    Definitely would have to add my two favorites, both historic riverside towns: Chestertown, Md., another George Washington ate-slept-drank-here place, and of course our darling Lambertville, NJ, on the banks of the Delaware River (and yes, George hung out there, too).

  5. Benet Wilson

    I’ve spent many a happy 4th of July in Wolfeboro, N.H., on the lovely shores of Lake Winnepesaukee!

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