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25 fun things to do on the 4th of July with family and friends

From fireworks to backyard baseball, these are the best ways to celebrate Independence Day.
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 04: Fireworks light up the sky above the
The Washington Post / The Washington Post via Getty Im

The Fourth of July is a summer standout — and for good reason. It’s a federal holiday smack dab in the middle of summer and when the calendar works in your favor (like this year), it gives you a three-day weekend for fun festivities.

But it's not just an extra day off from work. July Fourth commemorates the date in 1776 that the Founding Fathers ratified the U.S. Declaration of Independence, officially marking America’s independence from Britain. Since then, we’ve been celebrating Independence Day with fireworks, parties, parades and backyard barbecues.

The sky's the limit when it comes to things to do on the Fourth of July. While you can always post an inspiring Fourth of July caption on Instagram and call it a day, these family-friendly activities are way more fun.

If you haven't made any plans yet, don't worry. We've rounded up all the best things to do with your family, other couples and friends, whether you're hoping to stay home or hit the road. From attending a baseball game to whipping up a Fourth of July feast, check out these festive ideas to host your most star-spangled celebration yet.

Score all the deals

Let someone else handle the cooking this year. Snack your way through the day by stopping at Auntie Anne's, Carvel, SONIC and other popular chains, all of which are offering incredible Fourth of July deals all weekend long.

Make red, white and blue treats

A Fourth of July cookout isn't complete until the flag cake is served. Or the strawberry shortcake. Or the ice cream cake. Want to skip the slicing and serving altogether? Go with a less-mess Fourth of July dessert, like festive and fruity popsicles.

Host a hot dog eating contest

Give Joey Chestnut a run for his money this Fourth of July. Grill a bunch of hot dogs and see who can eat the most during a set time. A friendly reminder: You don't want anyone to spoil the fun, so tell 'em to take it easy.

Watch a fireworks display

If you're wondering if there are fireworks near you, there probably are! On the off chance that there aren't any, you can always watch some on TV or take matters into your hands by picking up fireworks at the store, depending depending on which state you live in. Even a pack of sparklers will help make your celebration feel more festive.

Try a new restaurant

Not all restaurants are open on July Fourth, but the ones that are will definitely appreciate your business. Do some homework and find somewhere you’ve never been before. It’s a fun Fourth of July activity, especially for anyone who would rather have someone else handle the cooking.

Go on picnic

You can’t go wrong with packing up a basket and going on a picnic. Make a few of your favorite finger foods beforehand, whip up an array of red, white and boozy cocktails, and find a scenic spot to enjoy 'em.

Visit a historical landmark

Even if you're far from the nation's capitol, you can still find a local historical landmark to visit on July Fourth. While some landmarks may be closed for the holiday, plenty of others remain open and you might uncover some interesting history right in your own backyard.

Make a Fourth of July recipe

It doesn't get any better than a red, white and blueberry pie — especially on the Fourth of July. Try a new recipe (or two) and put together an on-theme feast. Right before you grab a bite, take a picture of your creation and post it on social media to show off your skills.

Attend a baseball game

Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images

What better way to spend July Fourth than at a baseball game? Load up the whole family and enjoy an afternoon at the ballpark. Bring on the hotdogs, peanuts and Cracker Jacks!

Take a trip to New York City

There’s nothing quite like watching fireworks light up the Statue of Liberty. Catch the display on TV or check it out in person. There are celebrations across the Big Apple throughout the long weekend, so you're bound to find something to do.

Make Fourth of July-inspired crafts

Get the whole family involved and make a patriotic craft to celebrate America’s birthday. It doesn’t need to be complicated — just pick up some iron-on decals at the craft store to make festive t-shirts or craft a star-studded wreath to hang on your front door.

Watch a Fourth of July movie or documentary

If the weather rains out your big Fourth of July plans, host an indoor movie marathon instead. Show a summer blockbuster like "Jaws" or “Independence Day." Or turn it into a teaching moment by playing a documentary about how the Founding Fathers ratified the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It's your call!

Go to the beach

While going to the beach for the Fourth of July is hardly an original suggestion, shake things up by finding a new spot to call your own for the holiday. Wherever you end up, a day of sun, sand and ice cream never gets old.

Visit Washington D.C.

July 4 fireworks
Alex Edelman / AFP via Getty Images

Named after the OG Founding Father himself, Washington is the place to be to get all the patriotic feels on the Fourth of July. Plan a pilgrimage to Mount Vernon, the birthplace of George Washington, or stay in the city center and visit all of the monuments. Just make sure you stick around long enough to watch the epic fireworks show on the National Mall.

Play outdoor games

Got water balloons? Break ‘em out. Badminton? Set it up. Cornhole? You know the drill. It's summer, so soak up the sunshine and play some backyard games with your family and friends. Whether it’s a chill game of croquet or nine innings of backyard baseball, it’s your time to shine and show the rest of the family who’s boss.

Create a care package

Fourth of July is a celebratory occasion, but it's also a moment to show your thanks to the people who make your freedoms a reality. Turn your thoughts into actions by sending packages to active members of the military and their families. Organizations like Soldiers' Angels offer guidance on what to send, everything from non-perishable food to toiletries to symbols of the home that they miss.

Attend a concert

So many summer concerts, so little time! July Fourth is the height of the season and between music festivals, concerts and other organized outdoor events, you’d be remiss to not attend at least one. Instead of hanging out at home, throw a couple of lawn chairs in the trunk and enjoy the music.

Decorate your home

Show Uncle Sam some love by decorating your house — indoors and out — with festive lights, flags and other Fourth of July decorations. It should come as no surprise that a red, white and bleu makeover will get everybody in the spirit.

Go swimming

If you've got a pool, have a party. Period. If you don’t, call your friends with the aforementioned pool and invite yourself over (kindly, of course). Be those people and show up wear matching Fourth of July swimsuits. You won’t be sorry.

Jam out to a Fourth of July playlist

Set the soundtrack for your celebration by making a patriotic playlist, including favorites like Bruce Springsteen’s "Born in the U.S.A" and Katy Perry’s "Firework." Don’t forget to sprinkle in a few classics — "The Star-Spangled Banner," perhaps?

Get a patriotic mani-pedi

Although most nail salons will be closed on Independence Day, you can still treat yourself to a spa day in the days leading up to July Fourth. Whatever activities you’ve got planned for the holiday, make sure to put your nails on full display.

Host a cookout

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OK, you don't need us to tell you to do this — but we'll do it anyway. Even though it's an obvious choice, you can't deny that everyone loves filling up on hamburgers, hotdogs and other cookout staples on a hot summer day. Even if you don't or own a grill, many parks and public spaces have them, so pack a cooler and enjoy this summer staple.

Plan a 1776 party

If you're feeling positively revolutionary this Fourth of July, then travel back in time and host a 1776-themed party. Invite everyone over, dress up in powdered wigs and fancy attire, and play a bunch of drum and fife tunes. Finish off the day with a singalong screening of "Hamilton."

Attend a Fourth of July parade

Marching bands, firetrucks and people tossing candy scream "America" — don't ya think? Good news: Just about every small town in America has a Fourth of July parade, so you shouldn't have any problems finding one nearby.

Play board games

Mother Nature has a mind of her own, which means you may have to pivot and spend the day inside hiding from the raining. Board games are a solid option when the weather isn't cooperating. It gives everyone a break from technology and might just start a new family tradition.