Guest post by Christine Lindstrom of Lindstroms on the Road.
The 4th of July is the biggest holiday of the summer. For roadschooling families, this means campground reservations are hard to get and all the fun and educational places we like to visit are full of people on vacation. It can be tempting to hide away and find a quiet campsite somewhere to grill a few hamburgers and wait for things to go back to normal.
While there’s nothing wrong with this approach, the first week of July can also present some wonderful opportunities, especially if you’re able to plan ahead and don’t mind crowds. Whether your family is traveling somewhere special this year for the 4th or just celebrating wherever you are along the road, there are plenty of ways to mark the occasion that go beyond what’s on the grill. Here are some ideas that might inspire you!
Learning about Independence
Help kids understand why the 4th of July is a holiday in the first place. This is a great time to talk about American history and the transition from the colonial period into the Revolutionary War. What was the Declaration of Independence all about? What were they fighting for? Older children can read the original language of the Declaration and consider memorizing some of the best-known phrases.
What does freedom mean to your family? Consider some Independence Day creative writing activities, such as an acrostic poem using the letters in the word “F-R-E-E-D-O-M” or writing your own Declaration of Independence.
Kids of all ages can enjoy reading books about the 4th of July! Here are a few titles available for free on Amazon Freetime. For more great ideas, check out this list of suggestions from PBS Kids.
Elmo Doodle Dandy. Preschoolers will enjoy learning about Independence Day from their favorite friends on Sesame Street.
The Battle of Bunker Hill. Fought in June 1775, the Battle of Bunker Hill was one of the steps which led to revolution and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Elementary-aged kids will learn more about it while enjoying this exciting and interactive novel from You Choose: History.
Plain Jane Celebrates. This book combines a story about celebrating the 4th of July with a moral about self-esteem and the value of being yourself. Plain Jane can be enjoyed by children of all ages but is best suited to younger elementary ages.
Places to Visit
Few cities celebrate the 4th of July like the place where it all happened in 1776. Visit Independence National Historical Park for a chance to tour Independence Hall and see the Liberty Bell. There are dozens of events happening in the city and surrounding areas during the first week of July, including free museum days, concerts, and the nation’s largest ice cream festival. Philadelphia welcomes visitors of all ages to celebrate America’s birthday in America’s birthplace. More information: WelcomeAmerica.com
If your interests turn more toward the Civil War than the Revolution, look no further than Gettysburg, PA. The Battle of Gettysburg, considered the turning point and most important battle of the Civil War, took place from July 1-3, 1863. Gettysburg National Military Park offers a series of special programs to mark the anniversary every year. There is also a 3-day reenactment and living history event (in 2019, it will be held July 5-7) organized by the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee. The event draws thousands of reenactors portraying soldiers, nurses, and chaplains from both sides. Spectators can number in the tens of thousands, so planning ahead for tickets and campground space is a must. More information: GettysburgReenactment.com
De Smet, SD
This “little town on the prairie” was made famous by Laura Ingalls Wilder in her books about her childhood in a pioneer family in the late 1800s. Each summer, during “Pageant Days,” parts of Wilder’s iconic and classic books are reenacted in the sites where many of the events happened. While it might not have a clear connection with Independence Day, this annual event in July is a fun way to learn about the pioneer period of American history. While in De Smet, be sure to visit the Ingalls Homestead, which is also a perfect place to stay if you can get a reservation in one of their four RV sites. A similar pageant is held at the same time in Walnut Grove, MN, where the Ingalls family lived prior to moving to De Smet.
Amazing Fireworks Displays
Fireworks are synonymous with the 4th of July. Most local areas have fireworks shows planned, either on the 4th or at some time during the week before or after it. Look online, in the local newspaper, or watch for signs in the town where you are to find out where and when you can see 4th of July fireworks.
For the true fireworks enthusiast, there are a few cities that go above and beyond each year to plan unbelievable displays. If you’re willing to brave the crowds, try one of these locations for a unique experience. For even more locations, check out this list.
Lake Tahoe, CA/NV
Against the backdrop of the stunning Sierra Nevada mountains, a 25 minute fireworks show is arranged in the sky above Lake Tahoe, designed to reflect perfectly in the water below. The show can be viewed from anywhere along the shore of the lake, or from the deck of a boat out on the lake (for an additional charge). The music will be broadcast on local radio stations so the choreography can be appreciated from any location. More information.
The Dallas suburb of Addison expects a half million or more visitors this year to its “Kaboom Town” festivities. Over 5,000 lbs of fireworks will be launched to produce a 30 minute extravaganza. The event is combined with an airshow, featuring aerobatics and pyrotechnics. More information.
Hundreds of thousands of people can’t be wrong as they flock to Music City for a full day of free concerts and other family fun. The “Let Freedom Sing” event ends with a fireworks show rated as one of the best in the country, choreographed to live music performed by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. More information.
Wherever you’re celebrating this 4th of July, be sure to pause to reflect on what independence and freedom mean to you. Roadschoolers often have a unique perspective on these concepts as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” have taken us a different direction than most. Happy 243rd Birthday, USA!