When you hear the word patriotism, what comes to mind? In a country as diverse and complex as the U.S., nailing down exactly what it means to be patriotic is a big undertaking. True patriotism, as we’ve come to define it, is a strong sense of pride in and connection to a nation that champions its people, loves its land, and learns from its history.
At its best, America strives toward progress, and some areas of the country are shining examples in special ways. From deep roots in establishing the foundations of our democracy, to current-day events that keep the spirit of freedom and inalienable rights alive, these places exemplify what it means to live side-by-side with a shared identity of place, regardless of origin.
As the middle of 2017 approaches, we’ve created a list of the 17 cities and towns that prove their commitment to America through acts of service, celebrations of grandeur on the Fourth of July and beyond, connection to history, and desire to preserve and protect this land that we love. In no particular order, here is our list of places vying for most patriotic city.
Gallup is no stranger to being labelled patriotic, and it’s a reputation they wear with pride. The welcome sign on your way into town reads, “Most Patriotic Small Town in America.” The label runs deep into history here, where descendants of the country’s first inhabitants celebrate the oldest native traditions and cultural practices at the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial. The Gallup Cultural Center is another gathering place that explores the diversity and historical significance of the town. Don’t miss a stop at the Veterans Memorial, which pays tribute to veterans of war and the World War II Navajo code talkers.
In Chicago, hometown pride is a way of life, and it’s an inspiration to witness. When the Cubs won the World Series in 2016, for instance, the celebration was the seventh largest human gathering in recorded history. The city shows its love of country with displays of civic responsibility. In fact, Chicago was named a top city for “Bright Spots in Community Engagement” by the National League of Cities.
It also knows how to throw a fine birthday bash, and the iconic American landmark, Navy Pier is celebrating 100 years, so you’re sure to find a fete to fit your whims, whether they be finding the perfect place to watch Independence Day fireworks, or catching Live on the Lake music performances at the Miller Lite Beer Garden while enjoying the beautiful view. Come to town for the African/Caribbean International Festival of Life, which falls over Fourth of July weekend and features amazing music and cultural performances, carnival rides, food, and family fun.
Few places can claim as much American history cred as the City of Brotherly Love. The city is packed with significant artifacts and locations. Come the Fourth of July, Independence Hall, one of the most important and historic places in the U.S. hosts a live reading of the Declaration of Independence. During the same time, the Wawa Welcome America festival is a 6-day blowout that culminates in a gigantic finale concert with post-show fireworks.
Throughout the year, the Museum of the American Revolution keeps alive memories of the hard-won independence that make Americans so proud. Another example of patriotism is the pride in people that shines at the African American Museum, where heritage and culture find a celebratory voice. When you love someone you give them time and devotion, so why should it be different with your country and community? Citizens give back during the Martin Luther King Day of Service in a city that was also named a Bright Spot in Community Engagement by the National League of Cities.
Though located in the Dallas area, Addison has its own brand of patriotism, including one of the best fireworks shows in the state. Pregaming on July 3, revelers let loose in Addison Circle Park at Kaboom Town. If you’re wondering how to celebrate the Fourth of July with aplomb, you can’t go wrong here. It’s a free event, so get there early, and sources say to shoot for the midway area of the park for perfect views.
For a dose of art that also provides an important service, check out the American Fallen Soldiers Project National Gallery. This space features portraits of military members who gave their lives in service. The organization gifts portraits to grieving families, holds classes for art therapy, and offers tours to veterans groups. The healing power of art can’t be underestimated here.
As a recent winner of the National League of Cities award for promoting cultural diversity, Rock Hill leaves no stone unturned when it comes to embracing the idea that societies are stronger when they band together. The city’s ode to civil rights, “Liberty and Justice for All” put them on the list this year, but the Freedom Walkway and mural by Groundworks Studios that honor local defenders of equality are permanent fixtures. It’s a heroic act to create an environment of safety, justice, and inclusion for fellow citizens, and the city found a unique and special way to celebrate the people who champion that concept.
Who wouldn’t want to party in such a cool place? The Red, White & BOOM! festival is the perfect opportunity, where rides, food trucks, live music, and 10 p.m. fireworks turn Old Town into a big ol’ America lovefest.
What better place to feel the love for America than in Ohio, The Heart of It All? And Fairborn is a community with stars and stripes in its eyes. If you’re in town for Independence Day, get the party started early on July 3, when food vendors, rides, and music turn Main Street into a family-friendly block party. July 4 brings a parade through town, and fireworks light up the sky come nightfall. Grab a spot at Community Park before 10 p.m. and get ready for some down-home classic Americana.
Six miles west, at the National Museum of the US Air Force, you can immerse yourself in the history of aviation and see rare aircrafts and historical artifacts. The museum is an important part of the community, and serves through education, supporting student art, and offering scholarships via an annual writing competition. According to Thomas Jefferson, the cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate, and it’s never too early to begin.
Given the significance of Boston in the formative years of this country, the city couldn’t distance itself from patriotic vibes if it tried. It’s a major travel hub for visitors looking to learn about the nation’s history and marvel at the spots where Paul Revere rode and Louisa May Alcott wrote. Take to the Freedom Trail to catch important sites of the American Revolution, or the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail to pay homage to some great American heroes. In fact, there are so many historical things to do in Boston, you could live there and not catch them all.
If you’re looking to celebrate with your fellow Americans, the Boston Pops 4th of July show is arguably the best place to celebrate Fourth of July, and is a never-forget spectacle of music, lights, and revelry that will have you partying till the dawn’s early light.
Only one city can claim the title of home to the oldest Fourth of July celebration, and Bristol is that city. The event has been evolving since 1785, and is a source of pride involving dignitaries, concert series, parades, contests, pageants, and a formal ball. Boating and park-going are common activities in town, which suits the outdoorsy nature of the holiday just fine.
Start your day at the 2.5-mile parade, sneak in some time on the water mid-afternoon, and wrap up your celebrations at the fireworks show and concert at the aptly named Independence Park. Or, come to town early and extend your stay, because Bristol decided America deserves a whole birthday month–celebrations start on Flag Day, June 14.
As a designated Coast Guard City and home to the USS Hornet Museum, Alameda’s protective instincts practically make it the older sibling of U.S. cities. The museum, which features exhibits from Apollo moon explorations and aircraft from WWII into the 1980s, offers day tours and overnight programs where guests can live a day in the life of a sailor. The Alameda Naval Air Museum is yet another way to explore the role of defense in the maintenance of American ways of life.
Another claim to fame is the Mayor’s Fourth of July Parade, thought to be the second oldest, and at 3.3 miles, one of the longest procession routes in the country. Last year’s event drew over 60,000 attendees, and the parade features horses, dance groups, marching bands, classic cars, and floats.
State capitals naturally have a little more sway when it comes to connection to country, and Jefferson City embraces that status. The city motto, “You’ll Feel the History,” rings truest when you visit the Soldiers’ Memorial at Lincoln University. The men of the 62nd and 65th Colored Infantries taught themselves to read between duties, then established a college for their fellow soldiers, and nothing exemplifies love of country more than giving your all to make it a better place.
When it comes to showing how much they care, present-day residents put on a party with panache. The Salute to America event spans several days in July, and more than 70,000 people are treated to a parade, free concert, classic car show, carnival, and huge fireworks show set to music.
St. Louis hearts the U.S.A. so much it can barely contain its public displays of affection. The iconic arch, which is officially dedicated to the American people and is the tallest arch in the world, welcomes with you to town with flair. Come July, the city throws “America’s biggest birthday party” at Fair St. Louis, where hundreds of thousands of attendees enjoy a lineup of amazing bands, rides, local art vendors, food, and, of course, an epic display of fireworks.
Stick around until August, when the Festival of Nations celebrates the beautiful tapestry of cultures that make America uniquely strong and beautiful. The event is sponsored by the International Institute, which greets new citizens, working to help them achieve the best America can offer.
You know a place has the goods when people come from all over the country to celebrate the most important moment in our nation’s formation. Visitors flock to town on July 4, when the longest fireworks show in the area sends up light explosions via cannon to delight viewers right at eye-level.
Virginia City also stakes claim to some hefty historical significance as home of the Comstock Lode, which kicked off a mining era and ushered in commerce and technology innovations that helped build the American West. The town preserves the memory of its forbearers at its impressive 15 museums, while the “Below the Surface” series celebrates the working people of today, who keep the spirit of the city as shiny as a silver dollar.
Put-in-Bay is a teeny island town with few residents, but it shines bright as a beacon come Independence Day. It’s also home to Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, a 352-foot tower that is distinctive for being the only monument representing international peace in our national parks system. Standing watch over Lake Erie, the colossal Doric column is the perfect gathering spot to kick off the town’s massive Fourth of July event, and is one of the best places to see fireworks. The whole affair begins with the most American of activities, a U.S. naturalization ceremony, after which the freshly minted citizens can celebrate their new country with a fireworks show that would make anyone proud to be an American.
The love people feel for their country can take many forms, but it can be generally agreed that when you love something, you take care of it, and Pueblo is doing its part for preservation. As a big steel city, Pueblo was one of the first immigrant-rich cities in the West (it once published over 24 foreign-language newspapers).
El Pueblo History Museum can catch you up on the town’s journey into the modern day, and the Veterans Bridge and Medal of Honor Memorial will ground you in the sacrifices Americans from all swaths have made. You’ll experience a unique twist on the classic parade if you’re in town for the Fourth—water cannons and squirt guns soak the route, as spectators and float riders battle it out to see who will end up most drenched in the spirit of celebration.
With its long history as a military stronghold, dynamic culture as a border town, stellar monuments to heroes of war, and events that honor civil rights leaders, San Diego knows how to straddle a spectrum of ideals that actually make America great. Ample opportunities to applaud the U.S.A. dot the calendar, most of them as exciting as they are extraordinary.
Have you ever watched fireworks explode across the sky from the deck of a huge aircraft carrier? At the USS Midway Museum, you can. Fourth of July festivities are peppered up and down the coast, and there is nothing more sparklingly celebratory than fireworks reflected in water, unless you also toast the show with Champagne. If you love to honor our nation’s heroes, head to the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center, or attend the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade and the Cesar E. Chavez Celebration.
Few monuments are more iconically American than Mount Rushmore, and the land on which it dwells has lived through legendary battles, the inward flux of gold rush settlements, and many a modern tourist looking to explore the fruited plains. Perhaps no act more represents a true love of country than desire to see and protect state and national parks, and in this area, the preserved spaces will have you singing, “America the Beautiful” with more gusto than ever.
Visit Lead Gold Camp Jubilee Days for fireworks, food, music, and more July 2 – 4, but nearly every town in the area has a parade, and entertainment includes reenactments, cook-offs, mock shootouts, and of course, sky-illuminating fireworks. Take your pick from some of the best Fourth of July celebrations in the country.
Nicknamed Zenith City, Duluth takes the high road by striving for excellence in all realms. Voting is a cornerstone of democracy, and nowhere exercises the right with more verve than Minnesota. Showing consistently high voter turnout rates, Duluth is a gold standard when it comes to one of the most patriotic acts citizens can make.
It’s no wonder locals feel invested in America—with a thriving art scene, ample outdoor recreation, and gorgeous Lake Superior views, the city is well worth investing in. To experience the city at its country-loving best, attend Fourth Fest at Bayfront Festival Park, one of the best Independence Day traditions in the state, with live entertainment, food, drinks, and musical fireworks show.
Where do you think best shares its love of America?
Langston Code Talker & Navajo Girls –| Credit to Gary Langston
Langston GS-Mother-Shaw-Is-Back-View |Credit to Gary Langston
2017 Run for the Wall | Credit to Sandra McKinney
2017 Run for the Wall | Credit to Sandra McKinney
Addison Kaboom Town
Plane and Fireworks | Credit to Scott Slocum
USA Flag and fireworks | Credit to Town of Addison
Child holding USA flag | Credit to Town of Addison
Two women with USA shirts | Credit to Town of Addison
Video | Credit to Town of Addison
An overhead gallery view of the fourth building aircraft at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The fourth building includes more than 70 aircraft in four new galleries — Presidential, Research & Development, Space and Global Reach. | Credit to Ken LaRock
The Boeing VC-137C SAM 26000 on display in the Presidential Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. | Credit to Jim Copes
Presidential staff area of Boeing VC-137C SAM 26000 (Air Force One) at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. This photo is part of the free ACI Cockpit360º app, which features high-definition panoramic photos of more than 20 cockpits from many well-known aircraft on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. | Credit to Lyle Jansma, Aerocapture Images
The VC-137C Air Force One (SAM 26000) being towed into the fourth building at the National Museum of the United States Air Force on April 9, 2016. | Credit to Ken LaRock
All Photos | Credit to Flickr/The United States Army Band
Child waving flag (Fourth of July Parade) | Credit to Barbara Price
All Photos | Credit to Virginia City Tourism Commission
All Photos | Credit to Hailey Halterman
All Photos | Credit to City of Pueblo