Independence Day. July 4th. Whichever you prefer to use, the holiday is full of parades, picnics, watermelon, and, of course, fireworks. Iowa ranks among the best in the Midwest in celebrating America’s freedom.
Here’s a look at some of the best 2021 Independence Day celebrations around Iowa.
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1. July 4th Celebration
Where: Clear Lake
The town of 7,000 explodes to about 100,000 as people from all over flock to North Iowa for Clear Lake’s July 4th Celebration. With the gorgeous Clear Lake as a back drop, the six-day event kicks off the evening of June 30 with a carnival and concert. Daily activities include games, vendors, music, and concessions.
The annual Independence Day parade marches along Main Avenue on July 5. One of the largest fireworks shows in Iowa takes place over the lake on July 4 evening.
2. Freedom Festival
Where: Cedar Rapids
Observing Independence Day is a three-week celebration in Cedar Rapids. More than 400,000 people attend Freedom Festival events, ranging from a flag retirement ceremony, wood carving, a county fair, balloon glow, car show, food, music, and a parade. The Freedom Festival is capped with a massive fireworks show on July 4.
Recommended accommodations: Tru by Hilton Cedar Rapids Westdale (with a pool)
3. Star Spangled Spectacular
Where: Storm Lake
With nearly 500 fireworks filling the night sky over Storm Lake, the northwest Iowa city’s patriotic celebration truly is spectacular. Living up to its name, the city will more than double in size from 13,000 as it celebrates the Star Spangled Spectacular July 3-4.
The two-day event includes food, music, vendors, and a classic car cruise. July 4 events include The Big Parade along Lakeshore Drive. Of course, the celebration concludes with the enormous fireworks celebration at about 10 p.m. on July 4.
4. Urbandale 4th of July Celebration
Home to one of the best Independence Day celebrations in the Des Moines area, Urbandale 4th of July Celebration’s events take place over three days. Festival-goers can expect carnival rides, music, a street dance, food, vendors, and more. With the parade taking place at 10 a.m. July 4, beginning at the Old City Hall, Independence Day gets an early start.
Vendors will be lined up along Prairie Avenue between 71st and 72nd streets for people to enjoy comfort food and grab a quick meal with the family as they enjoy the day’s events. The holiday celebration ends with one of the area’s top fireworks shows on July 4.
For people interested in a little nostalgia, the Living History Farms in Urbandale host an old-fashioned baseball game on July 3, as part of its historical holiday celebration. The farm is celebrating the nation’s first centennial as 1876 Walnut Hill, and visitors can tour the buildings and learn what life was like in 19th-century Iowa.
The day’s events include vintage games, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, a traveling medicine show, and the 1800s baseball game at 3 p.m.
Recommended hotel: Holiday Inn Express & Suites Urbandale/Des Moines
Related post: Looking for another reason to road trip through Iowa this summer? Here are 14 awesome summer getaways in Iowa.
5. Fireworks and Air Show Spectacular
Airplanes and skydivers mix with fireworks to create one of the most-patriotic celebrations in the Midwest. The 35th annual Fireworks and Air Show Spectacular takes over Dubuque and the Mississippi River July 1-4. The US Army Golden Knights parachute team drops from the sky to rev things up on July 1 in Elizabeth, Ill., about 40 minutes outside Dubuque.
Featuring classic aircraft, from the A-10 Warthog and P-51 Mustang to an Iowa Army National Guard Chinook helicopter, Dubuque hosts the annual air show July 3. Among expected performers are an aerobatic team and the Golden Knights parachutists. Following the evening’s air show, the city celebrates Independence Day with a fireworks show. The Golden Knights also perform in East Dubuque, Illinois, and Guttenberg, Iowa, on July 4.
Recommended hotel: Hotel Julien (an historic hotel with a pool)
6. 4th of July Fireworks
Where: Lake Okoboji
Spend July 4 with family and friends, picnicking, playing, or riding the rides on the midway at Arnold’s Park Amusement Park. Then, as the sun begins to set, plant a chair or blanket at Preservation Plaza and watch in amazement as hundreds of fireworks, each bigger than the other, blasts into the night sky, exploding and creating beautiful fireworks at the annual 4th of July Fireworks show.
There’s a lot to do around Okoboji, especially with kids, so plant to spend more than one day there!
Recommended hotel: AmericInn by Wyndham Okoboji
Iowans love their Independence Day celebrations, with food, music and lots and lots of fireworks. So, as you select one of the best places in the state to celebrate the holiday, prepare early, plan to enjoy great food and drinks, and brace yourself for impressive fireworks lighting up the evening skies.