Top July 4 events across the United States

(CNN) — Although many people view Memorial Day as the American holiday that unofficially kicks off summer, it could be argued that the Fourth of July is summer's biggest, best holiday.

Gatherings often involve hot dogs and hamburgers and ice cream, not to mention those colorful explosions in the sky, otherwise known as fireworks.

While small towns and counties throughout the USA celebrate the country's birthday with these light-up-the-sky displays, there are a number of stand-out events in destinations around the country.

Check out these big July 4 events sure to please the fireworks fan, parade seeker and eating-contest enthusiast.

Macy's 4th of July Fireworks
2018 marks the 42nd year of the Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Show. More than three million spectators across three of New York City's boroughs -- Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens -- will watch the spectacle, which takes place over the city's East River. But that's just a quarter of the number of people who'll be watching the display from their televisions.

Kelly Clarkson is scheduled sing "God Bless America" in honor of the song's 100th anniversary, and this year viewers can expect to see neon pinwheels, swirling water fountains, ghosting fans and pulsing hearts.

Washington, D.C.,Fourth of July Celebration
Fireworks explode over the National Mall in the nation's capital.

Fireworks explode over the National Mall in the nation's capital.

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Big and Loud: This is how Washington's National Mall Fireworks are described on the National Park Service's website.

Snagging a spot on the coveted steps of the Lincoln Memorial won't be easy, but it will be worth it.

Still, there are plenty of viewing areas in and around the D.C. area -- try one of the city's rooftop bars or catch them from across the river in Arlington -- if you'd prefer to avoid the massive crowds sure to be gathered in the National Mall area.

Granbury's Old-Fashioned 4th of July Celebration

Presented by the Granbury Chamber of Commerce in this Texas town, about 35 miles southwest of Fort Worth, the 4th of July celebration is a two-day affair. You can bet this means there's a lot more than just fireworks on the agenda.

CEO Mike Scott says they're expecting somewhere around 50,000 people to attend the events, but he noted that the parade alone draws a crowd upward of 20,000 folks. Those are impressive numbers for a town with a population of less than 10,000.

The celebration takes place in the historic townhouse square. Purchase a beer from one of the bars on the square's perimeter (open containers are OK here), before grabbing a bite from one of the many popular food vendors. From turkey legs to fruit kabobs drizzled in chocolate to classic Filipino dishes, the food scene is a draw in and of itself.

Wawa Welcome America July 4th Fireworks

Boasting 50 free events in celebration of America's birthday, Philadelphia's 4th of July celebration doesn't mess around.

Museum lovers will appreciate the pay-what-you-wish admission to some of the city's most popular museums, and attractions such as the National Museum of American Jewish History, and music lovers won't want to miss a second of the (free!) outdoor concerts.

The main events are, of course, the fireworks displays -- and, yes, that is displays, plural. Catch the first show over the Delaware River waterfront and the second above the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This year's second show is said to have "all-new special effects."

Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular
Fireworks and the Boston Pops -- what a combo!

Fireworks and the Boston Pops -- what a combo!

Rick Friedman/Corbis News/Getty Images

Each year on July 4, the famed Boston Pops Orchestra puts on a patriotic music and fireworks show that sets the standard for the United States. This beloved event is free, and gates open three hours before the show.

If you're a fan of singer and dancer Rita Moreno, then this year should be a special treat. The "West Side Story" star is making a special appearance, along with the Indigo Girls, Rhiannon Giddons, Natalie Cortez and Rachel Platten.

If you can't make the July 4 show or just want to attend something less packed, there's a concert minus the fireworks on July 3.

The Hot Dog Eating Contest

Last year's winners of Nathan's hot dog eating contest, men's champion Joey Chestnut and women's champion Miki Sudo, ate 72 and 41 hot dogs, respectively. It was Chesnut's 10th Mustard Belt; will this year make it 11?

If you can't physically get yourself to the corner of Surf Avenue and Stillwell in Brooklyn's Coney Island, you can still watch the eating competition by tuning into ESPN for its live coverage of this determinedly patriotic event.

Legend has it that in 1916 four friends made a friendly wager on which of them was the most patriotic. They decided the winner would be the man who consumed the most hot dogs. Today, it lives on and is an Independence Day highlight for eating contest spectators and wannabe contestants.

AJC Peachtree Road Race
The AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, Georgia.

The AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, Georgia.

Shutterstock

Looking to jump start this most patriotic of holidays with a heart-rate boost? First run in 1970 with a total of 110 finishers, the AJC Road Race -- a 10K -- has grown exponentially. The finish-line swag may contribute to the race's popularity; Jay Holder, director of marketing for the Atlanta Track Club, says that the shirt is indeed "noteworthy."

Every year, hundreds of local artists submit their designs, and the public chooses from the top five contenders.

"The winning design is a closely guarded secret only revealed on race day when the first runners cross." It's an exciting event for both runners and spectators and may help justify any lack of restraint demonstrated at any post-race barbecue you'll be attending. Hey, it takes energy to cheer from the sidelines.

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If you can't make these big events, here's a tiny sampling of other fantastic celebrations all around the US of A:

-- Anchorage, Alaska: The biggest city in Last Frontier has lots and lots of sunlight this time of year to make the most of the holiday. Start with a pancake breakfast to fuel a full day that ends with fireworks scheduled around 11 p.m. (Yes, it takes that long to get dark).
-- San Diego, California: Fireworks are shot off from four barges at the annual Big Bay Boom show with accompanying music broadcast on radio.
-- Boise, Idaho: They're putting on a fireworks show in the capital city. There's also a river float -- complete with shuttle pick-up service after you've drifted your way downstream.
-- Des Moines, Iowa: On Monday, July 2, the Des Moines Symphony is holding its 25th annual Yankee Doodle Pops. It's free and the audience members can also contribute to a good cause by bringing a nonperishable food item.
-- Tupelo, Mississippi: The South knows how to make and eat a good meal, so it's natural to hold an "All-America City Family Picnic in the Park" in Tupelo. And with stomachs full of food and hearts full of national pride, the evening is capped off with fireworks.
-- Grand Rapids, Michigan: If you miss your chance on Wednesday to celebrate, the Amway Family Fireworks show in Grand Rapids is scheduled for Saturday, July 7.
-- Columbus, Ohio: On Tuesday, July 3, you can join an estimated 400,000 folks to enjoy "Red, White and Boom" in the capital city. There's also a 5K charity run on Monday, July 2.
-- Roanoke, Virginia: This mountain valley city has a beautiful backdrop for its annual fireworks show alongside the Roanoke River. And enjoy

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