Start your weekend with parades and barbecues, and end it with fireworks bursting in air. The July 4th weekend is tailor-made for a quintessential all-American summer getaway, as destinations around the country woo families with events that celebrate all that's red, white, and blue.
The options for fun are as varied as the colors in those fireworks: head to a city for big parades and a splash of culture, sprawl on a blanket under the starry sky, or sit down for a character breakfast with Uncle Sam. Here's a sampling of some top packages for families this Independence Day weekend:
Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa
Where: Litchfield Park, AZ
Why: Because this AAA four-diamond golf and spa resort is unveiling its recent renovations this summer while hosting the "Great American Picnic" during the long holiday weekend. In addition to the July 3 barbecue with fireworks, the Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa will offer zoo animal encounters, mommy-and-me manicures, and family tee times when kids golf free. At night, you can take in a family-friendly poolside movie, or gather around the campfire to roast s'mores. In addition to the holiday activities, there is a kid's camp, tennis clinics, a full-service spa, and a cabana-lined lap pool. The two-night "Fourth of July Great American Picnic" package starts at $149 per night, and includes admission to the picnic for two adults (kids cost $7 each). Alternatively, you can book the package for one night at $199. Book online or call tel. 800/327-0396.
TradeWinds Island Grand Resort
Where: St. Pete Beach, FL
Why: Because this beachfront property has plenty of family-friendly activities both on and off the sand. Kids can take a ride (or several) down the waterslide, play mini golf, bounce on the bungee trampoline, or listen to tales of the sea from Red Beard the pirate. For the holiday weekend at TradeWinds Island Grand Resort, there will be dancing, carnival games, patriotic-themed contests, and a classic American cookout. The three-night Red, White, and Boom" package starts at $531 for a family of four and bundles entertainment and buffet tickets. Additional nights can be added for half price.
Where: Lake Tahoe, CA
Why: Because what could be cooler than spending July 4th on the slopes? After nearly 800 inches of snow fell this past winter, the resort will still have enough snow to operate the lifts from 8am until 2pm each day over the July 4 holiday weekend -- with lift tickets costing $49 a day for adults, and $12 a day for kids 12 and under. Off the slopes, there will be pool parties, barbecues, an arts and crafts festival and the annual "pond-skimming" competition. We found one-bedroom condos in Squaw Valley's village starting at $240 per night.
Where: Thompsonville, MI
Why: Because this family-owned ski resort turns into a summer adventure playground, with Michigan's only alpine slide, a water park, family golf, a kids' activity program and an adventure zone with tubing, kayaking, and biking. For the long holiday weekend, a carnival kicks off on July 3 with face painting, games, and bike decorating -- followed by a bike parade and evening fireworks. The " Old-Fashioned Fourth" package includes 20 tickets to the carnival, complimentary ice cream cones, free family tickets for the alpine slide, a chairlift ride, and rock wall, plus discounts on tubing trips, the kids' adventure camp, and golf lessons. Kids can spend hours in the one-acre outdoor water playground with a lily-pad walk, splash zone, cargo nets, and waterslide. Rates start at $179 per night based on a two-night stay.
Where: National Harbor, MD
Why: Because you can see firsthand why this waterside hotel's Fourth of July celebration drew over 10,000 people last summer. The holiday festival happens mostly on Sunday the 3rd, with live musical entertainment, clowns, balloon artists, jugglers, plus plenty of cotton candy and popcorn. Kids can play in a bounce house and take a ride on the Ferris wheel or carousel before cooling off in the Olympic-size pool. In the evening, a fountain show is the opening act for a dazzling fireworks display over the Potomac. The Fourth of July Celebration package is priced from $239 per night and includes accommodations, free parking (normally $19), and admission to the holiday events and entertainment (normally $30 per adult and $15 per child). Carnival rides are an additional charge. This package must be booked by phone at tel. 301/965-4000.
Where: Blaine, WA
Why: Because this lakefront golf and spa resort makes a great home base for outdoor adventure tours such as whale watching, kayaking, and fishing. The "Moo" also offers daily scavenger hunts, tennis, and swimming. When night falls, families can catch a flick at the resort's own movie theater or roast marshmallows at a beach bonfire. Celebrate the Fourth with live music and a salmon-and-burger barbecue before snagging a seat for the fireworks show over Semiahmoo Bay. The "Fourth of July Salmon BBQ" package starts at $179 per night and includes two tickets to the barbecue cookout (normally $20 each). Kids' tickets are $10 extra.
Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa
Where: Whitefield, NH
Why: Because this eco-friendly resort overlooking two mountain ranges boasts a slew of scenic hiking trails, horseback riding, carriage rides, and golf. Guests can also explore the working farmhouse that's home to goats, chickens, horses, and even a llama. The holiday weekend round-up features old-fashioned favorites such as a pie-eating contest, tug o' war, and racing homemade cardboard boats. Kids even get a party of their own, with dinner, sundaes, and s'mores by the campfire. Rounding out the weekend will be the "Family Barbecue" with live music and a fireworks finale. Rates for the Independence Weekend Celebration" start at $189 per night and include most activities. The barbecue and kids' party are an additional charge.
Hotel Del Coronado
Where: San Diego, CA
Why: Because the Hotel Del Coronado typifies the old-fashioned charm of its home on Coronado Island. Independence Day weekend here means a classic parade, a fun run, concerts, and fireworks. Guests at the beach resort can also participate in a free party of kids' activities, live music, and s'more-making. To further entice kids, the resort offers family packages such as its SeaWorld package, which starts at $334 per night and includes two passes to the theme park, for a savings of $120.
Hilton Sandestin Beach
Where: Sandestin, FL
Why: Because this recently revamped resort along Florida's northwestern coast offers beachy bliss -- white sand, three pools, bike rentals, kayaking, and snorkel-friendly waters. The resort also has a kids' program, teen activities, and family-friendly junior suites with bunk beds. Over the holiday weekend, there will be giant inflatable waterslides, sunset movies, hula-hooping and marshmallow roasting, as well as a cookout and fireworks on the Fourth. Its three-night "Star-Spangled Weekend Escape package, which starts at $389 per night, includes breakfast daily for two, plus the cookout dinner for four. You must book by phone at tel. 800/559-1805; mention promo code "JF."
Where: Pine Mountain, GA
Why: Because this nature-lovers' resort also puts on a variety of shows for the holiday: fireworks, live music and even a circus, complete with jugglers, high-wire walkers, and trapeze acts. There will be mini golf, swimming, rock climbing, and a floating playground on Robin Lake, which features log rolls, water trampolines, and an enormous inflatable waterslide. For a break from the beach, families can visit the butterfly center, explore the resort's many nature trails, or watch the resort's Birds of Prey show. The "July Fourth Star Spangled Beach Party" package starts at $159 per night and includes accommodations, a barbecue lunch, most activities, and red-, white- and-blue pancakes the morning of the Fourth.
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