Ultimate July Fourth Guide
The ultimate guide to a crazy Fourth of July in Houston, Galveston, The Woodlands and small towns galore
Ask not what your country can do for you, ask CultureMap how to party until you have no recollection of where you came from in the first place. Because I'm certain that after the Second Continental Congress thumped the gavel to herald the cessation of the 13 colonies from the Brits, someone must have called for more than one round of ritas.
The Fourth of July isn't a holiday just for margaritas, beer, apple pie, hot dogs, country music, bandanas, loud Harley Davidsons and American flag print bikinis and Speedos. In all seriousness, it's a time to reflect on who you cherish and what you are thankful for — because surely much of what we all enjoy about this American life is the freedom to live a crazy American life.
Need a hand to evoke your inner patriot? Inhale the essence of the Stars and Stripes by going to town — because Yankee Doodle did — and partake in one of the gatherings held all around this mishmash of a megalopolis, from The Woodlands down to Galveston and across to Rosenberg and Baytown. If you live in Houston and environs, I've got you covered.
Local staple: Southwest Airlines Freedom Over Texas at Eleanor Tinsley Park
As the city's official Independence Day celebration, of course also the biggest, Freedom Over Texas rallies more than 120,000 locals to throng the outdoor event. Complementing the appearances of mega celebs Sheryl Crow and Martina McBride are homegrown bands, countless activities for the whole family and reps from many pro sports teams. The evening closes with one hell of a fireworks bang lighting up the downtown skyline.
Time travel: Fourth of July at Bayou Bend
Gallivant to the times of yore when the land of the free was wet behind the ears. Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, which houses the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's American decorative arts collection, recreates the spirit of the Revolutionary War with the help of Texas Army Fife & Drum Corps, the Paragon Brass Ensemble, historical re-creator John Keahey, a Betsy Ross flag making workshop with Constance O'Brien and a sing-along performance by Susan Kelm.
Before you leave, be sure to pen your John Hancock on the giant Declaration of Independence.
Classically yours: Houston Symphony ExxonMobil Summer Nights presents "A Star Spangled Salute" at Miller Outdoor Theatre
It's an oldie but a good one. The Houston Symphony, which recently turned 100 years old, has been performing a Fourth of July musical spectacle at Miller Outdoor Theatre every year for who knows how long. Patriotic tunes led by maestro Michael Krajewski — including Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture with cannons —marshal a fireworks display over the hill at Hermann Park.
What you need to know: Thursday, 8:30 p.m.; Miller Outdoor Theatre; free tickets are available for covered seating; space on the hill is always first come, first served, blankets on the right, lawn chairs on the left.
Small town charm: City of Bellaire's July 4th Parade and Festival
The mostly residential City of Bellaire has its own identity despite being landlocked inside its larger cousin. Gatherings retain a small town feel where neighbors know each other's business — the good, the bad and the ugly. The parade, which travels from the Bellaire Triangle down Bellaire Boulevard, is helmed by children in decorated trikes, bikes and wagons decorated in this year's theme: "America's Founders."
A carnival that includes games, food, a mini Ferris wheel, petting zoo, moon jumps and a dunk tank follows the parade.
Red, white and burgers: LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch's Big Backyard Barbecue
What says Americana more than a rowdy barbecue? You are welcome to bring picnic baskets, blankets and lawn chairs to LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch in Katy for the shopping center's Big Backyard Barbecue. Music from Outlaw Lynn and Tin Cadillac enhances the kids' interactive zone, a myriad of family friendly activities and the fireworks ka-pow at nightfall.
To infinity and beyond: 16th Annual Red, Hot & Blue Festival and Fireworks Extravaganza in The Woodlands
The Woodlands' biggest Fourth of July fete is the 16th Annual Red, Hot & Blue Festival and Fireworks Extravaganza, from 6 to 10 p.m. Adding to live music sets by Parker McCollum, Grady Skelton, The Knowhow and Seraph are hot dog and watermelon eating contests. Activities including bungee, a rock wall, bucking bull, water slide, dunk tank, fast pitch and arts and crafts surely will keep your family occupied.
Other themed events in The Woodlands include the Fourth of July Parade at 9 a.m. at Market Street and the "Things That Go" Bicycle Parade at 4:30 p.m. at Northshore Park, which is followed with a concert at 5:30 p.m. in the same bucolic setting.
Island fun: Galveston's July 4 Parade and Fireworks
Floats, decorated military vehicles and performers paint the town with coastal pep for Galveston's July 4 Parade and Fireworks. The cavalcade starts at 59th Street, continues down Seawall Boulevard and ends at 28th Street near the McGuire-Dent Recreation Center. At 9:15 p.m., the 20-minute fireworks show brings this celebration home.
While you are in Galveston, head to Lucky Lounge on Stewart Road for the pub's Day Party and Potluck Dinner to mix and mingle with the locals.
Celebrations are happening in just about every nook and cranny of Houston. You can find more Fourth of July excitement at the Kemah Boardwalk, in Baytown, CityCentre, Friendswood, Kingwood, League City, Missouri City, Rosenberg, Pasadena, Pearland, Seabrook, Stafford Centre, Sugar Land, Texas City, Tomball, Town Lake in Cypress, Webster and at Katy Mills Mall.