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Wondering how to spend the Fourth this year? We’ve got a few bang-up ideas.

Independence Day celebrations are such a big deal in Milwaukee that festivities aren’t limited to a single day or location. Fireworks are the main attraction, but there’s much more to Independence Day than skyrockets in flight.

1. If you’ve got kids in tow: Start the 3rd at Bradford Beach, where you can try to become the next Kerri Walsh Jennings on one of the more than 40 sand volleyball courts, or simply toss around a Frisbee or build a sand castle. Then head over to the Fireworks Kite Festival at Veterans Park (the party starts at 11 a.m.). Stick around and stake out a spot for the lakefront fireworks show, which begins at dusk (which this time of year comes after 9 p.m.).

2. If you’re looking for an adults-only celebration: Spend the evening of July 3 strolling along Wisconsin Avenue while admiring Sculpture Milwaukee (a free outdoor art installation on view through Oct. 21). Then venture to Blu Bar and Lounge on the Pfister Hotel’s 23rd floor and sip champagne while enjoying a spectacular panoramic view of the Downtown fireworks. Special packages, which start at $200 per table, include a bottle of bubbly, hors d’oeuvres and dessert.

3. And then, on the Fourth: You can dance the entire day of the Fourth away at Summerfest, where bands perform starting early in the afternoon. Relive the ’80s at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater, where Journey and Def Leppard headline. Or catch Kesha, the Pixies, Yonder Mountain String Band and local band Chicken Wire Empire on side stages. Be sure to ride the Skyglider after dusk, to watch the distant sky explode with color as parks and suburbs set off their fireworks.

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Head to the ‘Burbs

These communities light up the sky on the Fourth, but don’t miss out on the parades and carnivals, too.

4.Wauwatosa

This is the place to go for one of the largest Independence Day parades in Wisconsin – more than 25,000 spectators. The parade begins at 9 a.m., going west on North Avenue for nearly two miles. The party moves to Hart Park in afternoon for family events. Chicago Rewired, a tribute band, performs before the fireworks, set for 9:15 p.m.

5.Cedarburg

The annual Fourth of July Hometown Celebration draws an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 spectators to the city’s historic district. Find a comfortable spot and settle in for the roughly two-hour parade, noted for showcasing award-winning drum and bugle corps, which steps off at 10 a.m. It’s followed by an all-day picnic in Cedar Creek Park, with live music and a fireworks display beginning at dusk.

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6.New Berlin

A fireworks show in Malone Park at 10 p.m. on the Fourth caps off multiple celebrations in New Berlin. The festivities start at 5 p.m. July 2 with a carnival. On the Fourth, there’s a mini-parade in the City Hall parking lot at 9:30 a.m. for kids 11 and younger, who can show off their decorated bikes and wagons; the full-fledged parade begins at 1 p.m., going west along National Avenue from Coffee Road.


“Red, White and Boom” appears in the July 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning July 2nd, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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