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Pick 5 | Places to Celebrate Independence Day

This Fourth of July, skip the hassles of luggage shipping or waiting at baggage claim. Use Bags VIP and start your holiday vacation the moment you land.

Fourth of July fireworks light up the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Image courtesy Flickr user Chris Staley.

Independence Day is America’s birthday. And we love to celebrate the day in style, especially when it comes to viewing fireworks. This year marks the 200th anniversary of “The Star Spangled Banner,” so expect festivities to be bigger than usual. We pick five destinations that celebrate the holiday with a bang.

Already made travel plans for the Fourth of July? Skip the hassles of luggage shipping or waiting at baggage claim. Use Bags VIP luggage delivery service and start your holiday vacation the moment you land.

Boston
After a daytime parade through the historic heart of the city, more than half a million people will crowd the Charles River Esplanade for the famed Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. The Pops is joined by performers like The Beach Boys, Megan Hilty, and leads from The Phantom of the Opera’s touring company. If you just want to watch the fireworks, try viewing from across the river in Cambridge. >> Read more

Pasadena
Now in its 88th year, Pasadena’s AmericaFest is the largest fireworks show in Southern California. The family-fun event is held at the historic Rose Bowl and includes live entertainment, motorcycle stunts, exhibits, and a massive fireworks display. >> Read more

This Fourth of July, skip the hassles of luggage shipping or waiting at baggage claim. Use Bags VIP and start your holiday vacation the moment you land.

The USS Constitution, berthed at Pier 1 in Boston, fires a 21-gun salute on Independence Day. Image courtesy the Official U.S. Navy Page on Flickr.

Washington, DC
The West lawn of the U.S. Capitol welcomes host Tom Bergeron, the National Symphony Orchestra, and performers like Phillip Phillips, Patti Labelle, Jordin Sparks, and composer John Williams. Fireworks launched from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool will illuminate the sky behind the Capitol and Washington Monument. >> Read more

Nashville
Music City draws the largest Fourth of July crowd in the South. Let Freedom Sing features all-day festivities and concerts by the likes of Billy Currington, Ashley Monroe, and Striking Matches, followed by fireworks accompanied by the music of the Nashville Symphony. The event has been named the Best Fourth of July Fireworks in the USA by MSN Living. >> Read more

This Fourth of July, skip the hassles of luggage shipping or waiting at baggage claim. Use Bags VIP and start your holiday vacation the moment you land.

New York City fireworks. Image courtesy Flickr user Rob Boudon.

New York City
The country’s largest fireworks display is shot from the East River near the city’s iconic Brooklyn Bridge. More than 50,000 pounds of fireworks will light up the sky with live performances by Enrique Iglesias, Hunter Hayes, and Ariana Grande. Recommended viewing spots include Brooklyn Bridge Park, South Street Seaport, Brooklyn Heights Promenade, and the east side of Lower Manhattan. >> Read more

Happy birthday, America!

Pick 5 | Places to Get in the Holiday Spirit

Photo: ExploreBranson.com

Christmas in Branson. Photo: ExploreBranson.com

Some say there’s no place like home for the holidays; others prefer to pack their bags and head out of town knowing that Santa will still find their chimney. If you are one of the latter, you are not alone – Christmas vacations are an increasingly popular trend. And whether you want to go walking in a winter wonderland or are looking for Christmas time in the city, these destinations are sure to get you in the holiday spirit.

1. Orlando, Florida
If you like your holiday destinations cold and snowy, look elsewhere. Orlando’s average December high is in the mid-70s, perfect weather to explore the theme parks. The Walt Disney World® Resort, Universal Orlando® Resort, and SeaWorld® are decked out during the season and feature holiday parades, shows, lights, and visits with Santa. Outside the theme parks, the village of Winter Park celebrates the season with a boat parade, movies in the park, ice skating, and more.

Don’t miss:
On select nights, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party transforms Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The separate ticket for admission gives visitors access to a special parade, fireworks, “snow” falling on Main Street, and hot chocolate and cookies.

2. Branson, Missouri
Branson draws tourists near and far for its annual Branson Area Festival of Lights. Considered the live entertainment capital of the world, over a hundred of the town’s shows offer holiday productions. The Lights Drive-Through is a mile-long path illuminated with more than 175 displays. The Annual Adoration Parade down historic downtown Branson features more than 50 bands and floats and cowboys herding cattle decked in holiday finery. The fountain at Winter Wonder Landing at the waterfront shoots fire and water as visitors shop, dine and take in millions of Christmas lights. For a more intimate experience, snuggle with your sweetie on a horse-drawn carriage through the Ozark Mountain hills.

Don’t miss:
Theme park Silver Dollar City’s An Old Time Christmas celebrates the season right with over five million dazzling lights, a thousand decorated trees, a holiday light parade, two Broadway-style productions and a five-Story Christmas tree.

Christmas at the New York Stock Exchange. Photo courtesy Michael Daddino via Flickr.

Christmas at the New York Stock Exchange. Photo courtesy Michael Daddino via Flickr.

3 .New York City, New York
Christmas in New York is on many a bucket list and it’s easy to see why. From the Radio City Christmas Spectacular to The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, from ice skating at Bryant Park’s Winter Village to shopping along Fifth Avenue, there is much to do throughout the city. No trip is complete without a photo in front of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Thirsty? Try the hot chocolate at Max Brenner in Union Square.

Don’t miss:
FAO Schwartz is the oldest and largest toy store in New York. Each morning, toy soldiers play a fanfare and a red carpet is rolled out to welcome shoppers. They’ll even give private tours before the store opens.

Salt Lake Temple. Image courtesy Zechariah Judy via Flickr.

Salt Lake Temple. Image courtesy Zechariah Judy via Flickr.

4. Salt Lake City, Utah
There are countless places to ski across the country, and the slopes around Salt Lake City are among the best. There are eight resorts all within an hour’s drive of Salt Lake, including Park City, Deer Valley, Canyons Resort, and Alta. Each has its own vibe, so pick one that fits your skiing style. Don’t ski? You can always enjoy the snowcapped mountains, gorgeous scenery, and cozy lodges.

Don’t miss:
Celebrate the holidays at the Salt Lake Festival of Lights, a celebration of events and activities throughout the city. Colorful Christmas lights, musical performances, and a three-day, family-friendly New Year’s Eve party make this a not-to-be-missed event.

Washington DC's National Christmas Tree. Image courtesy JulieLG via Flickr.

Washington DC’s National Christmas Tree. Image courtesy JulieLG via Flickr.

5. Washington, DC
Each year, the National Christmas Tree is placed on the Ellipse, a grassy area south of the White House. The tree is lit during a special concert and remains a symbol of peace throughout the season. The Pathway of Peace, 56 smaller decorated trees representing all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia, surrounds the National Christmas Tree. Volunteer musical ensembles and choirs perform nightly. If you’ve been good this year, visit Santa’s Workshop.

Don’t miss: Washington Harbour Ice Rink is larger than New York City’s Rockefeller Center rink which means plenty of skating fun. Georgetown’s idyllic fountain is transformed into a sheet of ice that especially shines at night when twinkling white snowflakes light up and the rink is bathed in light. It’s even open Christmas Day.

Are you planning on traveling this holiday season? What Christmas destinations did we miss?