2014′s Best & Worst Cities for 4th of July Celebrations

by John S Kiernan

WH-2014-Best-and-Worst-Cities-for-July-4th-CelebrationsThere’s nothing more American than going all-out on Fourth of July. We eat, we drink, we party and we blow stuff up — all in the name of freedom. But of course, freedom is not free. Everything from the food and beer to travel and fireworks costs major scratch.

In 2014, WalletHub projects Fourth of July spending to be around $330 on average, which is about 10 percent higher than in 2013 and 72 percent higher than 2012. That’s unsurprising given the economic recovery. And because Fourth of July falls on a Friday this year, an estimated 41 percent of people are expected to combine a weekend getaway compared with just 31 percent in 2013.

But with rising credit card debt levels painting a worrisome picture of what the future could hold for many people’s personal finances, savings opportunities should be welcomed whenever they present themselves.

With cost-effective festivities in mind, WalletHub compared the 100 largest cities in the United States based on how well they balance cost and fun. We did so using 14 different metrics, ranging from weather forecasts to hotel prices. Below, you can find the Methodology we used to rank each state as well as money-saving tips and safety advice.

Overall Results


Overall Rank City Entertainment & Food Rank Attractions & Recreation/Outdoor Activities Rank Weather Forecast July 4th Rank
1 Richmond, VA 3 20 31
2 Irvine, CA 51 6 1
3 Cincinnati, OH 28 3 38
4 Oakland, CA 46 7 11
5 Washington, DC 62 1 27
6 Fremont, CA 79 1 13
7 San Bernardino, CA 30 21 18
8 Irving, TX 5 32 46
9 Long Beach, CA 39 30 1
10 Riverside, CA 37 22 16
11 Plano, TX 8 33 46
12 St. Louis, MO 20 17 59
13 Santa Ana, CA 52 37 1
14 Garland, TX 9 42 38
15 Pittsburgh, PA 80 5 15
16 New Orleans, LA 33 14 59
17 Baltimore, MD 59 25 23
18 Philadelphia, PA 78 9 27
19 Dallas, TX 17 46 38
20 Anaheim, CA 38 48 8
21 Portland, OR 89 11 1
22 Newark, NJ 84 12 23
T-23 St. Paul, MN 62 27 35
T-23 Buffalo, NY 88 15 5
T-23 Madison, WI 40 40 27
26 Minneapolis, MN 58 26 38
27 Houston, TX 22 52 23
28 Omaha, NE 27 34 55
29 Jersey City, NJ 83 19 18
30 Arlington, TX 9 57 38
31 Los Angeles, CA 77 36 8
32 Milwaukee, WI 41 49 22
33 Glendale, AZ 1 61 65
34 Tulsa, OK 5 59 56
35 Albuquerque, NM 14 56 38
36 Seattle, WA 86 29 8
37 Miami, FL 32 4 80
38 Sacramento, CA 36 45 46
39 Boston, MA 93 18 13
40 Scottsdale, AZ 19 50 63
41 Oklahoma City, OK 11 85 23
42 Austin, TX 48 51 31
43 Hialeah, FL 25 8 84
44 Chandler, AZ 4 67 67
45 Tampa, FL 23 16 82
T-46 Orlando, FL 2 23 96
T-46 Boise City, ID 61 54 18
48 San Francisco, CA 92 37 5
49 Kansas City, MO 21 57 56
50 Phoenix, AZ 15 68 70
51 St. Petersburg, FL 34 13 83
52 Mesa, AZ 12 71 65
53 Atlanta, GA 67 10 76
54 Indianapolis, IN 16 84 46
55 San Diego, CA 90 47 11
56 Gilbert Town, AZ 7 86 67
57 San Antonio, TX 26 93 27
58 El Paso, TX 68 62 35
59 Fort Worth, TX 24 88 38
60 Chula Vista, CA 87 64 7
61 Chicago, IL 96 31 38
62 Aurora, CO 31 37 84
63 Denver, CO 49 28 88
64 Stockton, CA 62 65 54
65 Tucson, AZ 47 78 63
66 Colorado Springs, CO 50 90 31
67 Memphis, TN 42 83 61
68 Lincoln, NE 82 53 56
69 Henderson, NV 81 54 70
70 Wichita, KS 53 95 31
71 San Jose, CA 91 76 18
72 Cleveland, OH 76 35 86
73 New York, NY 100 41 16
74 Detroit, MI 54 44 87
75 Norfolk, VA 69 43 77
76 Las Vegas, NV 75 79 67
77 North Las Vegas, NV 66 82 70
78 Laredo, TX 45 96 62
79 Bakersfield, CA 95 60 46
80 Nashville-Davidson, TN 13 65 100
81 Baton Rouge, LA 18 70 95
82 Lexington-Fayette, KY 94 75 46
T-83 Jacksonville, FL 43 81 79
T-83 Raleigh, NC 35 63 98
85 Columbus, OH 29 80 90
86 Virginia Beach, VA 71 69 78
87 Honolulu, HI 97 24 75
88 Fort Wayne, IN 71 100 46
89 Fresno, CA 85 99 35
90 Reno, NV 99 71 46
91 Corpus Christi, TX 74 90 74
92 Chesapeake, VA 62 74 92
93 Louisville, KY 57 87 93
94 Charlotte, NC 43 97 89
95 Winston-Salem, NC 55 89 90
96 Toledo, OH 73 76 96
97 Lubbock, TX 60 98 80
98 Greensboro, NC 56 92 93
99 Anchorage, AK 98 73 73
100 Durham, NC 70 94 99
Best Worst Cities for July 4th

Tips for July 4th Savings & Safety

  1. Comparison Shop & Book Packages: Consumers have a wealth of pricing information at their immediate disposal these days, so in addition to checking out WalletHub’s Best & Worst Cities report, it makes sense to hunt around for attractive deals online. Booking hotel and transportation accommodations together is often an easy way to save.
  1. Declare Financial Independence: Too many folks are dependent on debt these days, as evidenced by rising credit card debt levels. So, in the spirit of the holiday, you might want to leverage attractive credit card offers like the Slate from Chase – which offers zero percent on balance transfers for 15 months with no balance transfer or annual fees – in order to free yourself from your financial burden at the lowest possible cost.
  1. Budget: The best way to keep Fourth of July spending under control is to figure out how much you can afford to spend and then plot out exactly how you wish to allocate these funds. This will give you the foresight necessary to prioritize your expenses as well as to search for low-cost substitutes for certain buys that you may now be questioning.
  1. Arrange Public Transportation: For some reason, many people seem to believe the best way to celebrate Independence Day is to drink, get behind the wheel of a car, and then trade in their freedom for a jail cell. For your own sake and that of the general public, look into the availability of public transportation and maybe even factor cab fare into your budget.
  1. Use Common Sense with Fireworks: Whether legal or not, it would be naïve to think that people will refrain from shooting off celebratory fireworks this Fourth of July. If you are among them, you should consider how much you want to spend as well as what steps you can take to ensure your own safety as well as that of neighbors and surrounding property.

WalletHub recently caught up with Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, for tips on how to do so. In addition to advising that people be careful when mixing sparklers and young children (particularly since they burn at high temperatures and stay hot for quite a long time), Heckman offered the following cautions and best practices when it comes to using fireworks.

“First and foremost, you need to know what’s permissible where you live and to obey the local laws. You should also plan your activity so that you consider an area that’s free from dry grass and shrubs. It makes sense to water down the area with a garden hose in advance and have a bucket of water ready just in case. You should always use your fireworks outdoors in a safe, flat, and non-wooded area,” she said. “You should always have a sober adult in charge of all fireworks activities. Light only one at a time; you don’t want too much going on because then people will get hurt. You should never touch, throw, or combine fireworks. It’s a big problem when people try to manipulate the devices. If the fuse does not ignite, you do not want to relight the firework. You want to let it sit for at least 15 minutes and then you should just douse it in water.”

Ask the Experts

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Neal Roese

John L. and Helen Kellogg Professor of Marketing, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

Consumers can find sales on many things beyond Fourth of July celebration essentials. How wise would it be to purchase other necessities on sale during the holiday?

One of my happiest 4th of July memories is from 2005, when my daughters were toddlers and joined into a neighborhood parade. They decorated a plastic pull-along wagon with flags and red-white-and-blue banners. The purchases here were inexpensive plastic decorations. They didn’t cost much, but they packed a big punch in terms of great memories. And they are great example of how best to spend your money, if your goal is to maximize long-term happiness.

In the recent book Happy Money, authors Liz Dunn and Mike Norton point several ways that spending can bring greater satisfaction, as indicated by recent psychological research. One way is to spend on others. I could have spent money on myself, but by spending on my daughters, I gained some long-running joy from thinking about their joy. Another way is to spend on experiences rather than objects – recent research shows that people are happier over longer stretches of time when they spend on experiences shared with others than on material objects enjoyed alone. When material objects are dedicated to a shared experience – like a neighborhood parade -- they can create the sort of memories that last a lifetime. As you consider what to buy for the holidays, try to focus on shared experiences: splurge on steaks for the barbeque, an IMAX movie, or maybe a visit to an amusement park.

What are the purchases people most regret? My lab group has run several surveys of adult Americans and the answer is clear: the biggest spending regret is consumer electronics. This might sound surprising, given Americans’ collective love of gadgets! Smartphones, TVS, tablets, and videogame consoles can certainly be fun to play with, but they are the biggest source of regret because they invite comparisons to substitutes with similar features. You might have bought a PS4 instead of an Xbox One; you might have bought an Android instead of an iPhone – these sorts of ready comparisons conspire to make us second guess our purchases. The advice is not to avoid consumer electronics, but simply to avoid rushed purchases in the heat of a sale price. Instead, take your time so that you can sure to get the right gadget for you.
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Arul Mishra

Associate Professor of Marketing and David Eccles Faculty Fellow, David Eccles School of Business, University of Utah

What money saving tips do you have for people preparing for the 4th of July?

Most of the savings tips that are applicable for any other day of the year are applicable for the 4th too. People generally like to spend more than save because it gives them immediate gratification. Hence they look for some reasons to justify their spending. Discounts and sales give many the justification to spend because they can argue that they are spending less or are being prudent shoppers. Hence, consumers should ask themselves whether they really need the product and whether they would have bought it if it were not on discount.

Moreover holidays are associated with indulging yourself which is likely to further encourage spending on non-essentials.

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Alan Gin

Associate Professor of Economics, Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate, University of San Diego

Fourth of July falls on a Friday this year. How does holiday timing affect people’s spending?

The Fourth of July falling on a Friday this year means that more people will be traveling for the holiday. It sets up a three day weekend and the fact that it starts on a Friday makes it even more conducive for travel. People can leave after work on Thursday or even Friday morning and still be able to make an evening event for the Fourth. If it had fallen on a Monday, people would’ve had to travel on the Fourth and missed the events associated with the holiday.

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Adolph Neidermeyer

Professor of Accounting, West Virginia University College of Business & Economics

What money saving tips do you have for people preparing for the 4th of July?

a. Take full advantage of the 'free' holiday celebration events in your local area

b. Try having a 'block' holiday celebration potluck dinner with 'planned' events for the children e.g. 4th of July parades of bicycles, tricycles or Big Wheels decorated by the children.

c. Screen the coupon sites for special 4th discount offerings.

d. If, per chance, you're paying cash for your items, ask for a cash discount.

What are the biggest 4th of July money-wasters?

a. Fireworks, because community organizations readily offer these without charge to be enjoyed by the entire community.

b. Pre-made party items: be "creative" and make some "original" celebration items out of materials found at home.

c. Thinking that you have to attend a professional sports event to have a good time.

Fourth of July falls on a Friday this year. How does holiday timing affect people’s spending?

a. Past history of consumer performance indicates that those that are financially able will make a long weekend out of the holiday and do some traveling within 100-150 miles of home.

b. Pre-planning is critical here as many resorts do, in fact, offer very reasonable holiday packages.

c. Whatever the plan, be certain that you've already "budgeting" this amount into your annual spending plan so the 4th does NOT "explode" your annual spending plan adherence.

Consumers can find sales on many things beyond Fourth of July celebration essentials. How wise would it be to purchase other necessities on sale during the holiday?

a. Given the fact that you'll always "need" necessities, you should have a "standing list" of necessity items and your inventory onhand. Once this is known, you should apprise yourself of what a "bargain" price would be and take full advantage of that available pricing at anytime.

b. Given that some stores will use "teaser" prices on necessities to get you into the store in hopes of selling you other items, I'd suggest taking advantage of that situation so long as you can "limit" your purchases of those other items.
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Sanjit Sengupta

Acting Chair, Marketing Department, San Francisco State University

What money saving tips do you have for people preparing for the 4th of July?

The big categories of consumer spending for July 4 include travel, food and beverages, beachwear and accessories, and fireworks (where legal). Travel includes flights, hotels, restaurants, car rentals, and sightseeing destinations. Food includes everything needed for outdoor grilling. Beverages include alcoholic and non-alcoholic cold drinks. The biggest money saving tip would be to buy these at least a week in advance, from warehouse discounters like Sam's Club or Costco. Prices could go up after this until July 4. Even if last week prices remain the same, advance purchases of a week or more will save on time and the hassle of fighting the crush of last-minute shoppers.

What are the biggest 4th of July money-wasters?

July is a slow month for businesses because schools are closed and most consumers are away on vacation. To stimulate short-term sales many companies and retailers have promotions for their products even though they are not connected directly with the July 4 holiday celebrations as above. Automobiles, clothing, computers, consumer durable white goods, and smartphones are all likely to have July 4 sales. However, these are not likely to be the best deals of the year. If you can postpone these purchases you could get a better deal from Back to School sales around Labor Day.

Fourth of July falls on a Friday this year. How does holiday timing affect people’s spending?

Holiday timing does affect people's spending. The fact that July 4 falls on a Friday this year makes people want to get away for a long weekend or entertain family and friends more than if the holiday were in the middle of the week. This will increase the demand for products mentioned in my answer to 1 above.

Consumers can find sales on many things beyond Fourth of July celebration essentials. How wise would it be to purchase other necessities on sale during the holiday?

Back to school discounts and Christmas holiday discounts are likely to be higher than July 4 discounts. As mentioned in my answer to 2, consumers could do better by postponing purchase of those product categories.
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Bruce A. Huhmann

Associate Professor of Marketing, College of Business, New Mexico State University

What money saving tips do you have for people preparing for the 4th of July?

Retailers tend to be holiday celebrators’ best friends when it comes to saving money. Retailers are competing for consumers’ dollars and will offer great deals on food and other holiday essentials. Since the 4th of July is on a Friday this year, many sales circulars that will be delivered to consumers’ doors in the Sunday or Wednesday newspaper or online will feature good deals on things you need for the holiday. The goal for these retailers is to get you in the door by advertising a good deal on something you are looking to buy in hopes that you will also spend some money on other merchandise while you are there.

Just remember, it’s only a good deal if you need it. You can save money by making a list of what you will want for your holiday celebration before looking through the sales circulars, ads, or emails. Then, when you see a deal, see if it’s on your list before you buy.

What are the biggest 4th of July money-wasters?

The time of the week that a holiday falls greatly affects people’s spending. Because the 4th of July falls on a Friday this year, consumers will be more likely to make a long weekend out of the holiday and celebrate on Saturday and Sunday too. This should be good for sales of picnic supplies and fun foods as well as gasoline and air travel as some Americans decide to take a mini-vacation on the long weekend.

Consumers can find sales on many things beyond Fourth of July celebration essentials. How wise would it be to purchase other necessities on sale during the holiday?

Some other retailers, for example automobile, furniture, and mattress retailers will use the holiday weekend to put on sales as well. If a consumer is in the market for some of these goods anyway, it might be wise to wait and purchase at a lower price during a holiday sale. Just be sure it is really a sale. Have an idea of the price points that these goods are selling for before they are on sale to know whether or not the deal is real.


  • Fourth of July Popularity (weight 1): Certain cities are known for putting on great Independence Day celebrations — including parades, fireworks shows and other festive activities — so WalletHub credited areas with a reputation for throwing Uncle Sam a particularly great birthday bash. Holidays are always more fun when people are particularly spirited, after all.


  • Weather (weight 3): Using AccuWeather’s 12-day forecasts, WalletHub evaluated the meteorological outlook in each city. Those with an expectation for temperatures around 75 degrees Fahrenheit and a low chance of rain were given preference. Forecasts are as of June 23.


  • Price of a 3-Star Hotel (weight 1): The cities were also ranked in terms of the lowest-cost three-star hotel rates available in each for July 4, based on Kayak.com data. The majority of people planning to travel over the holiday are likely interested in balancing price and comfort, especially since the Fourth falls on a Friday this year, making extended trips very likely.


  • Number of Bars & Restaurants (weight 1): Travelers love options and hate both overcrowding and cooking for themselves, so cities with the most bars and restaurants were viewed favorably.


  • Number of Arts, Entertainment & Recreation Establishments (weight 1.5): Summer, especially July 4, is about getting outside, having fun and finally exploring interests that were neglected during perhaps busier times of the year. We therefore ranked each city based on the number of businesses tailored to leisure-time activities it boasts, based on U.S. Census data.


  • Walkability (weight 2): Not only does the Fourth of July tend to be rather crowded in popular vacation spots, but it’s also the most dangerous time of year in terms of drunk drivers. Independence Day has boasted the most alcohol-related car crashes in nearly all of the 25 years that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been tracking data, which makes cities that are friendly to foot traffic the best bet for most families.


  • Traffic Congestion (weight 1): If you’ve ever traveled for the Fourth of July, you know how common and frustrating the traffic jams associated with large numbers of people using the same roads to get to the same places at the same time can be. Cities with bad traffic, according to the TomTom North American Congestion Index, were therefore viewed unfavorably for this study.


  • Legality of Fireworks (weight 1): Fireworks are synonymous with the Fourth of July, and while most cities hold large-scale celebrations, many people like to add a little independence to the day by setting off their own. The problem is fireworks are illegal in most major cities, and laws concerning them are both localized and constantly changing. WalletHub therefore analyzed how local fireworks laws in each of the 100 cities in the United States treat aerial and explosive fireworks like bottle rockets (you know, the fun ones). Areas that require a permit to use fireworks or that sell them yet consider their use to be illegal were not given credit.


  • Average Drink Prices (Beer & Wine) (weight 1): A Fourth of July celebration isn’t legit without the booze — unless of course you don’t or aren’t old enough to drink. Prices for beer and wine differ in each city, and we want to make sure that this important Fourth of July line item was taken into account. If you’re planning to party on a budget, the cities with lower average drink prices will be friendlier toward your wallet. Just remember: With cheaper alcohol comes greater responsibility.


  • Average Gas Prices (weight 1): Gas prices tend to climb and reach their highest point during summer, which is peak driving season. Using data from AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report, we compared the average gas prices in each city. Cities with lower average gas prices score more points for those who plan to spend much of their Fourth on the road.


  • Acres of Parkland per Capita (weight 1): What’s a Fourth of July celebration without a cookout? For many American families, Independence Day means gathering together to enjoy some barbecue. Parks are some of the most popular places just for that. And there are plenty of outdoor activities to keep everyone happy. Many fireworks displays also take place at parks located in cities where fireworks are legal. The view is spectacular, and there’s enough space for large crowds, so the more park acreage, the better.


  • Swimming Pools per Capita (weight 1): It’ll be hot in July, and many people will want to take a dip in the water to cool off. That’s hard to do in crowded pools. WalletHub compared each city in terms of public pool access. A higher number of swimming pools per capita means more wiggle room.


  • Basketball Hoops per Capita (weight 0.5): If shooting hoops is your game, many cities offer basketball courts for public recreational use. The greater the abundance of basketball hoops per capita, the more places you can play ball with your friends.

Sources: Data used to create these rankings is courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, the Council for Community and Economic Research, the Trust For Public Land, Priceline Group, AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report, the North Central Industries, WalkScore, TomTom, AccuWeather and the Kayak.com.

John Kiernan is Senior Writer & Editor at Evolution Finance. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a BA in Journalism, a minor in Sport Commerce & Culture,…
1221 Wallet Points
Obviously, you were not in attendance for the 4th of July in Lubbock, TX today as the weather perfect, the high temperature for the day was 88 degrees. The high temperature during the 4th on Broadway parade was 76 degrees with a nice southerly breeze. If you would like to attend the 4th of July festivities next year in Lubbock, I would be more than happy to be your tour guide.
Jul 4, 2014  •  Reply  •  Flag