2014′s Best & Worst Cities for 4th of July Celebrations
There’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 Rank||City||Entertainment & Food Rank||Attractions & Recreation/Outdoor Activities Rank||Weather Forecast July 4th Rank|
|7||San Bernardino, CA||30||21||18|
|9||Long Beach, CA||39||30||1|
|12||St. Louis, MO||20||17||59|
|13||Santa Ana, CA||52||37||1|
|16||New Orleans, LA||33||14||59|
|T-23||St. Paul, MN||62||27||35|
|29||Jersey City, NJ||83||19||18|
|31||Los Angeles, CA||77||36||8|
|41||Oklahoma City, OK||11||85||23|
|T-46||Boise City, ID||61||54||18|
|48||San Francisco, CA||92||37||5|
|49||Kansas City, MO||21||57||56|
|51||St. Petersburg, FL||34||13||83|
|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|
|66||Colorado Springs, CO||50||90||31|
|71||San Jose, CA||91||76||18|
|73||New York, NY||100||41||16|
|76||Las Vegas, NV||75||79||67|
|77||North Las Vegas, NV||66||82||70|
|81||Baton Rouge, LA||18||70||95|
|86||Virginia Beach, VA||71||69||78|
|88||Fort Wayne, IN||71||100||46|
|91||Corpus Christi, TX||74||90||74|
Tips for July 4th Savings & Safety
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.