Summer is here, and with it, one of America’s favorite holidays: the 4th of July!
The 4th of July is a great excuse to gather with friends and family, whether it be in the house, backyard, or nearby park, to enjoy food, drinks, and good times. When you think of the 4th, you likely hold fond memories of sparklers, barbeques, and parades.
But it’s also more than that.
The summer weather makes for a fun outdoors party, but Independence Day is a day worth celebrating—it’s the day we gained our freedom. And a good reason to celebrate is at the heart of any great party.
Why We Celebrate Independence Day
July 4th may not carry the weight of Christmas when it comes to the amount of store space dedicated to decor—or how early people begin to decorate—but it is a big deal. It’s the anniversary of the day the Declaration of Independence was ratified in 1776.
That day, our country gained its freedom, shaping our country as it is now.
If you’re patriotic, the 4th of July is a day to take pride in where you’re from. If you’re not, it’s still a day to celebrate your freedom, hard-fought by those who came before us.
The Evolution of 4th of July Tradition
Those who came before us, however, did have a darker sense of humor, and as a free people, they celebrated their first 4th of July with a mock funeral for the king of England.
The mock funeral was a call back to before gaining their Independence, when colonists held birthday celebrations for the king. These large birthday celebrations often involved bonfires, parades, speeches, and bell-ringing.
In turn, the funeral was symbolic of the death of the monarchy’s rule and the birth of our democracy and freedom.
It wasn’t until July 4th, 1777 that we held our first organized celebration of Independence Day in the U.S. It took place in Philadelphia, where a ship cannon fired a 13-gun salute to honor the 13 American colonies—and thus began the holiday’s famous firework tradition.
Since then, the combination of king’s birthday celebrations of old and fireworks have morphed into the traditions we know and love today.
Why We Celebrate Together
Much like centuries past, most of us celebrate the 4th of July in gatherings of friends, family, and peers. The 4th of July party is an event of comradery and togetherness. And why wouldn’t it be?
Independence is something everyone of us in the U.S. shares.
It’s something we can all give thanks for and celebrate.
Additionally, it’s a national holiday. When our lives are busy, and our time with friends and families limited, it’s not every day that we can take the extra day off to make getting together possible.
But now that we can, and we have such an important reason to celebrate, it’s the perfect time to throw the perfect party.
How to Celebrate: the Best 4th of July Party Ideas
Decorating your 4th of July Party
If you’re hosting a 4th of July party, you’ll need some red, white, and blue decor to get everyone in the spirit. Fortunately, you have many options. Use a few of the following 4th of July party decorating ideas for a themed set up—or all of them to go all out.
- Flags. If you don’t already have an American flag flying outside of your home, now is the time to. Nothing screams 4th of July more than the classic symbol of the U.S.
- Banners and buntings. A “Happy Independence Day” banner is a great way to welcome your guests to the party. You can also hang bunting up to spread stars and stripes all around and keep the festive feeling throughout your space.
- Festive doormats and wreaths. Send a message before your guests can even knock by decorating your doorway. Switch out your regular doormat for one that has more American colors or a 4th of July welcome message. You can also hang a red, white, and blue wreath.
- Balloons. They’re a classic for a reason. Go for flag-style balloons or simply buy individual red, white, and blue balloons. Hang them up on the wall or station helium balloons in the corners if you want to be extra fancy.
- Star LED lights. Do you expect your party to go well into the evening, after it gets dark? Hang up star LED lights, and turn them on when the sun sets.
- Paper lanterns. Paper lanterns are another fun and beautiful addition to the backyard, and they’re easy to make fit the theme.
- A stars and stripes centerpiece. Whether you plan to have a table with finger foods or are cooking a sit-down meal, a stars and stripes centerpiece is a fun inclusion.
- Festive table covers. No need to stop at just the centerpiece; consider a festive tablecloth too.
- Novelty straws. Every good party serves drinks, and an easy way to up your festiveness is with novelty straws. Like balloons, you can buy straws specifically decorated for the 4th of July, or you can pick up some red, white, and blue ones. Plop them in a jar next to your refreshments station.
- Festive toothpicks. Consider festive toothpicks with little flags on the end for more fun food and drink-related decor.
- Colorful flower pots. Swap out your regular flower pots for more 4th of July-appropriate colors—or better yet, find some cheap ones to paint. This can be a fun family arts and crafts activity before the party.
Remember, whatever decor you choose, you can always decorate to suit your style. If you’re more of a minimalist, consider adding a flag outside and setting out some novelty straws and toothpicks and leaving it at that. If you want to go all out, you can place all of these decorations around the house and backyard (and seriously impress your guests while you’re at it).
Most of these decor items are easy to find or you can DIY them.
Feeding Your Guests: Great 4th of July Party Food Ideas
Next up: some delicious food to satisfy your 4th of July guests. But before you can decide what to serve, you’ll want to decide what kind of party you’re going for. There are a few options when it comes to the style of your party, and that will determine which food is best:
- Cooking out
- Snack-style finger food
- A sit-down dinner
- Some combination of the above
For the most part, people veer towards casual when it comes to their 4th of July party, making cooking out (with snacks on hand) the best idea.
If you’re having a day with the family, a sit-down dinner might be an option—or if that’s yours and your friends’ style! Otherwise, think about what’s quick, easy, and tasty. Fortunately, you have a lot of options in this regard.
Assuming you want food that’s easy to grab and meander around with, here are the best classic options for 4th of July party food:
- Sliders or burgers. Sliders are easy to make, you can cook them on the grill, and people can wander around and socialize while munching. They’re perfect for a backyard party. If you have vegetarians or vegans coming to the party, consider making a few meat-free patties. From black bean to Beyond, there are plenty of options.
- Corn on the cob. A classic, easy snack that pairs well with all grilled foods.
- Hot dogs. Another American staple, hot dogs make a great snack that you don’t need cutlery to eat. Dress them up with your favorite condiments (mustard, ketchup, relish, etc.), and provide a veggie version for anyone who doesn’t eat meat.
- Pasta or potato salad. These more delicious takes on salad make a great refreshing side dish. Pasta or potato salad is a little more challenging to eat on the go, but all you’ll need to make it easy are some paper plates and forks.
- Kebabs. Kebabs are easy to cook over the grill, and you can make a large variety. You can even set out some cut-up veggies and proteins to let people make their own to put on the grill.
- Pigs in a blanket. Who says pigs in a blanket are limited to Christmas food? Re-introduce them in the summer, grilled to give them an amazing 4th of July flavor.
- Baked potatoes. You’re missing out if you’ve never tried to grill a baked potato. They get just as fluffy as in the oven but with that added cookout touch. Provide different toppings, such as butter, cheese, and sour cream. For a healthier option, throw some sweet potatoes on the grill too.
- Ribs. Ribs take a little more effort, but they’re another excellent grilling food if you prepare them beforehand. (A soy sauce and honey glaze offers the perfect smoky and sweet combination.)
- Grilled cheese. Got some fussy children (or even adults) at your party? Consider some mini grilled cheeses to keep them amused. Go fancy with mixed options, or keep it simple with white bread and some good ol’ American cheese.
- Chicken fingers. Another great option for fussy eaters is chicken fingers with ketchup. Easy to make and a hit with everyone!
- Chips and dip. There are so many opportunities for a dip. Spinach and artichoke is a favorite, or go for something cheesy like queso. You can also offer options other than chips, like breadsticks or crackers.
- Grilled pineapple. Grilled pineapple on a skewer is a sweet treat that everyone will love. Throw on a pinch of salt for some added zest.
- Pie. From apple to cherry to chocolate, there are so many pies you can cook up (or buy) for dessert, and it’s an American classic.
- S’mores. If you have a bonfire, s’mores make another great dessert. You can’t beat the gooey combination of chocolate and marshmallow.
- Cupcakes. You can also choose a cupcake option for dessert. Bake them yourself or buy them from the store and claim you did—no one will know!
- Star-shaped cookies. If you want to keep the festive tone up for dessert, get some star-shaped cookie cutters. Use colorful icing to decorate them like a flag.
Pro Tip: Some individuals have food allergies and intolerances. Don’t forget to check if your guests have any dietary restrictions before deciding what to make, and find out what everyone’s bringing so you can coordinate.
Cool Down: Refreshing Drink Ideas for Your 4th of July Party
Another big consideration among your 4th of July party ideas is what drinks you’ll serve.
Water is a must to keep people cool and hydrated, especially if your party is outside in the July heat. A variety of sodas is also a good idea, with Coke being a staple. If you want to go all out, you can make milkshakes, too (though you’ll need a way to keep them cool).
If you have alcohol at your party, make sure you’re drinking responsibly. Don’t overdo it and under no circumstances should anyone drink and drive.
Entertainment: Fun July 4th Party Games
While games aren’t mandatory at your July 4th party, they’re great fun to have around—and make a great mixer for the less talkative types. Some fun options include:
- Charades: Good old-fashioned charades is easy and requires no forethought on your part.
- American Trivia. Got some history nerds that are dying to show off their intelligence? Consider a trivia game themed around American history or culture.
- Magnetic Darts. Red, white, and blue darts are on theme and fun to play with, whether competitively or passively. We recommend magnetic darts to protect your walls.
- Ring Toss or Corn Hole. Go for a classic with patriotic ring toss. Use red, white, and blue rings or bags and see who has the best aim.
Be sure to consider the participants when choosing games to play at the party. Some games are more appropriate for an adults-only space, while others are family-friendly.
Other July 4th Party Ideas to Consider
While food, drinks, and decor are the main things to consider when it comes to your Independence Day party, there are other things you can include in your plans too.
If you have a pool, it’s a great way to keep cool in the summer heat. Just remember to have someone watching at all times to avoid any accidents. You can also have a bonfire, if you have a wide-open space.
You’ll also want to consider music. Firstly, buy a Bluetooth speaker if you’re hosting a yard party. Speakers from inside the house may not be powerful enough to keep the energy going outdoors, and this will help. You can also craft a dedicated Spotify playlist, featuring some feel-good American songs (Party in the USA, anyone?) and some general music you know your guests will love.
The fantastic thing about the 4th of July is that you can host a party to suit you and your friends. Make sure you consider everyone’s dietary restrictions, decorate the place as much as you’re willing to, and get ready to have a good time.