For love of the West and the country: Mandan, North Dakota (©bisongirl/Flickr, Creative Commons)
These small towns brim over with patriotic pride year-round.
Home to military history sites, rodeos, former mining camps, pristine nature areas and baseball they're full of warmth, charm and the spirit of the region they represent.
Love the classic small-town environment? Then you'll definitely want to stop and visit the friendly faces who represent these communities with pride.
Gallup, New Mexico
Its community presence, in addition the love of and pride for its veterans, secured Gallup, New Mexico as the winner of the Rand McNally's "Most Patriotic Small Town" contest.
One of the places you can see this civic pride in action is at the Veteran's Memorial, where pillars honor service men and women—including the Navajo Code Talkers—who served in World War I to present-day conflicts. All cultures of the region are also represented at the Gallup Cultural Center; exhibits cover everything from weaving and sandpainting to those on the history of the railroad and Historic Route 66. The don't-miss Indian dances, which take place nightly between Memorial and Labor days, are full of pageantry and the Fourth of July in Gallup rolls all this and more into a celebratory event.
Virginia City, Nevada
Virginia City is rich in history and patriotism, keeping the spirit of the gold and silver booms alive. A 19th century mining bonanza made Virginia City the most important industrial center of the day between San Francisco and Denver; mansions, opera houses and schools were built and its riches helped to finance the Civil War.
"Virginia City offers an authentic, home-town patriotic experience," said Deny Dotson, Virginia City tourism director. "At the Fourth of July Celebration, where the streets are lined with red, white and blue, a parade is held in celebration of Americana and you feel the boom of the fireworks in your bones."
Dotson added that Virginia City is "a patriotic town throughout the year" and proudly hangs banners honoring fallen and currently enlisted soldiers from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Among Virginia City's museums—there are more than a dozen—is the Mark Twain Museum, that contains the desk, chair and books he used while writing for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper. There's also the Julia Bulette Red Light Museum that chronicles the life of Virginia City's most prosperous madam, and Comstock Gold Mill, which details the gold-producing process and shows off historical mining equipment. Adventurers can also revisit Virginia City's mining days during a mine tour or panning for gold themselves.
For 81 years, Williamsburg was the capital of the Virginia colony, America's most populous and influential. The concepts of responsible leadership, public service and individual liberty were nurtured here under the leadership of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and their contemporaries.
Called "the ultimate history buff's paradise," by Reader's Digest, Colonial Williamsburg is the world's largest living history museum. Its 300-acre historic area features original and reconstructed 18th century buildings, skilled tradespeople eager to show off their craft, theatrical performances, enchanting gardens, museums—including the first-of-its-kind Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum—and much more. It can be overwhelming: plan out your itinerary on the mobile app or ask the staff to help you plan an itinerary in the visitor's center.
Delve further into the nation's history at the Jamestown Settlement, a quick car ride away from Williamsburg. Among the interactive experiences at Jamestown, visitors can climb aboard replicas of the three ships that brought settlers to America's first permanent colony and try on armor in a re-created fort.
Bryson City, North Carolina
The town, in addition to the surrounding areas of Swain County, takes pride in offering a small-town, old-fashioned feel that vividly brings forth its vintage Americana draw.
Related Article: Bryson City: Travel Into the Great Smoky Mountains
The Fourth of July is a daylong affair in Bryson City; at the Freedom Fest, its old-fashioned charm brims over in fun events such as the watermelon-eating contest or hula hoop-off. Combine that with a local food and craft fair, "firecracker" 5K and live entertainment, you'll stuff yourself full of good humor. As the night falls, get ready for a fireworks spectacular unrivaled in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Other activities in Bryson City include a look into the history of fly fishing, a paddleboard ride down the river and, for the crafty, a new kind of trail: Swain County's quilt blocks that help form the area's quilt trails. These colorful squares are painted around the town and each one showcases a unique quilting style from the Appalachian.
Mandan, North Dakota
This North Dakota city was also home to a cavalry fort, a railroad and was a convergence spot for area farmers and ranchers. Named for its heritage as the first village for the Mandan tribe, this rich history is reflected in Mandan's slogan, "Where the West Begins."
Learn about the town's military and Native American history at the Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, where you can take a tour of the fort's historic dwellings in addition to taking part in an interpretive battle. Mandan was an important railroad town so you won't want to miss the North Dakota State Railroad Museum. On the scenic byway, you can discover delightful shops, restaurants and more historical sites as you travel through 10 small, nearby communities.
Every year, Mandan pulls out all the stops for Mandan Rodeo Days, a three-day affair that takes place over the Fourth of July weekend. A tradition for more than 130 years, the state's largest rodeo began 10 years before North Dakota received its statehood. In addition to the professional bull and bronco riding there is an art fair, concerts with patriotic music, a street dance, historic trolley tours and more. Mandan's Independence Day parade is the state's longest parade.
Grand Lake, Colorado
With quaint cabins and summer homes lining the state's largest lake, it's easy to get a feel for the laid-back lifestyle of Grand Lake, Colorado, on the edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park. The lake is home to one of the oldest yacht clubs in the west, popular summer activities also include hiking, biking, sailing, fishing and ATV riding.
Walking through the historic downtown boardwalk—there are more than 60 shops—is like stepping back into the Wild West: store owners are always on hand to greet visitors from behind the western-themed storefronts. In the evening, live music trails out of historic saloons and lodges and the town comes to life.
Grand Lake is known for its festivals and special events; the community's pride comes shining through in the Memorial Day parade and ceremony, its celebration of Constitution Week and the Fourth of July Fireworks Extravanganza.
Bristol, Rhode Island
Founded by residents who fought in the Revolutionary War, Bristol has seen its share of turmoil.
In 1675, it was the site of a King's Phillip War—a conflict between New England's Native Americans and English settlers. The town was officially founded five years later.
Bristol holds the distinction of having the oldest, continuous Fourth of July celebration in America; first held in 1785. It may also be the country's longest: three weeks of festivities start with Flag Day on June 14 and culminate in a gala parade on July 4—fireworks take place annually on July 3.
Historic preservation is a way of life in Bristol: the tree-lined streets filled with homes built in the 1700s and 1800s stand as testament to that commitment, many designed by noted Rhode Island architect Russell Warren.
What with its waterfront location, sailing and shipbuilding have been an important part of life in Bristol; this includes the production of several yachts for the America's Cup, on view at the America's Cup Hall of Fame.
Additional attractions include the Bristol Art Museum, showcasing works from the vibrant arts community in addition to the Bristol Train of Artillery—with rare military weapons and artifacts—and Blithewold Mansion, a quintessential New England garden estate.
Cooperstown, New York
From its quaint downtown streets to its unspoiled nature areas to the trolley that'll take you around town, a visit to Cooperstown is a breath of invigorating air.
Cooperstown is all about tradition. America's pioneering spirit is on display at the Farmers' Museum, a working farmstead that brings alive the practices of 19th-century farming. Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard is another trip back in time: the mill has pressed fresh cider for more than 160 years.
Of course, baseball aficionados know Cooperstown to the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum. The nation's very first game of baseball—played by Abner Doubleday and other schoolchildren in 1839—was played at Doubleday Field, just a dirt lot in 1839. For those who simply can't get enough of baseball, a visit to the Heroes of Baseball Wax Museum is in order.
The area's small-town Fourth of July celebration starts in the neighboring Springfield, New York, with the second-oldest continuously running parade in the United States, followed up by with live music and a spectacular fireworks display at Otsego Lake in Cooperstown.
Bisbee was a copper boom town, known as the "queen of the copper camps," after producing more than eight billion pounds of copper—in addition to 102 million ounces of silver and three million ounces of gold—in the 100 years that it operated as a mining camp.
The Smithsonian-affiliated Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum offers a look into the miners' and settlers' lives, but also takes you on an underground tour. The Copper Queen Library is worth a stop for its notable high arches—three stories—and for its station as Arizona's first public library. And you can't miss one of Bisbee's most unique architectural features, the thousands of series of concrete stairs that led to the workers' hillside homes. The stairs are even the focus of their own festival each fall.
The close of Bisbee's mining operations led to an influx of creative folk who set up in Bisbee's historic district. There are numerous galleries to explore; eclectic shops and nightlife options also abound, such as Room 4 Bar, the tiniest bar in Arizona.
Seguin is rooted in American history, named for a Tejano soldier who fought along Americans for Texas' independence from Mexico. Witness Seguin's different roles in history through numerous sites around town, like the Sebastopol House Historic Site—Greek revival mansion built by slaves—and Heritage Village, with a life-sized Victorian doll house and Texas' oldest-standing Protestant church.
At Central Park on the Square, visit the bronze statue of Juan Seguin, the art-deco fountain and granite historical markers, as you walk past Victorian gas lamps and an old-fashioned bandstand. The square is home to the "Biggest Small-Town Fourth of July Parade" with hundreds of entries, including the "World's Largest Pecan." The day begins with a flag-raising ceremony, but the patriotic festivities kick off three days prior with the Freedom Fiesta, a patriotic concert and fireworks.
A visit pre- or post-Fouth of July celebration means finding the largest pecan at its home in the Texas Agricultural Education and Heritage Center. This working farm gives you a look into the 1800s with antique equipment and tools, buggies and a one-room schoolhouse. Get an infusion of whimsy at Pape's Pecan House and Nutcracker Museum that's home to more than 8,000 nutcrackers—it's one of the world's largest collections.
Washington, Georgia was named after then future president George Washington and is known as the site where an important Revolutionary War battle was waged. The town is also known for its antebellum homes—the most in Georgia—and its Southern charm.
Get a glimpse into the life of a Georgia legislator at the Robert Toombs House Historic Site through a tour the house and grounds. Discover the collection of Confederate items at the Washington Historical Museum and at the Callaway Plantation, you can learn what it takes to make a plantation thrive through the Callaway family's legacy.
Washington's Freedom Fireworks Extravaganza is bigger and better than ever before: in 2016, the family-friendly event was expanded to create a festival-like atmosphere with food vendors, kiddie rides, tours of historic homes and a zipline between the downtown buildings. Festivities kick off the morning of July 3; come sunset, spectators line the lawn of the town square for a grand fireworks showing.