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5 Places for an Affordable Fourth of July

By Michelle Jacobson

A big celebration does not have to mean big spending. There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the Fourth of July that take you beyond the backyard and towards an affordable and fun destination. Illinois and Indiana include several options for those looking to spend Independence Day with excitement and beauty, but not with big bucks.


Galena, Ill.

Fourth-of-July-Galena-3When looking to embrace a “simpler time,” visitors can find themselves surrounded by rolling hills and 19th century architecture in the city of Galena. Home to several yearly events, downtown Galena offers a perfect spot to enjoy this year’s Independence Day celebration. Live music takes over the streets of Green Street Plaza from 2 p.m. until 9 p.m. Beginning at 6 p.m. the community also hosts a parade, which features local businesses, bands, marchers and floats. Following the parade, there will be live entertainment provided by Dr. Mark and the Sutures. There will also be food, courtesy of the GOATES cycling club in the Green Street Plaza. There are plenty of shops and dining venues to enjoy around town. Admission to the event is free.

“You get the pride and fun that comes with celebrating the Fourth of July, the surreal experience of Galena’s environment and the unique and comprehensive shopping, dining and attractions that can fill an entire week,” says CEO Chris Hamilton of


Chicago History Museum

A celebration that has been going on for 56 years, The Chicago History Museum’s Fourth of July celebration invites you to join in for its family-friendly festivities. Where else can you go to hear a reading of the Declaration of Independence and catch a glimpse of the world’s tallest Uncle Sam? There will be events on Uihlein Plaza starting at 10:00 a.m., a children’s parade and opening remarks by Museum President Gary T. Johnson. Later, in the newly renovated Robert R. McCormick Theatre, visitors are invited to the screening of the film, The Great Chicago Adventure, which follows two kids through the history of Chicago. For Illinois residents, admission inside the museum is free.


Carmel, Ind.

Celebrate not one, but two days of festivities at CarmelFest in Carmel, Ind. Enjoy a free outdoor festival that features Market Place booths, festival food, the Fourth of July parade, a vocal competition, live entertainment and fireworks. Providing fun for kids and featuring new additions, the interactive KidZone will have rides, games and a petting zoo.

“The KidZone area has grown tremendously. Our goal is to provide fun games, rides and displays for kids of all ages—plus a family-friendly entertainment stage,” says KidZone Director Tom Blessing.

The Carmel Symphony Orchestra will also be in attendance and will offer guests a signature performance conducted by David Bowden. At 9:45 p.m. watch the sky illuminate with colors as fireworks begin to launch. Located in Carmel Civic square and with more than 50,000 guests, CarmelFest is one of the largest celebrations in Indiana. Both admission and parking are free.


Whiting, Ind.

Begin festivities for the Fourth of July a day early in Whiting, Ind. at Whiting Lakefront Park. Taking place on the shoreline of Lake Michigan, this event is the perfect destination for spectacular views and for a Fourth of July Party. The pre-firework party will begin at 7 p.m. and will include a beer garden, food and music, all within view of the Chicago skyline. Grab your lawn chair, blanket and find a perfect spot on the beach as the night lights-up with fireworks, starting at 10 p.m.


St. Charles, Ill.

Bring the family and your friends for 90 acres of fun at Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles, Ill. There is plenty to do before the fireworks set off in a festival of colors at dusk. The park has much to offer, ranging from hiking, biking trails, sandlots for baseball and volleyball to tennis courts and playgrounds. Enjoy an old-fashioned picnic thanks to tables throughout the park and concession stands for refreshments and food. Or bring homemade food, lawn chairs and blankets to sit and relax out on the lawn. Later, the Amphitheatre will come alive with music as performances start at 4 p.m. The Fox Valley Concert Band will be playing well-known show tunes and classical pieces. Also, Hello Dave, a group of popular Chicago-area musicians, will shower the audience with their three-part harmonies and dueling lead music at the Historic Pavilion at 6 p.m. until the fireworks start. The Pottawatomie Park opens at 8 a.m. and admission is free for all guests.