On the Fourth of July, we celebrate our freedom. It’s been a tradition for 243 years now!
And we celebrate in a multitude of ways. We watch fireworks displays. We eat hot dogs and hamburgers and spend time with family. Many of us will have the day off and time to get out and play.
Where Can We Watch Fireworks and Have an Active 4th?
I think one of the coolest ways to watch fireworks is to climb to a high (and safe) spot near any urban area and marvel at the fireworks displays below. For most of us in cities in the Triad, Charlotte or RTP there are rooftops, and parking decks. But what if you want to get off the beaten path for a few to enjoy fireworks this year?
Charlotte – Area
For instance, can’t think of a better place to take in the fireworks displays from Charlotte up along the I-85 corridor to High Point than from atop Morrow Mountain State Park’s namesake peak. Go with a group of friends and drive a car to the summit (there’s a large parking area), then drive to the park office and hike the 2.6-mile Morrow Mountain Trail back to the top. It’s easy hiking but can get pretty tough at the end as the trail leads straight up the mountain. But imagine how much more you’ll appreciate the displays knowing you’ve climbed mighty Morrow, at 936 feet! Morrow Mountain State Park closes at 10 p.m., which should give you just enough time to catch the shows, then drive to the gate before closing.
Atop another state park, Pilot Mountain, they’ll be celebrating perhaps our nation’s greatest achievement — the Apollo 11 moon landing, which happened 50 years ago this July — with To The Moon And Beyond!, a stargazing event from 7 to 10 p.m. in partnership with the Forsythe Astronomical Society. Talk about the night sky ablaze! They’ll be checking out the night sky under a nearly full moon! Arrive earlier in the evening and hike the not-quite-a-mile-long Jomeokee Trail around the Big Pinnacle. More info here.
In the Triangle, a tradition for July 4th is Festival for the Eno, a two-day celebration (Thursday, July 4 and Saturday, July 6), featuring live music and art activities. It’s also set in the 388-acre West Point on the Eno city park, which has about 3 miles of a hiking trail and will have kayaking rentals on the mile-long millpond extending up from the working mill. Add to your adventure and avoid the parking and shuttle hassles of the festival by hiking in. Upstream in the adjoining Eno River State Park, start from the Pump Station Access and hike 2.2 miles downstream to Guess Road, cross the bridge, then continue downstream another 1.8 miles on the Eagle Trail to the park. A nice 4-mile hike (and another 4 miles back). Find information on the Festival for the Eno here, on West Point on the Eno city park here, on Eno Rivers State Park and the Pump Station Access here.
If you want to have an active fourth but aren’t sure what activity to pursue, here are some suggestions. Go for a mountain bike ride, or go rock climbing, or heck, go whitewater rafting. Why pick when you can do it all at the National Whitewater Center’s two-day Fourth of July Celebration, on the 3rd and 4th. Adventure sport your way to exhaustion, then hang around for the fireworks. Gates open at 9 a.m., the fireworks begin just after 9 p.m. More info here.
If biking is more your pace, Independence Day bike rides are a thing in many communities. For instance, what began 29 years ago as a July 4 ride among friends has evolved into The Capital Cycling Club’s annual The Firecracker Ride, a peloton of 1,000 riders pedaling through western Wake and eastern Chatham counties for either 100 km (60 miles) or 50 km (30 miles). The scenery is beautiful and there are even food trucks to enjoy.
Paddle, Kayak, and Canoe
Since the 4th of July is in the heart (and heat) of summer, it’s also a great time to be on the water. Municipalities throughout the state rent kayaks, canoes, paddle boats, stand up paddleboards (SUP). They’re typically inexpensive and don’t require previous experience to pick up. In Greensboro, you can paddle a kayak or a SUP for just $12 an hour on Lake Brandt (details here). Twelve North Carolina State Parks rent canoes or kayaks; find a list here. While Kerr Lake State Recreation Area isn’t one of those parks with rentals, if you have access to a boat, it’ll be awesome to take in the Vance County Department of Tourism’s Independence Day Celebration at Satterwhite Point on Saturday, July 6. More info here.
Options abound on the Fourth! Exercise your freedom to exercise yourself!