Independence Day means parades, grilling, and skies lit up with bright and colorful fireworks displays. If you live in a neighborhood that outlaws fireworks, or have timid little ones who can’t handle the loud explosions, don’t think you need to miss out on all the festivities on July 4th. There are tons of great ideas for families looking to have a Yankee-Doodle-Dandy good time this July without all the booming fireworks. Read on to find out how you can enjoy a fireworks-free Fourth celebration or host your own at home.

kids flags

Oaks Park Amusement Park – If you can’t create excitement with fireworks, at least help your kiddos get a thrill on the 4th with rides at Oaks Park Amusement Park. Let them go nuts on the Frog Hopper, bust a move like the Fonz on the mini motorcycles or take to the skies in the hot air balloons. Oaks Park does put on a firework show at dusk, but with any luck your kids will be so exhausted from a day of excitement they’ll drift off on the drive home.

Corbett Fun Fest – With so much to do at this day-long festival, there’s no way your kids will be able to stay up late enough to hear the explosions. Make an early morning of it by starting with their 7:00 am pancake breakfast. Catch the community parade, the live stages bumping with music, and a fun zone complete with water slide races, an inflatable obstacle course, and two bouncy houses. The festivities carry on well into the afternoon with a petting zoo, face painting, and arts, crafts, & science tent, egg toss, sack race, and more. By the time its all said and done, your kids are likely to pass out in the car on the way home.

kids with flags

Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival – The Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival boasts Portland’s largest fireworks display, but fear not, the dazzling show doesn’t begin until 10:00 pm. Before that there is plenty to keep your kids distracted from the noisy night ahead. With four stages and numerous live bands on the greens in front of the Willamette River, kids can boogie down all day and snooze all night.

Throw a home-based birthday party for America – The Fourth doesn’t have to only be about fireworks — ditch the sparklers and celebrate America the beautiful. Check out our list of ways to celebrate the 4th of July with kids for some great ideas. Bake and decorate a red, white and blue cake, create a flag to adorn your front door, and rock out with your loudest rendition of Happy Birthday USA. It’s more than likely that your kid’s tenth version of Happy Birthday (cha cha cha) will drown out the hoopla outside.

july 4th

Day parades – Why should the night receive star billing on the 4th? Turn the tables and make the day the biggest part of the celebration. Portland is exploding with possibilities for daytime parades. Many invite kids to decorate their bikes and wagons with Independence Day regalia and join in the fun. If your little ones are more of the “sit on the curb and catch all the candy they possibly can” type, they won’t be disappointed.

Neighborhood parade – Not up for parking hassles or teenagers grabbing candy? Make your own parade with the kids in the ‘hood. Have your kids hand out flyers with the date and time of the parade and provide streamers and decorations for bikes, wagons and scooters. Parents can line the street as the kids become the stars of the show riding down Main Street in their decorated floats.

fourth of july

Make paper fireworks – You need four items for this project: paper, paint, a paintbrush, and a straw. Drop small dots of paint onto the paper, then using a straw, have your kiddo blow onto the paint to create a firework-like effect. Paint lines on the paper to really make it look like a firework that’s shooting off into the sky.

Create a fireworks tee shirt – Finally, you can use the tee shirts your little ones have outgrown and repurpose them into a patriotic (and colorful) activity. Using glow in the dark fabric paint, create your own fireworks display right on the shirt. Once it’s dry, use a black light to really make the colors and patterns light up. Don’t want to dirty up a tee? Try decorating hats instead.

flag bikes

Movie night – If the above ideas aren’t bringing an iota of excitement to your little Americans, send them to the movies. Monster’s University is showing in theaters all over town. Time the movie at dusk (or close enough) and the sound of the movie will block the sounds from outside.

Firework Free Fourth – If your kids enjoy a good party, it’s just the noise they can’t stand, consider hosting your own firework- free bash:

  • You can make great effects by pouring glow sticks or glow paint into bubble solution (50/50 mix) and blow glowing bubbles. (Make sure you use washable glow paint and hose off sidewalks.)
  • Enjoy a homespun version of indoor fireworks using confetti. Either buy it prepackaged or make your own, grab it by the handful, and toss it up into the air for a dazzling (albeit a bit messy) display.
  • Chinese lanterns make the perfect alternative to fireworks as they silently lift into the night sky.
  • Poppers, smoke bombs and “snakes” are perfect firework light activities that still create the 4th of July thrill without the bang.
  • Glow sticks make awesome alternatives to sparklers for little hands. They can write USA in the night sky with no sparks.
  • Tie glow sticks or paint glow paint on stomp rockets and let your kids rocket them into the stars.

Are your kids afraid of fireworks? How do you celebrate the 4th?

— Laurie Halter

photo courtesy of Coolstock on Flickr, Laurie Halter, austinsdkeyscouterstevendepolo