Summer hits its peak Thursday when the skies light up and plates fill up with picnic fare. And there's no shortage of activities planned in communities across the Tampa Bay area for America's 243rd birthday.
Whether you're looking to splurge or keep it low key this Independence Day, don your best red, white and blue duds and check out these parties, parades and more to make your holiday extra special.
Boom by the Bay
Mayor Jane Castor holds Tampa's celebration featuring family-friendly activities, a car show, live entertainment and four fireworks displays spanning 2.5 miles along the waterfront. Best viewing is from Armature Works, Riverfront Park, the Tampa Convention Center and Sparkman Wharf. Free. 10 a.m. Thursday. Armature Works, 1910 N Ola Ave., Tampa. (813) 274-8262.
Fish of July
The Florida Aquarium will have extended hours for extra splash pad play, more screenings of Octonauts: Amazon Adventure or Sharks in 4D and a spot on the outdoor plaza to view the Boom by the Bay fireworks display. $15, parking $10. 5-9:30 p.m. Thursday. 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 273-4000.
Plant City Stadium
Bring the family for the 14th annual festival with face painting, balloon art, corn hole, inflatables, a rock wall, bungee jump, food vendors, a military salute and fireworks. Free, $5 parking. 6 p.m. Thursday. 1810 E Park Road, Plant City. (813) 659-4255.
WTR Pool and Grill at The Godfrey celebrates with fireworks, live entertainment and barbecued food. $10, food and drink additional. 11 a.m. Thursday. 7700 W Courtney Campbell Causeway, Tampa. (813) 281-8900. wtrtampa.com.
Red, White and Boom Beach Bash
Hit the beach at Whiskey Joe's for a party with fresh seafood, cold drinks, live music by the Greg White Band (2 p.m.) and Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute (8 p.m.) and fireworks (9:15 p.m.). $5 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., $15-$20 from 5-11 p.m. Thursday. 7720 W Courtney Campbell Causeway, Tampa. (813) 281-0577.
Temple Terrace Parade
Denyse Bales Chubb serves as grand marshal of the 45th annual "A City of Healthy Living" parade. Starts at Whiteway Drive and Gillette Avenue, runs south to Druid Hills Road, west to Ridgedale Road and south to the Temple Terrace Little League fields. Free. 10 a.m. Thursday. Parade Start Point, Whiteway Drive and Gillette Avenue, Temple Terrace. (813) 989-7004.
Temple Terrace Fireworks
Evening festivities in Temple Terrace take place on the first fairway and include food vendors, live music and fireworks (9:15 p.m.). Free. 6 p.m. Thursday. Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club, 200 Inverness Ave., Temple Terrace. (813) 989-7004.
The bow of the American Victory Ship offers perfect viewing for Tampa's Boom by the Bay after this festival with face painting, arts, crafts, music by DJ Reko, games, food and drink vendors. $13, $10 military and veterans, $7 ages 4-12. 6:30 p.m. Thursday. 705 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 228-8766.
$4 Day at Glazer Children's Museum
Families can explore the museum with a $4 admission charge. Active military and veterans get in free. $4, free military. 10 a.m. Thursday. 110 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa. (813) 443-3861.
Tampa Bay History Center
Everyone gets $5 admission to study military history with hands-on displays of artifacts and military uniforms, crafts, music and nearly two dozen costumed re-enactors roaming the galleries. 10 a.m. Thursday. 801 Old Water St., Tampa. (813) 228-0097.
Tampa Bay Dance Club
Wear your colors for a dance with music by DJ Joey Royal. Hot dogs available. $10. 7:30 p.m. Friday. Lutheran Church of Our Saviour, 8401 W Hillsborough Ave., Tampa. (813) 390-7160.
Weekend Silent Party
Grab a set of headphones and dance to your choice of music by three DJs. $10. 9 p.m. Friday. American Social Bar and Kitchen, 601 S Harbour Island Blvd., Tampa. (813) 605-3333.
Skate Park of Tampa
Wear red, white and blue and get free skating all day. 8 a.m. Thursday. 4215 E Columbus Drive, Tampa. (813) 621-6793.
Brandon Elks Picnic
Join the Brandon Elks for a traditional American picnic with horseshoes, games, an inflatable water park, ice cream and an optional hamburger, hot dog or chicken meal. Free, $5 food. Noon Thursday. Brandon Elks Lodge, 800 Centennial Lodge Drive, Brandon. (813) 966-9002. brandonelks.org.
Red White and Blue Festival
Bring your pets to this family festival with a paw walk, Uncle Sam on stilts, live music and free ice cream. Free. 3 p.m. Thursday. Grand Central at Kennedy, 1208 E Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. (813) 447-8538.
Classic American car show, hot dog eating contest, family fun zone on the lawn, live music and a fireworks display (9 p.m.). Free. 4 p.m. Thursday. Armature Works, 1910 N Ola Ave., Tampa. (813) 250-3725. armatureworks.com.
The community is invited to celebration with water slides, bounce houses, a magician, balloon art, face painting, games, live music and fireworks (9 p.m.). Free, food and drink tickets additional. 4 p.m. Thursday. Cheval Golf and Athletic Club, 4312 Cheval Blvd., Lutz. (813) 949-4231. newtampafl.macaronikid.com.
Star Spangled Sparkman
Sparkman Wharf transforms into a retro summer party with live music by the Still Surfin' Beach Boys, a water ski show by the Tampa Bay Water Ski Show Team, interactive photo ops, games, face painting, draft beer, a limbo contest and a great view of the City of Tampa's Boom by the Bay fireworks show. No cover, food and drink additional. 4 p.m. Thursday. 615 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 839-7900, ext. 0300.
Fans can join players to celebrate for three days at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Thursday is Celebrate 'Merica Night with first responders getting $5 lower reserved seats. The night ends with fireworks. Friday is Sink or Swim with all-you-can-drink Bud, Bud Lite and select liquors for $20 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and kids run the bases after the game. Saturday is 'Merica Land of the Free Night with the first 500 fans getting a free mystery gift and an on field post game movie. $5 and up. 6:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. 1 Steinbrenner Drive, Tampa. (813) 673-3055.
Experience downtown Tampa's fireworks display from the decks of Bay Spirit II, the Florida Aquarium's 72-foot double deck catamaran. Includes after hours access to the aquarium, Cuban sandwiches, vegetables and dip, DJ dancing and alcohol for purchase. $59.95. 7:30 p.m. Thursday. 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 273-4000.
Climb aboard a yacht for a two hour floating party with an all-American buffet, open bar, DJ dancing and a great view of Tampa's fireworks. $129.95, $89.95 children. 7:30 p.m. Thursday. 603 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 223-7999.
Board the party bus for unlimited drinks onboard and stops at numerous downtown Tampa clubs. $75. 6 p.m. Saturday. Ramada Westshore Tampa Inn and Conference Center, 1200 N West Shore Blvd., Tampa. (727) 565-5952.
St. Petersburg Fireworks
Celebrate along St. Petersburg's downtown waterfront. Enjoy the fireworks to synchronized music accessible through an optional, free app for iPhone and Android systems. Viewing is recommended from Albert Whitted Park, North Straub Park, South Straub Park, North Shore Park, Elva Rouse Park and Flora Wylie Park. Free. 9 p.m. Thursday. North Shore Park, 901 North Shore Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7441.
Tarpon Springs Fireworks
The City of Tarpon Springs recommends getting to Fred Howard Park between 7:30 and 9 p.m. to find a good spot in or around the park to view the fireworks (set off at dusk). Free. 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Fred Howard Park, 1700 Sunset Drive, Tarpon Springs. (727) 938-3711.
Clearwater Celebrates America
Enjoy music, family activities, food, drinks and vendors and a large fireworks show. Free. 9 p.m. Thursday. Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater. (727) 562-4040.
Celebrate the holiday with food, barbecue, music and prizes. Free. 6 p.m. Thursday. Osceola Courtyard, 201 N Fort Harrison Ave., Clearwater. (727) 467-6860.
Madeira Beach Fireworks
Bring coolers, chairs and blankets to watch fireworks in the park. Additional firework viewing areas include Causeway Park (911 Memorial) and the American Legion. Free. 9 p.m. Thursday. ROC Park, 200 Rex Place, Madeira Beach. (727) 392-0665.
Treasure Island Fireworks
No festival. Just fireworks to view from anywhere near the park. Personal fireworks are not permitted on the beach. Free. 9 p.m. Thursday. Gulf Front Park, Gulf Boulevard and 104th Avenue. (727) 547-4575.
Largo Lights Up
Dig into a pie eating contest, video gaming truck, face painting, balloon art and mixed entertainment before the sky explodes with a fireworks display. Free. 6 p.m. Thursday. Largo Central Park, 101 Central Park Drive, Largo. (727) 586-7415.
The day starts with a kids fishing tournament at 8 a.m. at the Yakes Recreation Complex. After fishing, stick around on the beach for a sand sculpting contest at 10 a.m. Make sure to wear red, white and blue for a parade starting at 6 p.m., followed by a performance by the New Horizon's Band of Gulfport at 7:30 p.m. and fireworks at 9 p.m. Free. 8 a.m. Thursday. Gulfport Casino, 5500 Shore Blvd. S. (727) 893-1000.
Rock the Beach
Get to Upham Beach for live music by Brian Caudill Band followed by Stormbringer before fireworks are launched from a barge off the Pinellas County Beach (4700 Gulf Blvd.) in the Gulf of Mexico. Free. 2 p.m. Thursday. Gulf Boulevard and 68th Street, St. Pete Beach. (727) 363-9245, ext. 373.
Safety Harbor Fireworks
Get to the marina park early for children's activities, live entertainment, food vendors and a fireworks finale. Free. 5 p.m. Thursday. 110 Veterans Memorial Lane, Safety Harbor. (727) 724-1555.
Safety Harbor Parade and Ride
Decorate your motorcycle with flags and wear red white and blue to join the Patriotic Riders for a 1-mile ride along the Safety Harbor Fourth of July parade route. Free. 8 a.m. Thursday. Paradise Restaurant, 443 Main St., Safety Harbor. Then, join the American Legion Auxiliary for a patriotic parade of floats and marching units. Free. 10 a.m. Thursday. Main Street and Second Avenue N, Safety Harbor. (727) 726-9601. cityofsafetyharbor.com.
Kenneth City Parade
Bring a chair or a blanket and find a spot to watch the parade of recreational vehicles of all types running along 54th Avenue between 62nd and 58th Streets. Picnic food available after the parade. Free, food and drink additional. 10 a.m. Thursday. Ernst Park, 4600 58th St. N, Kenneth City. (727) 498-8948.
Join Innisbrook for a buffet, fireworks and kid-friendly activities including bounce houses, face painting and DJ dancing. $27-$33. 5:30 p.m. Thursday. 36750 U.S. 19 N, Palm Harbor. (727) 942-5544. innisbrookgolfresort.com.
Human flags streak by in this family friendly, electronically timed 5K run/walk with finishers medals and a post race party. $30. 9 a.m. Thursday. Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar, 21688 U.S. 19 N, Clearwater. (727) 226-7223.
Caddy's Treasure Island keeps the holiday fun going for four days. Thursday starts with yoga on the beach at 9 a.m. The afternoon cranks up with live music by Carlos and Joe (1 p.m.), a live broadcast by 99.5 WQYK's Keebler (3-6 p.m.) and Logan Grant closes the day with live music (6 p.m.). Friday features live music by Chris Poe (2 p.m.) and Fencewalk (7 p.m.). Saturday features dancing to music by DJ Cutty Jones starting at 1 p.m. and live music by Horses Wild (7 p.m.). The celebration closes out Sunday with live music by Justin Walker (1 p.m.) and the Paul Anthony Band (6 p.m.). No cover, food and drink additional. 8 a.m. Thursday-Sunday. 9000 W Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island. (727) 360-4993.
Indian Shores Caddy's
Caddy's Indian Shores has a four day musical holiday with live music by Tony D (6 p.m. Thursday), Hurricane Shane (6 p.m. Friday), Ed John (1 p.m. Saturday) and Motel Funk (6 p.m. Saturday) and Chello Hollyday (2:30 p.m. Sunday). Free. 8 a.m. Thursday-Sunday. 20025 Gulf Blvd., Indian Shores. (727) 595-3172.
Golf Cart Parade
Decorate your golf cart for this parade featuring kids and pups. Free. 9 a.m. Thursday. Eighth Avenue and Pass a Grille Way, Pass-a-Grille. (727) 552-1610.
Craig Park Picnic
Bring the family to enjoy a water slide, paddle boarding, inflatables, lawn games and free hot dogs while supplies last. Also, a hot dog eating contest and live entertainment by Rusty Trumpet. Free. 10 a.m. Thursday. Craig Park, 100 Beekman Way, Tarpon Springs. (727) 938-3711.
Ale and the Witch Celebration
$3 craft beer specials and live music by Gypsy Wind. Save your parking spot and take a walk to the downtown St. Petersburg fireworks. No cover, food and drink additional. 3 p.m. Thursday. The Ale and the Witch, 111 Second Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 821-2533.
Safety Harbor Resort and Spa reserves the best fireworks viewing area for this party with a barbecue buffet and two hours of open bar. $49-$55. 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, 105 N Bayshore Drive, Safety Harbor. (727) 726-1161.
The MFA Cafe at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg serves up the 12th annual buffet with art, live music by the Rebekah Pulley Twosome and a seat directly under the fireworks. $46, $23 ages 11 and younger. 6:30 p.m. Thursday. 255 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 896-2667.
Red, White and Brew
Sip a holiday select craft beer as you listen to live music by the Swampland Symphony. No cover, food and drink additional. 8 p.m. Saturday. Mastry's Brewing Co., 7701 Blind Pass Road, St. Pete Beach. (727) 202-8045.
Red White and Brew Fest
Hernando County Parks and Recreation celebrates the holiday with food trucks, vendors, crafters, a kids area, inflatables, multiple beer and wine tents, two live bands, a salute to veterans and fireworks. Free, $5 parking. 5 p.m. Thursday. Anderson Snow Park, 1360 Anderson Snow Road, Spring Hill. (352) 754-4027.
Firecracker Smash'm Up
Hernando County literally smashes and blows stuff up with a demolition derby, games, bounce houses, laser tag, food, music, crafts, vendors and fireworks. $10, $5 ages 4-12. Parking $5. 4 p.m. Thursday. Hernando County Fairgrounds, 6436 Broad St., Brooksville. (352) 796-4552.
American Family Celebration
Featuring a night of music, food, fun and fireworks. Free. 6 p.m. Thursday. The Great Life Church, 14494 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville. (352) 293-7673. greatlifechurch.com.
High Point Parade
Participate by golf cart, walking, bike, truck, floats or other means of transportation. Parade line-up is 8:30 a.m. Prizes in nine categories for best decorations. Starts at High Point Boulevard and ends at the community center. Free. 9 a.m. Thursday. 12249 Club House Road, High Point. (330) 256-3368.
A hilltop Fourth of July celebration under the stars with music, watermelon eating contests, art vendors, food trucks, beer garden, lawn games, DJ dancing, cash bar, giveaways and fireworks. $5 per car. 5 p.m. Thursday. Barrington Hill Event Space, 16117 Lake Iola Road, Dade City. (727) 643-6128.
Machine Gun Shoot
More than 100 machine gun shooters will obliterate five cars and trucks. No tracers or incendiary ammunition allowed. $20, $2 spectators. 9:30 a.m. Thursday. Hernando Sportsman's Club, 16121 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee. (352) 597-9931. hernandosportsmansclub.com.
Caliente Resort and Spa nudist camp's weekend long pool party has dancing, drinks and live music by Sweet Spot (Thursday), Cristi Vale (Friday), #NoFilter Band (Saturday) and Mixed Signal (Sunday). Membership or day pass required. 1 p.m. Thursday-Sunday. , 21240 Gran Via Blvd., Land O' Lakes. (813) 996-3700.
Avalon Park West Celebration
A bounce park, bike parade, bake-off, live entertainment and fireworks (9 p.m.). Free. 5 p.m. Thursday. 33613 State Road 54, Wesley Chapel. (813) 783-1515. newtampafl.macaronikid.com.
Concert for a Cause
A parade of kids on decorated bikes and trikes kicks off this celebration with food trucks, dancing, live music by Chasing Amy, a food drive and fireworks. Benefits Feeding Tampa Bay. Free. 5 p.m. Thursday. Bexley by Newland Communities, 16950 Vibrant Way, Land O' Lakes. (813) 425-7555. newtampafl.macaronikid.com.
Patriotic Family Fun Day
Celebrate Independence Day with ongoing games of badminton, croquet, horseshoes and corn hole toss, as well as a pet parade, hand-cranked ice cream and music by the Barking Dogs. Free. 4 p.m. Friday. Dade Battlefield Historic Park, 7200 Battlefield Parkway, Bushnell. (352) 793-4781.
Celebrate the holiday with Summer Nights dancing, specialty food selections, thrill rides, live music by Mighty Mongo and an extended fireworks display (9:30 p.m.). Park closes at 11 p.m. (Thursday). A slightly scaled-down party continues Friday through Sunday with dancing, games, thrill rides and fireworks. The park closes at 10 p.m. (Fri.-Sun.). $84.99 and up. 10 a.m. Thursday-Sunday. 10165 N McKinley Drive, Tampa. (813) 884-4386. buschgardens.com.
For the final year, Epcot presents the Illuminations: Reflections of Earth fireworks extravaganza with The Heartbeat of Freedom, an extra red, white and blue infused finale saluting America (9 p.m.). Through out the day, the Voices of Liberty a cappella group performs traditional American music at 5:30, 6:45 and 8 p.m. in the American Gardens Theatre. Also, meet Disney characters decked out in patriotic garb all day in the American Adventure Pavilion. Starting at $109. 9 a.m. Thursday. 200 Epcot Center Drive, Orlando. (407) 824-4321.
Disney's Contemporary Resort
Woody and his Toy Story friends take over the Contemporary Resort bringing the larger than life playset of Woody's Roundup. Guests sing and dance with characters as Mr. Microphone plays the tunes. Includes a barbecue meal, trick roping demonstration, carnival games, Toy Story-themed crafts, balloon art and reserved fireworks viewing. $149, $99 ages 3-9. 6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. 4600 N World Drive, Lake Buena Vista. (407) 934-7639.
The Magic Kingdom drops Happily Ever After to present Celebrate America: A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky at 9:15 p.m. Also, join the Hoedown Throwdown dance party in Frontierland and catch The Muppets Present...Great Moments in History near the Hall of Presidents. $109 and up. 8 a.m. Thursday. 1515 N Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista. (407) 934-7639.
Universal celebrates the holiday with three days of special entertainment including a dance zone with music by DJ M-Squared, live music by Raydio, stilt walkers, character appearances, fireworks (9 p.m.) and the Cinematic Celebration in Central Park (9:45 p.m.). $115 and up. 9 a.m. Thursday-Saturday. 6000 Universal Blvd., Orlando. (800) 837-2273.
Pyrotechnics and lasers add a patriotic ending to the Ignite spectacle. $84.99 and up, reserved seating available for $60 additional. 9:45 p.m. Thursday. 7007 SeaWorld Drive (Interstate 4, Exit 71), Orlando. (800) 327-2424.
Help build a giant LEGO American flag and dance to music by DJ Club Brixx before a giant fireworks display with special viewing glasses. $84.99 and up. 10 a.m. Thursday-Saturday. Legoland Florida, One Legoland Way, Winter Haven. (888) 690-5346. legoland.com.