For many, Independence Day means backyard barbecues, boats, and beach marathons. It’s to be expected that any holiday where most of the nation gets a day off from work also includes lots of parties. While we couldn’t make it to every shindig featuring sparklers, we tried to experience the spectrum of celebrations.


Red, white, and booze — that’s most people’s idea of a July Fourth celebration. With the ban on alcohol at Folly Beach and rumors of DUI crackdowns on Sullivan’s Island, we wondered if the masses flocking to the beach would be thinned out. Not so much.
With an early start and the threat of rain, Station 26 was relatively calm. But within an hour, camps of bikini-clad coeds and families with sand-eating babies descended upon the shore with their tents, wagons, and coolers. Many groups planned to stay out on the island all day long to get a good seat for the fireworks later on. Games of volleyball or bocci kept those entertained who didn’t bring a beach read. It was a lovely day until the jerk with the giant boombox showed up. Leaving the beach, traffic was backed up everywhere. An accident on the Isle of Palms Connector Bridge and the Ben Sawyer Bridge meant that no one was getting to their destination. We spotted a few groups on bikes with beach chairs strapped to their backs and admired their determination.

After icing our sunburns, it was time to party in the name of independence. The South Carolina Aquarium hosted a Fourth of July celebration for families and fans of the fish. The night was sold out, so we expected chaos, but it was surprisingly low key. Unlike other events we’ve been to at the Aquarium, all of the exhibits were open to the guests. Moms led their clans around, and fathers kept an eye on the time for fireworks.

We were most excited to see the expansive spread from Smoky Oak Taproom. Three buffets of pulled pork, smoked chicken, collard greens, and macaroni and cheese were laid out for guests. We sat in the observation room eating our giant plate of food as children ran their parents around to the various fish tanks. For those wanting a beer, Holy City Brewery supplied a Washout Wheat and Pilsner for the evening. Event-goers were allowed to set up chairs on the observation deck, and there was plenty of room for all. The ticket price of the party was worth having a spot on the harbor to watch the fireworks. Even better, volunteers passed out brownies right before the show started. Chocolate and pyrotechnics? How could you top that?

After some magnificent explosions, it was time to hit the Upper Deck Tavern after-party. The Facebook announcement from the dive bar boasted a throw-down celebration for anyone who wasn’t passed out from day drinking. Regular patrons were excited because the event meant an additional night of karaoke singing. A keg was set up for those wanting a college party experience, and it was only $10 a cup for all you could drink PBR. There was a terrible rendition of David Bowie’s “Young Americans” that led to a shirtless singer and a few broken pint glasses.

It was the usual hipster crowd above King Street until Sully Sullivan’s photography crew showed up. The colorful crowd turned the karaoke around to Alanis Morrisette and Rihanna songs. Dancing ensued, and we’re sure we saw a few patrons attempt a keg stand. Thankfully, the bartender kept everyone in check, and made sure the rabble rousers were escorted out. Walking into the night, we heard a few lingering fireworks and saw far too many pedestrians dressed like Kid Rock, but were satisfied we’d fully celebrated the Fourth.