At a time when politics might divide us, give your kids a lesson in patriotism and an appreciation of our history this Fourth of July week.
Here are 10 things you can do in and around Austin to celebrate our country’s birthday:
1. Go big. Gather with thousands of your closest friends at Vic Mathias Shores to hear the Austin Symphony Orchestra perform and then see the skies over downtown Austin light up with fireworks. H-E-B Austin Symphony July Fourth Concert and Fireworks, 8:30 p.m. July 4. Free. Vic Mathias Shores. austinsymphony.org
2. Go smaller. Find your neighborhood Fourth of July parade, and watch it, or better yet, decorate your bike, stroller or wagon and join it. Several Central Texas small towns also have parades. Red, White & Buda parade starts at 9 a.m. on Main Street and then follow-up activities happen in the greenbelt near the library. At night, see the fireworks at 9:30 p.m. at the Buda Sportsplex. In Georgetown the parade begins at 11 a.m. in San Gabriel Park. At night, the fireworks happen at 9:30 p.m. at the McMaster Athletic Fields.
3. Take in state history. The Bullock Museum offers many patriotic events next week. Kick off the week with Free First Sunday with the theme Stars & Stripes, noon to 3 p.m. Sunday. You’ll hear from the author of the book “W is for Weird: An Austin Alphabet,” learn about voting from the League of Women Voters, make a patriotic hat and join a parade, and add to a mural with a local artist. Create art on Tuesday as part of Make it Tuesdays. This week’s theme is Red, White and Yum, 10 a.m. July 3. Go on a tour of history lead by your senses during History Detectives, 10 a.m. July 5. And Learn about how a real cowboy works with ropes in Yippee Yay! 2 p.m. July 7. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com
You also can take a free tour of the Texas Capitol daily. The free tours leave from the south foyer near the tour guides’ office every 30 to 40 minutes. There are themed tours including Women in Texas History, 11:15 a.m. daily, and Heroes of the Texas Revolution, 2:15 p.m. daily. 1100 Congress Ave. tspb.texas.gov
4. Honor the fallen. Go on a scavenger hunt of the Texas State Cemetery. Do your research online at cemetery.state.tx.us first. You can download an audio tour and map there. Can you find the two American Revolutionary War heroes? How about the signers of the Declaration of Independence? Can you find all of the Texas governors and first ladies buried there? How about famous Texas authors? Don’t miss the Veterans Memorial Section, the Medal of Honor Monument, the World War II Monument, the Vietnam Memorial, the Gold Star Mothers Monument, the Purple Heart Monument, an Alamo survivor and Confederate Field. 909 Navasota St.
In Williamson County, you can go the Georgetown-Williamson County Veterans Memorial, 2 Texas Drive, Georgetown.
Or visit the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry, 2200 W. 35th St. The museum is free and open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Later this month you can see the museum in action at a Hands-on History event, 6-9 p.m. July 21. That event is $5. texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org
Farther out, you can learn about World War II at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, the home of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. You can see a re-creation of the battle at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. July 14 and 15. Tickets to the show are $10 and best bought in advance. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 340 E. Main St., Fredericksburg. $15 adults, free for World War II veterans, $10 military, $6 children. pacificwarmuseum.org
5. Take a different look at history. Head to the George Washington Carver Museum for a look at African American culture in Austin. The first Saturday of the month the Carver Museum has hands-on activities from noon to 4 p.m. The rest of the month, check out the families gallery about 10 notable Austin families and the children’s gallery, which highlights science and technology advances from African Americans. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. George Washington Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St. austintexas.gov/carvermuseum
Check out the Asian American Resource Center, which has changing art exhibits. This month Myanmar Cultural Day is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 7. 8401 Cameron Road. austintexas.gov/aarc
Head to the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center and see its latest exhibits. This summer, the center will have a Sábados en Familia program for families 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 11. The center is regularly open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. 600 River St. austintexas.gov/esbmacc
6. Sing “Hail to the Chief” at a presidential library. We’re lucky to have the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin on the University of Texas Campus. The current new exhibits are “Get in the Game,” about equality in sports, “The Civil Rights Act of 1968,” and “The 1968 Olympics.” The museum is free on the Fourth of July. Other days it’s $10 adults, $7 seniors, $5 military, $3 children and students. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 2313 Red River St. lbjlibrary.org
Or take a road trip to the other two presidential libraries in Texas. The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas has new exhibits on preserving Iraqi Jewish traditions and the first ladies. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. $19 adults, $16 seniors, $17 teens, $13 children, free for active-duty military. 2943 SMU Blvd., Dallas. georgewbushlibrary.smu.edu
The George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Center in College Station offers a Fourth of July Celebration on July 4 with kids’ activities and fireworks from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. New exhibits include “The Greatest Legislation: An American Legion Centennial Salute to the GI Bill,” “Mapping Texas: From Frontier to the Lone Star State,” and “Leonardo Da Vinci: Machines in Motion.” The museum is open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. $9 adults, $7 seniors and military and $3 children and college students. 1000 George Bush Drive W., College Station. bush41.org
7. Celebrate an American icon. This summer, the Zilker Summer Musical salutes Elvis with “All Shook Up.” The musical launches July 6. 8:15 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays through Aug. 18. Free, but donations are welcome. Zilker Hillside Theatre, 2206 William Barton Drive. zilker.org
Or celebrate an American tradition by seeing a baseball game at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock. The Round Rock Express are playing at home through Wednesday, then return July 12. Tickets are $7-$30, but there are always deals. 3400 E. Palm Valley Blvd., Round Rock. Roundrockexpress.com
8. Celebrate America at a children’s museum. The Thinkery, offers two upcoming workshops: Instant Ice Cream workshop, for ages 4 and up. 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Pop and Fizz workshop, for ages 4 and up. Create your own “fireworks” in the kitchen. 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. July 7-8. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org Toybrary Austin offers a Fourth of July Party, 10:30 a.m. July 3. $10. Toybrary Austin, 2001 Justin Lane. toybraryaustin.com
The Science Mill in Johnson City is open July 4 with hands-on activities.You can stay in Johnson City and see the fireworks at 9:15 p.m. at the Blanco County Fairgrounds. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. $10 adults, $8.50 children. 101 S. Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City. sciencemill.org
9. Take a virtual tour of Washington, D.C. Yes, it would be great to physically visit with the kids, but if you can’t get there, log into your computer. The Smithsonian has a lot on its website, including a special section just for kids. si.edu/kids. Virtual Field Trips is for teachers, but you can find on YouTube one of its virtual tours of monuments with some geography and history of the city’s main attractions. Find it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iK3GsAcwKaI. Michelle Obama leads a White House virtual tour that you can find on the ObamaWhiteHouse.Archives.gov site.
10. Put your values in action. Find a cause your kids are passionate about, do some research about it and lobby your senators and representatives at the state and national level by writing letters, sending emails or making a phone call.. Find out who represents you and their contact information at Who Represents Me? fyi.capitol.texas.gov