An Insider's Guide to Celebrating Independence Day in Yorktown

July 4th - Family Fun graphic with images of families dressed in red, white, and blue.

As summer concerts return, mask orders are lifted, and people begin to travel again—it's as if all around the world, we can start to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Things are finally getting back to "normal"... or at least back to how life at public and social events was before many of us had even heard of COVID-19. Last year, the pandemic forced the cancellation of several large-scale festivals and parades across the country, including right here in Yorktown. 

But this year, Independence Day activities are BACK! That's right - even the fireworks! There are still some slight modifications to partner events, but the biggest news is that the community traditions we've all come to look forward to—the patriotic parade, hot dog eating contest, and amazing fireworks show over the river—will all return.

Patriotic kids posing during the 2018 parade

From sunup to sundown, it's going to be an action-packed day full of fun for the whole family. In addition to all of the July Fourth events, you can enjoy the beach, visit our Riverwalk Landing shops and waterfront restaurants, and explore our museums. We're going to outline what you need to know in this special Insider's Guide, including the schedule, changes to activities, where you can (and can't) park, and even some fun facts about the fireworks!

Let us walk you through the schedule of Sunday, July 4.

Follow in the Footsteps of Heroes 
Independence Day 8K Run/Walk
 8 a.m.

We can't think of a more inspirational way to start the day than near the very place where Gen. Cornwallis raised the white flag more than 200 years ago. Start your Fourth of July weekend off by participating in either the live or virtual Yorktown Independence Day 8K!  

In order to reduce crowds and maximize social distancing, the starting line will be open for an hour and a half, and you can choose your own 15-minute start window when you register. You can pick up your bib number 15 minutes ahead of your assigned time, and then just make your way to the start line. Once you cross the finish line, you'll get your race packet with your T-shirt and medal. That's also where you'll find water. There won't be any water offered along the race course, so organizers ask that you please plan ahead!

Independence Day 8L Race Collage

Other changes made to the event before the latest executive order: There will be no post-race party nor will there be a 5K option. If you're a 5K runner/walker and worried about the extra distance, they say not to be. It's less than two miles more, and the course is very scenic! It takes you along tree-lined tour roads, loops the Battlefield, and finishes beyond Surrender Field.

Registration is $40 for both the in-person and virtual races.  You can do both methods by clicking here. 

If you opt for the virtual option, you have from Saturday, July 3 at 8 a.m. until Sunday, July 4 at 7 p.m. to complete and submit your results. Don't forget, there will be an additional fee for mailing your race SWAG.  

Proceeds from this event support the York County Historical Museum, a volunteer, non-profit organization.

Wave That Red, White & Blue!
Patriotic Parade
9 a.m. | Water, Ballard & Main Streets

Perhaps one of the most exciting events of the day is the annual parade! People line the streets in Historic Yorktown as groups of musicians, politicians, civic groups, and performers pass by, waving to the crowds and passing out flags. Listen to patriotic tunes from DJ Ron Herrick, as well as the Fifes and Drums of York Town. If you're wondering where to set up your chairs and blankets - the route starts at the Beach Picnic Area on Water Street (by the fishing pier), and makes its way down Water Street up Ballard Street, and then takes a left onto Main Street, ending at the Victory Monument. 

July Fourth parade collage

The big question, especially if this is your first parade, is...where to park. Your best bet is to stick to the outskirts of town and walk down to the fun. While the parade doesn't start until 9, traffic will get congested extremely quickly so we recommend you arrive early to secure your parking spot. Without fail, year after year, we get messages to our social media accounts from someone who didn't show up until 8:30 or 8:45 and couldn't find parking. 

Try the County Courthouse or Administration Buildings first (both on Ballard Street). Half an hour before the parade starts, Water Street from Comte de Grasse Street to Ballard Street will be closed. Also blocked off will be Ballard Street, from Water to Main Street. Once the parade starts, if you're arriving from George Washington Memorial Highway onto Alexander Hamilton, you will not be able to turn left on Ballard Street. The town will re-open to traffic following the parade!

Ride the Trolley Back to Your Car!
Convenient Stops Throughout Historic Yorktown
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Guglielmo family on trolley
Couple sitting together on the trolley

The Yorktown Trolley, the only form of public transportation in Yorktown, will run from approximately 10 a.m. (following the parade) until 5 p.m. It is free, air-conditioned, handicap accessible, and includes several convenient stops:

  • Yorktown Battlefield Visitor Center
  • Riverwalk Landing
  • Watermen’s Museum
  • American Revolution Museum at Yorktown
  • Intersection of Main and Ballard Streets (York Hall)
  • Intersection of Ballard Street and Alexander Hamilton Blvd. (York-Poquoson Courthouse)

Fun Before the Fireworks
 Food Trucks, Games, Hot Dog Eating Contest & Family Fun!
 Riverwalk Landing | 1 - 9:45 p.m.

For those of you who want to make a day out of your visit—stick around for fun children's activities that kick off at 1 p.m. at Riverwalk Landing. Enjoy corn hole, hula hoops, and other outdoor games... even a hot dog eating contest presented by Carrot Tree Kitchens. 

Hot Dog Eating Contest through Carrot Tree

Historic Yorktown's restaurants will be open for business so you can grab lunch, and there will also be several to-go options at the Patriotic Food Pavilion, open by 4 p.m., until the fireworks are over. This year's list of food trucks and vendors includes local favorites like Carrot Tree Kitchens (hot dogs), Kona Ice, Chef Joseph (fried fish and shrimp), SMOKE BBQ (BBQ & brisket), Boyd's Tasty Dogs (hamburgers), Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, Pop's Kettle Corn, and Coastal Thirst (tacos, quesadillas, watermelon lemonade). The D.A.R.E. tent will be scooping Ben & Jerry's ice cream and serving freshly squeezed lemonade. They will also have goodies for the pint-sized patriots including glow bracelets, necklaces, and pinwheels. All Pavilion proceeds will go to support the York-Poquoson Sheriff Office’s D.A.R.E. Program.

DARE Food Pavilion July Fourth

History buffs will love Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters' July Fourth event: Yorktown 1781! Founding Fathers Walking Tour of the Battlefield. Maureen Wiese and J. Michael Moore of Hampton Roads Tours will provide interesting information and insights not typically found in history books. This tour begins on the site of the British Inner Defenses and will continue with a walk to Redoubt 10. Learn about what happened here that changed our country forever. Purchase tickets and find more information here.

Evening Activities
Bell Ringing Ceremony & Patriotic Concert
7 p.m. | Riverwalk Landing

Every Independence Day, after the reading of the Declaration of Independence, the York County Historical Museum holds a symbolic program that's been a community tradition for decades. First comes the acknowledgment of all 13 colonies, along with the original signers from the Second Continental Congress who together formed the United States of America. The Fifes and Drums of York Town kick off the event at the Riverwalk Landing Performance Stage and each year a different child from the audience is bestowed the very special honor of ringing the bell. Following the historic program, the Super Jazz Band concert featuring Conni Ironmonger will take place, all leading up to the big fireworks finale!

Evening July Fourth Activities including the reading of the Declaration of Indepdence and rining of

Beginning at 4 p.m., unless you are a Historic Yorktown resident, Riverwalk Landing business employee, or have an official pass—the only way to get into Historic Yorktown will be via Cook Road and the Colonial Parkway. Visitors attending the evening activities must park on the Yorktown Battlefield at the corner of Cook Road and Ballard Street. The Battlefield will remain open to the public until it reaches capacity. This includes visitors attempting to access town via Goosley Road, Old Williamsburg Road, the Colonial Parkway, and Mathews Street (by way of George Washington Memorial Highway).

The Grand Finale!
Fireworks Over the York River
9:15 p.m. | Yorktown Beach & Victory Monument

You should be able to see the fireworks anywhere at the waterfront or up on Main Street at the Victory Monument. The show starts at 9:15 and lasts about 15-18 minutes. Some of the fireworks will shoot up to 800 feet into the sky. Just to put that in perspective a little—the Washington Monument in D.C. is 555 feet tall!

2018 Fireworks over the York River on July Fourth

The Yorktown Battlefield, located at the corner of Cook Road and Ballard Street, will be the central parking location for the evening activities and fireworks. The Battlefield will open to the public at 4 p.m. and once again, will close once it reaches capacity. We can't emphasize it enough; get there early!

Battlefield July Fourth Parking

Know Before You Go!

The Trolley stops running at 5 p.m., and it's important to note that the walk from the Battlefield to the waterfront is approximately one mile and includes hills and uneven terrain. Wear comfy shoes—that includes the kids! You also don't want to pack too much stuff you'll have to carry.

Those requiring handicapped parking and special assistance are asked to report to Yorktown Middle School from 4-7 p.m. Special needs transportation will be provided for the handicapped/special needs individual and one escort for each individual. You'll be issued a pass and must hold on to it to return on the shuttle at the end of the evening.

Drop-off will be at the Yorktown Waterfront, approximately 200 yards from the performance area. Due to limited shuttle capacity, we politely request all other individuals in the party take a separate vehicle to park at the Battlefield. The shuttle will make return runs from the Yorktown Waterfront to Yorktown Middle School between 9:45 and 10:30 p.m.

Important Parking Information: All-day street traffic blockades include Zweybrucken Road, Comte de Grasse Street, and Main Street (from Zweybrucken to Ballard). The Beach Picnic Area will also be closed to vehicular traffic. Pedestrian traffic only. Church, Nelson, Smith, and Bacon Streets will be restricted to residents only.

Important Reminders

  • You may bring lawn chairs, blankets, and coolers
  • Alcoholic beverages are prohibited!
  • BBQ grills are restricted to the Beach Picnic Area (with designated areas to dispose of hot coals)
  • Beach Picnic Area is open to the public, but closed to vehicular traffic all day
  • It is recommended that pets remain at home as the heat, crowds, loud music, and fireworks can be upsetting

Stay Connected
Website & Social Media

Check out our special Fourth of July page at www.visityorktown.org for more on what to do while you're in town including at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. And be sure to follow Visit Yorktown on Facebook as that's where we'll post any and all updates the day of the event. While we try to respond to direct messages and comments, as you can imagine, there are quite a few that come in that way and the best way to get information in a hurry is to simply go to our page and scroll through our feed.