The Scoop on Celebrating Independence Day in Yorktown
It’s one of the most exciting times of the year in Yorktown! On July 4th, the community gathers with visitors from all over the country to celebrate our nation’s founding. Why is Yorktown such a popular place to be on this historic day? Well, it’s where our independence was won!
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 Yorktown galleries, Riverwalk Landing shops, and waterfront restaurants; and explore museums. We're going to outline what you need to know in this Insider's Guide, including the schedule, changes to activities, where you can (and can't) park, and more!
Follow in the Footsteps of Heroes
Independence Day 8K Run/Walk
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!
Race participants will park and gather near the York High School tennis courts and be led to the start line by the Fifes and Drums of York Town. This year, the race salutes the USS Yorktown CG-48! The USS Yorktown protected America from 1984-2004.
Pre-registered participants will receive a t-shirt and custom-designed medal (first 600) at the finish line. Awards will be given to the top three overall men and women. Additionally, there is also a virtual 8K and 5K option. Click here for more information and to sign up.
Wave That Red, White & Blue!
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 Ben 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.
The big question is always 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.
Try the County Courthouse or Administration Buildings first (both on Ballard Street). From 8:45 to 10 a.m., Water Street will be closed from Read to Buckner and Ballard Street will be closed from Water to Main. 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.
The Yorktown Trolley 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
American Revolution Museum at Yorktown
Intersection of Main and Ballard Streets (York Hall)
Ballard Street (near the 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. They're still looking for contestants! If you're interested, call 757.988.1999. You'll have five minutes to eat as many dogs as you can. Prizes include gift certificates to Carrot Tree, t-shirts, and dog toys from one of Riverwalk Landing's newest businesses, Gangsta Dog. For the kiddos, there will be something new this year: cake testing! Have your children sample some sweet treats and vote on which they like best.
Historic Yorktown's restaurants will be open for business so you can grab lunch or dinner, 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 Kona Ice, Chef Joseph’s (fried fish and shrimp), SMOKE BBQ (BBQ & brisket), Boyd's Tasty Dogs (hamburgers), Snack Attack, 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.
History buffs will love Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters' July Fourth Battlefield Walking Tour from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. The event, led by Mobjack’s very own historian and history educator, will include the British Defense line, discussion of the 1st and 2nd Parallels, and Redoubts 9 and 10. Topics will also include the Moore House where the surrender terms were negotiated, and the surrender on October 19, 1781. This tour begins at the National Park Visitor Center Parking Lot.
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!
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!
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. Plan to get there early!
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.
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
Website & Social Media
Check out our special Fourth of July page for more on what to do while you're in town, including special programming at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. And be sure to follow Visit Yorktown on Facebook and Instagram as that's where we'll post any and all updates the day of the event.