The Best Places to Celebrate Bastille Day in the U.S.
On July 14, France will celebrate the 230th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille—the most famous flashpoint of the French Revolution. And though hopping a plane to watch fireworks glimmer over the Eiffel Tower for the occasion would obviously be pretty cool, so would hitting a Bastille Day fête right here in the good ole’ U.S. of A. In fact, some stateside bashes last all weekend. (We’ve got to make it our own, right?) From Nashville to New York, here are six of the best.
New York City
The French Institute Alliance Française hosts New York’s largest public celebration of Bastille Day—a three-block party on East 60th Street off Fifth Avenue. This year, FIAF has partnered with the Côte d’Azur tourism board to serve up specialty foods (Jacques Torres Chocolate and Ladurée will be contributing, so get excited), plus wine, music and shopping. There will also be raffle drawings to win everything from dinner at a local French restaurant to a trip for two to Cannes. Bonne chance!
Milwaukee? Yes, Milwaukee. The city kicks off its 38th annual East Town Bastille Days (as in, more than one) on Thursday in Cathedral Square Park and celebrates through Sunday. Expect around 250,000 fellow revelers, plus roaming minstrels, French and Cajun cooking demos, wine tastings, and—for proper dazzle—a 43-foot Eiffel Tower replica that puts on hourly light shows.
Alliance Française de Nashville (yup, that’s a thing) will be hosting its Annual French Fest on Bastille Day Eve in Sevier Park. The free (and dog-friendly) event is perfect for both Francophiles and families, with a French-inspired food market, wine tastings (and some bourbon tastings, for good measure), plus a miniature Tour de France. And because this is the Music City we’re talking about here, you can expect live performances from French singers and bands.
St. Louis doesn’t just celebrate—it throws a fully lavish, Marie Antoinette-grade affair. Held at the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion, a gorgeous property founded by French immigrants in the 1800s, the city’s Bastille Day Celebration includes costumed performances of period dancing, military reenactments, a balcony performance of the French national anthem, and cameo appearances from Louis XVI and Madame Déficit herself. Try to learn the phrase "Liberté! Égalité! Fraternité!" before you go—people are known to shout it between cannon shots.
Los Angeles is the place to be for music-loving Francophiles this Bastille Day, with the Cal Phil performing iconic numbers from French composers. The lineup includes symphonies from Camille Saint-Saëns and Hector Berlioz, who were both instrumental (heh) artists during the Romantic era. But the pièce de résistance will be excerpts from Les Misérables—the best (okay, and only?) Broadway musical about the French Revolution—with seven award-winning soloists and choirs. (Tickets are available here.)