The holiday commemorates America's original 13 colonies' declaring independence from Great Britain in 1776. July 4 has since become a federal holiday, giving all Americans an annual opportunity to celebrate.
In Tennessee, Strawberry Plains resident Diane Wilson, 67, said the day brings memories of her childhood, particularly one occasion in which she stepped barefoot on a lit sparkler.
"Didn't make me scared of sparklers though," Wilson said, laughing. "Just didn't go barefoot much after that."
In New York, Bill Etzel -- a Chicago native -- visited One World Trade Center, the structure in Lower Manhattan emerging from the scene of the September 11 attacks more than a decade ago.
"The Fourth means more today than it ever has before," said Etzel.
Meanwhile, a popular hot dog eating competition brought two reigning champs across the East River to Brooklyn for the annual tradition.
Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas defended her title Wednesday afternoon at the Nathan's hot dog eating competition, setting a new women's world record after downing 45 hot dogs and buns.
She weighs about 100 pounds.
Her male counterpart, Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, also defended his title during the competition, tying his world record by downing 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes.
His victory Wednesday marks his sixth win at the competition.