The country is gearing up to for its semiquincentennial and a big burst of patriotism
Many Americans are totally unaware of it, but a major national celebration is on the horizon.
Expected to boost tourism, America250 comprises a series of special events and museum exhibitions that honor our nation’s founding. The red-letter day will be July 4, 2026, the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, but events will take place months before and after.
Many are already comparing America250 to the country’s bicentennial bash in 1976, a star-spangled commemoration that, for those old enough to remember, evokes memories bathed in red, white and blue. There were sculptures and monuments created for the occasion, plenty of USA-themed merchandising and festivities in towns big and small.
Former U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios, who heads America250 as chair of the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission, fondly recalls that celebration as an 11-year-old in Northern California, where she grew up with eight siblings raised by a single mother, an immigrant from Mexico. She watched sailing ships gather in Boston and New York harbors on her family’s black-and-white television, visited the national Freedom Train exhibit when it stopped in Oakland and witnessed the Fourth of July fireworks.
“I remember feeling a strong love of country during the bicentennial in 1976,” Rios said. “I want my kids—and all Americans—to experience that same feeling for the upcoming semiquincentennial.”
Almost 40 states have established their own commissions
Besides the national semiquincentennial commission (composed of private citizens and public officials), 38 states so far have established their own commissions. Representatives from those state bodies and from various historical and cultural institutions will gather next March at Colonial Williamsburg for “A Common Cause for All,” the second annual national planning session put on by the Virginia American Revolution 250 Commission (VA250). The inaugural meeting was held there last March.
Williamsburg makes a logical meeting place, as the national commission mirrors the 18th century committees of correspondence, groups through which the British American colonies began to communicate and coordinate action as they faced Parliamentary taxation and threats to their rights as Englishmen. Early patriots like Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry were part of the Virginia committee that met at Williamsburg’s Raleigh Tavern prior to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.
As home to the original 13 colonies, the Eastern Seaboard as a whole naturally will be a prime focus of semiquincentennial festivities and observances, with Virginia—the first, largest and most prosperous colony—in a starring role.
“Virginia is leading the nation in commemorating America’s 250th birthday because Virginia is the birthplace of the American Revolution,” said Cheryl Wilson, executive director of VA250. “This is where the resistance first organized and where the war ended at Yorktown. Millions of visitors from all over the world will come to Virginia to learn about our nation’s history and experience the many historic sites and attractions our state has to offer….. It will be a patriotic and unforgettable experience.”
One signature event will be Sail250 Virginia (June 12-14 and June 19-22, 2026), which will feature an international fleet of tall ships and military vessels in Norfolk and other ports. In Richmond, the 250th anniversary of Patrick Henry’s rousing “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech will be celebrated at St. John’s Church on March 23, 2025, followed by the grand opening of the Give Me Liberty exhibition at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture. The Give Me Liberty exhibition opens at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown in April 2026.
The countdown to 2026 has begun.
Leisure Group Travel will run features covering this event starting in 2024.
For more information, log on to www.america250.org and www.va250.org.
For more great stories about the tourism industry, Subscribe to Leisure Group Travel magazine for FREE.
By Randy Mink