It's smokin' hot out there and that can only mean one thing . . . summer is officially underway and therefore July 4th must be right around the corner. Time to fire up the grill, break-out the patriotic clothing, and make plans to celebrate with friends and family. I'll admit, 4th of July is one of my favorites – a time when we band together as Americans and celebrate our country. A time when the lemonade just tastes sweeter and when apple pie and ice cream are enjoyed in mass quantity at my house. That's always a good thing!

What special 4th of July memories can you remember? Better yet, rather than remembering past holidays, why not plan to make this 4th one that will make you smile for years to come. Here are a few ideas to help make that happen.

4 Fun Ideas for a Fantastic 4th

1. Spend 4th of July by the water
Find a lake, a pool or a beach to enjoy swimming, fishing, canoeing, boating and splashing to beat the heat.

2. Have a 4th of July barbecue with family and friends
If you've been invited to barbecue, enjoy this American tradition and if not, why not host your own 4th of July barbecue? Be sure to include 4th inspired desserts and drinks and buy a few sparklers and firecrackers to end the night with a bang. If you're not up for having the party at your home, have your friends meet you at a park – make sure to bring lots of cold drinks and barbecue fare to enjoy.

3. Attend a 4th of July festival
If you can't make it to the water and find yourself without the motivation to throw a party, no worries, find a community that celebrates the 4th with a festival and go enjoy the holiday en masse. Catch a parade or better yet, volunteer to be in a parade.

4. Watch Fireworks
It wouldn't be 4th of July without fireworks! You can buy your own and host a private fireworks display or check your local Chamber of Commerce to find a display close to home. Bring a blanket and chill-out under the stars as the sky lights up to commemorate our nation's birthday.

Happy 235th birthday America. And many more.