When Washington area residents have the granddaddy of all Independence Day parties, "A Capitol Fourth" practically in their own backyard, heading north of the nation's capital to catch fireworks elsewhere may prove a hard sell.

But for District dwellers willing to break with tradition, Baltimore offers two alternative celebrations.

"Spending the evening at Baltimore's Inner Harbor is a great way to celebrate July 4th. Visitors can enjoy entertainment, food at a local restaurant or find a cool spot along the promenade to relax; and then watch as the sky over the harbor lights up with a wonderful fireworks show," said Tracy Baskerville, communications director for the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts.

Indeed, "Ports America Chesapeake Fourth of July Celebration" has downtown Baltimore buzzing today from 2-10 p.m. today. The jazz band Lovecraft kicks off the party with a show at the Inner Harbor's amphitheater followed by the U.S. Naval Academy Band Electric Brigade performing pop music hits.

The evening's fiery climax, colorfully reflected in the calm waters of the harbor, is produced by Pyrotecnico, America's largest and most innovative fireworks display and special effects company. Baltimore's "... rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air ..." is choreographed to festive music for all ages. Those who appreciate the quaint and funky neighborhoods around the harbor will be glad to know that the show can be seen form Harbor East, Federal Hill, Fells Point, Locust Point, Canton and beyond.

Twenty miles north of the city in Baltimore County, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra kicks off its summer season at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville today. This "Star Spangled Spectacular" is an all-American salute to Independence Day with guest conductor Donald Pippin leading the BSO in a variety of patriotic songs.

This year's celebration, in the park setting, complete with band shell for the orchestra and several food and drink vendors, features Baltimore Orioles 1983 World Series MVP Award winner Rick Dempsey as host and vocalist. The evening's rousing conclusion features a fireworks display choreographed to Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" and Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever."

"The Baltimore Symphony loves celebrating the Fourth of July at Oregon Ridge with thousands of local families. There's nothing else in Baltimore like it, from enjoying a pre-concert picnic on the hill to relaxing under the stars while being serenaded by the BSO. With the rousing fireworks finale to cap things off -- what more could you ask for?" said Paul Meecham, BSO president and chief executive officer.

Wherever the 4th of July finds Americans celebrating, therein is found a deep-seated sense of freedom and community. And, naturally, music and fireworks.