The best people to stay cool was at the beach, and in Belmar, visitors walked on the new boardwalk built after Superstorm Sandy.
Thousands hit the beaches, enjoying the sunny skies and warm weather.
The beach weather is expected to continue, with a heat advisory in effect for the next few days.
In Union Beach, which was destroyed by Sandy, residents had something to celebrate.
The working-class town won a party and fireworks contest from the television station Destination America and USA Weekend magazine.
"It's wonderful. Everyone's been so depressed," said Mary Chepulis as she watched a local band perform on a stage that stood where the home next to hers had been.
Connecticut's state parks with access to lakes and Long Island Sound quickly filled up as visitors tried to beat the heat and humidity.
Cyndy Chanaca, a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said Thursday that parking lots were filling to capacity at Hammonasset State Park in Madison and Rocky Neck State Park in Old Lyme, the two major public areas on Long Island Sound.
Motorists also were flocking on Independence Day to many other parks that offer swimming at lakes. Visitors were claiming every available parking space.
Many towns held their annual 4th of July parades, and one of the largest in New Jersey was in Ridgewood.
Residents lined the streets as the village held its 103th Independence Day parade.
Gov. Chris Christie, his wife Mary Pat Christie and other family members marched in the parade.