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California in July: 13 Things You'll Absolutely Want to Do
July's Big Holiday: Independence Day
We love to celebrate Independence Day, don't we? Of course, there has to be fireworks - and maybe a picnic.
If you're looking for a good way to celebrate and get out of town (even if you don't go very far), all you have to do is open the guide to Fourth of July in California.
If you live in California, you probably already know this, but just in case you don't: San Francisco can be frigid and foggy on July 4. So foggy that the fireworks look just like colorful flashes in the clouds and so cold that I have ended up layering three sweatshirts just to keep warm. You may not believe me - many people don't - but you can't say I didn't tell you when you're shivering in your shorts.
Top Picks for July in California
Our favorite thing to do in summer is a good outdoor concert, but these events are fun, too:
Garlic Festival, Gilroy: Some of the foods they serve sound a bit bizarre (garlic ice cream?), but it draws a big crowd... nevertheless
Pageant of the Masters, Laguna Beach: It's an eye-popping, nearly indescribable thing, the way they use real, three-dimensional sets and makes them look like two-dimensional master artworks
Farms+ Fish+ Flowers (formerly Tour des Fleurs), Half Moon Bay: You probably didn't know how much interesting agriculture goes on around Half Moon Bay, but you can spend an enjoyable day finding out during Farms+Fish+Flowers. You can visit organic farms, flower growers, and other fun spots. And with several tour packages to choose from, you can go back every year and never do the same thing twice. If you like goats - or goat cheese - or just being around people who followed their passions, pick a package that includes Harley Farms.
In Los Angeles, the Hollywood Bowl's summer concert series is unique in its ambiance and beauty. Near San Jose, the intimate and historic Paul Masson Mountain Winery attracts big names. In San Francisco, the concerts are always free at San Francisco's Stern Grove.
Things That Look Like Fun To Do in July
These events look like fun, but we haven't had time to try them yet.
California Rodeo, Salinas: California Rodeo competitions take place over four days, but the celebrations go on for a full week, with cowboy poetry readings, concerts, and the Miss California Rodeo competition.
California State Fair, Sacramento: The official one
Fillmore Street Jazz Festival, San Francisco: A big, busy and fun street fair with lots of great music.
Kite Festival, Berkeley: It's colorful, and you can't imagine how creative some of the kites are. You can even learn how to make one yourself.
Orange County Fair, Costa Mesa: One of the state's biggest and most popular county fairs.
San Francisco Marathon: This one is good to know about even if you aren't going to run - city streets are closed for the event.
Dine Downtown, San Jose: A great opportunity to sample some of the city's best restaurants at reduced prices.Continue to 2 of 3 below.
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Things to Do in California in July That You Must Plan Ahead For
Laguna Beach's Pageant of the Masters runs July through September, but January is the time to start making plans and buying tickets for the popular event, which almost always sells out far in advance.
One of San Diego's biggest conventions of the year is Comic-Con, which is held in July. If you're a fan, it's best to plan far ahead. Tickets sell out in January or in February, and with so many people attending, hotels fill up fast (and get expensive). If you don't want to attend, it's best to plan your San Diego vacation at another time.
If you want to attend a July 4 fireworks concert at the Hollywood Bowl, plan ahead for that in May. By late June, you'll find only single seats left. Get an overview and review of the Hollywood Bowl here. Go to the Hollywood Bowl website, like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter and you can get a head start.
If you're planning to camp at Yosemite between June 15 and July 14, be ready at 7:00 a.m. Pacific Time on... February 15 to make your reservations online. For July 15 through August 14, be ready at 7:00 a.m. on March 15. You can do that online or by phone at 877-444-6777 or 518-885-3639 from outside the US & Canada. Get an overview and more options here.
If you want to go camping at a California state park in July, make your reservations six months ahead of time in February. Everything you need to know is here.Continue to 3 of 3 below.
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More About California in July
Dress warmly for fireworks anywhere near the ocean. San Francisco can be exceptionally cold and foggy, with up to three sweatshirts required to stay comfortable.
More California by Month
If you're just starting to plan your California trip and want to know what it's like year round and not just in July, you can get a look at every month of the year using these guides. California in the winter is great for skiing and snow play and all the events you'll find in the guide to California in December, January, and February. It's also a great time for a winter weekend getaway.
Spring gets going in March and April, and clear skies will continue at the coast into May. Get an overview of things to do in California in the spring and try some of these California spring getaway ideas.
Summer holiday season starts in June and continues through July and August. It's the busiest tourist season and some parts of the state get almost unbearably hot, but it's a great time for mountain... hiking. Start exploring using our guide for things to do in the summer and get busy planning your summer California getaway.
Fall is my favorite time of year in California. You'll see why in this guide to California in the fall. Weather is beautiful in September and October. By November, winter rains may have set in – or not. Start thinking about your California fall getaway now.