July in California: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

San Francisco Fireworks Over the Golden Gate Bridge. David Paul Morris/Getty Images

In July, summer is in full swing in California. All the top tourist attractions will be pack full of vacations, and that will continue until September. Los Angeles will likely be hot. And San Francisco may be colder than you think.

Desert locales like Death Valley, Palm Springs, and Joshua Tree National Park get so hot that only the hardiest of travelers should make the trip.

In the mountains, the snow will be gone, except for that rare year when the last snowfall was in May. Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park will be open, allowing easier access to Eastern California and Highway 395. With all that said, if you're heading to California in July, read on for what to pack, and a list of exciting events to check out.

Independence Day in California

We love to celebrate Independence Day, don't we? Of course, the day has to include fireworks — and maybe a picnic.

If you're looking for a 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. 

California Weather in July

July may or may not the best time of year for a beach day. It all depends on whether the weather condition nicknamed June Gloom persists into "No Sky July." Unfortunately, that can't be predicted ahead of time, and all you can do is check the short-range forecast a week or two before your trip.

How hot does it get in California in the summer? That depends on where you want to go. You can get details of the highs and lows around the state in July (and all year round) by consulting these guides to some average highs, lows, and more weather considerations in some popular tourist destinations, such as San DiegoLos AngelesDisneylandDeath ValleyPalm SpringsSan FranciscoYosemite, and Lake Tahoe.

What to Pack

Your packing list will vary depending on where you go and what you're doing. These are a few things to keep in mind.

The beach areas are always colder than inland, and they get even chillier when the sun goes down. And the ocean water is too cold for most people to be comfortable swimming without a wetsuit.

Dress warmly for fireworks anywhere near the ocean. San Francisco can be exceptionally cold and foggy, with up to three warm layers required to stay comfortable.

July Events in California

  • Garlic Festival, Gilroy: Some of the foods they serve sound a bit bizarre and garlic ice cream is only one example, 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 exciting 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.
  • 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 fair for the entire state lasts for more than two weeks, with competitions, concerts, and food.
  • Fillmore Street Jazz Festival, San Francisco: This big, busy and fun street fair offers lots of great music.
  • Kite Festival, Berkeley: 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: It's good to know about the marathon, even if you aren't going to run. That's because city streets close for the event.
  • Whale Watching in July: You'll be looking for blue whales, humpback and Minke whales.
  • In Los Angeles, the Hollywood Bowl's summer concert series is unique in its ambiance and beauty. Near San Jose, try the intimate and historic Paul Masson Mountain Winery where you can see some big name performers. In San Francisco, summer concerts are always free at Stern Grove.
  • Football for Free: If you want to see professional football play for free, don’t miss this. In July and August, the Dallas Cowboys football team hold their training camp in Oxnard. You can watch their practice games and you don’t even need to get a ticket. Just show up early: Admission is first-come/first-served until capacity is reached. You can get more details at the Visit Oxnard website and see the schedule on the Dallas Cowboys site.

July Travel Tips

  • 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 can sell out far in advance.
  • One of San Diego's biggest conventions of the year is Comic-Con, which happens 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 far 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. To get a head start on ticket sales, go to the Hollywood Bowl website, like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.
  • If you plan to camp at Yosemite between June 15 and July 14, be ready to make your reservations in February. All the other things you need to know about exact dates and times are in the guide to Yosemite camping reservations.
  • If you want to go camping at a California state park in July, make your reservations six months ahead of time in February. It's harder than you might think to get it all right, but everything you need to know is in the guide to making reservations at California state parks.
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