Fourth of July in California

  • 01 of 06

    Fourth of July in San Francisco

    Fourth of July Fireworks in San Francisco
    ••• David Paul Morris/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    If you love watching Independence Day fireworks displays, we've rounded the best places to enjoy them in California.

    More Ways to Celebrate July 4 in California

    If you'd rather be angling than ogling the skies, July 1 (which is often part of the July 4 weekend) is also one of two annual free fishing days, when Californians can fish in any freshwater lake without a license. You have to obey all the other fishing laws, of course.

    If you want to go camping in a California state park for Independence Day, reservations open January 2. Find out how to reserve your spot and get tips for what to do if they're full.

    If you're taking a trip for the holiday, you might want to do something on July 2nd or 3rd... or even the 5th. You can find more things to do in California in July here.

    4th of July in San Francisco

    San Francisco sets off twin 4th of July fireworks displays: They're launched from Aquatic Pier just below Ghirardelli Square and from a barge near Pier 39. Two of the best places to watch...MORE them are from parking garages: on the top floor of the Anchorage shopping center and the Pier 39 garage.

    To see fireworks all around the Bay, try Treasure Island. Or go up into the Marin Headlands north of the Golden Gate Bridge for a bird's eye view. For both of locations, you need to get there early. These prime spots fill up hours in advance.

    You can also see the fireworks while on a dinner cruise with Hornblower Cruises. How cool is that?

    During the day, head to the East Bay town of Alameda, which holds one of the country's biggest Fourth of July parades, so big that locals joke that half the 80,000 residents turn out to watch the other half marching past. Get this year's details.

    There's nothing more American than baseball. Check if the San Francisco Giants or the Oakland Athletics are playing at home. Independence Day evening games often include a fireworks show, giving you two-for-one entertainment.

    If you're from out of town and don't know this, don't plan on watching the fireworks wearing that skimpy little summer outfit you love so much. Fourth of July in San Francisco can be foggy and cold. In fact, we've worn as many as four layers to keep warm while watching the fireworks.

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  • 02 of 06

    Fourth of July at Lake Tahoe

    Fireworks at Lake Tahoe
    ••• Steve Dunleavy/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The big celebration at Lake Tahoe is Lights on the Lake. It's the largest synchronized fireworks display in the western United States. The fireworks are launched from barges just off the South Shore at the town of Stateline, NV.

    Incline Village also has an Independence celebration, the Red, White and Tahoe Blue Festival and includes a parade, fireworks and duck races - featuring an adorable bunch of rubber duckies floating down the stream toward the lake. You can find out more at their website.

    In a rare year with lots of late snow, you might have a hard time deciding whether to pack the water skis or the snow skis for Tahoe on the Fourth, with skiing still going on at some of the area's bigger, higher-elevated resorts like Squaw Valley.

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  • 03 of 06

    Fourth of July in Northern California

    Raley Field
    ••• Fireworks at Raley Field. _Eazie_ / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    San Francisco's twin fireworks shows and Tahoe's pyrotechnics often overshadow other northern California July 4 celebrations, but don't let them distract you. Try some of these fun activities for a change of pace.

    Napa County Fair: The annual county fair often ends with a fireworks show. Get this year's schedule.

    Sacramento: The state capitol's July 4th Pyro Fireworks Celebration is held at CalExpo, the state fairgrounds. USA Today says Sacramento's Raley Field is one of the best places to watch minor league baseball in the country, and what could be more American than that? Check the Sacramento Rivercats' schedule.

    Six Flags Discovery Kingdom: Up in Vallejo, you can ride yourself silly and see a fireworks show, all in the same place. Check here for more details, hours, and schedule.

    Lake Oroville: A nice fireworks show over the lake in the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills, lasting about 30 minutes. Details are on their Facebook page.

    Ski Mammoth: It may not happen very often, but every...MORE once in a while, snow lingers so late in the Eastern Sierra that you can ski at Mammoth Mountain on July 4.

    Old-Fashioned Fourth of July in Gold Country: The Gold Rush town of Columbia puts on a very old-fashioned Fourth of July Celebration, with a parade anyone can march in. After that, there's a concert, street dance and lots of traditional activities to enjoy.

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  • 04 of 06

    Fourth of July in Los Angeles

    Hollywood Bowl Fireworks
    ••• Courtesy of Los Angeles Philharmonic Association

    You'll find lots of fun ways to celebrate Independence Day in the LA area.

    Disneyland: It's like 4th of July every day when the fireworks go off at Disneyland, but on Independence Day, you'd better get there early. The park can get so crowded that they stop letting new visitors in. And find a spot to watch the fireworks extra early, too.

    Hollywood Bowl: As part of its summer series, the Hollywood Bowl offers 4th of July concerts featuring a headline act and patriotic music performed by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. When they start playing The Star Spangled Banner, I defy any patriotic American to resist the thrill when the rockets go off at just the right moment - and the fireworks show is so close that you have to crane your neck to see them go off.

    Marina del Rey: Los Angeles' big public fireworks display happens at Marina Del Rey, just south of Santa Monica. This guide has all the details.

    Newport Beach: Southern California's largest fireworks display goes off at Newport Dunes...MORE Resort, and one of the best places to watch them is on a dinner cruise. There's also a fun Old Glory Boat Parade in Newport during the day.

    Cinespia at Hollywood Forever: The improbable-sounding summer film series at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery includes a movie and a fireworks display to rival some of the best in town, and you can watch it all from the comfort of your picnic blanket. Find out what's playing and get your tickets ahead of time at the Cinespia website. To avoid parking hassles, pay ahead for a parking spot at the cemetery or plan to take a ride-sharing service to get there.

    Rose Bowl, Pasadena: Americafest at the Rose Bowl has been going on for more than 80 years. It's an all-day 4th of July celebration, with reasonably priced tickets, a concert and fireworks display.

    A Grand Party: All four blocks of Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles turn into a 4th of July Block Party, but know this ahead of time: No alcohol is allowed and bags will be searched. 

    Take Me Out to the Ball Game: There's nothing more American than baseball. Check if the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Anaheim Angels are playing at home.

    Private Showing: Here's an idea for a hassle-free holiday celebration, but you need to plan ahead. Find a place to stay on Air BNB that has a city view. High-rise buildings downtown are especially good, or look for a place in the hills with a deck and view, making sure the view they show on the listing is taken from the exact place you'll be staying. Pick up your favorite food and beverages, settle down on the deck, and watch the fireworks going off all over town.

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  • 05 of 06

    Fourth of July in San Diego

    San Diego Bay Fireworks
    ••• Nathan Rupert/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    San Diego celebrates the 4th of July in a big way, with their Big Bay Fireworks show, launching aerial displays from four barges around the bay. The best places to watch are North San Diego Bay, Shelter Island, and Harbor Island. Or why not watch them on a dinner cruise? Find out all the details for that here.

    There's nothing more American than baseball. Check if the San Diego Padres are playing at home.

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  • 06 of 06

    Fourth of July in Southern California

    Golf Cart Parade
    ••• Golf Cart Parade in Avalon. Courtesy of Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce

    These are a few more places in Southern California that have fun things to do for the holiday:

    Big Bear: California's fifth-largest 4th of July fireworks display happens at Big Bear Lake in the mountains above Los Angeles. ​Get details here.

    Unusual Fourth of July Parade: In the town of Avalon on Catalina Island, golf carts outnumber cars as the primary form of transportation, so what else could they hold, but a golf cart parade? It's followed by a barbecue and music at the Casino, with fireworks viewing from the balcony. Details are here.

    KABOOM in Pomona: KABOOM celebration at the Pomona Fairplex is a night of exciting shows on the Fourth of July complete with Monster Trucks and Motocross

    Have a Presidential Fourth: The Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley offers a fun look into American politics and the Presidency - and they've got a real Air Force One airplane on display. On Independence Day, they offer special patriotic concerts and family entertainment, with free admission to the...MORE outdoor activities. Find out more about visiting the Reagan Library.