Whether you want to spend a low-key day on the water or ogle impressive firework displays, California offers a 4th of July celebration for you. Below are a few Independence Day celebrations to consider. And if you miss these, don’t worry—there are plenty of July events throughout the rest of the month.
Watch booming fireworks
South Lake Tahoe’s synchronized, top-rated fireworks display can be seen from all around town, but the lake location offers some unique viewing angles. Watch from the water on a boat cruise or luxury yacht (bubbly included), or “ooh” and “ahh” from the sky with Pacific North Helicopters.
One of the most elaborate displays in Los Angeles County can be found in Marina Del Rey. Watch the show with synchronized music at Burton Chace Park or Fisherman’s Village, or join the two-hour ride on Hornblower Cruises, which is timed to catch the fireworks. Want a more private viewing area? Consider chartering your own boat and watching from the deck. (Find more L.A. events here.)
Further south in Orange County, the City of Newport Beach Fireworks Extravaganza is one of the best displays in Southern California. Before the show, spend the day on the water at Newport Dunes, where you can rent kayaks, a sailboat, or standup paddleboards.
You can find 4th of July celebrations all over San Diego County—check this list for ideas—but the biggest fireworks display is the Big Bay Boom, an elaborately choreographed show visible from Shelter Island, Harbor Island, Seaport Village, and more.
Burn off the barbecue in advance
In Ventura County, start your day at the Channel Islands Harbor 4th of July 5K/10K, then find an early spot to see the decorated Duffys during the 4th of July Electric Boat Parade, which takes place before the Channel Island Harbor’s Fireworks by the Sea. In Sacramento, participate in the city’s oldest running event, a 5-mile running race starting in Glenn Hall Park. Dress in costume for the first annual Big Bear Lake 5K, 10K, and 15K, or test your all-out pace at the Firecracker Mile in Truckee or Footloose Freedom Mile in Mammoth Lakes.
Celebrate at California’s theme parks
There are fireworks every night at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, but the 4th of July features a special show with patriotic music—perhaps viewed from the just-opened Pixar Pier. From June 30–July 4 in Vallejo, you can ride rollercoasters during exclusive times and see fireworks nightly at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.
In San Diego County, LEGOLAND California salutes the nation’s birthday with its annual Red, White & Boom, while SeaWorld San Diego celebrates with the Red, White and Brew Beer Garden featuring live music and craft beer from July 4–8. (Insider tip: You can reserve fireworks seating in advance at one of the amphitheaters.) Just inland from Santa Cruz, take your kids to see the elaborate circus trees, play in the water park, and then enjoy all-you-can-eat barbecue at Gilroy Gardens.
Listen to your favorite patriotic songs
The Hollywood Bowl celebrates the 4th over a three-night run with The Go-Gos and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Nearby in Pasadena, the Rose Bowl’s Americafest features a concert with American Idol winner Maddie Poppe and a Michael Jackson tribute. Further north in Sonoma County, watch the Transcendence Theatre Company and the Santa Rosa Symphony at Sonoma State University's Green Music Center. (Find more holiday events in Sonoma County here.) All shows end with a fireworks show.
You can find activities throughout the whole day in Santa Barbara, from a parade and art show in the afternoon to an evening concert at the Santa Barbara Courthouse Sunken Gardens and fireworks show at West Beach. If you’re considering a trip to the Bay Area for the 4th, SF Travel has compiled this list of celebrations for every type of traveler, including waterfront kayaking excursions, a block party in Oakland, and family-friendly activities at Pier 39. In the Greater Palm Springs area, you’ll find multiple fireworks displays and parties highlighted in this guide. And if an old-fashioned Independence Day is more your style, consider historic celebrations at Wilder Ranch in Santa Cruz or the Gold Rush town of Columbia.