Independence Day Getaways

Let me guess: It’s June 29 and you still haven’t figured out what you’re going to do for the 4th of July. Well, even though it falls on Wednesday this year, it’s still a great reason to take the day off (or a loooong weekend) and have some outdoor family fun, and there’s hardly a community in Northern California that’s not planning a day of entertainment to make the holiday memorable. Here are my top picks for the top spots to enjoy a cold beer and watch bombs bursting in air.


Billed as the largest synchronized fireworks display west of the Mississippi, South Lake Tahoe’s annual fireworks show, Lights on the Lake, is one of Northern California’s signature Independence Day events. It’s so big, in fact, that NBC’s Today Show selected it as one of the country’s top Fourth of July weekend celebrations. Prime viewing spots are around South Shore’s sandy beaches, and the decks of the Tahoe Queen and MS Dixie II paddlewheelers. This year it will take place on July 4 at 9:45pm, so there’s plenty of time to find a good spot to watch the show.

Incline Village pulls out all the stops with a multi-day celebration called Red, White & Tahoe Blue, scheduled for July 2 through July 7. It’s four full days of fun, food, music, entertainment and a massive fireworks display. Events include a parade (which you can enter if you have a float), concerts, flag raising, chalk drawing contest, ice cream social for kids, parade, dress-up-doggie contest, opening ceremonies, and rubber ducky race. There’s so much going on that you’ll need to download their events schedule at

Fireworks for Red, White & Tahoe Blue get under way at Incline Beach Wednesday, July 4, at 9:30pm. If you’re planning on attending, be sure to log onto the website and donate a few dollars to help pay for the fireworks display.

Truckee hosts an old-fashioned July Fourth Holiday Celebration on Wednesday, July 4, with a dog-friendly Truckee Firecracker Mile Fun Run for all ages followed by a hometown parade in historical downtown along Commercial Row. Then starting at noon is a Fourth of July Street Party with live music, followed by the Truckee Fourth of July Fireworks and dusk.


Reno is Artown, one of the biggest arts festivals in the country, features more than 500 events centered in and around family-friendly Wingfield Park on the Truckee River in downtown Reno. The holiday weekend is packed with everything from walking tours to children’s theater productions, movies in the park, and an eclectic array of concerts.

Neighboring Sparks will provide the boom-boom with a Star Spangled Sparks celebration that includes family activities (clowns, face painters, balloon animals), live entertainment, an Air National Guard C-130 flyover, and the best fireworks show in Northern Nevada.


The San Francisco Independence Day Waterfront Festival in San Francisco will shine on all things nautical, starting with a full agenda of daytime events at Pier 39, Hyde Street Pier, the Cannery, and Ghirardelli Square. Come nightfall, what’s billed as the largest fireworks display on the West Coast will light up the bay. Watch it from shore or snag a ride on a fireworks cruise offered by the Red & White or Blue & Gold fleets. Heck, they even managed to schedule your favorite 80s band, Tainted Love, at 6:30pm, followed by the fireworks show at 9:30pm.

The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra performs its annual Fourth of July concert at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View. The concert will feature the orchestra performing sports-themed repertoire (narrated by San Francisco 49ers announcer Ted Robinson) in celebration of the London Olympics and concludes with a spectacular fireworks display. Tickets are available through Live Nation

Or get your soul on along with the 90,000 fans who will head to Pacific Heights July 7-8 to groove to jazz fusion, Latin rhythms, Cajun, and old standards at the Fillmore Jazz Festival. Part of Fillmore Street closes to traffic so jazz enthusiasts can enjoy arts & crafts, gourmet food, and live jazz from 10am to 6pm. Best of all, admission is free.

The top-ranked Alameda County Fair, which draws 3 million people annually, is celebrating its 100th Anniversary. Highlights of the June 20-July 8 event in Pleasanton include concerts by the The Temptations on July 5 and Morris Day & The Time on July 7. A revamped carnival, horse racing, and rib cook-off are just part of the excitement. Fireworks are scheduled July 6 at 9:30 at the racetrack. And if you’re a seasoned citizen of 100 years or older you get free admission.


Celebrate our nation’s birthday the old-fashioned way at Columbia State Historic Park’s Glorious 4th of July Celebration on the 4th of July. Come participate in the activities the 49ers enjoyed way back when, including a parade up Main Street at noon. Kids will enjoy trying to climb a greased pole, bucket brigades, cake walks, nail pounding, watermelon and pie eating, egg relay race and egg toss, and a five-way tug-of-war. A tri-tip barbecue dinner will be served at 4pm, followed by a flag raising and firing of the town cannon.


Half Moon Bay events kicks off its July 4 festivities with a traditional parade complete with floats, music, antique cars, Pooches on Parade, and even horses and ponies marching down Main Street, followed by a Red White and Blues BBQ town picnic hosted by the American Legion. The barbecue party starts at 11am, the parade starts at noon on Sunday, and from 1-4pm the Big Crawdaddy Band performs.

Want to be in a Fourth of July parade instead of just watching one? Come to Aptos, where, after a pancake breakfast from 7:30-9:00am, “The Worlds Shortest Parade” starts with nearly every town resident, both human and animal, donning their finest costumes. Visitors are welcome—just wear a costume. Afterwards, head over to Aptos Village Park for a 4th of July celebration featuring live music, local arts and crafts, food, and activities for all ages.


Enjoy an old-fashioned throw back to earlier times at the Napa County Fair and Silverado Parade, which marches through downtown Calistoga on July 4 while the annual fair features old fashioned 4th of July fun, games, and contests at the fairgrounds during the day and fireworks at night. Admission to the fair is only $10 and the parade is free.

If you have your own tips and recommendations on 4th of July getaways that you’d like to share, feel free to add your own comments to our blog below. We’d love to hear from you.

And for more insider tips on California activities and tours, California vacation spots, California tourist attractions, California vacation packages, and California inns, B&Bs, lodges, hotels, and restaurants, explore, where you’ll always find best California travel deals.


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By Pooley / Administrator

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on Jun 28, 2012