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In his travel photo essays, TPG Contributor (and pro photographer) Patrick T. Fallon includes tips on exploring destinations, redeeming miles, gaining elite status and improving your own photography while traveling. Between TPG posts, follow his photo work and travels on Instagram. (All photos by the author.)
If you find yourself in the Los Angeles area this Fourth of July holiday and are willing to brave some crowds, consider soaking up the sun in the Beach Cities of the South Bay, a sprawling area that begins about 15 minutes south of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and hugs the Pacific coastline. In the three cities of Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach, you’re sure to find a flurry of holiday activity.
Get to Hermosa Beach early for the Iron Man — a Fourth of July tradition for about 40 years (and not to be confused with the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii). Iron Man is a fun event to attend and photograph, but be careful to protect your cameras, as it can get pretty messy!
Starting at 9am sharp, participants must run a mile, paddle board a mile then drink a six-pack of beer. Awards are earned for the first man and woman to finish without, um, failing to hold their liquor.
You’ll know you’re in the right place when you get near 28th Street and The Strand (also known as the Marvin Braude Bike Trail), as a massive crowd of revelers will be gathered on the sand. Parking in the beach cities is generally awful and expensive, so riding a bike along The Strand — which runs for 22 miles between Pacific Palisades (near Santa Monica) and nearby Torrance — is a great way to move quickly and avoid the hassle. Lyft or Uber are also options to go between the beach cities, but because of the holiday weekend rush, anticipate some surge pricing.
The Iron Man might seem pretty raucous, but it is unofficially well-organized. Often, whole families come to cheer on their friends and relatives.
Drinking alcohol on Los Angeles County beaches is illegal, and the Hermosa Beach Police department strictly enforces the law — except for during the Iron Man, a tradition too deeply rooted in local history to be halted.
Police are on hand to make sure things are safe and that everything is cleaned up by 10am. After watching the competition, go for a swim yourself or head south to Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach or north to the Manhattan Beach Pier — which is a good spot to watch airplanes take off from the nearby airport.
I love The Standing Room for great food and beer in Hermosa Beach. In Manhattan Beach, try Brewco or go to Lemonade and get some food to take down to the beach. All of these accept credit cards, so you can use your card of choice with bonus points for restaurants — such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
If you’re looking for a more enclosed, organized and family-friendly environment for the afternoon, consider the Redondo Beach Seaside Lagoon Fireworks. The Standing Room also has its original Redondo Beach to-go location nearby; I suggest the Chance burger and truffle fries, which you can order on the phone in advance and pick up on the way to the lagoon.
Starting at 2pm, the event has entertainment, lifeguards on duty and a fireworks show in the evening. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children.
If you want to see some more Fourth of July photos, here’s a detailed guide on How To Photograph Fireworks from the Los Angeles Times for both smartphones and DSLR cameras. Otherwise, pack up your food, blankets and chairs, head to the beach, cozy up in the evening, and watch the holiday show! Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.