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The first thing you need to know about July 4 in Los Angeles is that there’s not just one celebration: there are over a dozen. Unlike New York City, which anchors its Independence Day festivities around a single fireworks event, practically every neighborhood in LA has a different spin on the national holiday. Here are a few ways to celebrate, whether you’re after a romantic picnic under the stars or a ritzy perch from a sky-high city rooftop bar.
Where to Watch the July Fourth Fireworks
If you’re looking for a real Americana spectacle, then AmericaFest at the Rose Bowl is a good place to start. The event, now in its 92nd year, is generally recognized as one of the largest organized July Fourth celebrations in the whole state. And getting there is a cinch. Pasadena, where the Rose Bowl is located, is just a few miles north of downtown LA. The event is structured like a day-long carnival (tickets are also required), so most people picnic and stroll around the golf course during the day. Once nighttime rolls in, you’ll want to make your way into the actual stadium, where the fireworks are overseen by the same company responsible for the Superbowl. So expect lots of fancy pyrotechnics and a good bang for your buck. Don’t feel like wading through crowds at the Rose Bowl? Locals recommend heading up to a surrounding hiking trail, like the Sam Merrill Trail, and getting up nice and high to enjoy the fireworks in nature.
If you’re over the whole parade thing, and are looking for alternative ways to celebrate the flag, nothing says America like a night at the ballpark. Dodgers Stadium is one of those LA experiences that’s essential, and also super easy to do. The stadium, one of the oldest in America, sits just beyond Echo Park. Traffic tends to get pretty backed up on game days, so the best way to avoid the mayhem on Sunset Boulevard is to show up earlier in the morning in Echo Park, grab a coffee at Triniti, go for a walk around the lake and eventually trek up to sprawling Elysian Park. The fireworks here are some of the most enthralling in LA, largely due to the energy of the crowd. Depending on when the actual game finishes (usually around 9:00pm), and the players clear off the field, the fun begins. This year, the Dodgers will be facing off against the Pittsburgh Pirates; if that means nothing to you, however, and a packed stadium isn’t your idea of a party, then feel free to hang at one of the neighborhood’s many bars. Places like Little Joy and Short Stop have cheap cocktails, play decent music, and keep the party going well after the last pitch has been thrown. Plus, with the right visibility, you’ll even be able to catch the fireworks from the sidewalk.
If you happen to be staying near Santa Monica, the July 4th Parade (which winds down from Pico Boulevard all the way to the city limits) is a great opportunity for families to take part in the festivities, while also getting in a little sightseeing. No actual fireworks take place in Santa Monica, but that doesn’t stop locals from turning the entire 3.5 mile-long beach into a full-on block party. Whether you’re showing up for an outdoor dinner at places like Back on the Beach and Cha Cha Chicken, or strolling the world-famous pier, the festive vibes in this part of town are hard to beat. Since the coast is so broad, you’re still able to catch a glimpse of the fireworks being set off further north in Malibu and the Pacific Palisades. Plus, it’s cooler on the beach — hence, more refreshing after a long day out in the sun. If you’re overwhelmed by the masses convening on the beach, Santa Monica is full of unassuming, low-key bars. Two blocks up from the beach, Finn McCool’s — an Irish pub — might not be the most obvious choice for July Fourth celebrations, but the 18-year-old neighborhood hangout is known for its live music and delicious pub food. Across the street is another crowd favorite: Ashland Hill, a semi-hidden beer garden with one of the best house-baked pretzels in Santa Monica.
You can climb 73 stories above Los Angeles at the newly opened InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown — and that makes for one heck of a view come Independence Day. The glass-sided bar, which has a sexy, lounge vibe, has 360-degree views across the whole city. Who needs to pick the best fireworks viewing spot when you can spy on Santa Monica, Dodgers Stadium and the Rose Bowl all at once? While the sky-high bar is expecting heavy foot traffic the day of, you’ll have a better chance of getting up if you’re a hotel guest. Right now, the hotel has rooms going for $239 on July 4 (or 60,000 IHG points). But according to TPG’s most recent valuations, IHG points are worth 0.6 cents a piece, making cash a better option. If you make it up top, be sure to celebrate with a glass of Champagne: this is the tallest building west of Chicago. That deserves a little splurging, don’t you think?
In summer, West Hollywood is considered the staycation capital of Los Angeles. It has top-notch dining, wonderful small parks and a hotel scene that can compete with anything in Beverly Hills or downtown LA. One hotel, in particular, makes the case for spending Independence Day on the Strip. The London West Hollywood is built on a hill, with the rest of Los Angeles falling at its feet. As such, the rooms (especially the south-facing ones) offer up some pretty spellbinding views. Directly facing the hotel is Century City, but then as your eye drifts farther, you can spot Santa Monica, Mid-City, downtown LA — heck, on a clear day, it’s even possible to glimpse Catalina Island in the distance. On July 4, the hotel’s rooftop bar, Boxwood on the Roof gets busy with folks trying to catch a front row seat for the fireworks. The way to do it, if you’re not a guest, is to ride the elevator up to Boxwood around 5:00pm. Once you’re there, get into the spirit of things with a Blueberry vodka cocktail, and enjoy the live band that sets up on Wednesday while waiting for the fireworks to start.
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