Nothing feels more nostalgic than curling up with a blanket under the stars waiting for the fireworks show to begin. It’s one of those rare events that brings everyone together, no matter what stage of life you’re in. It’s great for a romantic date, a night with friends and even families with kids.
California always has great options for a quick vacation, so many scenic cities to choose from. Make the most of your PTO vacation days with a 4th of July getaway. This list of California destinations offer great scenery and awe-worthy firework shows. Scroll to the bottom of the blog post to see my hotel guides for each city listed.
San Luis Obispo - This university town makes for the perfect long weekend getaway because it offers a bustling downtown scene and a quick 20 minute drive to the beach. Plan your trip with our complete guide to San Luis Obispo, which includes the best eats, hotels and sightseeing.
During your 4th of July visit to SLO, head over to Pismo Beach for food, music and a spectacular fireworks display. Put the address 100 Pomeroy Avenue, Pismo Beach, 93449, CA into your GPS for directions to the fireworks show and festivities.
San Diego - We used to live in San Diego and it is by far the sunniest city I’ve ever seen. Seriously, endless days of sunshine with the best weather! It’s an easy choice for a vacation spot, especially during the 4th of July.
I have several guides to the best neighborhoods in San Diego including North Park, Little Italy, Mission Beach and La Jolla. You really can’t go wrong with selecting a hotel in any of these popular spots, they all have great highlights and exceptional restaurant options.
The Del Mar Fairgrounds County Fair has the all-American carnival with rollercoaster rides, carnival games and exhibits. The closing of the county fair ends with a bang with a mega 4th of July fireworks show. With your admission ticket you’ve got great views anywhere inside the fairgrounds.
After speaking with my fellow San Diegans, the consensus is that two of the best low-key spots to view 4th of July fireworks is at Mission Bay Park and Coronado. The fireworks will be a little bit further away but you can skip the crowds.
San Marcos also puts on a popular fireworks show and an insider told me that you can find the best views if you set up camp in the parking lot at the Edwards San Marcos 18 Movie Theater, located at 1180 W San Marcos Blvd, San Marcos, CA 92069.
San Jose - Silicon Valley’s major metro city is the perfect playground for both tech junkies and modern millennials alike. In my guide to San Jose you’ll find favorites like San Pedro Square with a wide variety of food shops and drinks. San Jose offers many beautiful outdoor spaces to enjoy the sunny July weather. Unlike the rest of the bay area which is usually covered in a cloud of fog, San Jose has a true summer.
At Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View you can watch a fireworks show accompanied by the San Francisco Symphony. If you prefer a more casual atmosphere, head to Central Park in Santa Clara for a local fireworks show. Great America theme park also gets in on the festivities with a show as well.
San Francisco - This famous city needs no introduction and if you’re looking to escape summer heat, July in San Francisco averages around 67 degrees. The sightseeing options are limitless in San Francisco for a vacation, see my guide to 100 ideas to put on your itinerary.
During the daytime there are Independence Day festivities going on at Pier 39. The city of San Francisco puts on a spectacular fireworks extravaganza beginning at 9:30pm. The best part is that there’s multiple great vantage points to view the show on the Embarcadero walkway, many with panoramic bay views. Your biggest challenge will be to get into the city and finding parking. I recommend booking an overnight stay in a hotel in the city to avoid the chaos and truly enjoy the holiday. Scroll down to see my favorite hotel choices.
Los Angeles - We travel to Los Angeles several times a year and on our bucket list is to enjoy either a New Years or 4th of July fireworks show. The best city skyline sights can be found at Griffith Park Observatory and you’ll enjoy 360 degree views of fireworks.
Disneyland also has a great 4th of July day of festivities which concludes with an epic fireworks show. Mikey and Minnie will be dressed up in their best patriotic styles, perfect for photos!
Palm Springs - Want to spend your Independence Day in the glamorous deserts of Palm Springs? You can totally hang poolside in the daytime and watch fireworks under the stars at night. The Palm Springs Cultural Center hosts annual 4th of July events which include a fireworks show.
Santa Cruz and Capitola - In the mood for some classic summer beachy vibes for a July vacation? Santa Cruz is that perfect California coastal town with a beach boardwalk and ample beaches for a picnic. The only place to see sparks in Santa Cruz County is the Scotts Valley 4th of July Fireworks Show which takes place at Skypark Park.
Sacramento - The state capital has recently become a popular weekend travel destination in California, due in large part to the growing farm-to-fork foodie scene. Many modern and trendy eateries have been popping up and neighborhoods like Midtown.
One of the biggest surprises we had when we bought our house in Sacramento came when all of a sudden we could hear major fireworks near our house during the summer holiday. Raley Field hosts a family-friendly event where you can picnic and watch the fireworks bundled up with family under a blanket.
Lake Tahoe - NBC's Today show named South Lake Tahoe’s firework show one of the top 4th of July spectaculars of the country, so you know you’re in for a great time! Named Lights on the Lake, you can get the best seat in the house sitting lakeside. Plan an evening at Nevada Beach for the best views, charcoal barbecues and picnic tables are available.
San Luis Obispo Hotel Guide:
San Diego Hotel Guide:
San Jose Hotel Guide:
San Francisco Hotel Guide:
Los Angeles Hotel Guide:
Palm Springs Hotel Guide:
Santa Cruz Hotel Guide:
Sacramento Hotel Guide:
Lake Tahoe Hotel Guide:
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