A few years back, I accidentally made a great decision. When picking a flight back to L.A. I went frugal and got a ticket on the night of July Fourth, a low-in-demand fare since that's when most folks are enjoying their day off, cooking some burgers, and watching psychedelic colors blow up in the sky. Thing was, I got an even more amazing show on my flight, seeing the plentiful fireworks displays throughout the sprawl from my perch above. In fact, with so many municipalities of Los Angeles putting on their own shows, it might get a bit overwhelming as to where the best spots to check out the shows are. So here's a list, complete with some picnicking options if you want a little flavor with your sky explosions.
Downtown-ish: (Next to) Memorial Coliseum
While the Coliseum itself won't be open, the park next door will be having a full day of 4th of July activities starting at noon. (Admission's free, but parking is going to cost you a ten-spot if you head there before 5.) Bands will be performing, there will be vendors and activities for kids of all ages, and starting right around 9pm, the 60-minute fireworks display will begin. Bring a blanket, some chairs, and maybe try out our recipe for Grilled Chicken in Bacon Sauce that we discovered via the folks at America's Test Kitchen. What better way to celebrate our nation than by eating something that has been unnecessarily smothered in bacon?
3939 South Figueroa St.
Marina Del Ray: Chase Park
Down in Marina Del Ray, there will be a "traditional" fireworks display starting at 9pm. Entrance is free, and there will be patriotic music broadcast over FM 88.9 if you want to hear such fare as "America, the Beautiful" while the sky looks like it's nearly going to blow up. (Or, why not just bring a boombox and blast Neil Diamond's "America" all through the night?) Food-wise, you can't go wrong if you head over to nearby Mendocino Farms and pick up some of their nearly mind-blowing sandwiches. (Explosions everywhere!)
13650 Mindanao Way, Marina Del Rey
Studio City: CBS Studios
From 5 to 9, the opposite of Dolly Parton's schedule, the back lot of CBS Studios will be open for a day of exhibits, music, all sorts of food, children's activities, and a whole bunch more before the fireworks display gets underway at dusk. Price is $20 for adults, $10 for the kids, and there's an extra $20 if you want to watch the fireworks on the rooftop. Since it's a Tinseltown type of location, start your afternoon off with a homemade version of an old Hollywood favorite: The Cobb Salad from the iconic Brown Derby restaurant.
4024 Radford Ave., Studio City
Pasadena: Rose Bowl
As usual, the Rose Bowl offers one of the biggest celebrations in the L.A. area. While the fireworks program doesn't start until 7, the food court opens at 2pm. But still, our recommendation is to "pre-party" either at Tender Greens if you're more in the eating healthy vibe, or to take a trip to nearby Mother Moo and celebrate our nation's birth by chowing down on their organic ice cream selections. General admission to the Rose Bowl is $13, and there's a $20 cash price for parking.
1001 Rose Bowl Dr., Pasadena
Long Beach: Aquarium of the Pacific
From a spot at the aquarium with the fishes, you can clearly see the fireworks display going off from the nearby Queen Mary. You can buy "combo" tickets for $37, which includes entry into the aquarium and a BBQ buffet, where they promise "home-style" options and desserts. Or, you can pay the regular $12.95 admission (for an after-5 pm entry) and eat your own meal beforehand. For example, if all of this talk of aquariums has got you in the mood for some seafood -- which is a disturbing look into how our brains work -- then try our recipe for Chili Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa.
Aquarium of the Pacific
100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach
San Pedro: Cabrillo Beach
A full day of activities are scheduled at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro, including live music from local bands, military exhibits, a tour of a Navy frigate, demonstrations by various segments of our armed forces, displays by the L.A. Fire Department, and a Washington Artillery Re-enactment group. This will all be followed by fireworks. If you're looking for something to grill up during the activities, try our recipe for Grilled Argentine Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce.
3720 Stephen M. White Dr., San Pedro
Huntington Beach: The Pier
According to Huntington Beach's town website -- which, you know, may not be the most unbiased -- the Huntington Beach fireworks festival is the "largest and oldest parade of its kind west of the Mississippi." Included in the day of activities, there's a 5K run/walk, live music, clowns (which could be a good or bad thing, depending) and fireworks on the main street. If you decide to gamble on whatever they mean by "clowns," why not pack a picnic by trying out our recipe for Basil-Grilled Tuna Steaks with Arugula Salad. What's that? Still not enough to fill you up? Well, try our Icebox Strawberry Pie recipe for a mid-fireworks treat.
Huntington Beach Pier
Main & PCH, Huntington Beach
A Sporty Alternative: Dodger Stadium
While the Dodgers home game against the Cincinnati Reds on the 4th isn't, perhaps, the most convenient of picnicking options out there -- seeing as there's not really an area where you can spread a blanket, and a beer's going to cost you as much as your picnic supplies, and on and on -- they will be shooting off some post-game fireworks. And, well, the
The Tailgate Dog option among the stadium's Extreme Dodger Dogs is kind of like a full picnic in your mouth, right? In any case, you can get tickets at the official website, or you can be like anyone with half a brain and try to score some cheapies on Craigslist or Stubhub.
1000 Elysian Park Ave.
So, as Kwik-e-Mart employee Apu Nahasapeemapetilon once encouraged Homer Simpson, "celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it." Or, at least, eating some delicious food while watching other people do it.