The joy of anticipating the first firework on the Fourth of July is a lot like anticipating the holiday itself. You can see it coming, down the road, and suddenly Independence Day is here, as evidenced by the glowing coals heating up barbecues and kids cannonballing into pools and the singing of songs like "Yankee Doodle."
Once the fireworks begin, you're waiting on the biggest/brightest one, which, traditionally, arrives near the end. Some of the biggest/brightest displays in Southern California attract thousands of spectators, those revelers who both held their breath for the patriotic day to arrive and then its crowning moment.
You can find some of the region's most mega crowning moments from Pasadena to the ocean. Put a small flag in your front pocket on Saturday, July 4 and dance, "Yankee Doodle"-style, for...
What to do, where to go and what to see
The Rose Bowl: Americafest presented by Honda is a grand ol' fireworks show for sure, and that it will mark its centennial in a decade and a year (!) shouldn't surprise: The Pasadena venue is known for venerability. A motorcycle show, Elvis and Beatles tribute artists, and a hugehugehuge fireworks show at 9 p.m. makes this Independence Day happening one of the SoCal standards.
Marina del Rey: Communities along the coast'll be doing the over-the-water fireworks spectaculars, but perhaps this pretty town's July 4 celebration will have a little something extra, given that this is Marina del Rey's 50th anniversary year. Whether that is acknowledged or simply folded into the spirit of things, seeing fireworks glimmer over the Pacific is pure pleasure.
Dodger Stadium: Surely you'll have a Dodger Dog and a lemonade before gazing up at the sparkly sky from your seat at the Elysian Park landmark? Surely. Baseball, with its organ interludes and peanuts and history, is an Americana-sweet pursuit, and seeing fireworks after the game with the Mets and a USO Show troupe perform definitely ups the Americana atmosphere.
Hollywood Bowl: Something about fireworks over that iconic shell stirs the culture-obsessive soul in a SoCaler, and that the great Smokey Robinson is the night's performer on the Fourth of July only adds to the merriment and magic. The Phil'll be playing, too, so consider this quintessential LA experience even quintessentialier.
Grand Park: The downtown stretch of grass that runs from Music Center Plaza to City Hall has become the highly dramatic setting in recent years for pyrotechnic-based wow. "The Civic Center skyline" is the movie-worthy backdrop for the fireworks, so that wow is well-founded, but be sure to arrive ahead of sundown for picnicking, food trucks, and live local-fab tunes. Cost? It's free.
Exposition Park: Not too too far from City Hall's dramatic front lawn is another mega show, this one at the LA Memorial Coliseum (and Fid Pad + Christmas Tree Lane). The starts-earlier-in-the-day festival is big, so arrive early if you want to chillax to sounds and sights and the sunset before the 4th of July Fireworks Extravaganza.