Things to do in Santa Monica

4th of July Parades in Santa Monica

When the stars and stripes soar over Santa Monica, these are the Fourth of July celebrations worth a visit.

The Fourth of July is always just around the corner in Santa Monica. Add a little imagination to the warm, beachy climate and endless sunny days, and it might as well be summer year-round. Clear skies and lively crowds are a recipe for festive Fourths. And with so many things to do in Santa Monica, there’s no shortage of ways to celebrate.

A city like this turns holiday cheer into an art form. When fireworks fly and parades march on, you know where to be. Here are the can’t-miss July Fourth festivities in Santa Monica.

Parades and Fireworks in Santa Monica

Crackling lights and stomping feet — these Fourth of July jubilees are loud and proud.

1. Santa Monica Parade

Downtown Santa Monica dons all its bunting for this annual extravaganza. The city’s deep-seated patriotic essence is brought to the surface just in time for a sublime procession. Rallying crowds and roaring engines mean the Santa Monica 4th of July Parade is lining up for its march.

We appreciate a show of synchronicity, and this seamless passage is a well-oiled machine. Many of the floats are handcrafted. They showcase scenes of Santa Monica's history while residents wave on top of cars all wrapped in tinsel.

Music makes the parade a proper festivity. High school bands have many instruments. They use them for charming versions of classic patriotic songs. Under the clear blue California sky, reflections of independence meld with the smiling faces lined up on all sides. Just visiting or here to stay, you’re part of a community — even if it’s just for the hour.

On the streets first thing in the morning, the post-parade hour rings in just in time for brunch. Santa Monica restaurants serve a mean breakfast full of fresh flavors.

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2. Annual Pacific Palisades July 4th Celebration

Pacific Palisades makes an annual stand for the title of California’s Most Patriotic Neighborhood. Every year, its display is an impressive one. The Annual Pacific Palisades July 4th Celebration is legendary. People come from across Los Angeles to join in on the fun.

The Palisades July 4th Parade has marched for over half a century. Replete with patriotic tunes and plenty of local flair, Pacific Palisades drapes and crowns their procession in red, white, and blue. Fan-favorite floats celebrate community priorities and interests, from Will Rogers to veganism.

Everyone can get in on the festivities — bring your little ones and dress up your pets! If the parade stirs you into action, the day’s marathons are always accepting contestants. Prefer sidewalk strolls? Set off down the street for a peek at this year’s entries for the Patriotic Home Contest.

There’s plenty to see and do in daylight, but the knockout event comes after dark. Fireworks paint the air in brilliant swoops of red, white, and blue, showering the earth below in light and color. This pyrotechnic spectacle earns every gasp.

3. Independence Day Weekend Ferris Wheel Lighting

The Ferris wheel towers over Santa Monica Pier, its spoked shadow casting stripes across delighted visitors. It also happens to be the boardwalk’s most festive inhabitant. The wheel’s spinning lights regularly depict holiday-themed scenes.

Santa Monica Beach remains a top-tier place to spend a sunny 4th of July. Warm sands make for prime lounging areas, ideal for picnic lunches and coastal reading sessions. When you’ve soaked up enough sun, cool down with a chilly swim.

For active beach goers, the bodyboarding game here is unmatched. As a rule, never say no to a volleyball match. Of course, adventurous spirits may prefer a stroll along the pier. Unleash your inner acrobat on dizzying thrill rides, or try your hand at a classic carnival game.

Catch the Ferris wheel lighting ceremony to see the first sparks of red, white, and blue. The wheels will twirl until fireworks light up the sky. If you're thinking ahead, spotting the spooky Ferris wheel is a ghastly way to spend a Santa Monica Halloween.

Photographer: Vasile Tiplea

4. Celebrate America at Santa Monica College

Scholarly minds have collaborated to craft the ultimate show of patriotic soul. Santa Monica College's annual Celebrate America spectacular remains one of the largest displays in the city. This feat of pyrotechnics is so grand we’d even be proud to call it our own.

Securing a square of the lawn is practically a science. Get there early to lay down your blanket and take in the pre-firework entertainment. Local artist performances showcase Santa Monica's pride through infectious music and dance. Let the music wash over you for a blood-pumping warm-up to the impending spectacle.

At-home foodies may appreciate a chance to pack their baskets full of festive treats. For those who aren’t so culinary-inclined, a parade of food booths serves up classic fare. Get some kettle corn, cotton candy, or funnel cakes to wash down with an icy lemonade.

You’ll need it all to keep your energy up when the sun goes down. Once the performance has taken to the sky, it’s your eyes’ turn to feast.

5. Summer Sessions Independence Day Edition at the W Hotel Hollywood

Old Hollywood charm entwines with modern luxury at the W Hotel. In the heart of Hollywood, this space is a sanctuary. Lush greenery adorns the lobby, a gateway to quiet rooms for rest and relaxation.

On the Fourth of July, take the elevator up to the WET Deck. Here, you’ll find Summer Sessions Independence Day Edition in all its rooftop glory. Fourth of July spirit gets a touch of opulence at this lavish party. Live DJs set the tone as sophisticated revelers lounge poolside, dining on festive fare.

Gaze down at the boulevard below, drink in hand, pointing out LA landmarks amid crowds of tourists. Enjoy the luxury of this soirée draped in patriotic glam. After dark, you’re in a prime position to glimpse the spectacular fireworks soaring over Los Angeles.

Panoramic views mean the show is uninterrupted by trees and buildings, no matter where you’ve laid your claim to lounge. As the lights blend with LA’s blinking neon, the line between earth and atmosphere blurs into nothing.

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6. Marina del Rey Fireworks Celebration

This quaint harbor city was made for summer. When the sea breeze loses its chill and the sun heats the boardwalk, Marina del Rey is reborn with new fervor. Charming coastal shops spread their wares on palm-lined streets. A scenic, beachy town like this makes a picture-perfect Fourth of July destination.

Thanks to the annual 4th of July Fireworks, Marina del Rey has the substance to back up its style. Before the sun goes down, Fisherman’s Village is a family-friendly place to kick off the party. Local art galleries and history museums are calm spots to spend an afternoon.

We love a stunning visual, and a stroll along the harbor will bring you exactly that. Marine wildlife and New England seaport vibes make for a fully immersive scene.

Marina del Rey’s waterfront dining scene is, of course, unmatched. Make your reservations now to snag a table and enjoy fireworks-facing views as you crack into a fresh plate of crab legs. Or, rent a boat to carry you out into the harbor for a spot right below the fireworks.

Photographer: Designecologist

Unique 4th of July Celebrations

Think outside the patriotic box at these one-of-a-kind festivities.

7. Pub Crawl Party With Ocean View Hotel

Grandly, the Ocean View Hotel looks out toward the sea, just steps from the bustling boardwalk.

Besides offering beachgoers a place to sleep, the hotel doubles as a community organizer. Holiday activities are regularly rotated here, highlighting some of the city’s best spots. The folks at Ocean View know that while there are plenty of things to do in Santa Monica, sometimes what you really need is a frosty beer.

Good drinks and good company are on this Fourth of July menu. The Pub Crawl Party leads guests from bar to bar, sipping some of the finest drinks found in Santa Monica. Sleek, modern bars and established watering holes grace the itinerary for an eclectic sampling of flavors, both well-loved and recently discovered.

One of the venues, Circle Bar, has been mixing drinks since 1949 and boasts a star-studded client list. Exclusive pub crawl deals encourage guests to sip freely at every stop. With over half a dozen to cover, this party lasts until the wee hours of the morning.

Don your Independence Day attire, grab a few friends, and toast to another full year of freedom.

8. El Segundo Fourth of July Celebration

Old-fashioned family fun is in order this Fourth of July, with high-pitched giggles, grassy green parks, and all-American fare. At El Segundo's Fourth of July event, the festivities are complete with classic activities and crowned with a stunning fireworks display.

Time-honored picnic games are on the agenda. Think Hula-Hoop contests, water balloon tosses, and sack races. Throw your hat into the ring at the pie-eating contest or check out one of LA’s best food trucks that are on-site with a smorgasbord of decadent meals.

As we well know, music is a powerful tone-setting tool. Local bands take the stage throughout the festivities, perfecting the atmosphere of El Segundo’s communal backyard. Just after dark, a hush settles over the crowd as each guest anticipates the show.

For a moment, there are only blankets laid out on the sun-warmed lawn, arms sticky with watermelon juice, and a sea of held breath. Then, the first boom sounds, and the sky alights with crackling light.

9. 4th of July Celebration at Universal Studios

Hollywood’s greatest heroes come to life at Universal Studios. Here, far-off lands spring from the screen, bringing their stories with them. On the Fourth of July, American independence gets the same treatment.

Red, white, and blue flair speckle these streets, patriotic touches that transcend space and time. To complete the scene, live music sets the tone. A fife and drum band keeps spirits jolly with lively tunes that'll have you tapping your feet. Vintage vibes offer an escape into the 1700s. Until film-worthy fireworks pull you back to the present, that is.

Skyward pops of light evoke oohs and aahs from crowds of craning necks. This display’s show tunes combine American classics with cinematic scores. The result is a sweeping, orchestral dance between light and sound, with some nostalgia thrown in for good measure.

When the music ends and the last ember flares, you’re still at Universal Studios. Just around the corner lie wizards, dinosaurs, and giant donuts, all waiting for you to join, discover, and devour. Naturally, this event is one of the best things to do in Santa Monica with kids, but even adults can dip their toes into the enchantment.

Photographer: 12019

Get Fired Up and Festive in Santa Monica Style

Backyard cookouts and poolside parties are charming at-home shindigs, but Santa Monica’s sparkling energy beckons. A Fourth of July spent in these streets is one for the memory books. Bask in the coastal glow until the marching bands sing their brassy songs while red, white, and blue lights twinkle in the sky.

After the party ends, there's still plenty to celebrate. Follow us into another world of breathtaking visuals, this one inhabited by a curious troupe of flipping, zooming, and high-flying acrobats.

An evening with us is fraught with thrills and joys — a concoction so strong you’ll ache to return for more. The circus is in town. Take your seats for one of our shows in Santa Monica.

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