This year, 4th of July falls on a Thursday, making it perfect for a long weekend in the beach town of San Diego. To take full advantage of 4th of July parades, parties, and fireworks, fly in on the evening of July 3rd and relax. Then, on July 4th, you'll have a wide selection of activities to participate in. There are plenty of places to watch fireworks, but nowhere quite like San Diego.
Fireworks Near the Beach
The classic San Diego experience is to visit and play as close to the Pacific as you can. There are plenty of 4th of July events in the beach areas. Ocean Beach, located at the end of Interstate 8, has a firework show off the pier that starts at 9 pm. Prior to that, you can wander the beach town and enjoy the many bars and shops. Ocean Beach has lots of free parking, but getting a space might be competitive at times.
SeaWorld San Diego is also known for its nightly fireworks show. On the 4th of July they have a particularly spectacular one at 9:40 p.m. If you can, try to nab a ticket on the Bayside Skyride, a gondola ride that takes you across the water and back, for the best view.
But the most famous fireworks display in San Diego is the Big Bay Boom. Four barges go out into the San Diego Bay and blast fireworks at 9 p.m. You can see these from almost anyplace downtown that's near the water, as well as Shelter Island, Harbor Island.
The Big Bay Boom is the most highly impacted by traffic, so if you're not staying near the fireworks, your best bet is to take the trolley in from a park and ride location more inland, then catch a shuttle, like the one offered by the Big Bay Boom.
Fireworks Further Inland
If you can't really stomach the idea of crowds but still want to enjoy San Diego, you can drive a few minutes inland and enjoy fireworks, too. Lake Murray is just about fifteen minutes from the airport and offers a music and fireworks festival with a half dozen bands, food vendors, and fireworks. The festival starts at 11 a.m. and the fireworks show is scheduled for 9 p.m. You can see these fireworks from the neighborhoods surrounding the lake, too, so you can park on one of the perimeter streets and view them if you don't want to drive into the lake parking lot.
Another fun excursion is Julian, in the mountains of San Diego. Just about an hour drive from downtown, Julian is famous for its apple pies, gold mines, and quiet beauty. The town hosts a 4th of July Parade with festivities starting at 10 a.m. You could spend a couple days in this town just enjoying nature, too. To get to Julian, you'll have to take the bus or rent a car. Keep in mind the bus will take at least two hours. No fireworks are slated here, though, due to fire hazards.
Where to Stay
For 4th of July fun and fireworks at the Big Bay Boom, finding a hotel downtown near the harbor and the Gaslamp Quarter will be your best bet-- look for one that's near Seaport Village, like the Marriott Marquis. That way you can enjoy the Big Bay Boom from the comfort of your room or one of the lounges, and be close to all the amenities of the Gaslamp Quarter.
Mission Bay is another good option for the 4th of July. There are a number of resorts and hotels near Sea World, like the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay. You'll have a view of Sea World fireworks and possibly a view of the Ocean Beach fireworks, too.
If you want to stay inland, check out the Holiday Inn in La Mesa for a more budget-friendly option-- it will add just a few extra minutes no matter where else you want to go in San Diego. Julian has several different hotels and plentiful Air BnBs.
When traveling anywhere in San Diego on the 4th, remember to allow plenty of extra time for traffic. It's most highly impacted in the downtown area, so use the trolley system whenever possible. Wherever you end up in San Diego, it's easy to find something to do on the 4th of July. Residents take advantage of these Independence Day on a yearly basis, and if you’re just visiting, you’ll be ready to make the move in no time!