Fireworks on the Fourth of July. What else could bring everyone together and have us looking toward the heavens with nonstop anticipation? We sit or stand and stare. We wait for the colorful explosions to dazzle us, all the while being reminded of how fortunate we are.
Independence Day means various things to people, but it is without a doubt the most American of holidays.
So, whether you enjoy fireworks, parades, picnics or patriotic music, here's a list of places to celebrate and to express gratitude to this country's Founding Fathers.
* Independence Day Celebration and Concert. 11th annual event begins at 5 p.m. with a patriotic bike parade, pony rides, a petting zoo and bounce houses for children. Music by the Aliso Viejo Symphony, and local jazz and swing bands, food booths and a fireworks finale at 9 p.m. Free. Foxborough Park, Deerhurst and Foxborough streets, Aliso Viejo, (949) 362-5890, Ext. 236.
* Firecracker 5/10 Walk/Run & Product Fair. Registration begins at 6 a.m. and the race begins at 7:30 Saturday. $20, includes T-shirt, breakfast and prize drawings. Afterward, the Firecracker Product Fair will offer free samples and information from health- and fitness-related businesses and clubs. The Rotary Club will serve a pancake-and-sausage breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. $3. Canyon High School, 220 S. Imperial Highway. (714) 999-3428.
* Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks. Special edition of Disneyland's nightly fireworks display starts about 9:30 p.m. immediately after the Mulan Parade. Other attractions include the new Tarzan's Treehouse, "Fantasmic!" and music by Bernie & the Big Muddy Trio from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. Open 8 a.m.-2 a.m. $29-$39. Parking: $7-$8. Disneyland, 1313 Harbor Blvd. (714) 781-4565.
* Yankee Doodle Dog Show. Pampered pets compete for barking rights in such categories as Best Trick, Best Dressed, closest Owner/Doggie Look Alike, Most Patriotic and others. Winners get to march in the Fourth of July Parade (see below). Entry fee is $7 for each category entered. Canyon High School, 220 S. Imperial Highway. (714) 999-3428.
* 4th of July Parade. Local dignitaries, celebrities, winners of the Yankee Doodle Dog Show (see above), home town floats, marching bands, youth groups and others will parade north on Imperial Highway to Santa Ana Canyon Road, then west to Royal Oak Road. 3 p.m. Begins at Canyon High School, 220 S. Imperial Highway. (714) 765-5191.
* A Patriotic Fantasy. Community celebration includes food and game booths opening at 2 p.m., live music and vocal groups at 6 p.m., and a fireworks show at 9 p.m. Shuttle service available from the Crossroads Shopping Center, Santa Ana Canyon Road and Imperial Highway. Free. Peralta Park, 115 N. Pinney Drive, Anaheim Hills, (714) 765-5191.
* Baseball & Fireworks. Monday. The Anaheim Angels take on the Seattle Mariners, with a fireworks show after the game. 7:35 p.m. $6-$22. Edison International Field, 2000 Gene Autry Way. (714) 634-2000.
Encampment and Fireworks at Knott's. Saturday-Monday. Living-history displays, historical speeches, battle reenactments, traditional American music, and food and craft booths, in and around the park's replica of Philadelphia's Independence Hall. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Free. The park's annual Independence Day fireworks show starts around 9:30 p.m. Sunday. Knott's Berry Farm, 8039 Beach Blvd. (714) 220-5200.
* Concert and fireworks show. The Mike Henebry Orchestra will play swing and big-band music starting at 6:30 p.m. Fireworks begin at 9 p.m. Take a picnic or buy hot dogs, burgers, soft drinks and treats from vendors. Free admission. Bellis Park, 7171 8th St. (714) 562-3844.
* Fireworks show. Thursday. Get a head start on your Independence Day celebration at the center's annual pre-July 4 fireworks show. 9 p.m. Free. Fairview Developmental Center, 2501 Harbor Blvd. (714) 957-5105.
* Kingsman Invitational Drum & Bugle Corp Show and Fireworks. Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Road. (714) 894-5636. Drum and bugle corps from throughout California perform in a three-hour competition capped by fireworks. 7 p.m. $12-$20.
* Fireworks. Visible throughout the Dana Point Harbor area, fireworks begin at 9 p.m., launched from a barge in the middle of the harbor. Free viewing at points throughout the harbor area. Tune radios to KSBR-FM (88.5) for synchronized music. View the fireworks from the water aboard a chartered boat that leaves at 7:30 p.m. from Dana Wharf Sport Fishing. $15, includes a soft drink. (949) 496-4251.
* Community Fireworks Show & Festival. 10th annual celebration includes entertainment by hypnotist Cindy Layne and the Southland Band, as well as rides, game and food booths, clowns, a petting zoo and fireworks set to the music of Pyrospectaculars. 4-9:30 p.m. Fireworks start at 9 p.m. $4-$6. Fullerton High School stadium, Lemon Street and Barkeley Avenue. (714) 738-6575.
* 95th Annual Huntington Beach Fourth of July Parade and Celebration. Activities begin at 6 a.m. with a 5K run and health expo at Worthy Park (Main and 17th streets). Runners can preregister July 2 from 4 to 8 p.m. and July 3 from noon to 6 p.m. at Robinsons-May at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. $10-$18. On-site registration, beginning at 6 a.m., is $13-$22. Fee includes a commemorative T-shirt and goody bag.
* A pancake breakfast will be served from 7-10 a.m. at Lake Park (12th and Main streets). $4.
* Pat Boone and Al Joyner are grand marshals for the 95th annual parade, which begins at 10 a.m. at Main and Acacia streets and continues north on Main to Clay Avenue. Bleacher seating will be available from 9 a.m. along Main Street near Palm and 11th streets. $10.
* The Fireworks Extravaganza, with live music, a magician and other entertainment, is at Huntington Beach High School, 1905 Main St. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. and fireworks start around 8:45 p.m. $5. A $15 all-day pass includes the pancake breakfast, parade seating and admission to the fireworks show. (714) 374-1535.
* Music. The Golden West College Symphonic Band plays a free outdoor concert of Broadway, movie and patriotic selections at 5:30 p.m. at the Golden West College amphitheater, 15744 Golden West St., Huntington Beach. (714) 895-8232.
* Concert on the Green and Fireworks Festival. Gates open at 1 p.m. $30 for family of 6, $10 for adults, $5 for children. Irvine High School football stadium, 4321 Walnut Ave. (949) 724-7212, Ext. 2032.
* Music and fireworks. Pacific Symphony Orchestra concert and fireworks show. Gates open at 6 p.m., concert starts at 8 p.m. $14-$53. Irvine Meadows Amphitheater, 8808 Irvine Center Drive. Irvine Meadows: (949) 855-8096; PSO: (714) 755-5788.
* Fireworks. Independence Day party at Lakeview Senior Center. 6-9:30 p.m. Includes barbecue on the patio, live music by the New Frontier Band, line dancing lessons, fireworks show over the lake at 9:30 p.m. Dinner from 6:30 to 8 p.m. $8 for entire event. Prepaid tickets required. 20 Lake Road. (949) 724-6900.
* "Spirit in La Habra" celebration. Festival featuring children's games, entertainment, food and fireworks. 6 p.m. $1. La Habra High School Stadium, 801 Highlander Ave. (562) 905-9708.
* Fireworks. Show starts at dusk (around 8:40 p.m.) and lasts 20 minutes. Free. Main Beach, North Coast Highway and Broadway. (949) 497-0700.
* Fourth of July Celebration. Carnival games, crafts, food, music, rock climbing and a community bike parade. 4-9 p.m. Free. Laguna Hills High School, 25401 Paseo de Valencia. (949) 707-2600.
* Fireworks and carnival. Laguna Niguel's 10th Anniversary Celebration. Festival featuring rhythm and blues music, public swimming, a community walk and fireworks. 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Free. Crown Valley Community Park, 29751 Crown Valley Parkway, (949) 362-4350.
* 5th of July Lake Forest Celebration. Monday. Starts with a 5K run/walk at 7:30 a.m. at the corner of Lake Forest Drive and Serrano Road; registration is $20. Hotline is (949) 829-8911. Pancake breakfast at 7:30 a.m. at El Toro High School, 25255 Toledo Way; tickets are $4 and can be purchased by calling city hall at (949) 461-3450. Parade begins at 10 a.m. at the corner of Toledo Way and Ridge Route Drive. An open house, featuring tours of the local historical buildings, starts at 11:30 a.m. at Heritage Hill Park, Lake Forest Drive and Serrano Road. (949) 461-3457.
* 5/10K run/walk. Saturday. Begins and ends in front of city hall. 7:30 a.m. $15 entry fee, $10 T-shirt fee. Also includes pancake breakfast, 7:30-10 a.m. Awards ceremony for top runners, 9:30 a.m. City Hall is at 7822 Walker St. (714) 522-6740.
* Red, White and Blue Fourth of July Weekend. Friday-Sunday. The Queen Mary hosts fireworks all three nights at 9 p.m.; a carnival in the Queen Mary Events Park Friday, 5-11 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Top 40s Dance Party in Queen's Salon on Sunday, 5-10 p.m. Carnival free, fireworks and dance included in Queen Mary general admission, $15. 1126 Queens Highway, end of Long Beach Freeway. (562) 435-3511.
* Barbecue, music and fireworks. The Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific will be open until 10 p.m. and will offer a barbecue dinner with music by the Pannachi steel drum band beginning at 6 p.m., along with choice seating for the Queen Mary fireworks nearby. The aquarium opens at 9 a.m. with traditional American music by Sandii Castleberry and Gary Francisco from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aquarium admission is $7.95-$14.95, plus $12.95 for the barbecue dinner. 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach. (562) 951-1630.
* Fireworks and carnival. Celebration in conjunction with Seal Beach, Rossmoor and Cypress. Parachute drop, F-16 fly-over and other military demonstrations. Take a picnic or buy food at the event. No alcohol. Clowns, mimes and music, with fireworks at 9 p.m. for 25 minutes. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. Free. Los Alamitos Armed Forces Reserve Center, Farquhar Avenue and Lexington Drive. (562) 430-1073.
* 4th of July Street Fair. Food booths, crafts, rides and other entertainment begins at noon, fireworks at 9 p.m. Free. Mission Viejo Youth Athletic Park, corner of Olympiad Road near Marguerite Parkway, Mission Viejo. Information: (949) 830-7066 Friday.
* Red, White & Blues Festival. Saturday beginning at 3 p.m. Includes music by the James Harman Band, Junior Watson, King Ernest, On the Edge and Blue Moon, as well as food, casino games and a VIP jam session. Continues Sunday at 3 p.m. with Billy Vera & the Beaters, Ladies Night, the Rhythm Lords, the King Brothers, the Don Haney Band and a fireworks finale. $25 per day, benefits the Mission AIDS Foundation, the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum and the Balboa Performing Arts Theatre Foundation. Aboard the Pride of Newport, 151 E. Coast Highway, Newport Beach. (800) 777-4296.
* Fireworks show. Fireworks show at Newport Dunes Resort. 9 p.m. Free for walk-ins and bicycles, $20 for vehicles. Jamboree Road and Backbay Drive. (949) 729-3863.
* Independence Day Family Picnic and Bicycle Parade. Saturday. Parade for kids lines up at 9:30 a.m., begins at 10 a.m.; participants decorate bikes and ride two blocks to park. Event also features a performance by Barnaby the Clown, family games, races, food and a silent auction and raffle to raise money for Mariner's Elementary School foundation. Free, $5 wristband charge for games. Mariner's Park at Dover Drive and Irvine Ave., Newport Beach. (949) 644-3151.
* Fireworks show. Saturday. Festivities start at 3 p.m. and include a patriotic music show, food booths and family entertainment. Fireworks begin at 8:30 p.m. $4, children younger than 6 are free. Fred Kelly Stadium, at El Modena High School, 3900 E. Chapman Ave. (714) 744-7278.
* Fireworks Spectacular and Family Day. Saturday. Carnival featuring 50-cent games for children 12 and younger, kayak and jet ski demos, dog shows, a petting zoo, a wake board show, live music and a raffle. Fireworks at 8:45 p.m. Noon-9 p.m. $5-$7, $22 for family of up to five. Irvine Lake, 4621 Santiago Canyon Road near city of Orange. (714) 649-9113.
* Fireworks. Low-level fireworks show begins at 9 p.m. Family-style entertainment begins at 6:30 p.m. $5 adults, $4 seniors and youths ages 13 to 17, $1 ages 4 to 12, and children 3 and younger are free. Free for members of the military in uniform or with valid ID. 50-cent discount if tickets are purchased on or before July 1. Bradford Stadium, at Valencia High School, 500 N. Bradford. (714) 993-8232.
Rancho Santa Margarita
* Fireworks. Low-level fireworks show begins at dusk. Free. Rancho Santa Margarita Business Park, in the vacant lot at Avenida de las Banderas and Empresa. (949) 589-4272.
* Fireworks and festival. Fireworks at 9 p.m. Also, concert before the fireworks, Santa Ana Winds and Patriotic Winds Marching Band, food booths, craft areas for children. Free. Centennial Regional Park, 3000 W. Edinger Ave. at Fairview Road. (714) 571-4200.
San Juan Capistrano
* Fireworks and festival. Fireworks at 9 p.m. Activities begin at 3 p.m., including entertainment, food booths, games. San Juan Capistrano Sports Park, 25925 Camino Del Avion. (949) 493-5911.
* Fireworks show. Fireworks start at 9 p.m. around pier bowl area. The pier is near Avenida del Mar and Alameda Lane. Free. (949) 361-8264.
* Music. Jonathan Jenkins conducts the Capistrano Chorale in free performance of its "Century of Pop" program at 6:30 p.m. at St. Andrews by the Sea United Methodist Church, 2001 Calle Frontera. (949) 492-2537.
* Fireworks, music and food. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. Fireworks at 9 p.m. Also, family entertainment, food and music. Free. Northrup Field, at Tustin High School, 1171 El Camino Real. (714) 573-3326.
* Fireworks. Display starts at 9 p.m. Stadium gates open at 5 p.m. Food, marching bands, karate demonstration. Free. Westminster High School Stadium, 14325 Golden West St. (714) 895-2860.
* Fireworks and festival. Starts at 4 p.m. Fireworks at 9 p.m. Entertainment, food and game booths and canine demonstration. Free. Valley View Sports Park, Valley View Avenue at Imperial Highway. (714) 961-7181.
* Third Annual Revolutionary War Living History Encampment. Saturday and Sunday. The encampment will feature a ceremonial raising of a replica of the "Betsy Ross" flag. Actors portraying soldiers and townspeople in authentic dress bring the Revolutionary War era to life. Visitors can see a reenactment of the Battle of Lexington and Concord and tour the tents and battle encampments, where they can talk to actors playing British and American officers. There will also be music, dancing and crafts. Food will be available at the Williamsburg Tavern Green. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sunday. Free with library admission: children 7 and younger free; children 8 to 11, $2; 12 and older, $5.95; students with ID and seniors 62 and older, $3.95; active military, $4.95. The Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace, 18001 Yorba Linda Blvd. (714) 993-5075.
* Compiled by Jenny Anglin, Jose Paul Corona, Michael Miller and Ken Williams.
All events take place July 4 unless otherwise indicated. Fireworks displays designated low level ignite at 300 feet while regular fireworks ignite at a higher altitude; low level shows are best viewed from the site of the event.