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Fleeing fireworks? Here are 10 ways to a peaceful SoCal Fourth of July

A lone man sits on a rocky beach
Find the quiet you seek on Santa Cruz Island, part of Channel Islands National Park.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

The Fourth of July can be rough for any American seeking peace and quiet. It might be even tougher in Southern California, where fireworks displays (both authorized and forbidden) seem endemic.

Or, to quote The Times’ Steve Lopez, “Roughly every 10 seconds or so, some knucklehead lights explosives in a warmup for the big day.”

But don’t worry, readers (and Steve). Calming day-and-night options are out there, including some with patriotic elements. Here are 10.

The Bridge to Nowhere is the centerpiece of a mostly flat 10-mile round-trip hike along the East Fork of the San Gabriel River, not far from the middle of nowhere. You’ll get your feet wet crossing the river but you’ll probably be safe from fireworks.

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Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge will be open. Nonmember adult admission is $15, advance purchase required. A “Castle Garden” show, exploring how plants and gardens express culture and identity, is open through Sept. 12.

Float Lab will have its isolation flotation chambers open in Venice Beach and Westwood. The idea is to calm customers by minimizing light, sound and gravity. The Venice location will be open until 9 p.m. on the Fourth, the Westwood location until 11 p.m.

Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, where more than 100,000 military service members and their loved ones are interred, is perched near the end of Point Loma, overlooking San Diego Bay and Coronado. It’s open sunrise to sunset, so you’ll be gone by the time SeaWorld and others along the coast set off their fireworks.

Ventura-based Island Packers takes visitors to Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands, both part of Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Both have a single campground, which makes for little human noise (but sometimes plenty of screeching seabirds and howling wind). Prices are $45-$84 per person, round trip. The company also does whale-watching trips and serves more distant Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara islands on a more limited schedule.

Jalama Beach County Park doesn’t get many accidental visitors. It’s in Santa Barbara County, 20 miles south of Lompoc and 14 miles off California 1. Once you reach the beach at the end of Jalama Road, you’ll find uncrowded shoreline, often surfable waves, frequent wind, railroad tracks, rugged hills, a county tent and RV campground with 107 sites (all booked, except for a handful of first-come, first-served spots) along with several cabins (booked well ahead for the holiday). You’ll also find the Jalama Beach Store & Grill, which is famous for its Jalama burgers ($9.95 with cheese). The grill will be open and slinging burgers on the Fourth.

Just Float, a water spa in Pasadena, will be open on the holiday, offering hourlong sessions in its sensory deprivation float room. Just Float is open from 9 a.m. to 9:15 p.m.; prices start at $59 for a first-time floater.

Buzz Aldrin tours a Nixon Library exhibit on space travel.
Buzz Aldrin, one of the Apollo 11 astronauts who made the first moonwalk in 1969, tours a Nixon Library exhibit on space travel in 2019.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda will be open ($23 for adult nonmembers), including an outdoor exhibit on “The President and the Planet: Richard Nixon and the Environment.” (Spoiler: He proposed establishing the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.) Many areas of the library remain closed, including the research room, great room, domestic policy theater, birthplace and helicopter interior. The city’s fireworks show a few blocks away starts at 9 p.m.

“Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” is in theaters throughout the Southland. Any movie in a theater will shield you from booms and crackles in the sky. But lots of movies come with booms, crackles and hollering. This one, not so much. By the way: the film “A Quiet Place Part II,” also in theaters now, is not as calm as it sounds.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, in Simi Valley, has things happening virtually and in person on the Fourth. At 10 a.m. on YouTube, it will stream an Independence Day program featuring the Air Force Band and a Betsy Ross reenactor who might keep you in stitches with flag trivia. Meanwhile at the site, the library has a new exhibit on the FBI, “From Al Capone to Al-Qaeda.” It opens Friday, offering history, details on most-wanted criminals and an “interactive abbreviated FBI qualification course” to see if you’ve got the right stuff. General admission is $29.95.


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