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Love fireworks, hate crowds? Try these 11 unofficial lookouts in L.A.

A night sky with exploding fireworks over a silhouetted skyline of L.A.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

L.A.’s relationship with fireworks? It’s complicated.

It’s chaotic and joyful. Dangerous and liberating. All around unbound. It’s a love-hate thing. And there’s something highly specific about the way this dynamic plays out in this city on the Fourth of July.

Firework shows — the official, longstanding displays at the Rose Bowl, Hollywood Bowl and Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and the unofficial, definitely illegal, displays you watch from your friend’s rooftop — are both embedded in the city’s DNA.

As Times columnist Frank Shyong wrote in 2019: “There has never been a fireworks show that can compare to getting up on any building in Los Angeles and turning in a circle. It is 360 degrees of joyful, pyrotechnic anarchy.”

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Which made us think: What are some of the unofficial places in L.A. to do the same? We’ve compiled a list of parks, parking garages, freeways and lookouts where you can revel in the night’s professional and amateur shows.

Angeles Crest Highway

The Angeles Crest Highway is enjoyed by drivers in search of a scenic trip east, teenagers escaping their parents and searching for sparkling late-night views of L.A., and you — this Fourth of July. Angeles Crest Highway, or California 2, starts at the 210 Freeway and Foothill Boulevard in La Cañada Flintridge. The two-lane highway runs for 66 miles to Wrightwood, but you don’t need to venture far for sweeping views of fireworks shows over Los Angeles. Few freeways can boast a website, much less a road guide to turn-offs where you can take in the sights. Start from La Cañada and head north and east on Angeles Crest, keeping an eye open for picnic areas and trailheads on the right where you can stop and stare.

Every summer in Los Angeles, the police department, fire agencies and politicians take great pains to warn the public about the dangers of illegal fireworks.

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

If hiking after dusk sounds like your ideal summer evening, we’ll be right there with you this Fourth. Lacing up your boots or sneakers and chasing the sun while the rocks are still warm with the day’s heat is quintessential L.A. hike culture. Enjoy the city’s impressive fireworks from the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook (6300 Hetzler Road, Culver City), reached by a quick 1.3-mile loop.

Barnsdall Art Park

Barnsdall Art Park (4800 Hollywood Blvd.) was closed for more than a year during the pandemic, depriving residents of Los Feliz and East Hollywood of the park’s phenomenal views of L.A. and its fireworks displays. This year, get there early to catch a glimpse of the Hollyhock House and the park’s historic olive grove. Then spread a blanket, play some board games, watch the sun set and wait for the show.

Burton Chace Park

A Fourth favorite in Marina del Rey is Burton Chace Park (13650 Mindanao Way), which this year will be open from 5 to 10 p.m. only for those who pre-registered to watch the popular waterfront show. (Registration doesn’t guarantee entry, but guests can start lining up at 4 p.m. to ensure their spot.) The fireworks display will be a swift 10 minutes this year, shooting off at 9 p.m. from a barge off the marina’s south jetty.

Colorado Street Bridge

Pasadena’s historic Colorado Street Bridge (504 W. Colorado Blvd.) promises an unobstructed view of the AmericaFest fireworks show at the Rose Bowl, which is back this year after going dark amid the pandemic. Look for a spot on the north side of the bridge so you’re facing the Rose Bowl. The pyrotechnics launch at 9 p.m.

4th of July events are back in Southern California as the state reopens.

Freeways

There might be nothing more L.A. than heading out in the car for a holiday celebration. Ask families who have called the area home for a couple of generations, and you’ll discover their secret corridors: Hop on the 105 Freeway and switch to the 110 north to downtown. Or drive north on the I-5 or 405 as soon as it gets dark. Or head west on the 105 between the 605 and the 110 for views of beachfront shows. Whatever your freeway of choice, you can’t go wrong heading out around 8 p.m. and cruising next to or below the region’s most spectacular fireworks displays.

Hilltop Park, Signal Hill

It’s hard to beat the 360-degree view from Hilltop Park (2351 Dawson Ave.). Park on a side street and walk up to the park for a great view. And if the park is too crowded, bring blankets, snacks and sit in, or on, your car.

Hollywood Home Depot parking garage

Father’s Day isn’t the only holiday rescued by a home improvement store. Head to the top level of the Home Depot parking garage in Hollywood (5600 Sunset Blvd.) as it starts to get dark and get ready for 360 degrees of fireworks, including, perhaps, at the nearby Hollywood Bowl concerts that start at 7:30 p.m Saturday and Sunday.

Howard Hughes Center parking structure

Maybe it’s just us, but there’s something romantic about hanging out on top of a parking garage, especially when hundreds of fireworks are blasting off around you. The top level of the parking structure at the Howard Hughes Center (6081 Center Drive) on Los Angeles’ Westside is an ideal perch to watch from this weekend.

Get outdoors for the first major holiday since California relaxed COVID-19 rules

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach claims to have the biggest Fourth of July celebration this side of the Mississippi River. It will be crowded and parking will be tough, but if you want to combine a beach trip with a free fireworks show, this is the spot. Make a day of of it: Catch the parade from 8-10 a.m., grab brunch on Main Street and hang out on the beach (103 Pacific Coast Highway) before it’s time to stake a spot for the show.

Universal City Overlook

Everyone knows the best place to catch a fireworks show is from up high. From the Universal City Overlook (7701 Mulholland Drive), you’ll probably see a number of smaller (illegal) shows popping off as well as sprawling views of the San Gabriel Mountains, the Verdugo Hills, the San Fernando Valley and Universal City. The overlook closes at 9 p.m.


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