Editor's note: This is an updated version of our Fourth of July guide that ran in 2011 and 2012. Reduce, reuse, recycle!
#1: Get to Main Beach early and stake out a spot—it’s gonna get crowded. An estimated 100,000 people kinda crowded. While you could try to park downtown and partake in the annual Parking Space Safari and Excuse-Me-Are-You-Leaving? Sing-Along, we instead advise parking at the public lot across the street from the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel or hop one of the free city trolleys that will take you to Main Beach. Just bear in mind that on the Fourth, the trolleys will stop running at 7 p.m., so getting back to your car could be problematic, unless you're just coming into town for the sun and surf. Because, really, when it gets down to it, seen one fireworks display, seen 'em all ...
#2: Why are the trolleys stopping earlier than usual? Because if they weren't, once the fireworks are over and thousands of bodies all leave Laguna Beach at once, they would ironically be contributing to the traffic nightmare they're supposed to alleviate during normal fest season operating hours. Coast Highway traffic will likely be so clogged post-pyro that walking will be faster, anyway.
#3: On that note, if you plan to leave the city immediately afterwards via Laguna Canyon Road—what are you, nuts?—police will be opening up the middle lane between Canyon Acres and El Toro for outbound traffic to increase the traffic flow. Smarter people will wait for the mob to die down at one of our finer grub 'n' grog establishments downtown.
#4: Like most Orange County cities, fireworks are illegal everywhere at every time in Laguna Beach. They’re illegal on the Fourth of July, illegal on New Year’s Eve, illegal on National Fried Chicken Day (coming up fast on Saturday, July 6, and you know you needed to know) and illegal the other 362 days and nights of the year. After all, Laguna Beach citizens have some very good reasons to be wary of anything flammable, like this one and this one and this one.
#5: No, really. What part of "illegal" don’t you understand? That’s one of the reasons why we’ve got the public display down by the water, and why the city is shelling out close to $30,000 for it—so you don’t go celebrating America’s 237th birthday by blowing stuff up. Like your fingers.
#6: More rules, rules, rules: No tents, no smoking, and no home-brought barbecue grills on the beaches or in the parks. As always, no dogs on the beaches from 9 a.m to 6 p.m. until September 10—and why would you subject your pooch to all that Fourth of July noise, anyway? Keep your dogs inside, because if they bolt trying to escape the explosions, if a car doesn't get them, a hungry coyote will.
#7: If you're planning to spend the holiday in Heisler Park and you really, really need to get your drink on, the city's Community Services Department issues $10 daily use permits so you can imbibe alcohol without fear of being ticketed, as long as you're glugging your brew with a meal. Pick one up at 515 Forest Avenue until 5 p.m. Wednesday. Or you could just do what everyone else will do and brown-bag your booze, or ... do what my Cub Scout pack leader did on outings back in the '70s and slip a plastic sheath over your can of PBR, cleverly disguising it as a soda. No drinking at all on any of the beaches, by the way ...
#9: Want to enter a Best Speedo or Best Short Shorts contest? They're on the docket at a party organized by the folks who run this West Street Beach Facebook page. We assume that crotch-stuffing will be disallowed.
#10: Oh yeah -- fireworks! The pyro will be shot off at Monument Point at 9 p.m. in the central part of Heisler Park, and will last about 20 minutes. This area of Heisler will be closed all day, as will the beach areas surrounding the point. Come 5 p.m., when the prep work by Rialto-based Pyro Spectaculars begins, the park will be closed from the rock benches at Myrtle Street to the gazebo and the Rockpile Beach stairs at Jasmine Street.
#11: The best place to watch the fireworks will clearly be from one of the condo balconies along Cliff Drive, so we suggest making fast friends with some of these fortunate folks who’ll undoubtedly be partying the day away until the bombs start bursting in air. Plus, if you're welcomed in, clean bathrooms!
#12: Those other fireworks shows you might glimpse going off simultaneously in North Laguna? They’re private ones being put on at Irvine Cove and Emerald Bay. Because everyone who lives in those exclusive hoity-toity enclaves thinks they're better than the rest of us. Ahhh, we kid!
#13: It's just ain't a Fourth without a little Dave Alvin ...