Independence Day traditionally means backyard barbecues, fireworks and their attendant sulfur fumes, and enough day drinking to make waking up on July 5 feel like a huge mistake. But, ultimately, there's nothing more American than exercising your independence and spending July 4 however you damn well please. From big, traditional patriotic blowouts to a book reading at a museum (for real), here are a bunch of ways to make our forefathers proud by having a bitchin' Independence Day.
JULY 2 & 3
The Clifton's Canteen: A Tribute to the 1940s USO Shows
Clifton's Cafeteria is flashing back to the USO shows of the 1940s to host the Clifton's Canteen. CAC Studios, the creative force behind the patriotic shindig, promises drinks, a hot jazz band and swing dancing. WWII-era garb encouraged — military uniforms, too, no doubt. Clifton's Cafeteria, 648 S. Broadway, downtown; Sat., July 2, 8-10 p.m.; $10, free for active military and veterans. cacstudios.com/uso.
Cinespia: Purple Rain and Grease
The passing of the Purple One has left a dark cloud over 2016. On Saturday, celebrate Prince's life rather than his death with a screening of 1984's Purple Rain in Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Then on Sunday, celebrate the long-gone days when John Travolta was a person we liked with a screening of Grease followed by a fireworks display by the pyrotechnics team that handles Dodger Stadium, the Hollywood Bowl and the Olympics. If explosives and a reference to a “pussy wagon” don't wake the dead, I don't know what will! Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Sat.-Sun., July 2-3, 7:15 p.m. cinespia.org.
KJLH Fourth of July Exposition Park Fireworks Extravaganza
Join a radio station and some City Council members for a traditional sort of July Fourth celebration in Exposition Park. Promising carnival rides, food trucks and fireworks (sorry, an EXTRAVAGANZA), there's also live music, including a tribute to Prince. Exposition Park, 700 Exposition Park Drive, Exposition Park; Mon., July 4, noon-10 p.m.; free. facebook.com/events/1357191607644075.
Fourth of July Barn Dance
The second annual Barn Dance at Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum is as much a celebration of artistic independence as it is patriotic independence, with live, down-home folk and country music, tons of barbecue, a pie-eating contest, a watermelon seed–spitting contest, a cakewalk, horseshoes competition, the terrors of the dunk bucket and a lot more. Also, Uncle Sam will be there, wanting you … to have fun! Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; $22, $10 for kids. (310) 455-3723, theatricum.com/4th-of-july-barn-dance.
All-American Fourth of July at the Queen Mary
Celebrating our independence from Great Britain on a ship named for a Scottish queen is a little ironic, but there's a lot of fun to be had all the same: a Coney Island–style carnival and circus, Texas hold-'em and casino games, a glitzy Hollywood-themed party, and what they say is the best fireworks display in SoCal. The Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach; Mon., July 4, 2-10 p.m.; $44-$99. queenmary.com/events/july-fourth.
AmericaFest at the Rose Bowl
Now in its 90th year, AmericaFest at the Rose Bowl is a reliably fun and family-friendly way to spend Independence Day. This year's festivities include a motocross show, a performance by Beatles tribute band Liverpool Legends, a tribute to the U.S. space program and, yes, a big-ass fireworks display. Rose Bowl, 1001 Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena; Mon., July 4, 2-9:30 p.m.; $13, $25 for reserved seating. rosebowlstadium.com/events/detail/america-fest.
Lost & Found Film Club at Cinefamily
Cinefamily's monthly showcase of “ephemeral, industrial and educational 16mm films” proceeds as usual, but with a backyard barbecue potluck (which means bring food). A/V Geeks' Skip Elsheimer stops by with some films from his own collection. And there'll be plenty of time to check out fireworks elsewhere afterward. Cinefamily, 611 N. Fairfax Ave., Beverly Grove; Mon., July 4, 2 p.m. facebook.com/events/143832032687354.
Fourth of July Block Party
Gather the fam and head to Grand Park for a big, free celebration with music, food vendors and even a bike valet. Performers include multilingual indie-poppers Kotolan, singer-songwriter Jenny O and salsa dancing by the Echo Park Project. When the sun goes down, a big-ass city-sponsored fireworks display lights up the civic center skyline. Grand Park, 200 N. Grand Ave., downtown; Mon., July 4, 2-9:30 p.m.; free. facebook.com/events/1572996246260040.
Jennifer Wright discusses It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History
If fireworks can't mend your broken heart and you sort of want to wallow in the mire, there's no better place than a reading of a book about breakups at a museum dedicated to breakups. Author Jennifer Wright has compiled particularly terrible breakup stories and reads from her new book at the Museum of Broken Relationships, an institution that collects and displays the objects that are left behind when people uncouple. Then you can go shoot Roman candles at your ex's house. Museum of Broken Relationships, 6751 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Mon., July 4, 4-5 p.m. facebook.com/events/1284973988197217.