Independence Day used to be the highlight of the summer social season at Lake Tahoe back when it was a prime destination for estate owners from Northern California. It’s still one of the busiest weekends at the lake, even though the visitors now come from a wider spectrum of society.
There is still an amount of privilege involved. For example, this year Incline Village will restrict access to Burnt Cedar, Ski and Incline beaches (until 10 p.m. July 4; fireworks at 9:30) to local property owners.
Fortunately for the public at large, such inaccessibility is minimal, and there are plenty of places elsewhere for lovers of pyrotechnics, starting with events leading up to the holiday.
Kings Beach State Recreation Area stages its Fireworks & Beach Party at the North Tahoe Event Center, 8318 North Lake Blvd. Events run from 4 to 10 p.m. with food vendors, free watermelon and games and contests leading to the fireworks culmination. Some preferred seats are reserved for $12; otherwise, viewing is on the beach.
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Now for the holiday itself.
Tahoe City offers an afternoon of activities leading up to the fireworks off Commons Beach (9:30 p.m.). A Fun Zone (11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 315 North Lake Blvd.) will bring back memories of the old county fair with a dunk tank, bean bag toss, and more simple pleasures.
There were some tense moments earlier this year with some legal wrangling over the environmental impact of the annual “Lights on the Lake” display at South Lake Tahoe. The show got the go-ahead and will take place around 9:45 p.m. It consistently draws more than 100,000 viewers with the best spots being Lakeview Commons/El Dorado Beach, Nevada Beach, Timber Cove Marina, Edgewood Tahoe, and on both private boats and public ones such as the M S. Dixie II and Tahoe Queen paddle wheelers.
Downtown Reno has decided to forgo any big celebration this year, but the new ownership of the Nugget, 1100 Nugget Ave., Sparks, will continue Star-Spangled Sparks (4-10 p.m.) The fireworks display has been pretty astounding the past few years, with bursts from both Nugget towers. The accompanying daytime activities at the Sparks Marina have been eliminated this year, so all the action takes place on Victorian Square in front of the Nugget.
The Nugget will host Rockabilly Riot today through Tuesday with 5,000 participants and up to 600 hot rods with drag racing, burnout and model-car contests, as well as bands.
Casino highlights include a Southern Rock premiere event at Thunder Valley with Greg Allman, Leon Russell and Blackwater on Saturday (6:30 p.m.; $29.25, $39.25, $52.75, $69.75, and $84.95; thundervalleyresort.com); and a little “We Are Family’ with Sister Sledge at Cache Creek on Saturday (9 p.m.; $35, $45, $55; cachcreek.com).