There are few locations in the country more beautiful for fireworks than Lake Tahoe. And, be warned, there are few as crowded. Even though Independence Day falls in the middle of the week this year, the spectators will be huge in number, traffic will be slow, and the best viewing spots will fill early. Plan ahead.
The biggest display has been and will continue to be South Lake Tahoe's "Lights on the Lake," 25 minutes of bursts commencing around 9:45 p.m. on the Fourth. It has consistently ranked high in the lists of national displays and will have musical accompaniment simulcast on KRTL-FM 93.9 and KOWL-AM 1490.
Viewing points are numerous and include a few from the water – the MS Dixie II paddle-wheeler and the 80-foot luxury yacht Safari Rose (laketahoecruises.com). Prime viewing for the landlocked include: Edgewood-Tahoe Beach in Stateline; Nevada Beach, two miles east of South Lake Tahoe on Elk Point Road; Timber Cove Marina at the Tahoe Beach Retreat and Lodge; the Tallac Historic Site off Emerald Bay Road (or be adventurous and hike to the top of Mount Tallac, not forgetting your head lamps for the descent); and Lakeview Commons, corner of Highway 50 and Lakeview Avenue.
Other lake firework displays include the Kings Beach celebration at the North Tahoe Events Center (this one is early, on Tuesday, July 3); Tahoe City Fireworks at Commons Beach; the Truckee celebration, best viewed from West End Beach at Donner Lake; and the Incline Village display (be aware that most beaches are private).
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In Reno-Sparks, the big party is always Star-Spangled Sparks, put on by the Nugget and fired off the towers. Victorian Square in front of the casino is the location for all-day parties, both on July 1 (no fireworks following this one) and July 4, featuring live music, vendors, crafts and special activities.
Sunday marks the beginning of another big traditional event, Reno's Artown, 31 days of concerts, exhibits, theatrical presentations, dance and all things art. Most of the events and activities are traditionally free, including opening night's concert by Los Lobos in downtown's Wingfield Park (7:30 p.m.) Performers through the month include Jake Shimabukuro, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and Marcia Ball, all ticketed. (Full schedule and tickets at renoisartown.com)
There is no shortage of casino entertainment this week as well:
Gabriel "Fluffy" Iglesias brings his "One Show Fits All World Tour" to Thunder Valley Friday (8 p.m.; $52.95-$99.95; thundervalleyresort.com), followed by a blasting double bill of Primus ("Tommy the Cat" and "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver") and Mastodon ("Once More 'Round the Sun" and "The Hunter") Saturday (6 p.m.; $34.95-$84.95);
Corridos come to Cache Creek Saturday with the music of Roberto Tapia (8 p.m.; $65-$85; cachecreek.com);
Margaret Cho brings her inclusive and significantly adult comedy to the MontBleu Saturday (8 p.m.; $35-$45; Ticketmaster);
Michael Franti & Spearhead play at Harrah's Reno outdoor plaza Friday (7:30 p.m.; $40.50; Ticketmaster);
And country artists traditionally sell best in summer outdoor series, so expect no less than a crowd, boosting holiday traffic even more, for Kenny Chesney, opened by Old Dominion, July 3 in the Harveys Outdoor Arena ($69.50-$149.50; Ticketmaster of apeconcerts.com).