Surviving Independence Day at Lake Tahoe: Advice for making the most of your 4th of July |

Surviving Independence Day at Lake Tahoe: Advice for making the most of your 4th of July

Fireworks are seen over Lake Tahoe in this file photo.
Submitted photo

“We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”

That quote is as fitting an operation to stave off an alien invasion (RIP President Thomas Whitmore) as it is for celebrating July 4 at Lake Tahoe.

Yes, the July 4 holiday is without a doubt one of the busiest times of the year at Tahoe. Thousands of people will be out there looking to claim their real estate on the beach and an ideal location to watch the various fireworks displays around the lake.

You’re going to need a plan if you want to avoid hopping from spot to spot only to find there is no room at the inn.

Here is some advice for making sure your July 4 holiday is just like our forefathers envisioned: an alcohol-fueled party populated with people in cheaply made red, white and blue swimwear.

Have a plan

Yes, it’s true that making a rigid itinerary almost always creates unnecessary stress, regardless of whether you’re on vacation or just trying to enjoy a day off work. But this is the big time, people. Going into this holiday thinking you’ll just “go with the flow” is a recipe for disaster (God help you if you’re heading out the evening of July 3 to do your big grocery trip).

No, you don’t need a spreadsheet detailing your plans hour by hour — don’t do that. The key here is to have a basic gameplan that allows for some flexibility should life decide to happen. It’s about balance.

You need to know the night before July 4 where and what you want to do. Don’t have the debate among your group the morning of July 4 about whether you should tear up Squaw or hit the beach.

If you want to watch the parade, then pick a spot, know the start time and make sure you get there with more than 10 minutes to spare. And make plans for afterward.

Know what beach you want to go to and make sure you get there early. Also, decide how you’re going to get there. Driving? Have the car mostly packed the night before. Catching a ride? Save the phone number for several taxi companies for when the Uber or Lyft app crashes due to the stress on the wireless network.

Actually, be prepared to go without the phone period. Make sure everyone in your group knows the plan ahead of time so you’re not trying to call uncle Jim when you find out the parking lot at Zephyr Cove is full.

The need for a plan also applies to fireworks. Have a spot and get there early. You don’t want to be walking up Ski Run Boulevard around 9 p.m. only to discover that you can’t see the fireworks through the trees (sometimes you learn the hard way).

Follow the golden rule

The holidays can be stressful. You’re likely with family, which is cause for stress on its own, in a sea of fellow patriotic partiers.

The sheer number of people in town will put stress on the system. There will be traffic on the roads, long lines in the grocery store and waits at the restaurants. Now is not the time to be an a$$hole. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Remember, the fellow travelers on the road are just like you. They want to get to their destination and have some fun. Don’t be that guy with your face pressed against the windshield playing defense and making sure no driver can merge into your lane.

While we’re on this topic, the horn is not there for you to express your irritation. Lay off of it.

Now, you may feel the need to express your outrage at the 30-person-deep line to the grocery store employee — don’t. You’re trying to enjoy the holiday and they’re working … on a holiday. There’s no need to be hostile toward the good men and women working so you can get that 30 rack of Coors Light and Solo cups.

Instead, flash a smile to the person manning the checkout line. And FOR. THE. LOVE. OF. GOD. don’t wait for the person to scan all your groceries and then expect them to bag it. Start bagging your own groceries.

Also, follow the golden rule of dining: Don’t mess with the people making and handling your food/drink. Just don’t do it.

Lastly, reward hard work and good service with a good tip. You likely either once worked in the service industry or had the good fortune to avoid it. Either way, there’s no excuse for leaving a weak tip after receiving good service.

Beach etiquette

Some people like to play conquistador when they visit the beach. Yes, it’s important to grab your spot but do not be that family setting up the 20×20 tent surrounded by a moat of chairs and floaties. Take the territory you need, not the 2-acre plot you want. There’s only so much sand.

The golden rule also applies to beach etiquette. Be friendly. Who knows, you might just make some new friends.

And watch where you’re walking. People will be trying to get some rays; you don’t want to step on them.

Pack it out

This last point is so simple: DON’T LITTER. It’s really not hard.

Pack out everything you pack in, regardless of whether you’re at the beach or in the backcountry.

If the trash can is overflowing then hold on to your garbage and throw it away later. Don’t be that person who just tosses their trash on an overflying pile. I could go on and on about this but again, it’s simple: DO. NOT. LITTER.

Ryan Hoffman is a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication to the Sierra Sun. Contact him at

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