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4th of July 2020 in Santa Barbara: The Ultimate Guide


American flag waving with Happy Forth of July written across the image. Independence day graphic against colourful fireworks exploding on black background

Across the nation, the 4th of July 2020 will look very different from the holiday in the past, including right here in Santa Barbara. Locally, events and gatherings of 10 people or greater are prohibited, both indoors and outdoors, in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. To discourage attracting or forming crowds, the city has made no plans to stage or accommodate live music, food trucks, or other related public celebratory events for the 4th of July 2020. This year, Cabrillo Boulevard and Lower State Street will remain open to vehicle traffic since no parade is planned.

READ: Living in Santa Barbara

You can still celebrate the holiday and feel connected to the people around you, however; even at a distance. From ingenious ways to observe the day together outside, to interesting tours of historical sites easily accessed from home on your laptop, here are some excellent ideas on ways you can honor America in 2020, and have a good time doing it, too. 

Celebrate Outside

Many residents of Santa Barbara will take advantage of our Mediterranean weather and head to any of the American Rivera’s beautiful beaches: a time-honored place to celebrate July 4th. You must keep social distancing and wear a mask, however, even while enjoying our world-class beaches. That’s why you will see city workers staked out on the shore, as well as on State Street, to remind everyone to follow the rules.

A kayak stops to take a look at seals and sea lions

Thanks to the Santa Barbara Adventure Company, there are several exciting adventurous ways to celebrate the 4th  of July 2020. The company offers both land and water adventures including:

  • Harbor Fun Paddle
    This is a relaxing introduction to kayaking where participants can enjoy a two-hour paddling adventure around the Santa Barbara shoreline. This tour is the perfect 4th of July activity, and a great way to see some of our aquatic wildlife like seals and sea lions up-close and personal. Fun for the whole family, this tour has a 2-person minimum. A knowledgeable guide will join the fun, sharing basic instruction. Double kayaks, along with all the necessary kayaking gear including lifejackets are part of the package.

  • Wine Country Shuttle
    This COVID-ready Wine Country Shuttle service allows you to experience 2-3 wineries at your leisure for the day. At each winery, you can stop for a bite to eat with your wine tasting and opt to purchase either a glass or bottle of wine. If you want to explore the breadth and diversity that the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country has to offer, this is the tour for you. Included in your adventure are incredible guides who will offer interpretation and history about the Santa Ynez Valley throughout the day. You’ll also enjoy special access to a variety of winery specials, from discounted award-winning truffle boxes to wine bottle purchase discounts. 

Party With Arts & Crafts

Little boy making artworks on art lesson at kindergarten

Let your child or grandchild’s inner artist out to celebrate. There are a lot of fun arts & crafts ideas online. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Patriotic Sidewalk Chalk Art
    Light up your sidewalk with your own pictures of fireworks drawn with chalk. Just download some Free Patriotic Star Shapes, pick up some red, white and blue chalk art, plain cardstock, craft scissors, and baby wipes. Then get to work creating your own salute to America. Once you complete your masterpiece, make sure to display your custom one-of-a-kind drawing by sharing a picture on your social media.

READ: 12 Things To Do When You’re Confined to Your Home

  • Freedom Hats and Crowns
    Children get especially excited about Independence Day. That’s why one of the most popular 4th of July crafts for kids is making their own freedom hat or crown. They’re simple to make. Just watch this video for instructions and inspiration. You’ll find many other hats and crown crafts for the holiday online.

  • Patriotic Painted Stones
    Take a stroll on the beach at sunrise and pick up some small stones along the way. The next step is to paint them with the tri-color red, white, and blue. Add the stars and stripes or some polka dots to mimic fireworks. You can create amazing showpieces for your garden.

Celebrate from home

Stay home, be well, and enjoy the holiday. Here are some ideas on safely celebrating at home:

A Capitol 4th of July celebration poster

  • Watch The 40th Anniversary Special of A Capitol Fourth
    Join our troops around the world and tune in to PBS on Saturday, July 4th at 5 pm for an exciting virtual fireworks show. This year’s show is co-hosted by 2-time Emmy Award-nominated actor and producer John Stamos and multi-platinum recording artist and star of television, film and the Broadway stage Vanessa Williams.

    The nation’s 244th birthday celebration event features new performances from iconic locations across the country, including Washington, D.C, New York, Nashville, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. It will also include highlights from the concert’s forty-year history. Due to COVID-19, the traditional live “A Capitol Fourth” will not be held on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. This year’s concert performances were pre-taped instead to ensure the health and safety of all involved.

“For four decades “A Capitol Fourth” has paid tribute to our nation’s birthday and the hopes and dreams of all Americans,” said Executive Producer Michael Colbert. “This year, our broadcast will reflect what we as a country have faced and the challenges ahead, while showcasing our message of inclusion, patriotism and love.”

This special 90-minute presentation will also feature a tribute to our nation’s workers on the front lines in the fight against the pandemic. There will also be a segment honoring the contributions of African American heroes from our nation’s past and present, and a salute to our wounded warriors and their families. The fireworks display over our nation’s iconic skyline will be covered live during the broadcast, captured by multiple cameras stationed around the city.

  • Watch the official local celebration on KEYT
    In lieu of Santa Barbara’s usual 4th of July parade on State Street, the Pierre-Claeyssens Foundation is hosting a virtual celebration at 6 PM on KEYT, Channel 3. Enjoy parade and concert highlights, and a spectacular fireworks finale from past years. Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation has dedicated itself to honor and support all local personnel who are currently on active duty or have honorably served in the United States military.

  • Tour American Museums and Historical Sites Virtually
    If you’re interested in diving deeper into the history of our nation on Independence Day, there are plenty of American museums and historical sites that you can visit virtually. Due to the pandemic, museums and historical sites nationwide are offering free tours of exhibits. Some especially patriotic museums to see on the 4th of July 2020 include the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and the Statue of Liberty.

    The Reagan Library is pulling out all the stops with a virtual program for friends and families. Our “National Anthem” and “God Bless America” will be performed and you’re invited to listen to some of our wonderful presidents from the past give a monologue of life during their presidential terms. Join in on a 4th of July 2020 costume contest for a chance to win a fun prize from the Museum Store. Submit your festive photos by posting them on the museum’s Facebook page or on Instagram with the hashtag #4thofJulycostume. There will also be 4th of July crafts/games accessible to print out for more family fun.

    Also, NASA is offering tours of multiple sites, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Space Station, and the Spitzer Space Telescope.

  • Plan a Social-Distancing Potluck
    Potlucks are a favorite pastime for the 4th of July because they spread the responsibility of cooking between a lot of people while also bringing everyone together. However, while potlucks are a fun way to celebrate the 4th, they aren’t the best way to practice social distancing.

    You can have a potluck, even while practicing social distancing with a little bit of planning. Instead of having everyone come together to share food, just plan a porch potluck with your neighbors. Have everyone involved cook their best Independence Day dish to drop off on one another’s porches. This way, you can enjoy not making an entire meal on your own and also feel connected to your community.

  • Play Backyard Games
    Just because you aren’t having a big barbecue with 50 of your closest friends doesn’t mean you can’t play fun outdoor games with the people you live with. Even for adults, games like water balloon tosses, corn hole, and horseshoes are a great way to celebrate and blow off steam. If you don’t have games on hand, they’re easy to order online or pick up at local stores.

READ: Who Says Fun Games to Play Outside Are Just for Kids?

  • Hold a Neighborhood Hotdog Eating Contest
    Hotdog eating contests are a 4th of July tradition; one that you can still enjoy while following strict social distancing measures. Not only can you have a hotdog eating contest with the people in your household, but you can share it with friends and family through social media. Document your hotdog eating contest on your Instagram story and tag your friends to challenge them.

  • Watch a Patriotic Movie Outside
    Set up an outdoor movie theater and cozy seating on your lawn, then sit back and relax with some of the best patriotic movies like Yankee Doodle Dandy or Miracle

  • Take a Family Bike Ride
    No neighborhood 4th of July parade this year? No problem. You and your immediate family can have your very own private parade by decorating your bikes with flags, streamers, and ribbons, and setting off together for a few casual laps around the block or even down State Street. The ride will help everyone work up an appetite before the celebratory barbecue.

  • 4th of July 2020 Barbecue with Family
    Gather the kids together and make a plan to create the ultimate backyard barbecue. Get yourself decked out in red, white, and blue, and create patriotic dishes together that you and your family can enjoy all day long.

Stroll the New State Street Promenade

Many of the popular restaurants and shops along the new State Street Promenade will be open for business during the 4th of July 2020. But, beware, the city has added mobile message boards and signage, along with increased public safety staffing during the holiday weekend to reinforce social distancing, masks, and public health guidelines.

READ: Shop and Dine Along the NEW Santa Barbara State Street Promenade

If you’re thinking of buying some fireworks yourself from one of the neighboring communities where safe and sane fireworks are legally sold, think again. Remember, fireworks are illegal here. The recent flurry of illegal fireworks throughout Santa Barbara County has frustrated residents, firefighters, and law enforcement officers, not to mention how the blast and booms scare our canine residents. Local police plan a big crackdown on that illegal activity in the coming days, which comes with a hefty fine, explained in this video.

No matter how you choose to celebrate the 4th of July 2020, officials ask that all Santa Barbarians be considerate of their neighbors, veterans who have PTSD, children who may be sleeping, and pets who may be scared.

Let’s hope the 4th of July 2020 is safe and fun for all; even as we all undoubtedly look forward to a return to celebrating in a more traditional way in 2021. If you’re thinking of spending 4th of July 2021 in a new Santa Barbara or Montecito home like these, give me a call at (805) 886-9378 or email me at


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