. . . I believe that the second day of July, 1776, will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward, forevermore.
John Adams, in a letter to his wife
Although it wasn't until two days later that the final text of the Declaration of Independence was actually adopted, John Adams' prescient vision of America's anniversary came true. A day of picnics and parades, fireworks and patriotic speeches, the Fourth of July has become a joyous holiday for all Americans.
A traditional way to celebrate the nation's birthday is a picnic in one of America's beautiful parks. Here are 10 sites in Southern California to take some food and spend the day.
William S. Hart County Park, 24151 N. San Fernando Road, Newhall, (805) 259-0855. Hours: 10 a.m.-sundown. Cost: free. A California State Park of Historical Interest, the 259-acre site was purchased by screen star William S. Hart in 1921 when it was known as the Horseshoe Ranch. The park has a museum, the Saugus train station, the Hart home and some ranch animals and bison. Newhall's annual parade, with the theme "American Legend," will start from the ranch at 10 a.m. and end in Newhall Park where there will be fireworks. Where to picnic: As you drive into the park, you will see a large picnic area, shaded by oak trees, equipped with picnic tables, barbecue braziers and drinking fountains.
Griffith Park, Riverside Drive and Los Feliz Boulevard, Los Angeles, (213) 665-5188. Hours: 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Cost: free. This 4,000-acre natural area is one of the largest municipally owned-and-operated parks in the world. It offers golf, tennis, swimming and 53 miles of riding and hiking trails. Where to picnic: The most popular areas are Crystal Springs, Mineral Wells, Ferndell and the Park Center, which is across from the ranger station. Smaller picnic areas are throughout the park. All of the sites are large enough for games and sports and are equipped with barbecue pits and picnic tables.
Palomar Mountain State Park, State Park Road, Palomar Mountain, (619) 742-3462. Hours: dawn to dusk. Cost: $2 per car. Take California 76 to County S6, drive north to State Park Road and drive west to park. Palomar, or "place of the pigeons," was named by the Spaniards for the thousands of band-tailed pigeons that once nestled on its slopes. The park has large pine, fir and cedar trees. To the east, beyond the limits of the park, is Palomar Observatory, with a museum and visitors' gallery, which is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Where to picnic: Each of the individual picnic sites at Silver Crest, near park headquarters, has picnic tables, stone stoves and piped-in drinking water. There is also an informal picnic area near Doane Pond, which is stocked with trout and other fish. Fishing licenses are required.
Hancock Park/Rancho La Brea Tar Pits, 5801 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 936-2230. Hours: The park is open dawn to dusk. Cost: free. A "picnic at the pits" will give you an opportunity to brush up on the history of the world's largest treasure trove of Ice Age fossils at this California landmark. Scientific study has been under way here since 1905, but much more is still to be learned from the 40,000-year-old site. A program of excavation is in progress at Pit 91. The George C. Page Museum, which exhibits mammal and bird fossils, costs adults $1.50; children 5 to 17, students with ID and seniors 62 and older pay 75 cents; children 4 and under free when accompanied by parent. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Where to picnic: Spread your family feast
anywhere on the park's spacious lawns in the shade of one of its many native California trees.
Malibu Creek State Park, 28754 Mulholland Highway, Malibu, (818) 706-1310. Hours: 8 a.m.-sunset. Cost: $2 per car. Malibu Creek State Park preserves an area of rugged cliffs and gorges along Upper Malibu and Las Virgenes creeks. Along the creeks are waterfalls, a rock pool and the seven-acre Century Lake. Some oaks in the grassland area are more than 300 years old. About 15 miles of hiking and riding trails thread the park's rocky terrain. Portions of Malibu Creek were purchased from 20th Century Fox film studio, which used the sites for filming "How Green Was My Valley." Where to picnic: Picnic areas are located at Century Lake, alongside the creeks and in groves of trees.