Photo by Emilio Guzman on Unsplash

The West is a big, big place, and every week our staff is all over it. Here’s the Best of the West, Independence Day-style.

Sunset Staff  – July 1, 2019

The Best Way to Celebrate the Fourth in the Rockies

When I moved to Colorado from the East Coast I felt certain nothing in the mountains could possibly compare to July 4th fireworks on the beach. Aspen’s Independence Day extravaganza proved me wrong. In true mountain town fashion, Aspen kicks off festivities with a five-mile run, Boogie’s Buddy Race. Even better than fireworks is the Old Fashioned 4th of July Parade on Main Street, which oozes small town nostalgia. Expect cowboys on horseback, fire engines, the Aspen ski patrol riding atop floats built out of whitewater rafts, vintage cars, and more. A carnival at Paepcke Park has activities for youth (bounce houses) and grownups (beer tents) and in the late afternoon the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department and Mountain Rescue host a block party with food, live music, and a beer garden. Aspen’s legendary concert venue, the Belly Up, always puts on a great show and this year’s headliners will be The Raconteurs, featuring the White Stripes’ Jack White. To avoid fire danger, the town choreographs a spectacular drone light show—trust me, you won’t miss the bangs and booms. And when you’ve had a snow season like we had this year, it’s pretty cool to be able to show off your patriotism on the ski slopes in July. —Jen Murphy, executive editor

Redwoods > Fireworks

I live in San Francisco, a.k.a. the worst place in America to see fireworks. The city’s typical July fog makes visibility an unpredictable and often impossible gambit, so the only hope of seeing a display is getting out of town. Three years ago, on a trip to Sonoma County, my two kids saw their first-ever legit fireworks display in Santa Rosa and remember it like it was yesterday—so they’re a tiny bit miffed that this will be the second consecutive year since then that we’re going somewhere without any chance of fireworks whatsoever. We’ll be car camping in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, a sequoia-filled wonderland in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The truth is, my kids really do love camping, so they’ll forget all about the Independence Day goings-on once the tent is pitched and the woods are ours to explore. We’ll hike, forage forest-floor treasures to make sun prints, play games, and cook up some of Sunset’s family-friendly camping meals (my kids are obsessed with the Chicken Enchilada Nacho Bowls and One-Pan Mac ‘n’ Cheese). In fact, what’s mitigating the kids’ disappointment over the lack of fireworks most of all? The exciting promise of s’mores and these campfire cones that we tried last summer. (Funny thing is, the kids also remember that like it was yesterday.) —Jessica Mordo, associate digital director

Celebrate Independence from Boring Old Chips

I’m spending July 4th digging into a bowl of these 4505 Chicharrones by San Francisco-based 4505 Meats. The 4505 team is known in the Bay Area (they just opened an Oakland location) for their smoked barbecue meat plates and juicy brisket sandwiches, but these crunchy, crackling pork rinds are the underappreciated MVP. They melt in your mouth like an addictively salty cloud. Flavor-wise, there’s Classic Chili & Salt, Jalapeno Cheddar, and Smokehouse BBQ. I am very content to just eat them straight from the bag, but I’ll put in a bit more effort for the 4th and break them up on top of a crunchy cabbage slaw, swap out chips for a chicharrones-and-dip situation, or dare I say, make chicharrones nachos. –Maya Wong, assistant editor

The Only Fireworks I’m Going to Watch Are in a Restaurant

Let the rest of the city look up to the sky on the 4th of July. I’m planning on spending my holiday enjoying culinary pyrotechnics instead. While I love an L.A. mini-mall for all its mom-and-pop right-sized diversity, the bona-fide shopping centers of the city aren’t my idea of a good time. Unless they house a restaurant of the caliber of Angler, the new L.A. restaurant from Josh Skenes, the chef behind San Francisco’s original Angler, the rightly revered fish and game fantasia and the equally lauded Saison. Let me be clear: You don’t actually have to walk through said mall, the Beverly Center, to get to Angler. There’s an elegant valet stand just off La Cienega, de-malling the approach. It is arguably a more picturesque arrival than at many L.A. restaurants. The space is stunning: A  grand wood-fired oven and grill station stretch across one back wall, bubbling fish tanks line another, and trophy-fish sculptures swim above the bar. The food is exacting, minimalist, but opulent at the same time, sometimes plated with the elemental austerity of a baroque still life: a cold smoked trout fixed as if at mid-swim; tuna hiding under a sheet of tomato geleé that resembles a diamond display; bloody-rare roasted antelope arrayed amongst bones; the notorious whole roasted radicchio that bleeds vegan XO sauce. It’s regal and decadent and somehow, in its hunter-gatherer ethos, a very pioneering and patriotic restaurant at which to dine on the 4th of July. —Hugh Garvey, food editor

Declaring Liberty from Stress

For the Fourth of July, we’re headed out to a mini-Venice in Palm Desert to relax under swaying date palms and cruise on a romantic sunset gondolayes, a gondola! The lush digs of the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa were recently renovated and we figured watching the spectacular fireworks over the golf course sounded more fun than sweating it out in a cement parking lot in L.A. Prices are super reasonable on the over-800 guest rooms, and I just recently took my first pro golf lesson, so I’m ready to hit the links. These typing hands are looking forward to getting a paraffin hand treatment at the spa, where there’s a luxe saltwater pool. The resort is known for its flamingoes, and in their honor, they offer a Pink Flamingo Milkshake with cotton candy, macaroons, mini donuts, and lollipops that I’m looking forward to ‘gramming. Cute! Dakota Kim, staff writer

The Ultimate Picnic Party Kit

We’re all looking to go big and get outdoors this week, which is why I’ve put together my ultimate party pack for the Fourth of July. Let’s start with this comfy blanket (pictured) from Yeti. Sure, they make bear-proof coolers, but this smart system will act as the undercarriage for any gathering, from tailgates to full-on wilderness throw-downs. Next up: The 64-oz. growler from Miir ($49), a stylish functional vacuum-insulated container that brings tap-fresh beer, kombucha, and more to your picnic no matter where you’re setting up shop. And finally, pump the tunes through a speaker with provenance: The BeoPlay P6 brings audiophile-quality sounds to your blanket via Bluetooth. ($400) —Matt Bean, editor in chief

Lowlands Blanket
   

Cheer Team USA

If you think soccer’s boring, you might try watching it with a crowd. Enthusiasm is contagious, and there’s nothing like being part of a scrum of fans that erupts in joy when a goal is scored. You’ll feel the energy in the room lift and buzz as your team builds an attack, and sense the delicious anxiety if the other team mounts a counter. Before long, you’re intuitively following the ebb and flow of the beautiful game. There’s no better time than now to give soccer a second chance, as the Women’s World Cup is well into the knock-out phase this week. (The United States next play on July 2, in a semi-final match against England.) I’m lucky to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where there are many viewing parties. My personal favorite place to gather is the Englander Pub in San Leandro, although if I’m in San Francisco it’s hard to beat the soccer-crazed atmosphere and pint selection at Mad Dog in the Fog. A slightly more family-friendly time can be had at San Francisco’s Civic Center, where a crowd gathers to watch giant outdoor screens. Wherever you find yourself on the 2nd, remember that this is your once-every-four-years chance to feel patriotic while drinking beer, so don’t miss it. Nicole Clausing, digital producer