On the fourth, the fireworks get all the glory. But this year, let the light show be an explosive finale to a fun-filled, action-packed day. From celebrations aboard an aircraft carrier to hometown parades all over town, we’ve rounded up the very best events around the Bay Area that might even make the kids say, “What fireworks?”
photo: Hornblower Cruises
Get out on the water and see San Francisco’s amazing fireworks from a whole different vantage point. Hornblower offers three evening cruises that include fireworks viewing—the premier fireworks dinner cruise, buffet dinner cruise and the San Francisco Belle cruise. You’ll avoid all the crowds and have the best viewing spot in the bay!
Where: Pier 3 on the Embarcadero at Washington St.
When: July 4
Cost: $158 and up
photo: Pier 39
Fourth of July Celebration at The Pier
For city kids, the party to be at is happening at Pier 39. Live music, including the spot-on ’80s tribute band Tainted Love (neon wardrobe, big hair and all), will rock the waterfront all day, and this is the prime place for viewing the big show: the SF fireworks blast off at 9:30 p.m.
Where: Pier 39, San Francisco
When: July 4, 1:30-10 p.m.
photo: Kate Loweth
4th of July at the Berkeley Marina
The line-up at the Berkeley Marina’s July 4th fete has it all: pony rides, giant slides, water bubble ball rides, carousels, face painting, and of course, access to the only playground around where the kids can use hammers, nails, saws and paint to transform the place any way they want (the whimsical Adventure Playground is open until 8 p.m.). Moms and dads can have a few wishes of their own granted and sneak in a quickie massage while the little ones are being tossed around on the Tilt-a-Whirl. This event also boasts its very own fireworks display at 9:30 p.m., so it’s a 4th of July one-stop shop.
Where: Berkeley Marina, 201 University Dr.
When: July 4, noon-10 p.m.
Cost: Free. $15 parking.
Celebrate Concord 4th of July
Start the day with a 5K run with your kids, followed by a morning parade. The party continues all afternoon with a family friendly festival at Mt. Diablo High School filled with music and food, and concludes with fireworks at 9 p.m.
Where: Todos Santos Plaza and Mt. Diablo High School
2450 Grant St.
When: July 4, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
Cost: Free, except for 5K race which has a $30 fee
photo: Luis Eduardo via flickr
The 4th Aboard the USS Hornet
How about ringing in the fourth strapped into a flight simulator aboard an aircraft carrier? The USS Hornet hosts an Independence Day party that trades the typical parade for tours of Sick Bay, Captain’s Quarters and the Torpedo Room (and don’t forget that flight simulator). But this being a party, there will also be live music, plenty to eat and drink, inflatable slides and a jump house sure to please any little sailor. Once the sun goes down, watch the fireworks from across the Bay on the flight deck.
When: July 4, 1–10 p.m.
Where: 707 W Hornet Ave., Pier 3, Alameda, CA
Cost: Adults/$25, kids 6-17/$15, kids under 6 are free
Alameda Mayor’s 4th of July Parade
If streamer-wrapped bikes and wagons sound like child’s play, maybe the Alameda Mayor’s Fourth of July Parade is more your speed. Billed as “one of the largest and longest” Independence Day parades in the nation, the event boasts more than 2,500 participants including dance troupes, antique cars and equestrians. Little ones can hone their counting skills trying to keep track of the 140 floats as they roll by.
A Green, Red, White & Blue Celebration!
Why green? Because this earth-loving city aims to host a zero-waste event, so brush up on your bin knowledge before you go! Come hungry, as there’s a pancake breakfast, watermelon eating contest, and free ice cream! Also enjoy a demonstration from the East Bay vivarium, a pet show, beard and mustache contest, mechanical bull, human hamster balls, pony rides, local food trucks and Diaper Derby (who’s got the fastest baby in town?!).
Where: Memorial Park, Albany
When: July 4, noon-4 p.m.
photo: Kate Loweth
Redwood City 4th of July Parade, Festival, and Fireworks
Among those cities vying for the “biggest and best” honor, Redwood City stakes claim to the “largest Independence Day parade in Northern California.” Parade participants come from all over the state to wow the judges and spectators and to compete for cash prizes. The festival that follows features craft booths, plenty to eat and drink and a kids’ area with clowns, face-painting and a magic show. Start the morning off with pancakes at the fire house.
Where: Redwood City, Parade starting at Winslow and Marshall and ending at Arguello and Alden Street
When: July 4, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; Parade at 10:00 a.m.
Palo Alto Summer Festival and Chili Cook-off
Culinary-minded kids whose palettes can handle more than just hot dogs and funnel cakes will eat up the festivities at Palo Alto’s Annual Summer Festival and Chili Cook Off. If there’s only one chili-lover in the family, not to worry, there are plenty of cooler alternatives to snack on, plus live music and children’s activities.
Where: Palo Alto, Mitchell Park
When: July 4, noon-5 p.m.
Menlo Park’s 4th of July Celebration
Professional dancers and enormous floats need not apply: At the Menlo Park parade, the spotlight is on the kids. Get decked out in your finest red, white and blue and come rolling over in decorated wagons, bikes and trikes. At the end of the parade route at Burgess Park, the festivities will continue with carnival games, rocks walls, jump houses, crafts, laser tag, face painting and more.
Where: Menlo Park, Parade starts at Santa Cruz & Chestnut
When: July 4, 11:45 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
Cost: Free, $7 wristband required from some activities
photo: Adam Carter via flickr
Rotary Club Centennial Fireworks
The Rotary Club of San Jose invites you, your family and your friends to Discovery Meadow in downtown San Jose to celebrate our nation’s independence! The fireworks show will begin at approximately 9:30 p.m., after dusk.
Where: Discovery Meadow, San Jose
When: July 4, 9:30 p.m
Old-Fashioned Independence Day
Take a step back in time and attend this 1900s style Independence Day celebration. In addition to costumes and living history demonstrations, the day includes a family parade at noon, games, children’s crafts, live music, food vendors, historic speeches and a flag-raising.
Where: Santa Cruz, Wilder Ranch State park
When: July 4, 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Cost: Free. $10 parking fee
Fourth of July at Shoreline
Come and enjoy patriotic classics performed by the San Francisco Symphony and a fireworks show dramatically accompanied by the orchestra.
Where: Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View.
When: July 4, 8 p.m.
Cost: $24–$144. Parking is $10
Marin County Fair
Head to the Marin County Fair to enjoy festive fun for the whole family. Admission includes 28 free carnival rides along with the concerts, exhibits, puppet theater and nightly fireworks.
Where: Marin County Fair & Exposition
10 Ave. of the Flags
San Rafael, CA
Dates: June 30–July 4
Hours: 11 a.m.–11 p.m. every day
Cost: $20/adults; $15/child 4-12; children under 4 are free. (Buy online for a discount) $10/parking.
Corte Madera Fourth of July Parade & Festival
The Corte Madera-Larkspur 4th of July parade and celebration is big on small-town charm (think firetrucks, marching bands and local politicians doling out candy and other goodies). Follow the route along Magnolia Street in Larkspur and continuing along Tamalpais Avenue to Corte Madera Town Center and let the kids enjoy the jumpy house, crafts and musical entertainment.
When: July 4, Parade begins at 10:30, festivities 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Where: Parade begins at Redwood High School. Festivities at Corte Madera Town Park
Sausalito Fourth of July Celebration
Sausalito is one of the few communities that hosts not only a parade but also its own fireworks, and the crowds are far tamer than in SF. This waterfront parade and party starts at the intersection of Second and Main streets and ends at Dunphy Park, where live bands will be presiding over the all-day festivities with a killer view. Come with your game face on: the competition will be fierce at the epic tug-of-war and egg toss battles, kicking off at noon.
Where: Sausalito, events at Second and Main Streets ending at Dunphy Park. Fireworks at Gabrielson Park.
When: July 4, 10 a.m., Fireworks at 9 p.m.
Cost: Parade and activities are free, Fireworks table reservations for 6 are $120-$130
Red, White & Boom!
Enjoy a fantastic lineup of local bands and great food from the many local vendors who will be serving up their specialties. For the kids they’ll have jumpy houses, face painters and more. The evening fireworks show will be synced to music from KZST 100.1 FM
Where: Santa Rosa, Sonoma County Fairgrounds
When: July 4, 3-10p.m. Fireworks show at 9:35 p.m.
Cost: $10 ages 12 and over, $5 veterans, $5 ages 5–11, free for kids under 5
—Kate Loweth, Erin Feher & Sonia Gandiaga