Get out your best red, white and blue, kiddos! Grab your flags and your wagon because this weekend is all about parades, barbecues and sparklers. And since Fourth of July is on a Monday this year, we can pretty much guarantee your weekend is going to end with an awesome, light-up-the-sky, BANG.


photo: via stuintaiwan

San Francisco

The 32nd Annual Fillmore Jazz Fest
Spend the 4th of July weekend in the heart of San Francisco’s historical jazz district–Fillmore Street between Jackson and Eddy will be lined with stages of live music, fine art and crafts, food, beverages, and plenty of spontaneous dancing. It is the largest free jazz festival on the West Coast. Sat.-Sun. Fillmore between Jackson and Eddy. Free. All ages. Event details. 

Pier 39’s 4th of July Celebration
Witness the skies sparkle red, white and blue as Pier 39 celebrates Independence Day with fun for the whole family! Rock out to the Bay Area’s favorite cover band Tainted Love – The Best of the 80s Live from 5-8pm in the Pier 39 Entrance Plaza before looking to the sky at 9:30pm for The City & County of San Francisco’s spectacular fireworks display. Grab your stars and stripes and take advantage of the amazing 180-degree Bay views this July 4th. Mon., 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Pier 39 at the Embarcadero. Free. All ages. Event details.

East Bay

Salt Equals Ice Cream? Yes!
Walk out to the dried salt flats and collect sheets of salt to make…ice cream? That’s right, the salt helps melt the ice at a colder temperature to freeze the cream inside the ice cream maker. Give the hand-cranked ice cream maker a try, and we’ll all get to taste a sweet summertime refreshment. Sat., 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Hayward Shoreline Interpretative Center; $7 per children. Ages 3-5. Event details.

Say Ahoy on the Hornet This Fourth
Hey, little sailors come celebrate July 4th onboard the Aircraft Carrier USS Hornet. On deck will be live music, food, classic cars and activities for the whole family to enjoy. A kid’s zone includes Top Gun movie showing, face painting, pie eating contest, flight simulator rides and more. Fireworks launch at 9:15 p.m., weather permitting. Mon. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Pier 3, Alameda. $15-$25, children under five are free. Event details.


Fair Fireworks and S’mores Fest
See the Marin County Fair fireworks from the top of the Nike Site at McInnis Park. It’s an easy uphill stroll from the skatepark parking lot to sweeping views of the bay and surrounding hills, including China Camp State Park and iconic Mount Tamalpais. Rangers will prepare s’mores at Hillside Picnic Area before treking up the hill to view the fireworks show that begins promptly at 9:30 pm. Dress in layers and wear sturdy shoes. Don’t forget to bring a flashlight. (Friendly dogs are welcome, but must be leashed.) Fri., 8:30 to 10 p.m. McInnis Park, San Rafael. Free. All ages. Event details

Oh, What a Ride at the Marin County Fair
This year is the 75th anniversary of this North Bay fave, and the theme is “What a Ride!” Entertainment includes concerts from Kool and the Gang, Sheila E., Foreigner and more, plus family friendly performances by Jeremy the Juggler, Something Ridiculous, the Street Drum Corps, Balloonacy, the Rawhide Express Train and the always popular 501st Legion, the world’s premier Star Wars costuming club. Admission includes 27 free carnival rides along with the concerts, exhibits, puppet theater, and nightly fireworks. Fri.-Mon. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Marin County Fair and Exposition in San Rafael. $15 to $20, children under 4 are free. All ages. Event Details.

Enjoy an Old-Fashioned 4th in Sausalito
Join the parade through town at 10 a.m. at the intersection of Second and Main Street. Then at noon, there will be live music along with food, dancing, family games, tug-of-war and famous traditional egg toss. At 6:30, head to Gabrielson Park for more music and the fireworks. If you’re feeling fancy you can splurge on a reserved table ($120-$130, seats 6) to watch the display from. Mon., 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Downtown Sausalito. Free. All ages. Event details.

South Bay

Friday Night Bands on the Beach
What could be better than sunset, surf and song? The Santa Cruz Boardwalk continues its annual classic beach concerts with shows from Blue Oyster Cult, Taylor Dayne, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Smash Mouth and so many more. Stretch out your blanket and watch the kiddos rave. Your tiny dancers are guaranteed to sleep during the car ride home. Friday nights, June 17 through Sept. 2. Fri., 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Free. All ages. Event details.

Pancakes and the World’s Shortest Parade
Start the Fourth bright and early for a Pancake Breakfast from 7:00-10:00am in the burger.Aptos parking lot. After, make your way to the “World’s Shortest Parade” from 10:00am-12:00pm and then immediately after make your way to the Aptos Village Park for the Party in the Park featuring local vendors, food, music, and activities until 4 p.m. Mon., 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aptos Village Park and State Park in Aptos. Free. All ages. Event details.

Have an Explosive Time at Discovery Park
Head 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. Home of the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, you can spend the day there before the fireworks. Mon., 9:30 p.m. Discovery Park, Downtown San Jose. Free. All ages. Event details.


Kick up your Heels for Fridays
Friday night’s Music on the Square makes kicking off the weekend 100 percent better. Grab dinner from a neighborhood restaurant then come listen and dance to music every Wednesday night this summer. There’s a little something from everyone, from funk to new wave and modern rock, blues, reggae as well as Journey and Santana tribute bands. Fri., 6 to 8 p.m. Courthouse Square, Redwood City. Free. All ages. Event details.

Get Full at this Chili Cook-Off
Celebrate 4th of July with family and friends at the 35th Annual Chili Cook-Off. Teams recruited from restaurants, local business, community groups as well as police and fire departments battle for the Best Chili Award! Live music, kids activities and a variety of great food make for a wonderful 4th of July celebration. Activities start at noon, tastings at 1:30 p.m. Mon. Noon to 5 p.m. Mitchell Park, Palo Alto. Small fee for tasting bowls. All ages. Event details.

What’s your family’s favorite Fourth of July tradition? Please share with us in the comments below. 

–Chantal Lamers