Your Guide to the 2023 Fourth of July Fireworks in San Francisco

From annual displays along Fisherman’s Wharf to community parades and fairs in Mountain View, Redwood City, Alameda, and more.

If you didn’t flee San Francisco in search of warm weather and sunny skies for the Fourth of July holiday, you might be wondering where to see some fireworks. It’s no secret that SF is infamous for putting on a costly and usually very disappointing fireworks display, thanks to our friendly fog taking “No Sky July” very literally. You never really know until an hour or so before if the skies will clear (or stay clear) or if, instead, you’ll be watching muffled pops of muted color, but it’s a risk thousands and thousands of people still take every year. We’re all about that risk—it’s part of what makes San Francisco what it is, but if you’re determined to see guaranteed pyrotechnics, many other nearby towns won’t let you down. Feel like staying home and sitting on the couch? No judgment here. You can watch the SF fireworks, and others around the Bay, at 9 pm on KRON4.

How should I get around?

This will not come as a shock, but if you’re planning to watch the fireworks along the waterfront in San Francisco, we strongly suggest you do anything and everything you can to avoid driving.
First, finding a parking spot is like finding a sunny day in July: almost impossible. (They’ll fill up early, but just FYI: the closest indoor lots are the Anchorage Square Parking Garage at Jones & Beach), or the Pier 39 Parking Garage at Stockton & Beach.) Second, if you do find a parking spot, you need to empty your car of all belongings, and that still doesn’t guarantee that you won’t return to a broken window. Lastly, we have experienced the post-show bumper-to-bumper traffic before, and trust us when we say that it will test your patience more than whatever the worst delayed flight airline experience of your life.
At the very least, if you do decide to drive, make sure there are snacks in the car because between the traffic and the hangry, your relationship with your fellow passengers might not survive. Totally set on driving in? You may want to park in another neighborhood and either bus or Uber it to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Dramatic enough for you? Great! So now that we’ve convinced you that public transportation is your best bet, try not to also be annoyed when we let you know that Muni will be running on a Sunday schedule and that many routes will be rerouted because of the fireworks. Get all of the details here.
Obviously, if you plan on drinking, use a designated driver or take advantage of public transportation, taxis, or rideshares. Traffic will be crazy everywhere after the fireworks, even in smaller towns, so just be patient. Remember: nothing says America quite like gas-guzzling cars and being stuck in traffic.
Read on for our list of the best fireworks displays in the Bay, as well as local parades and festivities.

Flickr/Shawn Clover

Fisherman’s Wharf
Festival: Late morning
Fireworks: Approximately 9:30 pm
Despite the fact that they’re obscured by fog a solid 80% of the time, San Francisco shoots off the Bay Area’s biggest fireworks display from two locations in Fisherman’s Wharf: the end of Municipal Pier and several barges in front of Pier 39. That means the best place to see them is on the waterfront, anywhere from Aquatic Park to Pier 39. You’ll need to lock down a spot pretty early in the day (and hope for clear skies) if you want the best views, but if you’re anywhere that faces north, you should be okay. Pier 7 on the Embarcadero, Crissy Field, and Coit Tower are also popular spots. But if you were thinking of heading to Treasure Island, think again: all of the crazy construction means most viewing areas will be totally inaccessible.

As far as what to do during the day, you can expect live concerts and general tourist shenanigans at Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. Unfortunately, if you want to say hello to the sea lions, you’ll only find a few stragglers, as June and July are when those big boys head down south to find lady sea lions to mate with.
While you can’t guarantee a good view of the local sea lions, you can guarantee yourself a good view of the fireworks by grabbing tickets to hop on one of these boats:

A Red & White Fleet Cruise, departing from Pier 43.5, Fisherman’s Wharf

The Red & White Fleet has three boats that will cruise along the waterfront for excellent views of the fireworks (but one is already sold out). The remaining two depart at 8:15 pm and 8:45 pm. Both have full cocktail bars and a snack bar on board. Tickets (including two drinks) are $129 and can be purchased here.

A City Cruises Dinner Cruise, Pier 3, Embarcadero

Cruise under the San Francisco skyline during a three-hour dinner cruise that includes dinner, live music from a DJ, plus a variety of open bar packages. There are two options: A plated dinner (boards at 6:30 pm and ranges from $269 to $429) and a buffet dinner (boards at 6:30 pm and costs $210). Tickets can be purchased here.

A cruise on a catamaran, departing from Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf

Enjoy the fireworks aboard a catamaran or a Delta Marine with BYO food and drinks. Tickets are $150 and can be purchased online.

Adventure Cat Cruise, departing from Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf

You’ll depart right before the fireworks show and be on the water for about 90 minutes on this cruise which includes two drinks. Tickets are $95 and can be purchased online.

Motionshooter/iStock/Getty Images

Other Fireworks and Celebrations Around the Bay

San Jose
Parade: 9:45 am - 12 pm
Fireworks: 9:30 pm
The Rose, White, and Blue Parade in San Jose’s Rose Garden neighborhood along The Alameda includes classic cars (the car cruise is the first part of the parade and starts at 9:45 am, costumed characters, and marching bands. During and after, there will be food trucks near The Alameda and Shasta Ave. That all winds down mid-afternoon, which gives you plenty of time to throw some burgers on the grill at home and still make it to the Rotary Fireworks display at Discovery Meadow in downtown San Jose before they start at 9:30 pm.

Parade: 10 am
Fireworks: Festival starts at 5 pm; fireworks are at 9:30 pm.
If you’re feeling extra perky, start the day at Todos Santos Plaza with the “Stars and Stripes” 5K run or walk at 8:15 am (8 am for the kiddos who want to do the fun run), and then cool down while you watch the parade. You could go home and grill out before the fireworks at Mt. Diablo High School, or you could head there when the gates open at 4 pm for a festival with a Beach Boys tribute band, kids carnival, food and vendor booths, and more. Either way, just be there before 9:30 pm because that’s when the fireworks display kicks off.

Mountain View
Fireworks: 9:30 pm
Shoreline Lake only allows boats on the water after sunset one night a year, so people can rent a pedalboat, rowboat, canoe, or kayak to watch fireworks from the middle of the lake, starting at $95. Hurry up and reserve yours now because they will sell out. If watercrafts aren’t your thing, no worries—you can also watch from land for free.

Mountain View
Show: 8 pm
Fireworks: After the show
Bring a blanket and settle in on the grass at Shoreline for an evening of music from the SF Symphony. You can expect to hear American classics, a salute to the Armed Forces, and a tribute to Aretha Franklin, all culminating in a grand finale complete with fireworks.

Foster City
Parade: 11:05 am
Celebration: 10 am
Fireworks: 9:30 pm
Anyone can enter the Family and Dog Parade for free for a chance to win prizes like Most Patriotic, Most Unique, and Best Group (for the people), and Most Handsome, Most Beautiful, and Fastest Eater (sadly, only for the dogs). Afterward, the party moves to Leo Ryan Park, where there will be live music from noon to 9:15 pm, a kids' play zone, beer gardens, and food trucks until the fireworks show over the lagoon at 9:30 pm.

Redwood City
Parade: 10 am
Festival: 9 am to 5 pm
Fireworks: 9:30 pm
Redwood City hosts the largest Independence Day parade in Northern California, with entries from all over the state, including floats, drill bands, equestrian demonstrations, color guards, and more. (You’ll know it starts when you hear the canon.) After the parade, head to the festival where you can do some shopping, eat some food and drink some beer or wine, get your face painted, and more. The day ends with a fireworks show over the Port of Redwood City, which starts at around 9:30 pm and can be seen all over the mid-Peninsula.

Pleasant Hill
Parade: 9:30 am
Picnic Party: 10:30 am to 1:30 pm
Fireworks: 8:45 pm
Enter the Firecracker 5K run/walk at 7:45 am to help raise money for Pleasant Hill schools, and then head to the “Rockin’ in the USA” parade that starts right at 9:30 am. The free family day in the park starts as soon as the parade is over and has games and activities for the kids, like face painting, sack races, and inflatable slides), live music, and food for purchase. Pleasant Hill’s fireworks show at College Park High School begins at dusk, but the fields open at 6:30 pm. (Suggested donation is $4 per person at the gate. Cash or Venmo.)

San Rafael
Fair hours: 11 am to 11 pm
Fireworks: 9:30 pm (every night from June 30–July 4)
Head to the Marin County Fair for a day of funnel cake, beer, carnival rides, and live music, followed by a fireworks show at 9:30 pm The fair runs from June 30 to July 4, but don’t fret if you can’t make it on the actual Fourth of July, as there’s a fireworks display every single night. General admission for adults and teens is $25.

Parade: 10 am
Picnic: 12 pm to 4:30 pm
Fireworks: 9:15 pm
Sausalito has planned a full day of activities beginning with a parade in the morning and an afternoon picnic in Dunphy Park with music from Broham, an Americana band, egg toss and tug of war competitions, and all kinds of food for sale, including burgers, fish and chips, wine, beer, and, margaritas. Everyone will head to Gabrielson Park around 6:30 pm for Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisine and wine and beer, music from Pride & Joy, and fireworks at 9:15 pm.

Bike parade and festival: 10 am to 1:30 pm
Fireworks: 9:30 pm
There’s not a bad seat in town to enjoy this fireworks display, which is launched from the Petaluma Fairgrounds (but not open to the public for safety reasons). The high-elevation format means that you’ll get a good view from parks and neighborhoods all over town (but check out this map for where to go for the very best views). Earlier in the day, check out a bike parade, dog costume contest, and more at Lucchesi Park.

Zinkevych/iStock/Getty Images

Party: 10 am to 5 pm
Okay, so you won’t see the fireworks from this party, but you can spend hours eating, drinking, and dancing on this WWII naval aircraft carrier before heading out to enjoy whatever fireworks display you plan to see. There will be music from DJ Samoa, multiple food trucks, and two bars. The ship will also be open for free tours, so you can check out the sick bay, torpedo room, Marine Corps berthing, ready room, cockpit, and more. Tickets for adults are $30.

Half Moon Bay
Parade: 12 pm to 1:30 pm
Festival: 10 am to 4 pm
Half Moon Bay has been throwing its annual Independence Day festival for 52 years, and the town knows what it’s doing. The day starts with a pancake breakfast from 8 am to 11:30 am, followed by a parade with “whimsical floats, marching bands, horses, community service groups, classically cool cars, decorated trikes and bikes, parading pooches, youth sports teams, dance and theatre troupes,” and a block party with live music, beer and wine, food booths, kid zones, and more.

Parade: 10 am
Here’s a fun fact to throw around: Alameda’s Fourth of July parade is the LONGEST in the nation, with a route that covers 3.3. miles, more than 170 entries, and over 2,500 participants. Apparently, there are no bad seats, but here’s some more info on that.

Polk Street
Pub Crawl: 4 pm to 10 pm
Celebrate your freedom by donning your most patriotic outfit and visiting a slew of bars along Polk Street. There will be huge discounts on drinks, DJs, and even a hot dog eating contest for those who dare. Participating bars include R Bar, El Lopo, Mayes, Mcteagues, Barley, Lush Lounge, California Jack’s, Wreck Room, and Piroo. Tickets are $19 to $29, depending on when you buy them, which you can do here.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Daisy Barringer is an SF-based writer who once braved the Fisherman’s Wharf crowds to watch the fireworks and lived to tell the tale. Barely. Follow her on Instagram.