Where to Watch Fourth of July Fireworks in the Bay Area This Year
From annual displays along Fisherman’s Wharf to community parades and fairs in Mountain View, Redwood City, Alameda, and more.
After two years without any kind of official Independence Day celebration, San Francisco is bringing back its Fourth of July Fireworks extravaganza this year. As everyone who lives here knows, “No Sky July” is probably the worst month in SF for a fireworks show, but there’s always a chance (however small it may be) that the weather will cooperate and we’ll actually be able to see $100,000 worth of pyrotechnics bursting in air rather than muffled pops of muted colors trying to force their way through a dense wall of fog. But honestly—hoping and waiting is all part of the SF 4th of July fun at this point, especially since you often don’t know until the last minute which way things will go.
How should I get around?
If you’re planning to watch the fireworks along the waterfront in San Francisco, we highly recommend you do everything in your power to avoid driving. Parking is impossible and when the show is over it’s bumper-to-bumper traffic for several hours. Basically, as with any big event in the city, public transportation is your best bet. If you do have to drive into the city, we recommend parking in another neighborhood and taking public transportation. Muni usually runs shuttles and extra trains/buses; check their website for more information. If you do drive, do not leave anything valuable in the car, as the chances it’ll still be there at the end of the day are 50/50 at best.
If you’re watching the fireworks elsewhere, just use your best judgment. If you plan on drinking, plan on taking a taxi or rideshare. 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.
Festival: 9:30 am
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 pray 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, Coit Tower are also popular spots and, if you’re willing to make a trek halfway across the Bay, the south shores of Treasure Island offer amazing views.) 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 two boats that will cruise along the waterfront for excellent views of the fireworks. Both have full cocktail bars and a snack bar on board. Tickets (including drinks) start at $99 and can be purchased online.
A Hornblower Dinner Cruise, Pier 3, Embarcadero
Cruise under the San Francisco skyline during a three-hour dinner cruise that includes a buffet and live music from a DJ, plus a variety of open bar packages. Tickets start at $260 and can be purchased online.
The SS Jeremiah O’Brien, Pier 45, Fisherman’s Wharf
Watch aboard the (docked) historic WWII Liberty Ship with free drinks and chips, plus music from the Brassworks Band. Tickets for adults are $45 and can be purchased online.
A cruise on a catamaran or Delta Marine, departing from Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf
Enjoy the fireworks from aboard a catamaran or a Delta Marine with BYO food and drinks. Tickets start at $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.
Other Fireworks and Celebrations Around the Bay
Parade: 9:45 am
Festival and car show: 11 am to 3 pm
Fireworks: 9:30 pm
The Rose, White, and Blue Parade in San Jose’s Rose Garden neighborhood along The Alameda includes classic cars, costumed characters, and marching bands, and is followed by a picnic in front of Westminster Church with appearances by elected officials and live music. 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: 9 pm
If you’re feeling extra motivated, start the day at Todos Santos Plaza with a “Stars and Stripes” 5K run or walk at 8:15 am (8 am for the kiddos), and then cool down while you watch the parade. You’ll have time to go home, throw some meat on the grill, and drink a beer or two before the fireworks at Mt. Diablo High School starts at 9 pm. (Gates open at 6 pm.)
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 $70. Add a snack pack for two for another $25.
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 things like the music from your favorite Disney films, West Side Story, and a salute to the Armed Forces, all culminating in a grand finale complete with fireworks.
Parade: 11:05 am
Celebration: 10 am to 5 pm
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, a kids' play zone, beer gardens, and food trucks, until the fireworks show over the lagoon at 9:30 pm.
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 when 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.
Parade: 9:30 a.m.
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.)
Fair hours: 11 am to 11 pm
Fireworks: 9:30 pm
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.
Party: 10 am to 5 pm
Spend the day eating, drinking, and dancing on this WWII naval aircraft carrier before heading home to enjoy the fireworks. There will be music from DJ Samoa, food from Oakland Smokehouse BBQ and the Grilled Cheese Guys, 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.