How to Celebrate the Fourth of July in SF This Year

There are still ways to have fun.

Nearly all of the fireworks displays all across the Bay have been canceled, including the extravaganza that usually happens at Fisherman’s Wharf. Most of the festivals and parades have also been canceled, as all of the Bay Area is still relatively locked down and public gatherings are not encouraged, though there are a few that are happening virtually (read on to find out which ones). 

You’re not totally out of luck though. If you’re feeling like you’d like to celebrate your patriotism with your fellow Americans from at least six feet away, there are actually a few celebrations taking place, including an actual fireworks show and a party not on, but next to a boat. There are also a slew of virtual parades and fireworks displays, and, if you’re committed to staying home, a couple of restaurants are offering BBQ kits that will put your Safeway hamburgers and hot dogs to shame. Happy 4th of July! Stay safe.

In-person events

Listen to music next to the USS Hornet
While you won’t actually be able to go onboard the historic aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum is still throwing a bash on Pier 3 where it is docked. From 1pm to 5pm, you’ll be able to take a look at a few pieces from the ship, including a jet cockpit, buy food and drinks, and listen to a DJ spinning big band classics to honor the Hornet’s WWII history. Masks are required, and social-distancing rules will be in effect.
Cost: Free

See a fireworks show in Gilroy
Visible 2.5 miles from Gilroy High School
People who live in Gilroy have always been good at social distancing due to an abundance of garlic breath, and they’re betting on the fact that the community will continue to practice good habits during one of the Bay Area’s only fireworks displays. The fireworks will start around dusk and will be shot even higher into the sky than usual to allow more people to view them from afar. Thinking about heading to the high school to see them? Streets will be closed, parking will be prohibited, and, for your own safety and the safety of others, just stay at home and watch them from there.
Cost: Free

Go to a Porch Parade in Fremont
Locations on this Porch Parade map
In lieu of its usual parade, the city of Fremont asked the community to go all out decorating their porches, homes, lawns, sidewalks, or windows in the most patriotic spirit possible. Check out the virtual map and plan a walk, bike ride, or drive to see what people have come up with with all of this extra time on their hands.
Cost: Free

Watch a Caravan Parade of classic cars
Los Altos Hills
Check out the parade route and then walk to the nearest street, Purissima Park, or Gardner Bullis to watch this caravan that includes the sheriff, fire department, and 10 to 15 classic cars.
Cost: Free

(Maybe) see an auto tour honoring essential workers
The town of Pleasanton is keeping the route of this parade a secret to avoid people congregating, but if you live there, set up your lawn chair at 10am because there’s a chance parade of cool cars will come down your street. Start the hour off by making noise in honor of the holiday, check out an aerial flyover, and then open your computer to watch a live stream of the auto tour, sing-alongs, photos of patriotic houses that people decorated, and more. And hey, even if the auto tour doesn’t come down your street, at least you’ll get a chance to say hi to your neighbors (from at least six feet apart, of course).
Cost: Free

Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore | Courtesy of the State of South Dakota

Virtual firework shows and parades

Watch the fireworks at Mount Rushmore on July 3rd
TV and online (TBA)
Despite a risk of wildfires and other environmental damage, Trump is getting his Mount Rushmore fireworks show, 18-minutes of booms and lights in the sky accompanied by music and a salute to healthcare workers. It’s still TBD how much of the celebration will be streamed online (the festivities start at 4pm MDT and end at 10pm MDT), but you can check out the Travel South Dakota Mount Rushmore Fireworks page for more information closer to the date.
Cost: Free

Watch the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks
In an effort to prevent crowds from gathering, this year Macy’s is setting off fireworks all around NYC at unspecified times and keeping each show to just five minutes culminating in a live finale that will be shown nationally during a two-hour special with performances from the Black Eyed Peas, John Legend, Tim McGraw, and more starting at 8pm PDT. The first part sounds a little stressful, but luckily we won’t have to go through it and can just enjoy the end result.
Cost: Free, assuming you have access to NBC

Watch “A Capitol Fourth” Independence Day Celebration
PBS and streaming on Facebook, YouTube, and
PBS is honoring America with a celebration that includes pre-taped performances by Patti LaBelle, The Temptations, Vanessa Williams, John Fogerty, Broadway stars, singing groups, and more, culminating in a fireworks display captured by more than 20 cameras.
Cost: Free

(Virtually) attend the Concord 4th of July Parade
Streaming on Concord TV and the City of Concord’s Facebook page
Just because you can’t actually go to the Concord Parade doesn’t mean you can’t participate in it. The city is hosting a virtual parade of floats “parading” around neighborhood streets, as well as other displays of patriotic spirit submitted by locals at 6pm, as well as a compilation of past parades at 5pm, local music at 7:30pm, and a “patriotic tribute” at 9pm.
Cost: Free

Check out Orinda’s video celebration
The people in Orinda have been hard at work decorating their houses, mailboxes, tree trunks, driveways, furry friends, and themselves with patriotic displays and thank you signs to honor essential workers and then submitting photos of their hard work that everyone will be able to view at 11am during a Virtual Decorating Contest. But tune in before that because at 10:30am, a video featuring highlights of past parades narrated by Steve Harwood, “the voice of Orinda,” will be available to stream online. Then at noon, everyone should go outside and bang on pots and pans, ring bells, beat drums, or just howl at the top of their lungs as a way to celebrate essential workers and heroes. After that, turn on the grill, crack open a beer, and spend the afternoon with your friends and family (from a safe distance, of course).

Check out (or enter) the “Chalk Full of Fun” Chalk Festival
Redwood City/Online
The two-day Chalk Festival in downtown Redwood has moved to people’s driveways and sidewalks this year. Chalk artists of all ages and abilities can register to pick up a free chalk kit and then use it to create a work of art to be entered into the contest and viewed online by all. The website has lots of ideas and tips if you’re not sure how to create a chalk masterpiece, and entries are accepted until the end of the day on the Fourth.
Cost: Free

Go to Morgan Hill’s “Freedom Fest”
Streaming on YouTube and Facebook
The city of Morgan Hill has been celebrating the 4th of July for consecutive 145 years, and it’s not going to let a pandemic get in the way of that. Of course, it’s doing so safely via a virtual celebration that will include a car cruise, patriotic sing-along, parade with bands and horses, and ending with a replay of a previous fireworks show. The festivities start at 10am.
Cost: Free

Look at adorable dogs dressed up in costumes
Foster City may have canceled the fireworks, but it’s still keeping the other festivities alive, including a Virtual Family Parade and Costume Contest, a home decorating contest, bingo, live trivia, live performances, a fireworks show, and a doggie costume contest where you can vote for your favorites. All of the events can be streamed online, and there is still one annual event taking place in-person: the 4th of July Pancake Breakfast to support the San Mateo-Foster City Education Foundation. Pre-orders are required, and the breakfast will be curbside pickup only.
Cost: Free to watch virtual events; $10 per order for Pancake Breakfast

EPIC Steak
Courtesy of EPIC Steak

What to eat and drink

Get a free sandwich from Ike’s Love & Sandwiches
Tenderloin and other Bay Area locations
To celebrate our country gaining its freedom, Ike’s is offering buy-one-get-one-free sandwiches on Friday and Saturday. Just show the cashier the post on Ike’s Instagram page to redeem.
Cost: Sandwiches average around $12 or $13

Take home an epic meal kit from EPIC Steak
Embarcadero and delivery
It’s not the 4th of July unless there are copious amounts of meat, and EPIC Steak is making sure that happens via two meal kits: “High on the Hog,” which includes smoked pork ribs, a half of a smoked chicken, housemade andouille sausage, cole slaw, baked beans, and cookies and “Thrill of the Grill,” a box with two ribeyes, everything you need to make those ribeyes tasty, broccolini, and loaded potatoes to bake at home. You can also add on shrimp kabobs, crab meat, sourdough rolls, burger kits, and more.
Cost: $120 for High on the Hog and $100 for Thrill of the Grill

Have a backyard barbecue with a meal kit from Alexander’s Steakhouse
SoMa and delivery 
It might be a while before we’re letting our friend with an expense account take us to Alexander’s for an unforgettable steakhouse experience, but in the meantime, we can at least let the restaurant handle a large part of our 4th of July barbecue. There are three kits to choose from: the “ultimate” barbecue kit with one porterhouse, two ribeyes, one filet, corn, asparagus, a hamachi shot kit, and a bottle of Alexander’s single bottle WhistlePig whiskey; the regular kit with a pared down version of that, plus the addition wings; and, in case you don’t want to do any cooking at all, a picnic set. Each kit serves four people.
Cost: $80 to $250

Grab a BBQ kit from the Morris
The Morris is open for outdoor seating, but if you’re not quite ready to dine out yet, you can also buy a huge 4th of July-inspired spread to enjoy in the comfort of your home. The kits feed two and include a half pound of brisket, a half pound of rack of ribs, two hot links, potato salad, slaw, BBQ sauce, and watermelon. The Morris also has one of the best wine lists in SF, so be sure to buy a bottle to enjoy with your feast.
Cost: BBQ is $80

Eat like you’re at a baseball game
SoMa and delivery
There’s a pretty good chance in-person baseball games won’t be a thing this year, but you can scratch the itch for hot dogs and beer (which, be honest, is at least half of the joy) with a “Wish We Could Go to the Ballgame” meal kit from Palette. Each one includes two house-made franks with all the fixin's, new potato salad, Abita Root Beer float, and a six-pack of beer for $40. There are also burger boxes, picnic boxes, and wine boxes.
Cost: Ballgame kit: $40

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Daisy Barringer is an SF-based writer who this 4th of July won’t miss the fireworks, but will miss the hot dogs. Follow her on Instagram @daisysf to see how she celebrates.

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