The City of San Francisco's patriotic pyrotechnics show is the only one you really need to know about. Launched simultaneously from Municipal Pier and barges north of Pier 39 at 9:30pm, it's both spectacular, visible from multiple vantage points, and far less likely to scorch off your eyebrows than a smuggled Roman candle. Where you go to see them is up to you, but here is a handful of our favorite viewing spots around the Bay Area, plus a few smaller Sausalito and Berkeley shows just because.
Where: 499 Jefferson St
When: Festivities start at 12pm
It’s kind of a tourist trap, but the free waterfront celebration (dance to '80s throwbacks!) is an ideal place to watch the official fireworks show... as long as you get there ASAP. The Aquatic Park lawn will be a sea of picnickers by noon and the pier's standing room only. Pro tip: reserve a VIP viewing space.
Where: Langdon Court, Presidio
Presidio, the 1,491-acre former military outpost in the city's northern corner, offers north-facing views of the main Bay show, and the sea-side artillery platform within it is an excellent, uncrowded option. But if you’re looking for an even more intimate spot, head down the .7-mile battery to Bluffs walking trail and stake out a space on the coastal bluffs. The trail runs adjacent to the gun battery.
Immigrant Point Overlook
Where: Washington Blvd, Presidio
Etched in this Pacific-facing stone plaza are President Woodrow Wilson's words: “We opened the gates to all the world and said, ‘Let all men who want to be free come to us and they will be welcome.'” So it’s pretty much the most patriotic place to be this Independence Day!
The Great Lawn
Where: Treasure Island
Spread out over The Great Lawn under Bliss Dance, a 40ft woman illuminated by 1000 color-changing LEDs, or line up along the rocky shore to watch the show over the skyline. A flight of “Red, White & Rosé” at the island’s winery is a must beforehand. Reserve ahead! But take note, if the fog creeps past the Golden Gate, visibility will be limited and it may not be worth braving the bridge traffic.
Where: On a boat!
This funky house dance party on the bay will have great views without the geriatrics. The historic paddle boat leaves from Pier 40.
Get to the tiny town of Alameda before 10am to catch one of the longest parades in the US: 170 floats will take a three-mile loop from Park St to Webster St. After, head over to the aircraft carrier -- one of the most decorated ships in naval history -- for the food, drink, and live concerts that lead up to the city’s big show.
Indian Rock Park
Scramble over the rocks with other young adventurers and see the whole bay. Pack blankets and binoculars to see some details of the city’s show, but the Berkeley Marina fireworks should be in plain sight as well.
The family-friendly party kicks off at noon and culminates in a fantastic fireworks display presented by the City of Berkeley at 9:35pm.
Sausalito puts on a seaside fireworks display of its own from a barge in the bay near Gabrielson Park, and it's set to music played on Radio Sausalito 1610 AM. And if Karl the Fog doesn’t show up, you’ll see San Francisco’s fireworks too.
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Allison Murray is a writer and creator based in San Francisco who loves to explore the unknown. Follow her on Instagram @missaholiday.