San Francisco

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.

Marin County Fair
Marin County Fair
Marin County Fair

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 colours 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.

Flickr/Jim Maurer
Flickr/Jim Maurer
Flickr/Jim Maurer

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 neighbourhood 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.

Flickr/Shawn Clover
Flickr/Shawn Clover
Flickr/Shawn Clover

4th of July at Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf
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:

Red and White Fleet
Red and White Fleet
Red and White Fleet

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.

Rose, White and Blue 4th of July Parade
Rose, White and Blue 4th of July Parade
Rose, White and Blue 4th of July Parade

Other Fireworks and Celebrations Around the Bay

The Rose, White, and Blue Parade

San Jose
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 neighbourhood 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.

“Celebrate Concord” parade and fireworks

Concord
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.)

On-the-water fireworks at Shoreline Lake

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 $70. Add a snack pack for two for another $25.

San Francisco Symphony with fireworks at Shoreline Amphitheater

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 things like the music from your favourite Disney films, West Side Story, and a salute to the Armed Forces, all culminating in a grand finale complete with fireworks.

City of Foster City, CA - Government
City of Foster City, CA – Government
City of Foster City, CA – Government

Dog Parade and Fourth of July Celebration in Foster City

Foster City
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.

Independence Day Parade with festival and fireworks

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 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.

Fourth of July Celebration in Pleasant Hill

Pleasant Hill
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.)

Marin County Fair
Marin County Fair
Marin County Fair

Marin County Fair

San Rafael
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.

4th of July Aboard the USS Hornet

Alameda
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.

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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.

San Francisco

How to Celebrate Black History Month in San Francisco

Support and celebrate SF's Black community.

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Though it’s something we need to be doing every day of every month of every year, Black History Month encourages us to pay tribute to the struggles and oppression generations of Black Americans have faced, as well as their often-neglected triumphs and achievements that have helped shape this county and make it better. It’s a time to reflect on how we can do better to confront racism and oppression, which this year’s theme, “Black Resistance,” echoes. This is especially important in a town like San Francisco, where the Fillmore District was known as “the Harlem of the West” before the city displaced a vast portion of the neighbourhood’s Black community in the ’60s and ’70s. This displacement continues today, as the Black population is the only racial group that has declined in every census since 1970.

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate Black History Month, there are lots to do. Whether you want to educate yourself by attending films, performances, or conversations, share the joy at a parade or dance party, or do a little bit of it all at a drag show, here are just a few ways you can get involved and have a lot of fun while doing so:

Visit San Francisco Public Library branches for workshops, films, performances, and more

February (and throughout the year)
Library branches and online
SFPL’s “More Than a Month” celebration focuses on the theme of resistance this year. Family-friendly and adult events include film screenings, musical performances, book clubs, workshops, and more.
Cost: Free

Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora

See art, poetry, films, talks, and more at MoAD

February (and throughout the year)
SoMa
Right now, at the Museum of African Diaspora, you can see the first and only West Coast exhibition of “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion,” which highlights the work of 15 contemporary fashion designers “whose images present radically new perspectives on the medium of photography and art, race and beauty, and gender and power.” The museum, which has a robust year-round program and event calendar, has a slew of events to attend, including youth poetry readings, film screenings, open mic nights, book clubs, artist talks, and more.
Cost: Event prices vary; GA to visit the museum is $12 but free every second Saturday of the month

Check out films, art, reading, talks, and more at BAMPFA

February (and throughout the year)
Berkeley
There is always something interesting to discover at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). During Black History Month, you can see films by Pratibha Parmar, “Felwine Sarr: Music, Freedom, Africa,” a conversation through music with the Senegalese writer, scholar, composer, musician, and more.
Cost: Varies

Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe

Enjoy menu specials honoring Black community members at Old Skool Cafe

February (and throughout the year)
Bayview
For Black History Month, Old Skool Cafe is adding the favourite meals of notable Black community members to the menu each weekend. The nonprofit, youth-run supper club helps at-risk, formerly incarcerated, and foster care youth ages 16-22 gain the skills and experience they need to succeed in various front and back-of-house restaurant roles. Bayview hero/community advocate Mrs. Dorris Vincent is first up, followed by Judge Trina Thompson, Delroy Lindo, and Mayor London Breed.

Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens

Walk beneath the Marting Luther King, Jr. Memorial waterfall

February (and ongoing)
Yerba Buena Gardens
Did you know that Yerba Buena Gardens is home to the country’s second-largest memorial to Dr. King? Visit the sculptural waterfall featuring glass panels inscribed with his inspiring words at 750 Howard Street.
Cost: Free

Attend the Commonwealth’s “Dreaming Forward: A Celebration of Black Joy, Power, and Excellence” conference

Thursday, February 9
Embarcadero
On behalf of Dr. Sheryl Evans Davis and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Club is hosting its second annual Dream Keeper Initiative, a day-long conference/celebration/call-to-action featuring special guests, including April Ryan of TheGrio and CNN.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays

Celebrate Black Love at Oakland First Fridays

Friday, February 10
Telegraph Avenue from West Grand to 27th Street
Telegraph Avenue transforms into a dining, shopping, and art-appreciating party on Friday, February 10, from 5 pm to 9 pm. There will be food, artist, and retail vendors and a host of Black artists, authors, and entertainment. Please note: This event was rescheduled from February 3 because of potential rain.
Cost: Free

Have a ball at an all-Black drag show at Oasis

Friday, February 10
SoMa
“Reparations with Latrice Royale” is an all-Black drag show hosted by Latrice Royale, the beloved Drag Race star who also happens to be celebrating her birthday.
Cost: $15 to $60

Dance all night and shop all day at the Afro Soca Love carnival and marketplace

Friday, February 10 ‚Äď Saturday, February 11
341 13th Street, Oakland
Afro Soca Love creates experiences that act as a “gateway to building bonds and strengthen relationships-between communities, individuals, and Africa and its diaspora.” See for yourself at the all-ages marketplace (Saturday), where you’ll find food and drink, fashion, beauty and wellness, home decor, and more. But before the shopping comes the dancing at the 21+ Friday Night Carnival, a culturally immersive music experience with music from all over the world.
Cost: The marketplace is free; tickets to the Friday Night Carnival start at $20

See a live performance of “Words That Made the Difference: Brown vs. the Board of Education”

Saturday, February 11
Unity Palo Alto
See a live theatrical performance based on the true events that occurred in the fight to end school segregation. The script draws from trial transcripts of the five cases brought together in front of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Earl Warren’s memoirs, and the play is set in the courtrooms where it all happened. There will be a Q&A with the playwright before the performance and the cast afterward.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company

Go to the I, Too, Sing America album release party

Saturday, February 11
Mission
Head to the Brava Theater Center to celebrate the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company’s album release of the music created for I, Too, Sing America, a soulful and uplifting performance that moved audiences when it debuted last year. The night includes an album-listening and sing-along party, DJs, dancing, an open bar, and more.
Cost: $40

Go on the Black Liberation Walking Tour of West Oakland

Saturday, February 18
West Oakland
Take a walk with David Peters, founder of the West Oakland Cultural Action Network, and Gene Anderson, the author of Legendary Locals of Oakland, to learn about resident voices and document sites of cultural and historical significance in the neighbourhood. Peters is a local native, and Anderson is an Oakland historian whose family has historical roots in West Oakland.
Cost: $50 ($30 for West Oakland residents)

See a screening of The Black Kung Fu Experience followed by in-person demonstrations

Sunday, February 19
Great Star Theater, Chinatown
The Chinese Historical Society of America is celebrating Black History Month and social unity with a screening of this film about how a group of African American pioneers became respected in a subculture dominated by Chinese and white men. Afterward, there will be demonstrations and talks with Sifu Donald Hamby and Sifu Troy Dunwood, who “will speak about their success as internationally recognized martial arts masters, their Chinese Kung Fu teachers, and what this practice means in relation to diversity, race and inclusion issues.”
Cost: $15

Sip wine made by Black winemakers at a free tasting event at STEM Kitchen + Garden

Thursday, February 23
Dogpatch
STEM Kitchen + Garden is hosting an afternoon wine tasting celebrating Black-owned wineries in its gorgeous indoor/outdoor space, and best of all, and it’s free to the public!
Cost: Free

Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House

Attend the San Francisco African American Arts & Cultural District Gala Fundraiser

Saturday, February 25
Bayview Opera House
Enjoy an evening of talent, fashion, and community inspiration at SFAAACD’s 1st Annual Gala Fundraiser. Carla Duke, Television News Director at CBS-KPIX Chanel 5, will host the event, which includes inspiring words from keynote speaker Aniyia Williams, an artist, tech creator, and system-preneur.
Cost: $100

Attend a Black History Month & Chinese New Year Poetry Reading on Angel Island

Saturday, February 25
Angel Island
There is so much history in poetry at the Angel Island Detention Barracks Museum, which makes it a fitting location for poets Chun Yu and Michael Warr. The co-founders of Two Languages/One Community will share their poems and stories in English and Chinese, accompanied by projected images of text and photographs.
Cost: $10 to $21

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Feel the joy at the Black Joy Parade

Sunday, February 26
Downtown Oakland
This parade and festival celebrate the “Black experience past, present, and future.” Be prepared to experience “more Black joy than you ever imagined,” starting with the parade (beginning at 14th and Franklin) at 12:30 pm. The family-friendly festival follows (main entrance is at 19th and Franklin) will include 200-plus Black-owned small businesses selling food, drinks, clothing, art, and more. There will also be two stages with Black performers, including The Black Joy Choir.
Cost: Free

Take a sound bath at Grace Cathedral in honor of Black History Month

Monday, February 27
Nob Hill
Take an immersive sound bath featuring Fractals of Sound, a collective of top Bay Area musicians Egemen Sanli, Phoenix Song, and Sam Jackson, with special guest Destiny Muhammad. Together, they will create a “soundscape deeply rooted in world music,” allowing you to take a meditative journey in one of the most beautiful places in San Francisco.
Cost: $25 to $75

See Tsitsi Dangarembga and Angela Davis at City Arts & Lectures

Tuesday, February 28
Civic Center
Co-presented with MoAd, City Arts & Lectures is hosting novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and scholar and activist Angela Davis for what’s sure to be a riveting conversation.
Cost: $36

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Daisy Barringer¬†is an SF-based freelance writer who spent many childhood days wandering around the Exploratorium. Follow her on¬†Instagram¬†to see what she’s up to now.

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