The best places to see fireworks in San Francisco on the 4th of July come by land or by sea, observed from Twin Peaks or a coveted campsite on Angel Island. Whether you revel in the wonders at local fairs or set sail, the bombs bursting on the air begin with carnival rides, parades, marching bands, live music, and lots of barbecue and picnics. Even the San Francisco symphony plays patriotic music with the fireworks. The Marin County Fair celebrates the fourth with fireworks nightly as well as on the holiday itself. Circle Alcatraz or Angel Island and see the Pier 39 waterfront celebration on the Blue & Gold Fleet, Hornblower Yachts, the Red & White Fleet, the Commodore out of Alameda, the docked aircraft carrier the USS Hornet out of Alameda or Alcatraz Tours. If the options are overwhelming, rest assured the area’s must-see displays this 4th of July are best seen at these awesome area celebrations.
Pier 39 Waterfront Celebration
2 Beach St.
San Francisco, CA 94133
Hours: July 4 – 12 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Pier 39 is scheduled to light up the waterfront at Fisherman’s Wharf with a free fireworks show at 9:30 p.m. this 4th of July. Enjoy the live music at the entrance starting at noon, or check out the ever-popular sea lions. Take a cruise, even a modest keelboat sailing lesson or a cruise with The San Francisco Sailing School, at $45 for a two-hour ride to the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz. Better still, take a ride on a sleek, black, former Americas Cup sailboat, the USA 76 with a 115-foot mast, with AC Sailing SF. It’s 2.5 hours long and adults may embark at $129 a person, while children ages 5 to 12 are only $69 a head. Families of four may enjoy tours for a total of $349. Meanwhile, exciting and funny street performers have their own stage at Pier 39 near the merry-go-round and perform without charge. This is an easy destination for bicyclists who come from the Embarcadero BART station along the Embarcadero. Pedestrians have the easy and scenic option of taking Muni along the Embarcadero as well.
Price: $239.95 to $247.35 for adults/$149.95 for children ages 4 and older
Hours: July 4 – 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Alcatraz Tours sells tickets for the Hornblower’s July dinner dance cruise with free-flowing champagne and an open bar. Passengers get a four-course dinner with filet mignon or jumbo prawns. The celebration runs for four hours with live entertainment and festive décor. The fireworks display shows at Pier 39 as part of the Pier 39 waterfront celebration at 9:30 p.m. Hornblower sells tickets directly to the public at $140 per adult/$120 per child, children younger than 4 are free.
Related: Best Places to Find Street Performers in San Francisco
Berkeley, California 94710
Hours: July 4 – 12 p.m. entertainment; 9:30 p.m. fireworks
The Berkeley Marina shoots fireworks at the end of the Berkeley pier starting at 9:30 p.m., and best of all, it’s free. The live entertainment starts at noon on the main stage, with bands including Lee Waterman & Jazz Caliente, the Hipwader’s Children’s Music and even the Tin Sandwich Harmonica Trio. Circus arts performers, a dunk tank, lots of food, a small sheltered beach in the South Basin and free dragon boat rides add to the family festivities. This is an alcohol-free, green-inspired event where your frisbee is your dinner plate and your bandana makes a nifty napkin. Enjoy free parking at the marina. Roads close from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Free valet parking for bicycles at Adventure Playground is available, and dogs are admissible if leashed.
Fourth of July Spectacular with the San Francisco Symphony
1 Amphitheatre Pkwy.
Mountain View, CA 94043
Hours: July 4 – 8 p.m.
Price: $24 to $35
The 4th of July Spectacular with the San Francisco Symphony fills Shoreline Amphitheater with rousing music and bright light this year. Randall Craig Fleischer conducts the symphony live. Rob Evans leads on vocals. This performance culminates with fireworks set to patriotic songs and marches.
Marin County Fair
10 Avenue of the Flags
San Rafael, CA 94903
Hours: June 30 to July 4 – 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Price: free to $16
Fireworks dance in the skies each night of the fair while the Preservation Hall Jazz Band plays on July 4 twice, at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. This perennial French Quarter favorite kicks it off, and the fair includes concerts by Joan Jett, The Temptations and other headliners with the price of admission, along with exhibits and nightly fireworks. Filmmakers and photographers compete while exhibits include not only fine arts and crafts, textiles and gardens but a photography show about life on historical Marin county farms and a barnyard with live farm animals. The 28 carnival rides include a 10-story giant gondola wheel, and the Shangri-La Chinese acrobats are scheduled to return again this year.
Tiburon Ferry cruise to Angel Island
21 Main St.
Tiburon, CA 94920
Price: $3.50 to $13.50
Hours: July 4 – 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The Tiburon Ferry, a family owned operation, sails three vessels, a water taxi, a 342-passenger ferry and a luxury boat called The Tamalpais for special events. Passengers on the 4th of July excursion on the boat called Angel Island may bring their own food or buy snacks and drinks on board. Depending on ticket sales, the Tamalpais would be the second boat for the 4th of July cruise. Regular ferry service to Angel Island ends at 3:30 p.m. as the park closes at sunset.
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
1001 Fairgrounds Dr.
Vallejo, CA 94589
Hours: July 4 – 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Price: $34.99 to $39.99
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom synchronizes and choreographs fireworks with a patriotic soundtrack every July 4. The park also hosts a traditional all-American barbecue. This year Six Flags will recognize the birthday of an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin named Liberty, born on the 4th of July in 1990, and will open an All-American superhero roller coaster called Superman Ultimate Flight. The park hosts other family attractions including wildlife shows and wild rides.
Cindy Warner is a freelance writer and a San Francisco Bay Area native. Cindy has covered SF theater and opera for Examiner.com via her bicycle since January 2009. Check out her work on Examiner.com.