Find out where you need to go for the fireworks displays, along with some of the best activities and offerings in and around San Francisco on Independence Day. From morning parades to nighttime fireworks shows—this all-American holiday gets top billing in the City by the Bay.
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San Francisco Fireworks
San Francisco sets off fireworks from two locations—the end of the Municipal Pier in Aquatic Park along the bay and from barges north of Pier 39. The shows start at about 9:30 p.m. and go on for about 30 minutes. For the best views from land, set up near Aquatic Park at Jefferson and Hyde streets, as well as the Cannery, Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, or Coit Tower.
The 4th of July fireworks draw tens of thousands of people each year, and the above areas can get crowded quickly. If you'd like to keep your viewing a little more low-key, the Crissy Field Overlook, and Inspiration Point in the Presidio also offer quieter, worthwhile views. Bernal Heights Park is also a favorite among locals; you can put down a blanket and watch the fireworks from afar with the glittering lights of downtown to complete the San Francisco portrait.
The Golden Gate Bridge pedestrian walkways close at 9 p.m., so consider an alternative. You can get a good view of the fireworks from Sausalito -- a great option for those coming from or staying in the North Bay. It can be very crowded here, but you will not have to fight the Golden Gate Bridge traffic to get home.
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Celebration at Fisherman's Wharf
Fisherman Wharf's Fourth of July celebration takes place on Pier 39 and typically lasts for the full day, with both original musicians and cover bands (favorite Bay Area cover band Tainted Love is a regular attendee) performing tunes, and a prime view of the bay for the city's splendid fireworks display. There are also plenty of family-oriented activities to keep spirits buzzing.
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Sausalito hosts a three-part Fourth of July celebration with a parade from 10 a.m to noon that includes floats, bands, clowns, classic cars, and balloons. After the parade, at the city's Dunphy Park, there is typically live music, dancing, food, and old-fashioned games like tug-of-war and an egg toss. The evening finale takes place at Gabrielson Park has more live music and food trucks, topped off with the city’s fireworks show at 9 p.m.
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Fourth of July Fireworks Cruises
One of the best views of San Francisco's two fireworks displays over San Francisco Bay is from the water. Take your choice of cruise packages that offer snacks and drinks, a full-course meal, or no food at all. Ticket prices vary.
- Red and White Fleet offers two cruises that leave from Pier 43 1/2 in Fisherman's Wharf at 7:45 and 8:15. The cruise typically lasts 2 1/2 hours. Both cruises offer the same experience—the San Francisco skyline at night, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, and prime fireworks viewing.
- Hornblower's premier dinner cruise serves up a four-course meal, has an open bar that includes champagne, and features live entertainment. You leave from Pier 3, Hornblower Landing, or you can take a Hornblower cruise from Berkeley for the convenience of departing from the East Bay.
- The Blue & Gold Fleet fireworks cruise has six boats that leave from Pier 39 and 41 between 8 p.m. and 8:40 p.m. that include family packages. Or, cruise on over to Angel Island where you can enjoy live music, food, and drinks, and an unforgettable view of the fireworks show.
- Commodore Cruises offers a 5-hour dinner and fireworks cruise on their Cabernet Sauvignon luxury yacht that sets off from Alameda. You'll be wined and dined and treated to dancing as you watch the fireworks from a prime location on the bay.
- If sailing's your thing, you'll like Adventure Cat Sailing Charters' Fourth of July 2-hour offering. You'll take off from Pier 39 at 8:45 p.m. to get in position for the fireworks. You will be treated to a couple of drinks and hors-d'oeuvres as you watch the fireworks with the sails flapping in the bay breeze.