Even though it’s a national holiday, the Fourth of July is really all about community. Small towns especially seem to shine with civic pride on this day. And what better way to celebrate than with a tiny-flag-flying, marching-band-playing, politician-waving, candy-tossing, drunk-shriner-fez-wearing parade. There’s lots to choose from in whatever part of the Bay Area you happen to live.
In the North Bay, Sausalito, Novato, Fairfield, Calistoga, Sonoma, American Canyon and Kenwood are all hosting parades.
East Bay: Alameda, Concord, Moraga, Danville, Fremont.
South Bay and Peninsula: San Jose, Redwood City, Half Moon Bay, Menlo Park.
Pretty much every town with a budget is sponsoring a fireworks display, starting with the beat-the-crowd towns of Richmond and Sebastopol on July 3. The largest of the displays is probably San Francisco, fired from barges parked off Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf, a well-coordinated show which is impressive so long as the fog doesn’t roll in. There’s activities and live music all day you can enjoy, or find a spot before 9pm on Russian Hill (I used to go to the top of the nearby San Francisco Art Institute, but I think it’s getting popular and a little crowded now). If you live down south, Caltrain is operating extra post-fireworks trains. But you might just want to catch the fireworks in San Jose at Kelley Park after the minor league San Jose Giants baseball game, or at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View after the San Francisco Symphony performs. There’s also a big fireworks show at the Berkeley Marina, which also has a full day of activities.
3) Fourth of July fundays
See those towns above? the ones holding a parade and/or fireworks? Well, it’s a good bet most of them will also be sponsoring a day of family fun activities, as well as many other towns and city neighborhoods not ending the day with a big bang. Proximity is as good a factor as any on which to choose. Sausalito has an all-day picnic in Dunphy Park, with music and tug-o-war and egg toss. But what I like is the proximity to the water for viewing fireworks, both Sausalito and San Francisco. Redwood City is having an actual street festival. Jack London Square in Oakland is having a ton of activities including a petting zoo, jugglers, stilt walkers, biking and kayaking, magicians, bounce houses and arts and crafts. And in Alameda, Rock Wall Wine is hosting Food Truck Frenzy with 11 trucks, a dj and several vendors.
4) Music in the park
You’ve probably strolled through Golden Gate Park on a Sunday and come across the red coat and hatted concert band performing in the beautiful band shell next to the de Young. I’ve always pledged to come back, and really I can’t think of a better time than the 4th, when they’ll be playing patriotic themed tunes (expect lots of Sousa) in their usual spirited session. Bring a picnic and some wine.
Baseball and the 4th of July go together like mom and apple pie. You can watch the Oakland A’s take on the Seattle Mariners. But for my money, the best game in town this day is the minor league San Jose Giants. No ticket is more than $18, parking is a snap, and you get to watch the future Giants stars of tomorrow. Game starts 6pm and is followed by fireworks.