4th of July in San Francisco: History, Things to Do and More


4th of July is celebrated as independence day all over the US and it is an annual event. It was on this day in 1766 that the continental congress declared that the thirteen American colonies were no longer subordinate to the British throne. The congress voted to declare independence on the 2nd of July but it was declared two days after. Commemorating this, every year the 4th of July is a federal holiday.

This day is celebrated all over the country and is characterized by various private and public patriotic events to pay tribute to the nation’s history, government, culture and the spirit of being an American. Just like all other summer events and celebrations in the US, the 4th of July is mostly celebrated outdoors. Firecrackers, picnics, barbeques, concerts, reunions, baseball games, concerts, parades, speeches and carnivals are all parts and parcel of the celebration of the national day of the United States of America. 

Of course, states and cities all over the country celebrate this occasion but no one does it the way San Francisco does. 4th July is a busy holiday in San Francisco with people moving all around the parks and setting up picnics, the smell of the barbeques and grills fill the air and people gather around the waterfront to witness the beauty and brilliance of the fireworks.

What to do?

A typical celebration of the 4th of July starts in the morning with attending a parade or watching one. After this people engage in get-togethers with their families and friends in the form of picnics, barbeques or an extravagant lunch at home and finally ending the day by watching the fireworks at the waterfront, parks or at town squares. Decorations like streamers, cloth decorations and balloons are often in the colour of the American flag (white, blue and red)


Other fun activities people engage in on this day are biking around the city or going on wine tasting tours or maybe even a walk at the SF public library. On the night before the 4th of July people organize and enjoy camping and bonfires. 
The Golden gate park band honours the Independence day movement and celebration at 1 pm with an all American patriotic musical fireworks show at the musical concourse at the golden gate park.

The Shoreline Amphitheatre has an outdoor concert held every year in the South bay known as the San Francisco Symphony. The harmonies and range from star wars film music to patriotic tribute to the forces. They also end the show with a grand display of fireworks, now that is how you end with a bang! 

Things to Do During 4th of July in San Francisco

1. Picnics

If you are planning a picnic for the 4th of July then a visit to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is a must. You get the topic quality and the most fresh vegetables, and fruits like melons, figs, peaches and nectarines. If you are planning to set up a grill then they have also gotten the meat section covered for you.

Barbecue is an integral part of summer outdoor picnics in the US and of the celebration of the national day as well. So set up a small picnic of your own at a park and spend your day playing and eating. The picnic is something children and adults will thoroughly enjoy. You can also enjoy 19 anchor beers at Anchor brewing and Co. They offer specials on Liberty ale and Anchor streams which are historically significant beers of the US. Pier 39 also has a fun-filled day planned for the whole family that starts at around 3 pm so head towards the entrance to be a part of the fun events and activities. 

2. Hop on hop off bus

During the day you could take a tour on the hop on hop off bus and explore the city of San Francisco. You can choose from the ticket ranges of 24hrs or 48hrs or 72hrs for the bus. You can get off at any place you find interesting or a tourist attraction spot as well. Some of the famous spots are golden gate bridge, golden gate park, Lombard street and Alamo square too.

3. Fireworks

The fireworks at San Francisco Bay is one of the most famous showcases all over the country. Display of fireworks are a main part of the celebrations. Major fireworks and displayed in and around the waterfront. Two sets of fireworks are synced and set off at the same time for people all around to witness it. One set is set off on the municipal pier while the other set is sent out from in front of Pier 39. The fireworks showcase begins shortly before 9:30 pm when it gets dark and it lasts for almost half an hour.

The waterfront is closed to cars as there will be a lot of people gathering to witness the fireworks. It is suggestible that you take public transport to get to the location as the streets close in the areas due to increased crowd and this might cause traffic. Even though the event is crowded there are quite a few spots from where you can get a good view of the displays. The best viewing areas range from the northeast waterfront in Aquatic park to Pier 39 in Fisherman’s Wharf.

Some people also take the cruise for a closer view of the fireworks. Sale of fireworks in and around the city to individuals completely depends on the local weather and other specifications. In some states, the use of fireworks is banned or there is a certain limit to the number and size. On dry days especially the public may not be allowed to burst and use firecrackers but the public displays maybe on, keeping safety precautions in place.

4. Cruises

Many of the local boat and ferry companies offer cruises on the 4th of July. They leave approximately an hour before the fireworks start so that they can adjust to find the perfect spot to provide the perfect view for their passengers. Some of the more popular cruises on this day are:

A. Hornblower Cruises

Some of the options offered by them are:

  • San Francisco Belle buffet dinner fireworks cruise: 3.5hrs long cruise. Starts from 7 pm till 10:30 pm. Inclusive of dinner buffet, hosted bar, Dj, dancing and entertainment

  • Premiere fireworks dinner cruise at San Francisco: 4hrs long cruise. Starts from 7 pm till 11 pm. Inclusive of a four-course dinner, a hosted cocktail bar and live entertainment

  • July 4th Beer Lunch cruise: 2hrs long cruise. Starts from 12 pm till 2 pm. Inclusive of American style buffet, champagne and beer. 

All the three cruises leave Pier 3.

B. Red and White fleet

All their cruises leave from Pier 43 1/2 in Fisherman's Wharf. The unlimited beer wine and snacks are covered in the price of the ticket. The boarding starts approximately half an hour before departure. The tentative timings of the cruise are 7:45 pm, 7:50 pm, 8:15 pm and 8:20 pm.

C. Rock the Yacht fireworks cruise

It is a fun party cruise. It is an enjoyable and lively cruise with an open bar and DJ music as well. It is a three-hour-long cruise that starts at 8 pm and goes on till an hour after the fireworks and ends at around 11 pm. The boarding happens almost half an hour prior at Pier 40 at Oracle Park.

D. Blue and Gold fireworks cruise

One of the best ways to watch the fireworks is from water. This is a family-friendly cruise ferry with no alcohol on board. There are three ferries scheduled 20 minutes apart starting at 8 pm, one at 8:20 pm and one at 8:40 pm.

Some of the other popular cruises are Adventure cat sailing characters, bay adventures, commodore cruises and Angel island- tiburon ferry.

The first week of July is often one of the busiest holidays as people take this three-day long weekend in some years to take a small vacation or an extension on a trip. The Fillmore jazz festival is also planned around the time of this holiday so if you are in the city make sure to attend it!



It is advisable to travel by public transit as parking can be an issue around the city on the 4th of July. It is suggestable to walk, bike or take other modes of public transport for movement. Muni posts a detailed plan for their 4th of July transit on their page. The BART and the CalTrain are viable options to use to travel on this day.

Another good way to beat the crowds is to book a room around Fisherman’s Wharf. 

If you are in San Francisco on this day make sure to immerse yourself in the vibes and celebrations of this patriotic and fun festival. This is one of those days where you can see the city in its true form and people making merry and busy with friends and family. The beauty of the fireworks display is definitely out of this world!

This post was published by Devarchita Sen

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