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4th of July

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Holidays and Special Events > 4th of July



Small-town 4th of July experience?

June 2005

We're looking for a small-town 4th of July fireworks experience (mom, dad, kids 5, 3, & infant). Bay area preferred, but willing to travel--Calistoga? Sonoma?... I've read the archives about parades, but found nothing about actual fireworks shows. We've been to the one in Moraga, which is fun & safe--easy parking, nice grassy hill to sit on; but the fireworks show itself is a bit short and measly for my pyrotechnics-loving husband. Anything comparable to the overall experience, but with a better show?


Sonoma is a great place for the 4th of July. The fireworks are awesome, you sit in this huge field and they are right above you. Way better than watching them over the bay in the fog. I'm sure even your husband will be impressed.

Family-friendly places to see fireworks

April 2004

We will have a young visitor from Spain this July, and are looking for fun things to do on the weekends, etc. Since he'll be here for 4th of July, we are hoping to find a worthwhile fireworks show (we usually just go up on El Cerrito hill or somewhere to view fireworks at the bay.) Has anyone been to the fireworks show at Chrissy Field in SF? Any other fireworks shows around the greater bay area (or Tahoe?) that are good? I'm not a fan of crowds, and we have pre- teens, so we are seeking family friendly places. Thanks! patriotic


The Richmond Marina on the 3rd of July is fun. Not too crowded. Lots of room to come early and bring a picnic dinner. I guess with Richmond's budget cuts I would confirm this, though. Also, the first week of July check the events listings in the East Bay Express and SF Weekly for more ideas. --We like fireworks
I spend every 4th of July in Tahoe and see the best fireworks I have ever seen at a private community on the Lake on South Shore. The spectacular fireworks show is financed by the casinos.

The problem is that you cannot go out on the hiway for hours after the show as it is so jammed with cars of folks trying to get back to their homes/hotels. So, I recommend that if you go to Tahoe, you stay somewhere where you can walk to the lake and not have to drive back afterwards. Sparkly


Crowds pretty much go with the best fireworks shows, so you'll have to decide whether avoiding crowds is more important to you than an impressive display!

I've been to the waterfront show in SF and it really is a mob scene, but there are plenty of kids of all ages around; I wouldn't say it's not family friendly. I prefer going to Jack London Square in Oakland, which does a really nice show with musical accompaniment (some years it's been a radio simulcast, other years it's been a live orchestra performance), and doesn't involve so much travel time from my East Bay home. There is a street fair type event during the day beforehand, also, with some activities/attractions for kids. (We went last year with our then 2-year-old and a 10-year-old friend, and they enjoyed themselves.) It's possible to walk there, or take a shuttle, from the 12th Street BART station, so if you don't mind a bit of a walk you can avoid the traffic backups after the show. (The trains do get pretty crowded, though.) If you prefer to drive, you *can* find parking more easily than in SF, but it's still best to arrive early.

The Berkeley Marina is good if you'd rather watch less spectacular fireworks but be in a more laid-back and less crowded environment. The good viewing area is large, and the (smaller budget) show doesn't attract as many people as the SF and Oakland ones, so the crowds aren't so jam-packed during the fireworks themselves. Picnicking is usual, since it's harder to buy food there than at the SF or Oakland fairs; you might consider this a good thing if you'd rather avoid your kids begging for cotton candy! But do note that driving back out is a pain. They close the roads in the evening, so you can't leave early, and because, unlike the Jack London Square area, there are very limited routes in and out of the Marina and walking/public transit isn't as reasonable an option, the traffic backups are AWFUL after the show is over and everyone leaves at once. Bicycling might be a good choice. Holly


I used to live out on Treasure Island and it was an amazing place to watch fireworks. It is more low-key than the waterfront on the ''mainland'' and there is plenty of space for picnics, games, walks, etc. The only problem is dealing with traffic, but that's not so bad... It might be a fun, and unexpected, place to take a visitor to San Francisco. Jen
If you don't like crowds, you're not going to be happy at Chrissy Field. I am a 4th of July fireworks zealot. I want to see the fireworks but I don't like spending the day on a blanket in the sun with a bunch of people of varying degrees of civility, some of whom are shooting off illegal fireworks. (That's what burned a hole in our picnic blanket when we went to Chrissy Field.) With places like Chrissy Field or Jack London Square, you can't just show up around sunset to see the fireworks--getting a parking place that late is almost as difficult as finding a comfortable, good viewing site. Getting home from Chrissy Field is a traffic mess. Do you know someone with a boat? They seem to have the best views and don't have to fight traffic home.

In my opinion, small town firework displays are almost always more fun than the big city ones. If I can't go to a small town for 4th of July fireworks, I've started going to the A's game that has fireworks a day or so before the 4th of July instead. They have a great display coordinated to patriotic music and let people in the stands onto the field to watch.

If showing your friend a traditional 4th of July celebration is the main reason you'd like to go to a more organized fireworks display rather than watching from the El Cerrito hills, why not spend the day at Ardenwood near Fremont? It's an East Bay Regional Park that is run as a turn of the century farm. They organize traditional games like egg tossing contests and gunny sack races, make homemade ice cream, have a brass band playing Sousa marches near the Victorian farmhouse (with tours of the house), give rides in a horse drawn sledge, and so much more. They have food you can buy but most people pack substantial picnics and haul them to the lawn near the house (a wagon is helpful if your cool chest doesn't have wheels). It won't give you fireworks coordinated to a local symphony or radio station music, but it sure is old- fashioned flag waving fun for people of all ages. It does cost to get into the park. --Fireworks Fanatic


Crissy Field is a very family-friendly place for watching the fireworks. There is lots of room to spread out with picnics, chairs, etc. However, be advised that it's often COLD and WINDY and FOGGY! Some years, you can't even see the fireworks because the fog has come in... Perhaps someplace that might be warmer (i.e., East Bay or North Bay) would be more enjoyable for your children.

Where to view fireworks

June 2003

Where are some great places (without a ton of traffic) to view the 4th of July fireworks? We have young children. Has anyone taken the Bart to Pier 39 to view the fireworks there? Is it a good idea? Please email me. Thanks harlan


I can't vouch for the Embarcadero, but - believe it or not - Redwood City across the Bay may have the best show in the area. There's even a small blurb about it in this month's AAA magazine. Visit www.parade.org for more info. The show is at the port, on Seaport Blvd. -Ruben
I have THE BEST place to view the fireworks. Not very many people know about it. Go to the Art Institute at 800 Chestnut between Leavenworth and Jones. There is a panoramic view of the entire bay and you can see both sets of fireworks launch at the same time. The deck is huge, but last year there were only about 50 people there. I almost hate to post this on the message board! Parking is going to be practically non-existent, but if you can make it, you won't regret it. Ivy
I am sure you will receive many responses, but I have to say that I have been to Pier 39 for the 4th and I wouldn't recommend it. It was very crowded, is a long walk to get back to BART, and most of all, if the weather is normal, your view of fireworks will be obstructed by fog. Been There, Done That
The town of Sonoma has wonderful fireworks. You sit in a big field and the fireworks are right there. It's only an hour from Berkeley. alice

Video of fireworks to assuage 3-year-old's fear?

May 2003

Hello! I'm posting this messge for a friend whose 3 1/2 year old son was distressed by last year's Fourth of July fireworks. She'd like to take him to some Independence Day celebrations this year and hopes to prepare him by showing him videos with people enjoying (or at least not being harmed by) fireworks. But the only movies we could come up with that have such scenes are 1) The Three Musketeers and 2) the beginning of the old Wonderful World of Disney tv show. Can anyone recommend other videos with scenes that might help assuage a little person's fear of fireworks? Thanks! jg


I know you didn't ask for advice per se, but I thought I'd just mention that I was terribly afraid of fireworks until I was 7 or 8 years old. I vividly remember this fear, and it was based on the loudness of the explosions. I was very noise-sensitive as a child (i.e. popping balloons also terrified me), and you might just consider the possibility that this is happening with this boy too. In my case, no video would have helped at all; I just had to learn to control my fear of loud noises (to this day noise bothers me somewhat). Karen

Looking for a 4th of July parade

May 2002

Hi! We are looking for a 4th of July parade with lots of marching bands and exciting, entertaining entries. For the past three years we've been a bit disappointed with the Alameda Mayor's Parade as most of the entries are just cars with people waving, scarcely a band (much less marching) to be found. Can you recommend a parade within one hour's drive from Alameda for this event? Thanks! Stoneman


Check out the Danville 4th of July parade. Features horses, colorguard, firetrucks, police cars, lots of confetti and streamers, highschool marching bands, floats, the usual band of real estate agents marching with flags and passing out goodies, and finishes off with the gun salute (rifle enthusiasts shooting off their rifles at the very end of the parade...stay away from the horses when the riflemen come out). May not be terribly more exciting than the Alameda parade, but draws a good crowd and enthusiastic participants. Bring lots of water and wear a hat. It can get pretty warm out there in the summer. ndaetz
I've heard the Redwood City parade is fabulous. Piedmont has a nice lowkey parade as well.
There is a great Piedmont 4th of July parade along Highland Avenue the morning of the holiday. You can probably get info from the city of Piedmont. Bands, cars, boy scouts, the whole works. cheryl
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