Independence Day falls on a Sunday this year, making it a three-day weekend for many and the perfect excuse to put some fireworks in your holiday with a getaway trip out of town. There’s hardly a community in Northern California that’s not planning a full day of entertainment, from county fairs and small-town parades to street festivals and beach parties. Here are a few of my top picks for a fun-filled Fourth of July.
Billed as the largest synchronized fireworks display west of the Mississippi, South Lake Tahoe’s annual fireworks show, Lights on the Lake, is one of Northern California’s signature Independence Day events. It’s so big, in fact, that NBC’s Today Show selected it as one of the country’s top Fourth of July weekend celebrations. Prime viewing spots are around South Shore’s sandy beaches, and the decks of the Tahoe Queen and MS Dixie II paddlewheelers.
Incline Village pulls out all the stops with a multi-day celebration called Red, White & Tahoe Blue, scheduled for Friday, July 2, through Sunday, July 4. Special events include a concert, flag raising, chalk drawing contest, ice cream social for children, parade, dress-up-doggie contest, opening ceremonies, and rubber ducky race. The festivities culminate with the Fourth of July Fireworks on Sunday at 9:30pm.
Fireworks get under way at Kings Beach on Saturday, July 3. The show starts at 9:30pm and can be best seen from the Kings Beach State Recreation Area. There’s also a Viewing Party at the North Tahoe Event Center, starting at 6:30pm, right on the water in Kings Beach. For just $10, attendees get entry to front row fireworks, live music, and dancing, along with a no host bar and food available for purchase throughout the evening.
Tahoe City’s 64th Annual Fireworks Celebration begins at 9:30pm at Commons Beach Sunday, July 4. Prime viewing spots are from the beach, where family picnics are popular, as well as various locations throughout town along North Lake Boulevard.
Truckee hosts an old-fashioned July Fourth Holiday Celebration on Sunday, July 4, with a morning Truckee Firecracker Mile fun run and walk for all ages followed by a 10am hometown parade in historical downtown along Commercial Row.
Reno is Artown, one of the biggest arts festivals in the country, features more than 400 events centered in and around family-friendly Wingfield Park on the Truckee River in downtown Reno. The holiday weekend is packed with everything from walking tours to children’s theater productions, movies in the park, and an eclectic array of concerts. Neighboring Sparks will provide the boom-boom with a Star Spangled Sparks celebration that includes a fireworks show at the Sparks Marina.
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA
The San Francisco Independence Day Waterfront Festival in San Francisco will shine on all things nautical, starting with a full agenda of daytime events at Pier 39, Hyde Street Pier, the Cannery, and Ghirardelli Square. Come nightfall, what’s billed as the largest fireworks display on the West Coast will light up the bay. Watch it from shore or snag a ride on a fireworks cruise offered by the Red & White or Blue & Gold fleets.
And what’s the Fourth of July without some stirring patriotic songs and marches? The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra will have your toes tapping at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View. The evening concludes with a spectacular fireworks display, set to stirring patriotic songs and marches.
Or get your soul on along with the 90,000 fans who will head to Pacific Heights July 3-4 to groove to jazz fusion, Latin rhythms, Cajun, and old standards at the Fillmore Jazz Festival. Part of Fillmore Street closes to traffic so jazz enthusiasts can enjoy arts & crafts, gourmet food, and live jazz from 10am to 6pm. Best of all, admission is free.
“Come Out and Play” is the theme of the top-ranked Alameda County Fair that draws 3 million people annually. Highlights of the June 23-July 11 event in Pleasanton include concerts by the Tower of Power, War, and Crystal Gayle. A revamped carnival, horse racing, and rib cook-off are just part of the excitement. Fireworks are scheduled July 2 at the racetrack.
Celebrate our nation’s birthday the old-fashioned way at Columbia State Historic Park’s Glorious 4th of July Celebration on the 4th of July. Come participate in the activities the 49ers enjoyed way back when, including a parade up Main Street at noon. Kids will enjoy trying to climb a greased pole, bucket brigades, cake walks, nail pounding, watermelon and pie eating, egg relay race and egg toss, and a five-way tug-of-war. A tri-tip barbecue dinner will be served at 4pm, followed by a flag raising and firing of the town cannon.
Half Moon Bay kicks off its July 4 festivities with a traditional parade complete with floats, music, antique cars, and even horses and ponies marching down Main Street, followed by a town picnic hosted by the American Legion. The parade starts at noon on Sunday.
Want to be in a Fourth of July parade instead of just watching one? Come to Aptos, where, after a pancake breakfast, “The Worlds Shortest Parade” starts with nearly every town resident, both human and animal, donning their finest costumes. Visitors are welcome—just wear a costume. Afterwards, head over to Aptos Creek Park for a 4th of July celebration featuring live music, local arts and crafts, food, and activities for all ages.
Enjoy an old-fashioned throw back to earlier times at the Napa County Fair and Silverado Parade, which marches through downtown Calistoga on July 4 while the annual fair features old fashioned fun at the fairgrounds July 2-5, including a barbecue contest, pony rides, and much more. Admission to the fair is only $8 and the parade is free.
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