Independence Day is almost upon us in all its festive glory—and that means it’s time to start thinking about where you’ll be when that first glorious spark shoots into the air and blooms into a spectacular fireworks display (you can practically hear the “oooooooohs” and “ahhhhhhhhhhs” already, can’t you?). The 4th of July is the biggest birthday party of the year, and in California, the backdrop for that party is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the nation. There are dozens of July 4 fireworks celebrations happening across the state, from Tahoe all the way down to San Diego—but we narrowed the list down to five firework destinations that consistently leave viewers awestruck. Whether you’re in Northern California, Southern California or the Central Coast, one of these incredible shows is within reach. So pack some snacks, get your sparklers ready and make some incredible Independence Day memories in Cali this year! Go to the bottom of the page to see the best places to see fireworks in the South Bay/Pennisula.
1. San Francisco
Live music, family activities, fireworks—and Smurf Village? This must be 4th of July in San Francisco! Start off the fun by heading to Pier 39 at noon to see WJM (the world’s youngest “social impact” rock band) perform, then stop at East Park to slide down the Smurf’s “Eiffel Tower Slide” before heading back to the stage for a performance by Tainted Love at 4 pm. The fireworks start shooting off over the San Francisco Bay around 9:30 pm, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to land a good viewing spot.
When: 12:00 pm to 10:00 pm/Fireworks: 9:30 pm
Best Views: Pier 39, Crissy Field, Marina Green, Aquatic Park
2. South Lake Tahoe
Tahoe South puts on one of the most amazing fireworks displays anywhere in the nation. Between 75,000 and 100,000 people show up to Lights on the Lake Fireworks every year to see what’s known as “the largest synchronized fireworks display west of the Mississippi.” Pyro Spectacular—the same company that planned fireworks for the 100th and 125th Statue of Liberty anniversaries, Macy’s Parades and several Super Bowls—are behind the amazing light show, so you know this is going to be a night to remember. Bonus Info: NBC’s Today Show called the Lights on the Lake Fireworks one of the country’s top 4th of July weekend celebrations.
When: Fireworks: 9:45 pm
Best Free Views: El Dorado Beach at Lakeview Commons, Bijou Community Park, , Timber Cove Marina and Nevada Beach.
Best Paid Views: Lakeside Beach, Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course and The Tahoe Queen & M.S. Dixie II paddlewheeler cruises.
3. Redondo Beach
Redondo Beach hosts a super family friendly 4th of July party at the Seaside Lagoon by the Redondo Beach pier. The fun starts at 2:00 pm with swimming in the lagoon, food and drinks, arts and crafts, paddleboard races, live music, a drum circle and a ton of other activities. The big fireworks show starts at 9:00 pm, so head to your seats—or to the sand—to catch a gorgeous light display.
When: 2:00 pm to 10:00 pm/Fireworks: 9:00 pm
Best Views: Redondo Beach Pier and the Harbor areas
Cost: Varies. Click here for ticket information.
4. San Luis Obispo
If you’re in the San Luis Obispo area, stop by beautiful Pismo Beach for their jaw-dropping 4th of July Fireworks show. The event is free, but there is VIP seating right on the pier for a mere $25. Leading up to the fireworks show at 9 pm, you’ll find food, live music and arts and crafts—so get there early to enjoy all of the fun.
When: 10:00 am to 11:00 pm/Fireworks: 9:00 pm
Best Views: Pismo Beach and the 1,200-foot Pismo Beach Pier
Cost: General Admission: Free/VIP: $25.00
5. San Diego
San Diego’s 13th Annual Big Bay Boom is always a huge draw for Californians, but this year’s display promises to be more spectacular than ever (additional funding means bigger and better!). Over 500,000 people are expected to view the 18-minute show—making it the largest annual event in the Western U.S. The pyrotechnics will be set off from four barge locations scattered across the Big Bay with accompanying music broadcast live on 105.7 FM—The Walrus. Bring some lawn chairs, pack a picnic and don’t miss this fantastic 4th of July celebration. Bonus: The display benefits the San Diego Armed Services YMCA.
When: 9:00 pm
Best Views: Shelter Island, Harbor Island, Embarcadero, Seaport Village/Coronado Landing and Special Event Locations
Mountain View/Shoreline Amphitheatre
Time: 9:00 p.m.
Location: Shoreline Amphitheatre
Admission: Free or $13.50 for tickets. Mountain View residents only.
Details: The San Francisco Symphony will provide the soundtrack for this year’s fireworks at Shoreline Amphitheatre.
City of Santa Clara
Time: 9:30 p.m.
Location: Central Park, Santa Clara
Details: Entertainment starts at 5 p.m. Pack a blanket, lawn chairs and a picnic.
City of Cupertino
Date: July 4th
Set off at Cupertino High school at 9:30 p.m.
Viewing locations: Creekside Park, Hyde Middle School, Sedwick Elementary School
San Jose/San Jose Giants
Date: July 4th and 5th
Time: Following the 6:30 p.m. games against Visalia Rawhide
Location: San Jose Municipal Stadium
Admission: Ticket prices vary.
City of Redwood City
Time: 9:30 p.m.
Location: Port of Redwood City
Details: Festivities begin with a parade at 10 a.m. and continue all day with entertainment, food and more.
City of Milpitas
Time: 9:15 p.m.
Location: Milpitas Sports Center Complex
Admission: $3 admission for everyone ages 2 and older. Cash only.
Details: “Waving the Red, White and Blue” pool party will run 1-3 p.m. Admission is $2. “Red, White and Boom” concert and fireworks show will run 7-10 p.m.
Are you planning on attending any of these 4th of July celebrations? Let us know your plans!