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Fourth of July Fireworks

Tips to Make the Most of this 2016 San Francisco Event

The biggest draw to San Francisco on Fourth of July is the fireworks display. On a clear night, this is one of the most amazing displays in the area.

The city sets off the fireworks from two locations in front of Fisherman's Wharf. One is at the end of Municipal Pier and the other is on a few barges in front of Pier 39.

The set up is perfect for a large crowd. It allows onlookers to see the displays from several great spots all around San Francisco (and a few across the SF Bay). It also allows for several cruises to head out, so plenty of people can see the display from close up.

pier 39 fireworks

This event draws tens of thousands of people every year.

The display starts when it gets dark. This is usually around 9:30pm. It lasts for about 30 minutes with a beautiful finale.

Even though it's crowded, I do recommend this event. It's such an amazing experience and one that you will not soon forget!

Best Places to See the Fireworks

As I mentioned above, they set off the fireworks in two places. This means you can see them from several places around the city. Here is a map showing the rough location of the displays.

fireworks in sf at fishermans wharf

These are some of the best places to see the show.

  • Aquatic Park: Some of the spots in Aquatic Park are saved for VIPs. However, there is a large park here where you can lay out your blankets, pull out your picnic, enjoy some music, and wait patiently for the show. Get here no later than mid-afternoon to grab a good spot. The thing I like about this option is that there is plenty of activity going on all day in Fisherman's Wharf. If you are with a group, some of you can walk around, grab food, and enjoy other festivities as you wait for the fireworks.

  • Pier 39 Decks: The decks on Pier 39 are packed with spectators. However, they can always squeeze in one more person. There is no room to sit on the deck, but it's a great spot to see the show. If you get there early enough, I recommend heading to the second floor to see the show.

  • Pier 39 Restaurants: If you call in early, you might be lucky enough to get a spot at one of the Pier 39 restaurants with a view of the fireworks.

  • Cannery: You will find some options in the Cannery that allow you to see the show. Head to the courtyard here if other places are a bit too crowded.

  • Coit Tower: You will get great views of the show from the top of the hill in the Coit Tower parking lot. I recommend walking up here as parking is sparse and it might be tough to catch the bus.

  • Hills Near the Golden Gate Bridge: Just up the hill from Crissy Field and Fort Point, you will find some great places to watch the fireworks. Find a spot with unobstructed views of the bay and you are set. No matter where you go in this area, you will find a lot of people, so you can always ask for some advice if a certain area is too full already.

Golden Gate Bridge: People ask every year about watching the fireworks from the Golden Gate Bridge. During the summer, the bridge walkways close at 9pm, right before the fireworks start, so I recommend finding a different location to watch the show.

  • Sausalito: You can also get a good view of the fireworks from Sausalito. This is a good option for those coming from or staying in the north bay. It's also VERY crowded here, but you will not have to fight the Golden Gate Bridge traffic to get home.


If budget is not a concern, then the best option is to head out on a cruise. These cruises are really popular. Some offer light appetizers (free or paid), a pay per drink bar, and other factors that make it much more of a comfortable wait.

Many of the cruises are several hours long, so you have plenty of time to hang out with friends and family before the event. They all return around the same time, which is about 30 minutes after the end of the show.

You can pick them up in either on the San Francisco side or in Tiburon in Marin. Most of them run out of SF, but the location you take it from does not make a difference on how close you get to the display.

5th Annual IndepenDANCE Family Fireworks Cruise

  • 4 hour cruise on the SF Bay
  • Include a buffet with a large variety of items such as fish, chicken, salads, vegetables, and more
  • Boards at 7:15pm, departs at 8pm
  • Highlight of the cruise is a front row seat at SF's popular Fourth of July fireworks display
  • Tickets start at $156 (or at $99 on Goldstar for a limited time)
  • Find tickets at a discount on Goldstar

Fourth of July Fireworks Dinner Cruise

  • Four-hour cruise with dinner, dancing, and fireworks
  • Start the cruise with a complimentary glass of Champagne
  • Before the show, ride around the SF Bay and see top attractions such as Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, and more
  • Enjoy a four-course seated dinner
  • Live entertainment all night long
  • Enjoy premium drinks from the hosted, open bar
  • Leaves at 7pm from Pier 3 (boarding begins an hour prior)
  • Returns around 10:30pm
  • Tickets start at around $273 per person
  • Buy your tickets today

Fireworks Cruise with Blue & Gold Fleet

  • 3 cruises leave from SF's Pier 41
  • 2 cruises leave from SF's Pier 39
  • 1 leaves from Tiburon
  • SF cruises from Pier 41 leave at 8pm, 8:20pm, and 8:40pm
  • Pier 39 cruises leave at 8:15pm and 8:30pm
  • Tiburon cruise leaves at 8:30pm
  • The Pier 39 cruise at 8:15pm is family-friendly/alcohol free
  • You must arrive at least 30 minutes in advance to begin boarding for all cruises
  • $85 per person
  • Click here to book your tickets on the Blue & Gold Fleet site

Fireworks Cruise with Red & White Fleet

  • 4 Cruises, all leave from Pier 43 1/2
  • Two leave at 7:45pm, two leave at 8:15pm
  • 2.5 hour cruises with drinks and snacks available for purchase on-board
  • All four cruises offer the same experience
  • Must check in at least 60 minutes before departure
  • Tickets start at $85 per person
  • Buy your tickets on the Red & White Fleet Website
Fireworks Cruise with Wylie Charters 
  • 2.5 hour cruise of the San Francisco waterfront on our intimate private 65ft yacht with 35 other guests
  • On-the-water front row seats for the firework extravaganza, launched in the bay, 1000ft from the shore.
  • Unlimited amounts of the famous Baylis finger food buffet
  • Free soft drinks, juices, water and 2 free alcoholic drinks per person (beer wine, soda, champagne). More alcoholic drinks for sale on the boat.
  • Good vibes, party people and good music
  • Leaves from Pier 40 in SF at 8pm
  • Tickets start at $95 per person
  • Get your tickets here

Before Fireworks Recommendations

Here are some fun activities for you that run on the morning and afternoon of Fourth of July.

90-Minute Sailing Cruise

Head out on the water early on one of these 90-Minute Sailing Cruises. There are three cruises on Fourth of July: 12:15pm, 1:45pm, & 4:15pm. All three offer you the chance to get great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and the Bay Bridge. The best part is you can pick up your tickets at up to 50% off on Goldstar.

Tickets: Click here to buy your tickets at up to 50% off on Goldstar today

San Francisco Giants Baseball

The SF Giants take on the Colorado Rockies at 1:05pm on Monday, July 4th. The game is at AT&T Park and will end with plenty of time for you to make it to the waterfront for the fireworks.

All Tickets: Buy your tickets today

Discounted Tickets: Find a limited number of tickets at up to 50% off on Goldstar


Enjoy a high speed adventure on the SF Bay this Fourth of July holiday! For 30 minutes, the Rocketboat twists and turns its way around the SF Bay. During this heart pumping ride, you will also have fun with its rock and roll music.

Tickets: On sale at up to 50% off on Goldstar

Are you looking for more options for Fourth of July and the weekend? Click here for a full round up of events this holiday weekend in San Francisco!

Getting to the Fireworks Display

Some of the streets around Fisherman's Wharf close the morning of the Fourth of July Fireworks and stay closed until early the next morning. Keep this in mind when selecting the best transit option.

SF Public Transit

Due to the crowds, I think this is the best way to get down to the fireworks display. You can take the F Streetcar to the heart of Fisherman's Wharf. You can also take the 2, 4, 8, 18, 19, 24, 30, 38, 44, 47, 54, 56, 72, 74, 76, or 91.

You can also take either the Hyde/Powell or Mason/Powell Cable Cars from Union Square. Both will drop you close to the action. The Hyde/Powell drops you right next to Aquatic Park.

After the display, SF Muni will run two special shuttle services from 10pm to 11:30pm. They are as follows:

  • Embarcadero and Bay Streets: This shuttle will take you directly to the Ferry Building and the Caltrain stop
  • Polk and Francisco: This shuttle only makes two stops. It will stop at Van Ness Avenue & Market Street and Civic Center Muni/BART Station.

The shuttles leave once they are full, so they will run as many shuttles as they can for the hour and a half time frame.


You have two options when taking BART. Your first option is to take it to the Embarcadero Station and grab the F-Streetcar to the end of the line. You can also get off at Powell Street and take a cable car over.

For either option, I recommend heading over early to avoid the crowds or a long wait in line. BART will be running their Sunday schedule this holiday.

NOTE: BART will not be running between the South Hayward, Union City, and Fremont stations this holiday weekend. There will be bus shuttles, so expect delays in these areas.


Caltrain offers extra southbound service on the night of the fireworks display. The first special train leaves at 10:45pm and will express to Belmont. It will then make all local stops through to San Jose Diridon. Two more special trains will leave at 11:15pm and 11:45pm. They will make all local stops to San Jose Diridon. The last regular train will leave SF at 9:15pm and will make all weekend stops to San Jose.


If you plan to drive, arrive really early in the day. I recommend arriving in the late morning or the early afternoon to grab a spot. Even if you arrive that early, there is no guarantee parking will still be available in the area.

If you need to drive into the city, I'd park my car in Union Square and take public transit down. There are several parking lots there and at least you will find a decent place.

This means you will need to either walk back or take public transit to your car after the display, but it might take less time than trying to fight the traffic in Fisherman's Wharf.

However, even if you park here, you will still face quite a bit of traffic as you attempt to leave the city.

Places to Stay Nearby

The best way to fight the crowds is to grab a hotel room in Fisherman's Wharf. If you book early, you will not have to worry about fighting the crowds to get in or out of the district after the show.

Click here to check out my recommendations in Fisherman's Wharf. This page includes all budget ranges, although prices go up for this weekend.

You might even be able to find some great deals on hotel rooms in the district (or other places in the city) on Click here to check out their deals for this night and/or weekend in SF.

Other Fireworks Displays in the Bay Area

South Bay | East Bay | North Bay & Wine Country

Other Fun Activities this Weekend

stern grove
fourth of july
Fillmore Jazz
Stern Grove
All July

> SF Holidays > Fourth of July Fireworks 2016

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