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Fourth of July Fireworks 2021

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: June 30, 2021

The biggest draw to San Francisco on Fourth of July is the fireworks display, which will take place in 2021. 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. 

Fireworks over Pier 39 on Fourth of July

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!

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

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.

Cruises

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.

Fireworks Cruise with Blue & Gold Fleet

  • 5 cruises, all leave from Pier 39 or Pier 41 in Fisherman's Wharf
  • Cruises leave at 7:55 pm, 8:05 pm, 8:20 pm, and 8:30 pm 
  • Cruise at 8:10 pm is family-friendly/alcohol free
  • You must arrive at least 30 minutes in advance to begin boarding for all cruises
  • $95 per adult, $85 for Youth (5 - 16) 

Fireworks Cruise with Red & White Fleet

  • 1 Cruise, leaves from Pier 43 1/2
  • Beer, wine and other drinks on sale on the boat (you can also buy some drink tickets in advance) 
  • Leaves at 8:30 pm
  • Tickets start are $99 for 18+ and $79 for Youth (3-17) per person

Before Fireworks Recommendations

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

SF Bay Cruise

All day long, SF Bay Cruises will be leaving from Fisherman's Wharf for a fun 60-minute ride around the bay. These narrated cruises offer you the chance to see some of SF's top attractions from the water and learn more about them. The best part is that this cruise rides under the Golden Gate Bridge - twice! 

>> Find tickets for these cruises

Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour

Explore San Francisco all day long on the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. During your trip, you can hop on and off at any attractions and districts along the way. Top stops include the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Alamo Square, and Lombard Street. You can select from the 24-, 48-, or 72 hour ticket. 

>> Find tickets for all options on the Big Bus Tours site

More Fun Activities Around SF on Fourth of July

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 8, 19, 30, 47, or the 49.

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. At 2 pm, the cable cars will be replaced with buses which will take you along the same route. 

After the display, SF Muni will run two special shuttle services from 9 pm to 11:30 pm. Both will pick u in the same location, so make sure you get on the right one.

  • On Kearny, at North Point: One shuttle goes to the Ferry Building. The second takes you to Caltrain. Make sure you double check the shuttle to ensure you are headed to the right location. 

The shuttles leave once they are full, so they will run a few shuttles during this timeframe.

BART

BART will be offering an extended service after the fireworks on Fourth of July in San Francisco. However, you MUST be at the Embarcadero Station no later than 30 minutes after the fireworks end. This is a tight timeline, so you need to be on your way ASAP after the fireworks are over and get to the BART station as quickly as possible. The only station in SF that will be open this late is the Embarcadero Station. All others will be closed so make sure you know how to get here and how long it will take you.

I'd also make sure to have an alternative plan to get home as they will not be extending their service any later. If you miss the last train, you will need to find an alternative route home. 

Caltrain

Caltrain will offer additional southbound service after the fireworks show. They typically have the trains ready and when they are full, they leave.

The last train will leave the station at 11:30 pm, so make sure you are on the train by then. They will not wait to fill up this last train as it will leave on time at 11:30 pm.

MUNI is running a special shuttle until 11:30 pm to this station, so you can get to this station from Fisherman's Wharf using this shuttle. 

Driving

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 TripAdvisor.com. Click here to check out their deals for this night and/or weekend in SF.

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