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.
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!
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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.
These are some of the best places to see the show.
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
Fireworks Cruise with Red & White Fleet
Here are some fun activities for you that run on the morning and afternoon of Fourth of July.
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!
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.
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.
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.
The shuttles leave once they are full, so they will run a few shuttles during this timeframe.
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 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.
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.
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.