I always enjoy the New Year's Eve Fireworks in San Francisco. It's a gorgeous display over the waterfront near both the Ferry Building and the SF Bay Bridge.
It's one of the most attended displays every year with hundreds of thousands of people in attendance. The display kicks off at 11:59pm and lasts for about 15 to 20 minutes.
On a clear night, it's definitely worth the time and effort it takes to get down here to see this amazing display as you ring in the new year.
Those looking for the best seats arrive around 7pm. However, you can still arrive an hour and a half to two hours in advance and grab a seat.
To pass the time while you wait, bring along a picnic, some games (we love to play Charades), and enjoy your time with friends and family before the fireworks display starts.
You can also hop aboard a fireworks cruise for dinner, dancing, and a little drinking before the display starts. These sell out quickly and you will find more details on this option below.
You can watch the fireworks display anywhere along the eastern side of San Francisco by the waterfront. The fireworks are on a boat that sits in the water between the Ferry Building and the SF Bay Bridge.
Your best bet (if you have the time to get there early) is to grab a seat somewhere along the waterfront to the south of the Ferry Building. There are huge sidewalks here, where you can stake out a spot and wait for the show to begin.
If you find a spot near the Ferry Building, make sure you are on the waterfront side, not in front by the street. You will see some of the fireworks from this area, but your view will be obstructed.
The blue star at the top is the Ferry Building. The blue star at the bottom is the Bay Bridge. The two red stars in between are great spots to check out.
The one at the top offers quite a bit of sidewalk space with a few benches right along the waterfront. If you get there in time to grab some bench space, it will make waiting a little more comfortable.
The bottom red star is Rincon Park. This is where you can grab a seat on the grass with your blanket and see unobstructed views of the show.
If budget is not an issue, I highly recommend getting tickets for a fireworks cruise. This allows you to hang out and enjoy a night of fun while you wait for the display to start. Many offer dinner and drinks as well as live entertainment. They also have the BEST views of the show once it starts.
If you are attending with your family, you will also find a few family friendly options.
There are also several restaurants nearby with a view of the show. These places fill up quickly and often offer a prix fix menu for the evening, so you can eat, have a few drinks, and hang out at your table until the show starts.
Here are a few places to check out.
Book your tables early as these places fill up quickly. You can book them either through OpenTable.com or directly through the restaurant.
Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.
Here are a few additional events happening on the afternoon and early evening. More will be added as New Year's Eve approaches.
Cirque du Soleil: Catch a performance of Cirque du Soleil's Volta Under the Big Chapiteau at Oracle Park (formerly AT&T Park) at 1:30pm.
Museums & Attractions: Visiting some of our top museums and attractions is another fun things to do while waiting for the New Years Eve fireworks in San Francisco. Here are a few ideas to help you plan your day.
Tours & Cruises: You will find a variety of tours and cruises running all day long on New Year's Eve Day. It's a fun way to enjoy the day as you wait for the fireworks to begin. Here are a few of my top pics.
If you are coming from within SF, you can take BART or the Muni Lightrail trains to the Embarcadero Station. You can also take the F-Street Car line to the Ferry Building (it's a bus service all day instead of the trains) or the California Cable Car to the end of the line near the Hyatt Regency.
These buses drop off within a block of the viewing area: 2, 6, 14, 21, 31, and 38.
SF Muni often runs late on New Year's Eve to accommodate everyone trying to get around the city safely. They also add a few additional routes to their late night schedule to make it even easier.
Each year they also offer free transit from 8pm to 5am.
If you are coming from the east and south bay, BART is your best option. Take it to either the Embarcadero or Montgomery Street Stations. Both get you within a few blocks of the action.
During this busy night, each BART train is assigned a place to stop once it reaches SF. They will either stop at the Embarcadero or Montgomery Street stops. This allows them to stay on track and move as many passengers as possible. Be aware of this change and make sure you get out on the one stop assigned to your train.
BART often runs until about 3am on NYE, so you have plenty of time to catch the train home after the fireworks.
Caltrain also offers additional trains home after the firworks display.
I'm sure you won't be surprised when I say that traffic is completely crazy this night. I highly, highly recommend that you take public transit. However, if you do decide to drive, here are a few parking options near the Ferry Building.
You will find several places within walking distance of the New Year's Eve Fireworks in San Francisco. Given the number of people that attend, I highly recommend finding a hotel nearby to ease the burden of getting home after the show.
There are two great places that are within a block or two of the New Year's Eve Fireworks in San Francisco.
There are dozens of other options that are a quick walk or bus ride away. The weather is usually quite mild on New Year's Eve, so it isn't too hard to walk back to your hotel as long as you have on comfy shoes and aren't carrying too much stuff.
As I mentioned above the buses also run late this day, but they are usually crowded. However, it's a great alternative if you prefer not to walk.
The first option is Union Square. This is where you will find the largest concentration of hotels from two stars budget friendly options to five star beauties. Click here for my recommendations.
You can also stay in Fisherman's Wharf. It's a longer walk, but still beautiful if you love walking and are not in a hurry. Click here to find my recommendations for Fisherman's Wharf.
Savings Tip: Another tip I always give my visitors is to check out the hotel deals on TripAdvisor.com. Even though New Year's Eve is a busy night, some hotels still offer a discount. They might also offer you a better discount if you are staying for a few additional nights. Click here to check out TripAdvisor's selection of discounts for NYE or any night in SF.