How to Best Celebrate the 4th of July in San Francisco

How do you like to spend your 4th of July holiday?  Do you visit family?  Or do you go to a potluck?  Do you fire up the grill at home?

Us?  We travel.  We’ve passed the holiday at the beach; we have spent it with bears.  We’ve even celebrated the long American holiday weekend with Canadians.

Rocks lining the San Francisco Bay in front of the Golden Gate Bridge | BIG tiny World Travel

And we made a special trip south to our fellow west coast city of San Francisco.

For the day, itself, we had a lot in store.

Biking the shore

Aaron and Brianna by their tandem bike in front of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge | BIG tiny World Travel

We started our 4th of July with a self-guided bike tour of the city.  Curious to try an elusive tandem bike, we strapped on our helmets and set out from Fisherman’s Wharf.  Fortunately, we tend to get along quite well, so we could stand to be confined together to a single two-wheeled vehicle for the day.  I could just let him do all the pedaling if he got on my nerves 😉

A wave crashing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco | BIG tiny World Travel

The shoreline is a very pleasant route, and we breathed deep of the cool summer air as we made our way westward.  We took in the sights, and I of course took many pictures along the way.

We took a break at a lookout just east of the Golden Gate Bridge, and I was finally able to secure some pictures of the selfsame landmark.  I got to play around a bit with forced perspective, and we watched the countless joggers slap the wall at the base of the bridge to mark their completion of their routine course.

A close-up of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco | BIG tiny World Travel

Then the fun began.

Crossing the bridge

Looking up at one of the Golden Gate Bridge towers from atop the bridge | BIG tiny World Travel

We followed the path up the hill and through a tunnel to become level with the bridge.  We then joined the throngs of tourists crossing the 1.7-mile span.

Aaron standing next to the bike in a tunnel in San Francisco | BIG tiny World Travel

The pedestrian walkway along the outer edge of the bridge is actually quite accommodating, and we had little trouble navigating the distance with our bike.  However, we still stopped frequently as I fervently begged Aaron to let me take another picture.

I was glad to cross the bridge on bike; I feel it would have been slightly arduous via foot, though we’re not shy when it comes to hiking.  Biking simply afforded us a happy balance between speed and photo possibilities.

A low-angle view of a bike in front of the Golden Gate Bridge | BIG tiny World Travel

Our route took us to the north shore of the bay, where we stopped for yet more pictures at the iconic viewpoint.  From there, we descended into Sausalito.

Returning to the pier

Houses built into the hill in Sausalito, San Francisco | BIG tiny World Travel

By this point, we had come quite far from our initial departure point (about 8 miles, in fact), and many hours had passed.  Needless to say, after a lovely lunch in the sunshine at a Sausalito cafe, we weren’t exactly jonesing for a backtrack trek on a tandem bike.

A street in Sausalito in San Francisco | BIG tiny World Travel

What do?

Take the ferry, of course!

The ferry from Sausalito back to Pier 39 was a relaxing ride – no pedaling involved.  We took in the views of Alcatraz as it loomed beside us, and we soaked in yet more sunshine.  The skyline grew before us, and sooner than we would have thought, we found ourselves back where we started, circuit completed.  Good thing, too, because we were short on time and had to race back to our quaint little anime hotel to change for the evening’s festivities.

Cruising the bay

The Golden Gate Bridge, hazy with sunset | BIG tiny World Travel

Evening settled in, and we were once more down at the shoreline, dressed in our finest for the 4th of July festivities.  The Hornblower welcomed us with open planks, railings bedecked in festive colors.

We set sail just before 7pm, and we were treated to a delectable four-course meal consisting of dungeness crab cakes, a salad, filet mignon with prawns and potatoes, and finished with berry-topped chocolate cake.


Brianna looking back at San Francisco from the Hornblower on the Bay | BIG tiny World Travel

We then filled the next couple of hours dancing inside, wandering the deck outside, running back inside to thaw, taking pictures, sipping straight Baileys (don’t judge), and waiting for the sun to go down.

The sun poking through the clouds over the San Francisco Bay | BIG tiny World Travel
Aaron posing on the Hornblower in front of the Golden Gate Bridge | BIG tiny World Travel

As the sun sank below the horizon, the boat took us under the Golden Gate Bridge for some evening pictures.  Aaron was right; we didn’t walk across the bridge, but I certainly had ample opportunity to photograph it.

4th of July in San Francisco

Fireworks over San Francisco Bay | BIG tiny World Travel

Darkness finally descended, and we puttered our way back into the bay for the apogee of the evening: a dual fireworks display.

We marveled as colors burst overhead left and right; we oohed and ahed.  I tried in vain to capture low-light fireworks from an undulating surface.

The Bay Bridge illuminated at night | BIG tiny World Travel

In the end, we had a marvelous time (failed photos aside).  The food was incredible, and the views were superb.  Following an active day in the sun, it was the perfect way to wrap up the holiday.

An American flag off the bow of a ship on the San Francisco Bay | BIG tiny World Travel

Now, with each new 4th, we’ll likely be traveling again – hopefully someplace new.  And we’ll always fondly remember our holiday in that bayside city.

Where will the 4th find you this year?

Psst… do you want to read more about our epic road trip to San Francisco?  You might also enjoy these:

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3 thoughts on “How to Best Celebrate the 4th of July in San Francisco

  1. What an absolutely INCREDIBLE time. So glad you enjoyed all SF has to offer 🙂 We have done the Hornblower tour before- it was one of the most magical experiences we have ever had here. Thanks for sharing such amazing memories!

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