4th of July Fireworks, Parade and Picnic in Sausalito: The Best Fireworks in Marin County
Sausalito has what we think is the best 4th of July fireworks show in Marin County. Since the ferries don't run late (illogically) you can drive or take Golden Gate Transit buses.
Date: July 4, 2012
10:00 AM - Noon -- As in years past, the 2012 Sausalito 4th of July Parade begins at 2nd and Main St. (Old Town, near the old Valhalla Restaurant) and goes down Bridgeway and then Caledonia all the way to Dunphy Park (on the waterfront near City Hall). Music ranging from the Cal Alumni Band to floats with jazz or rock performers will travel down the route. The signups are different every year, but as we've watched from our balconies or the sidewalk we typically see (in addition to the musicians) Floats, Politicians, Clowns, Acrobats, Flowers, Balloons and Fun. (We leave you to make up your own jokes based on the prior sentence!) When the Parade gets to Dunphy Park it's time for....
Noon to 5:00 PM -- 4th of July Picnic, Dunphy Park (See Map Below) Starting at 12:00 Noon there will be live music all day from popular local musicians Michael Aragon and Friends and Eugene Huggins and Friends. Food will be sold by local non-profits, and there will be dancing, family games, tug-of-war and the sure-to-inspire-groans and ooohs-and-ahhhs egg toss, a long-time Sausalito tradition that spans generations.
6:30 - 9:30 PM at Gabrielson Park (next to the Ferry Pier) -- Food and beverages will be available for sale,and there will be live music by Big Bang Beat. To reserve a table for 6 people for $100 call the City at 415-289-4152, and there will also be lawn seating. Fireworks will be set off from a barge in the Bay near Gabrielson Park. Please support this free program -- info on donations is below.
Hubris Corner: We Sausalitans, as the small town folks, are proud that many years our fireworks shows come off while San Francisco's are swallowed by the fog.
Price: All events other than the tables at the dinner in Gabrielson Park are free -- you only pay for food.
Insider Tips: The Best Places to See the Fireworks
Step One: Parking
If you're driving to Sausalito from outside the city for the Fourth of July fireworks be sure to get here at least two hours early. Yes, we really said two hours... and that's if you're OK with walking a long ways or taking the bus from northern Sausalito. To park normally downtown, plan on spending the day here. You can read our Sausalito Parking Guide here.
Every year as the first explosions light up the sky a long line of would-be watchers trails down Bridgeway, with zero chance of parking before the show is over.
Where can you park without coming to town before noon? The office building lots (those where there are no stores or restaurants that need the spaces) in the southern Marinship area near the Bay Model and the northern Marinship area near the Post Office are a popular choice, though it's good to stay away from spots with "Reserved" signs, even on a holiday. The walk to downtown Sausalito may take 20 to 40 minutes, depending on where you park and your pace, but it's a nice way to work off some of those extra holiday calories.
You can speed the journey each way by taking one of the Golden Gate Transit buses that go down Bridgeway.
Whatever you do, don't park in restricted residential areas. A lot of parking tickets get written on July 4 in Sausalito when late arrivals panic and park where visitor parking is not permitted, so read posted signs carefully. If you're in a residential neighborhood and the sign says "residential permit required" it is very likely that you'll get a ticket for parking there. Even on the 4th of July they make time to write the tickets.
Last year we saw a late-arriving visitor who'd decided to just block the driveway of one of our editor's neighbors in Old Town.... with the homeowner's car still in the driveway! I think that was probably an expensive ticket.
Step Two: Watching Fireworks
Gabrielson Park, where the official City events take place.
Sidewalks anywhere with a view of the Bay in Downtown Sausalito and the Bridgeway Promenade. There are some places to stand on the boardwalk in Old Town. We like going to a good restaurant for a leisurely dinner, then walking a few blocks to see the fireworks.
As you go farther north in Sausalito the fireworks views get unpredictable: some places you'll see them clearly, other places they'll be hidden behind one of the ridges that separate the valleys of Sausalito.
Most of the same spots that work great for our fireworks also allow you to see the San Francisco fireworks at Fisherman's Wharf, though many years they are shrouded in fog.
Finally, some folks park in the pay lot in downtown Tiburon (across the Bay from Sausalito), climb up the hill in Belvedere or Tiburon and find spots where they can watch our fireworks from across the Bay. The problem is that the Tiburon lots fill up as fast as those in Sausalito.
A subscriber asked us which hotels in Sausalito offer a view of the Sausalito Fireworks. Casa Madrona has a perfect location if you have a Bay-view room, as does the balcony of any room at Inn Above Tide. We believe that some rooms at the Gables Inn and Hotel Sausalito also will have an excellent viewing angle, but there may be trees blocking some or all of the view in some cases. Cavallo Point has no view of the Sausalito Fireworks, but many rooms will be able to see the San Francisco fireworks across the Bay... if the fog allows!
You can donate money year-round to help pay for the cost of the Fireworks -- the City takes the risk of fronting the money but each year we have to raise enough in donations so that the money is repaid and we can have fireworks again the next year. Since we're the biggest fireworks show in Marin we get donations as well as visitors from all over, but this year the bill comes to $26,000 and every donation helps/
The first video below gives you a feel for the entire day, while the second brings you music from last year at Dunphy Park.
Watching the Fireworks from a Restaurant
Better yet, get a reservation for a late dinner at a restaurant and then take a short walk to watch the Fourth of July fireworks spectacular. Our page on Sausalito restaurant rankings will give you some ideas on where to go.
Parade Route Map
The line from A to B on the Google Map below shows the morning parade route. I can think of a couple of years when I decided to sleep in very late on July 4 and woke up to the sound of the bands in the parade going by at the base of the hill!
Google Map Instructions: Use the "+" and "-" buttons to zoom in and out, the arrow keys to scroll the map, and the SAT button to see the satellite view.
Public Transit Back to San Francisco
If you're coming north from San Francisco, the Ferry service back to San Francisco ends before the fireworks begin, and cabs are not cheap.
Golden Gate Transit buses are running a Holiday schedule on July 4.