Folks who are lucky enough to make the Bay Area home really know the meaning of America the Beautiful. The rugged California coast, magnificent mountains, and rolling acres of vineyards, all of which we have easy access to, are truly some of the most magnificent landscapes in the country.
And on Independence Day, which is synonymous with enjoying the outdoors, what better way to celebrate than with some outdoorsy adventures? Here, six ways to celebrate the 4th of July in the Bay Area.
1. Run one of California's oldest races.
The Kenwood Footrace , the oldest continuously run footrace in California, kicks off for the 44 th time on July 4 in this charming Sonoma town. Sponsored by the Empire Runners Club , the race includes a 3K and a 10K, with registration still available (you can sign up on race day, too; same day registration is a reasonable $40). The 10K course takes runners on an oak-lined, hilly loop through vineyards and scenic Sonoma landscapes. The first 1,250 finishers get a pint glass (the first 100 finishers in the 10K get a snazzy steel version). And a heads-up for speedsters: You’ll pocket a $750 prize if you set a new course record (the current records, from the 2013 event, are 30:50 for men and 36:10 for women).
2. Take in the fireworks from a kayak.
In San Francisco alone, there will be fireworks launched from the foot of the Municipal Pier and from the barges north of Pier 39, not to mention the displays in the East Bay, some of which you can see from SF. A great place to catch all the explosive action is right from the water, as it reflects the lights and reverberates the booms, and every year, a flotilla of kayaks can be found bobbing on the bay, taking it all in. (City Kayak offers a tour, but it's sold out, as it usually is.)
But keep in mind that this isn’t an excursion for beginning paddlers. Boat traffic is always high, the darkness adds another level of difficulty, and it’s a rigorous paddle, not a leisurely float. So plan (and dress) accordingly, with a waterproof windbreaker, layers, water, and bright lights.
3. Watch the annual tug-of-war between Stinson Beach and Bolinas.
In one of the most unusual Bay Area 4 th of July events, every year teams from the small coastal towns of Stinson Beach and Bolinas, both in Marin County, go head-to-head (or, rather, hand-to-hand) via a thick rope stretched across the channel that separates them. A small boat drops both ends of the rope in the sand in their respective towns, and at 9 am sharp, teams (men and women compete separately) grab hold and start pulling; the losing team is the one that ends up in the water.
A quintessentially quirky NorCal tradition, the event has been taking place for decades, with the rivalry and rumors about fixing teams getting more buzz every year. If you’re in the Bay Area for the 4th of July, this is one not one to miss. Stick around for the spirited Fourth of July parade in Bolinas afterward.
4. Cycle and celebrate in wine country.
The country roads of Napa Valley are hugely popular with local cyclists; join them for some patriotic pedaling on Independence Day weekend. Get up early for an epic ride through the winding roads of wine country, then reward your efforts with a relaxing stay at the Silverado Resort & Spa . Bring the whole family, bunk up in a huge, well-appointed suite, and join in the fun on July 3 for the resort's own barbeque dinner and fireworks show.
A side note for budget-conscious foodies: A meal at Ad Lib, the pop-up restaurant by Thomas Keller of the French Laundry, warrants a visit to the Silverado in itself. And you'd better visit quick, as the outstanding restaurant, whose a la carte menu features bright, locally influenced cuisine but at a lower price point than its famous sister restaurant, is only scheduled to be open through October.
5. Join the rolling party honoring the Warriors.
On the first Friday of every month, the fine folks behind San Francisco Bike Party host a group ride (i.e., a rollicking good time on wheels) through the streets of San Francisco, complete with a theme and costumes. This month’s is Golden State of Mind, honoring the NBA champion Golden State Warriors . Don your celebratory garb and deck yourself and your wheels out in blue, yellow, and white (the red, white, and blue will have to wait until the next day) and join the always-awesome time. As far as adult beverages go, while we're not officially condoning drinking and riding, you can bet there will be some imbibing at the stops, so plan accordingly should you want to partake.
6. Groove on live jazz at the Fillmore Jazz Festival.
Join other jazz and blues aficionados in the largest free jazz festival on the West Coast, with two days of toe-tapping awesomeness along a 12-block stretch of Fillmore Street in the hub of SF’s jazz district. More than 100,000 visitors are expected to join the Fillmore Jazz Festival for its lineup of live music from local and national groups and artists, plus a mouth-watering array of food offerings, from Thai to soul food to Cajun.