Watching the Fireworks in Marin
June 27, 2012Posted by pamela |
For families with young children, the ritual of watching 4th of July fireworks becomes a little, well, inconvenient. Babies and toddlers are often scared of the noise (if you're close enough to hear, that is), and most kids are up way past their bedtime. It's even worse if you decide to wake them out of a deep sleep in time to see the fireworks (trust me, I've been there). Nothing's quite as crabby and grumpy as an overtired child, no matter how great the promised fireworks are.
With this in mind, we've sought out places to watch the fireworks at the Marin County Fair that don't involve leaving the car while little ones can doze in peace. The Marin County Fair's fireworks used to be kind of weak, but the last few displays we've seen have been really impressive, and they promise to be bigger than ever this year. Obviously you can just pay your $16 and go to the fair, but again, if you've got two sleeping children in the car, this isn't really going to work. Neither is driving over near the fair—it's hard to see anything from the area along Civic Center Drive, and the resulting post-fireworks gridlock around the fairgrounds is totally miserable.
On a friend's suggestion, we checked out a fireworks viewing spot up at the Unitarian Universalist Church parking lot, which is on Channing Way, off Professional Center Parkway in Terra Linda. It's potetentially ideal, situated on a hill that overlooks the Marin County Fairgrounds. This wasn't bad, but the number of places where you could actually see anything was pretty limited and we obviously weren't the only people there to see the fireworks—it's a pretty popular spot. Those people who could find a spot where they could see through the trees were treated to a spectacular view, though.
After that we tried a new tactic and headed out to McInnis park, off Smith Ranch Road, where you could get a fairly clean line of sight across the marsh area to the fairgrounds. It afforded a direct view to where they were setting off the fireworks, so it really is a good place to go. There's a small parking lot near the main entrance to the park that's an ideal place to watch. It's just south of the main part of the park, near baseball and soccer fields and the kayak and canoe launching spot. The beauty of this spot is you can stand next to your car and watch the show if your kids are asleep inside. If you can leave your car and want to walk out closer to the creek, you can get an even better view of the fireworks display. There were a few people here who obviously had the same idea, but it was far from crowded.
Of course if you live or had friends in Santa Venetia close the Civic Center, then that would be even better. Then you could just watch from their back yard. Actually, the Marin County Fair's fireworks take place every night of the fair (June 30 through July 4 this year), so if you can take in the fireworks display on an evening when the prime viewing spots are potentially less crowded than they will by on Independence Day itself.
Families in southern Marin might want to make the effort to see San Francisco's fireworks display, which is usually guaranteed to be spectacular, except when it's foggy, which it often is in July. We've watched fireworks from Fort Baker near the Bay Area Discovery Museum, which afforded a pretty good view, but was also pretty crowded. Of course the absolute best viewing spot is from a boat on San Francisco Bay, but that's cold, and of course requires a boat. If you don't have one, the Angel Island Ferry provides a fireworks cruise on the Bay that departs Tiburon at 8:30 pm ($60 adults, $40 children 5–12, and free for kids under 5), and this year, for the first time ever, Angel Island itself will be open for fireworks viewing.
Actually, our all time favorite fireworks display is put on by the city of Sonoma (where we actually lived for a short time, pre-kids). There's a really nice home-town feel about the whole thing, and they put on a really superb show. With the kids getting a little older now we're definitely planning go back up there. The only drawback is its popularity. It's great if you have friends or family within walking distance of the field near Vallejo's house, but if you drive there the traffic jam of people trying to head back out of town is pretty awful.
If you have a favorite fireworks display in the Bay Area, or a favorite spot from which to take in the San Francisco or Marin County Fair fireworks, share it with us by leaving a comment.