If you think the American Revolution inspired the invention of fireworks, you're in for a surprise. The story goes that about 2,000 years ago a cook in China accidentally mixed three common kitchen ingredients together (saltpeter, sulfur, and charcoal), stuffed the concoction into a bamboo shoot, and lit it up. The result: the prequel to the M-80. Firecrackers soon became commonplace at celebrations, and this weekend you can enjoy them at various explosive Independence Day bashes around town.
Fireworks mixed with music is the chief draw at the family-oriented "An Evening of Magic and Music 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular"at Shoreline. There, the San Francisco Symphony performs a concert that starts with classical American music -- think old standards like "God Bless America" -- before moving on to tunes from Disney flicks such as Beauty and the Beast and Pocahontas, as clips from the films run on multiple screens surrounding the amphitheater. Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid, sings tunes from that movie, and then the evening ends with an eye-popping fireworks display.
Those who'd rather stick closer to home can always watch Pier 39's Fourth of July Waterfront Festival, but why settle for the same old, same old? City Kayak offers a special "Trip to Independence Day Fireworks" that takes folks out at dusk to paddle past the Bay Bridge, Coit Tower, and the Transamerica Pyramid before ending up under the pyrotechnics at Aquatic Park. Experienced kayakers are welcome, as are kids accompanied by grown-ups.
But don't wait for the evening to kick up your heels -- not when Yerba Buena Gardens' "We Are Family" Picnic rages all day long. Now in its seventh year, this old-fashioned July Fourth do has all the trimmings of a traditional American picnic with one exception: There are queer moms and dads grouped around these blankets and baskets. Although you won't catch any fireworks at the famed LGBT event, you'll still see loads of performers, including the divinely weird Jackie Jones and Her Tap Dancing Cat (best known for their saw-playing act at local flea markets). After all, if you're going to stay in the Bay Area for the holiday, you may as well celebrate San Francisco-style.