Beat the Crowds with these Fourth of July Hacks

Alameda Parade
You don’t have to travel far to experience one of the country’s longest Fourth of July parades. Head to the island city of Alameda for some old-fashioned, hometown fun.
While the parade doesn’t officially start until 10 a.m., head out early to save seats for an up-close view of more than 160 floats and 2,500 participants including bands, dancing horses, Scouting troops, officials in classic cars and more homespun entertainment.
But even with 60,000 other spectators, it’s not hard to nab a spot somewhere along the 3.3-mile parade route that starts near the Park Street Bridge and ends on Webster Street. Just before the parade, there is a 5K race at 9:45 a.m., and afterward the Coast Guard will host a festival with food trucks, kids’ activities and more from 12-4 p.m. at Alameda Point’s Pier 3, next to the USS Hornet Museum.
Or stroll along Park Street and stop for homemade ice cream at Tucker’s or hit the beach at Robert Crown Memorial State Beach or Crab Cove. You can also bike along the beachfront path.
– Janine Hayward
Tour Angel Island
When our family wants to avoid Fourth of July crowds, we often go for a hike. One of our favorite Independence Day hikes was a trip to Angel Island. It was so peaceful to enjoy the beautiful nature of the island while being surrounded by views of the bustling city. The island also offers so much of our country’s history that it seems like an appropriate place to be on this holiday.
We got an early start and took public transportation to Pier 39 where we caught the Blue & Gold Ferry. The short ferry ride offered gorgeous views of the city. When we arrived, we found the North Ridge/Sunset trail. This six-mile hike leads you to the highest point on Angel Island, offering dramatic views from every direction. It’s steep but well worth the climb. There’s also the Perimeter trail which isn’t as steep and gives you an historical tour of the island’s military past. The trail winds past old barracks and abandoned military buildings, and it also offers sweeping views of the city.
Another great place to visit on Angel Island is the Immigration Station. Often referred to as the Ellis Island of the West, you can view bunk rooms and recreation areas where immigrants once lived when they first arrived in America. Park staff and volunteers give regular guided tours and interpretive talks.
When we arrived back at Pier 39, crowds were just starting to arrive for the fireworks and festivities. We decided to leave, but if you choose to stay,  it would be a perfect way to end a relaxing day.
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–Teresa Mills-Faraudo
Escape to the Redwoods
I like to change up what we do for July 4 every year. I live near the beach in Santa Cruz and the days leading up to the celebration can be loud, noisy and crowded. I usually enjoy a mix of festivities and quiet, and while most folks head to the beach I like to go to the redwoods.
 The World’s Shortest Parade takes place in Aptos every year and it’s a fun way to celebrate the 4th. Some of my favorite redwood trails are nearby at the Forest of Nisene Marks. Kids can wade in the creek, search for banana slugs, and play along fallen tree logs.  The Aptos Creek Trail from George’s Picnic Area is short enough that most children can enjoy it, and most parents can feel that they’ve gotten in a bit of a hike.  
Santa Cruz doesn’t have any city-sponsored fireworks show, so you need to head to Skypark in Scotts Valley. It can get crowded near the park (with a two hour traffic wait at the end) but you can park at the nearby bus stop and watch as the fireworks pop overhead. 
–Amy Ettinger


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