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Not Just Fireworks: 12 Kooky, Kitschy, Tasty + Creepy-Crawly Fourth of July Events

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Bored with the traditional Independence Day parades and fireworks?

From satirical political theater in the park to reptile ogling, these Fourth of July events will inspire your patriotism anew.


Bolinas vs. Stinson Beach Tug of War

Every Fourth of July, the oceanside Marin County towns of Bolinas and Stinson Beach get their game faces on for an epic tug-of-war on the beach. Pick a side and join the fun or watch the competition unfurl. // Free; 9am at Bolinas Lagoon (Bolinas), pointreyesweekend.com

Big Rocky Games

It's all about friendly competition at the two-day Big Rocky Games on the Russian River, June 30th and July 1st. Kids of all ages will compete in inner tube races, a rubber ducky contest, rock skipping, ice cream eating, and other old-fashioned outdoor contests. On Sunday, a floating parade of decked out inner tubes and July 4th–themed skits starts at dusk. // Free; noon to 4pm at Monte Rio Beach (Monte Rio), monterio.org

The Pardee Patriotic Picnic

Step into the past at a genteel Victorian Independence Day celebration at Oakland's historic Pardee Home, which hosts a barbecue with lawn games (think croquet and badminton) that will hum to patriotic songs played by pianist Frederick Hodges and his vocal accompaniment, Ann Gibson. Proceeds go to preservation efforts at the house. // $15/adults, $5/kids ages 5-11; noon to 3:30pm; 672 11th St (Oakland), pardeehome.org

San Francisco Mime Troupe

For over 60 years, the San Francisco Mime Troupe has been poking satirical fun at the American political system with poignant commentary on the state of the country. Catch their season-opening Independence Day performance. // $20 donation suggested; 2pm at Dolores Park (Mission), sfmt.org

USS Hornet 4th of July

There's no more patriotic way to celebrate the Fourth than aboard an aircraft carrier. This Independence Day, the USS Hornet hosts live music and entertainment including a flight simulator, jumpy house, and collaborative mural painting. Stick around for a haunted tour of the ship, which will be offered between 3 and 7pm. // $25/adults, $15/kids ages 7-17; 2-10pm at 707 W Hornet Ave (Alameda), uss-hornet.org

San Francisco Pub Crawl and Hot Dog Eating Contest

This patriotic pub crawl in the Marina pays homage to the birth of a nation with an annual hot dog eating contest. Join the fun, which begins at Bar None at 4pm with $3 drink specials, and fortify yourself for the evening's main event at Stock in Trade. Sign up here to compete. // Free; 1980 Union St (Cow Hollow), crawlsf.com

Chili Cook-Off

On July 4th, Palo Alto's Mitchell Park will host the city's annual chili cook-off. Though they're no longer accepting applications for competitors, chili tasters are always welcome. // Free; noon to 5pm at Mitchell Park, 600 E. Meadow Dr (Palo Alto), paloaltochilicookoff.com

Watermelon Seed Spitting and Tug of War

Gather the family for an afternoon of old-school fun at Fremont's historic Ardenwood Farm. Get in on games like nail driving, tug of war, egg races and, the day's crowning event, the watermelon seed spitting contest. Bring a picnic to make your Independence Day complete. // $8/adults, $5/kids ages 4-17; Ardenwood Farm, 34600 Ardenwood Blvd (Fremont), ebparks.org

Patriotic American Concert

The Golden Gate Park Band has been playing free concerts for over 100 years. This Independence Day, they get patriotic with a special show dedicated to our country's b-day. The music starts at 1pm in the amphitheater at the west end of the music concourse. // Free; Music Concourse Dr (Golden Gate Park), goldengateparkband.org

Mustache and Beard Contest/Reptile Show

If you or someone you know has a mustache or beard with character, make a beeline to Albany's 4th of July Mustache and Beard Contest. Entry is open to anyone who fits the bill and the competition begins at 1:40pm. No facial hair? Stick around for the East Bay Vivarium Reptile Show at 2:30pm, because beards and reptiles make good bedfellows. // $5; Memorial Park, 1249 Marin Ave (Albany), albanyca.org

Wilder Ranch Old Fashioned Independence Day

It's always the turn of the 20th century at the historic Wilder Ranch in Santa Cruz. Dress in period costume or come as you are for a parade accompanied by old-timey instruments, lawn games, a flag raising, and patriotic music. Exchange your 2018 dollars for 1900s tokens to purchase homemade treats like hand-squeezed lemonade, dill pickles, and strawberry shortcake. The event is free but there is a $10 fee to park. // 1401 Coast Rd (Santa Cruz), parks.ca.gov

4th of July Celebration at the Pier, San Francisco

At this year's 4th of July celebration at Pier 39, tourists and locals will be dancing side by side to Tainted Love as they belt out the best '80s hits beginning at 5pm. Stick around after dark for a 180 degree view of the Bay as it erupts in fireworks. // Free; Pier 39 (Fisherman's Wharf), pier39.com

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