Live music, line dancing, food vendors and kids' activities, you can plan an afternoon of fun. Free admission, and a nominal fee for "tasting kits" for the cook-off. The festival runs noon to 5 p.m., with the chili tastings starting at 1:30 p.m. Mitchell Park, 600 E. Meadow Drive
JULY 4 AT SHORELINE
When I lived in Mountain View, I lived on Shoreline Blvd, and could watch the July 4 fireworks from the front steps. Granted, I couldn't hear the San Francisco Symphony playing at the same time, but I had a newborn, so it was okay. But now I'd love to go in person. The Symphony plays each July 4. You can get tickets here.
Pier 39 in San Francisco
Head to the wharf for the fourth. Festivities run from around 2 to 11, with fireworks starting at 9:30 p.m. Otherwise, there's free live music and street performers.
The Fillmore Jazz Festival runs July 7-8 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fillmore Street between Jackson and Eddy in SF. Three stages feature jazz groups, plus you'll find cooking demonstrations and art vendors. Plus food!
Marin County Fair - what's more American than the Preservation Jazz Hall Band? Hear them at the Marin County Fair on July 4th (the Temptations play that day too). The fair runs June 30-July 4. Enjoy pig races, a lion dance, learn how to grow healthy vegetables (kids will love that one), Kenya safari acrobats, mule driving, goat milking, pie contest, Hawaiian music and fireworks (they have fireworks nightly). And it's one price includes all (except food) - it even includes rides and concerts. $16 for adults, $14 for kids 12 and under.
Gilroy Gardens - If you or someone you know is (or was) in the military, that person can get in free June 30-July 4th at Gilroy Gardens. Plus up to 6 people with that special person will pay only $22 admission. If you go on June 30 - July 4th, Gilroy Gardens is hosting a Independence Day BBQ (separate cost).
Foster City Fireworks - bring a picnic and watch the firework display over the lagoon at Leo Ryan Park. The party goes on all day.
Redwood City Parade - this parade is more than 70 years old! And it's perfect for families with young kids who wake up early. The festival starts at 9 a.m., the parade at 10 a.m. Lots of family-friendly activities. The festival runs 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. so even if you miss the parade, you can still roll out of bed and make it to the festival.
Great America - fireworks on June 30 and July 1.