Parades, picnics and fireworks, and everything decked out in red, white and blue. That's what the Fourth of July meant to me as a kid and it's what I look for to celebrate our nation's day of independence. Fortunately, these traditions live on in our area so that today's youngsters can experience summer's biggest holiday the good old-fashioned way.
There's something for everyone throughout the day--morning, noon and night--and it's even better if you bring a bike along for the Fourth of July fun.
Morning: Rose, White and Blue Parade in San Jose
I'm a little disappointed that there's not a big parade closer to home, but San Jose's Alameda Business District is hosting their grand Rose White & Blue Parade. The parade's roots began in 1896 with a Rose Carnival, which evolved into the Fiesta de Las Rosas from 1926 to 1969 and was revived as today's parade. The parade starts at 10 am from Lincoln High School in San Jose and wends its way through the Rose Garden neighborhood and down the shady historic district on The Alameda.
People on bikes, scooters, strollers or roller skates are welcome to join the parade and are encouraged to decorate them in roses, red, white and blue. Organizers will also have some decorations available the morning of the parade for those who need them. Just show up and sign up that morning starting at 8:30 am to decorate and be ready to ride by 10 am.
How to Get There: If you want to ride in the parade, you will need to take the VTA 22 bus on El Camino or drive to get there in time. To watch the parade, you can also take Caltrain from downtown Mountain View and walk or bike a mile to the parade route, or take the slower VTA 22 bus which should take you directly to the parade route. Note that transit will be on a holiday schedule.
Noon: Palo Alto Summer Festival & Chili Cook-off
A tradition for over 30 years in Palo Alto's Mitchell Park, the festival features live music and children's activities including jumpy houses, balloon artist, face painting from noon-5 pm. But the highlight of the event is tasting a wide range of red-hot chili prepared by chefs battling for the chili championship. Chili tasting starts at 1:30 pm. There's a small fee to taste.
How to Get There: Mitchell Park is on the South side of Palo Alto, so it's an easy bike ride from Mountain View. See the map for bike routes ideas. Don't forget to bring a bike lock.
Night: Shoreline Amphitheatre July 4th Fireworks with the San Francisco Symphony.
As Mountain View residents, we get special perks for certain events at the Shoreline Amphitheatre, like the San Francisco Symphony's July 4th concert. It's too late this year to get in on the 2,000 free tickets for residents, but discounted lawn seats for $13.50 are available until the day of the show, which starts with a Radio Disney Family Festival at 5 pm.
The fireworks at the end of the concert draw even more people to the area, and you don't need a ticket to see them. The trick to getting close enough for a good view is to take the Permanente Creek Trail and find a spot on the golf course, or take the Stevens Creek Trail to my favorite spot, the grassy kite flying area near Shoreline Park entrance. The fireworks usually start after dark (between 9:15 and 9:30 pm) so you'll need an extra layer of clothing to keep warm and bike lights for the ride home.
How to Get There: For the concert or fireworks, take either the Permanente or Stevens Creek Trails. The concert offers supervised bike parking near the amphitheatre entrance. After the show, the trails will be crowded. Expect to walk or ride your bike slowly on the trails until the crowds thin out.
Tips for Decorating Your Bike
Bike decorations don't have to be elaborate or expensive, but they have to stay put when the bike is moving without endangering the rider. So far I have 100% success in that department, unless you count ripping the crepe paper woven in my spokes when pumping my tires.
While decorating a bike is like a kid's craft project where almost anything goes, here are my top tips:
* For virtually free decorations, grab images off the internet and print them on card stock.
* If you shop at a party store, set a budget before you go in. It's easy to overspend.
* If you ride after dark, battery operated lights punch up whatever else you do.
* Zip ties are the #1 way to attach things, but sticky backed Velcro, rubber bands and ordinary tape work too.
San Jose Rose, White & Blue Parade: Web Link
Palo Alto Summer Festival and Chili Cook-Off: Web Link
Shoreline Amphitheatre 4th of July Concert & Fireworks: Web Link
Fourth of July Bike Fun Map: Web Link