We did it. We made it to the finish line of 2020, barely. To say this year has been a dumpster fire would be an understatement.
As Covid-19 continues to surge in San Francisco, California, and the rest of the world, we cannot ring in the New Year together with a celebratory victory lap. However, in honor of surviving this tumultuous year, we should all conjure up the spirit to celebrate the end of 2020. Emphasis on “end.”
San Francisco’s scenic landscapes act as wonderfully dramatic backdrops for the end-of-the-year fireworks. These views are mesmerizing enough to visit any other day of the year. But come midnight on New Year’s Eve, these dreamy landscapes are ignited and come to life in a once-in-a-year fashion. The best part is that these locations are free and open to the public, which means you don’t have to go for broke or wrestle through an overpacked bar to celebrate the grand finale of 2020.
If you’re not toasting to loved ones on Zoom with a glass of champagne or a nonalcoholic libation when the clock strikes midnight this New Year’s Eve, then you ought to head to one of San Francisco’s many vistas to catch a scintillating firework show. We have compiled a list of our favorite view spots to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks in San Francisco (and even some in the East Bay and Peninsula, if that floats your boat).
If you’re looking for the best spot to watch fireworks in or near San Francisco this New Years Eve, then keep scrolling on:
Bernal Heights Park in San Francisco
For a low-key but mesmerizing spot to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks, hike your way up to the summit of San Francisco’s Bernal Heights Park. Atop the park, you’ll get a sweeping view of San Francisco and almost the entirety of the bay. This is somewhat far from where a lot of fireworks will be launched, so the view will be a bit distanced (or, in film terms, “a long shot”). If you want a chiller NYE while still being at a world class location, you won’t regret hanging here.
Treasure Island in San Francisco
Treasure Island has unobstructed views of San Francisco’s skyline and a clear view of the East Bay, from which you can spot UC Berkeley’s landmark Campanile. Considering the moody vibes of Treasure Island, its devastating panoramic views, and the surrounding water on which fireworks will reflect, this island is certainly a great spot to consider to watch fireworks as so long as you’re willing the travel midway across the Bay Bridge that evening.
Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, CA
Residents of the East Bay and longtime Bay Area locals already know that the view from Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science offers an incomparable view of the City–it resembles Dorothy’s view of the Emerald City from the poppy field. If you want to get out of the City but still want a view of its beauty, go here. You can hike here from near UC Berkeley’s campus if you so choose (it’ll be a rigorous two-hour hike to get up there), but it’ll be easier to drive up and park. Once you arrive at the vista, you’ll wonder why you don’t spend more time in the East Bay.
Corona Heights Park in San Francisco
Corona Heights Parks offers a more distanced view of the NYE fireworks, but it is less frequented than other popular vistas in the City. With plenty of standing room and some rocks to sit on, Corona Heights Park offers the perfect NYE venue, fitting for locals and tourists alike.
Coit Tower in San Francisco
Spend the evening at one of San Francisco’s most central historical landmarks. If you take a car to the tower, make sure to park down a couple of blocks below and hike your way up, as the parking lot will for sure be packed. Once you’ve reached the grounds of Coit Tower, you’ll get a nearly birds-eye view of the San Francisco Bay. With the Coit Tower in your background and the illuminated Bay Bridge in the foreground, this is one of the most aesthetic places to watch fireworks for NYE. Note: there might be some trees obstructing your view if the location is packed and you don’t secure a spot, so arrive early to find the best spot.
Twin Peaks Summit in San Francisco
Twin Peaks is a very popular summit for view-chasers on any given day of the year. It will likely get busy on NYE, so we recommend getting there as early as possible so you can claim some real estate before everyone else does. Twin Peaks’ popularity is totally warranted, so giving this a shot for NYE is worth the extra effort.
Along the San Francisco Embarcadero
New Year’s festivities along the Embarcadero, namely at Pier 39 and Pier 41 (or even Fisherman’s Wharf), tend to be densely populated since it is at the center of the action. If you’re looking for a more rowdy NYE and want to be surrounded by lots of people, you’ll love this. This is equal parts tourist trap and quintessential San Francisco, so everyone should do it at least once. In any case, watching the fireworks fly directly over the bay next to the Bay Bridge lights will be a show-stopping experience.
Crissy Field and the Presidio of San Francisco
The expansive Crissy Field at the Presidio is one of the most serene and least clustered public places to hang out in San Francisco, which would thus provide a lovely respite from packed bars and tourist traps on NYE. With plenty of space and wide shots of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, Crissy Field is a worthy choice for spectating those who want a great view with lots of legroom.
The Bay Trail in Foster City, CA
Get away from urban anxieties without having to cross a bridge or deal with Berkeley congestion. Head southbound toward the suburbs to reach the Bay Trail in Foster City. This long levy has great eastward views on the bay. There are plenty of spots to sit and watch fireworks along the levy, so you won’t have to fight for real estate, nor will you have to fret over parking. From the Bay Trail, you’ll be able to see fireworks from various cities in the East Bay and Peninsula.
Emeryville Marina in Emeryville, CA
The Emeryville Marina is another one of the East Bay’s best-kept secrets, offering unobstructed views of the City skyline, the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate, and the North Bay’s landscape. The marina park is an idyllic spot to unwind and relax before the fireworks if you want to spend an evening there. Considering the bay’s open views, this will be a front row for all the fireworks on show.