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Food & Drink

Best spots in SF for bonfires and BBQs

Ocean beach is a known as a destination for bonfires for all occasions as cyclists are seen gathering for a bonfire tribute in September 30, 2008. | Getty Images

Tune your acoustic guitars and sharpen your marshmallow skewers, because there’s no better place to take advantage of a long Fourth of July weekend in SF than in front of a bonfire or a grill. 

Luckily for us, San Francisco has plenty of places to make the most of the tradition, with parks and beaches galore and foggy summer skies that make bonfires feel extra-cozy.  

The Standard sniffed out the best places to fire up the grill and sing everyone’s least favorite campfire songs.

Ocean Beach

Let’s just get the obvious one out of the way. If you haven’t been to a bonfire at Ocean Beach, then read no further. This is the only place where you can legally have a bonfire in the city, other than at a private residence. (Or at City Hall during budget deliberations, but that’s another story.)  The National Park Service allows for bonfires anywhere on the 3.5-mile stretch of beach that borders the Sunset and Richmond neighborhoods. 

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park offers many spots to have semi-private cookouts. Tighten your crossbow, put some batteries in your RC boat and then head to one of the following picnic areas with a bag of charcoal. 

    Alta Plaza Park

    With some of the best views in the city, and just a block away from Salt & Straw ice cream, Alta Plaza is a must-consider for your Fourth of July festivities. Fire up a barbeque and admire sweeping views of the city and of the stately Pacific Heights homes that most of us will never afford to live in. 

    John McLaren Park

    Home to turtles, philosophers and fairies—at least according to one visitor—San Francisco’s second-largest park, located between the Bayview and the Excelsior, has something for everyone. Still, not everyone knows about it. It’s like Golden Gate Park but with a view. Outfitted with a nine-hole golf course, a dirt biking track and a few slides for the kids, follow along John F Shelley Dr. and pick out a grill of your liking. 

    Francisco Park

    The newest addition to San Francisco’s portfolio of green spaces, that is until July 17 when Tunnel Tops opens, Francisco Park features views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Aquatic Park. Grab some binoculars and take bets on whether you could’ve escaped Alcatraz. 

    Crissy Field

    No need to bring a speaker, the ocean will sing to you through a wave organ that was built into the jetty back in 1986. The sights at Crissy Field are about as San Franciscan as you can get with a good look of both the Golden Gate bridge and the city skyline. You can fish off Torpedo Wharf and cook up your catch at the West Bluff picnic area. Bring a wetsuit if you’re thinking about getting in the ocean—temps are predicted to be in the mid-50s—and be wary of the currents flowing in and out of the bay.  

    Treasure Island

    For an island that was built on top of a landfill, Treasure Island actually lives up to its name with a spectacular view of the city. Just avoid the radioactive waste and head for the Clipper Cove picnic area. However, it might not be the best place to watch the fireworks: Though you’ll have a front row seat, you may end up with a face full of smoke. 

    David Sjostedt can be reached at