Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Declaration of Toddler Independence

Our little patriot at the 2013 Rose, White and Blue Parade

If you have a toddler, you may feel like every day is Independence Day -- as in, "No, I want to do the carseat buckle myself" (and it's going to take me half an hour), "No, let me carry the bag" (and I plan to drag it on the ground until the bottom rips), "No, I want to choose my shirt" (and it's a fleece in mid-June), "No, I want to dice tomatoes with sharp kitchen knives" (I haven't heard that last one yet, but I know it's coming).

Yep, it seems like toddlerhood is a constant declaration of independence from the tyranny of Mommy and Daddy, with re-enactments of historical events like the famous San Jose Granola Party (where full bowls of granola were dumped ceremoniously onto the kitchen floor) and Toddler X's Midnight Ride (where he ran through the house warning all his stuffed animals, "The parents are coming! The parents are coming!"). (Please tell me you got those references.)

But while your toddler may celebrate his or her independence every day, our country officially celebrates just once a year, with one of my very favorite holidays: the 4th of July. I love fireworks, parades, bbqs, warm weather, patriotic songs, and red, white and blue, so I'm excited to share this line-up of fun Independence Day activities with you. Check the individual dates -- this listing includes events on the 3rd, 4th and 5th.

Happy Birthday, America, and Happy Toddling to all of you!

San Jose

Note: Happy Hollow and the CDM are open normal Friday hours on July 4th.
  • The Rose, White and Blue Parade, Rose Garden area of San Jose, 10:00 a.m., July 4th. This parade is our traditional 4th of July event -- this will be our 4th year going, and our 3rd with Toddler X. It feels like a small town parade, with fire trucks (toddler favorites!), music and dancers, neighborhood floats, lots of politicians waving from cars (it's an election year -- expect them to step up their game!) and more. Bring some chairs (or a willingness to sit on the curb), find a spot in the shade (my favorite thing about the Rose Garden neighborhood), and enjoy this fun event!
  • The Rose, White and Blue Picnic, The Alameda, San Jose, 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m., July 4th. If you still have some energy after the parade, head over to the community picnic at its conclusion point on the Alameda for music (we caught a fantastic mariachi band a few years ago) and food from local restaurants. Tee Nee Thai (which devotees will be glad to know is about to re-open, almost three years after the fire that destroyed it -- I remember being pregnant with Toddler X at the time), Wine Affairs, Peet's, Rosie's New York Pizza, and my personal favorite, Treatbot, will all be represented.
  • 4th of July Sidewalk Sale/Celebration, Santana Row, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., July 4th. While a lot of this will be shopping-focused (a toddler's worst nightmare), there is the promise of family fun as well. In Park Valencia (the area outside Maggiano's/The Counter), there will be live music from 12:00-4:00 p.m., balloons, stilt walkers and kids' activities. And, if you've miraculously come into a whole lot of money on July 3rd, maybe you can even buy something on The Row. 
  • Children's Discovery Museum, 10:00-5:00, July 4th. Though the special 4th of July offerings at the CDM are limited (red, white and blue friendship bracelets and a film that would probably be hard to get toddlers to sit through), the museum is open for the 4th, and may be less crowded than a normal weekend day because of all the other events going on. 
  • July 4th Family Fun Festival and FireworksAlmaden Lake Park, 2:00 - 10:00 p.m., July 4th. This FREE event looks fantastic! Music, games, food trucks, a kids' parade, and, at around 9:15 p.m., fireworks! Check out the link for more details.
  • San Jose Giants 4th of July Celebration, Municipal Stadium, 6:30 p.m. on both Friday (the 4th) and Saturday (the 5th). The Giants will be taking on the Stockton Ports at 6:30 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday of 4th of July weekend, and both games will feature various promotions (and special stars and stripes jerseys), as well as fireworks afterwards. A fun, inexpensive way to celebrate the 4th!
  • Rotary Centennial Fireworks, Downtown San Jose, approx. 9:30 p.m., July 4th. San Jose used to have a fireworks show every year but it fizzled out (yep, pun intended), and the downtown area has been bereft of fireworks for several years now. This year, in honor of their 100th anniversary, the San Jose Rotary has stepped in to put on a sure-to-be-dazzling display downtown. The best viewing area will be Discovery Meadow (that large field in front of the CDM), but I'm sure there will be lots of other spots on the perimeter of downtown where the fireworks can be enjoyed as well. If you have a little night owl, these will be fun to check out.

Santa Clara
  • All City Picnic, Central Park, 12:00-5:00 p.m., July 4th. Live music for dancing, food for sale, carnival games, face painting, and swimming at the International Swim Center. The toddler playground at Central Park has one of Toddler X's favorite playground features, a water table/faucet that mixes with the surrounding sand to create a delightful muck. If you plan to let your toddler play here and want to stay for the evening fireworks, perhaps bring a change of clothes.
  • Evening Celebration/Fireworks, Lawn area adjacent to the Community Recreation Center, 6:00-10:00 p.m. (fireworks start at 9:30), July 4th. Get there early for music, vendors and food trucks, then stay for the fireworks extravaganza.
  • Fireworks at Great America, July 5th. Also, active duty military get free admission July 4th-6th.

  • Independence Day Celebration, Kevin Moran Park, 9:30 - 11:00 a.m., July 4th. A celebration that will probably be on a great scale for toddlers and their families, this small-ish event will take place at one of our very favorite parks (which has an excellent playground, if the 4th of July festivities aren't too enticing for your little one). There will be music, a family parade, flags and popsicles -- simple, old-fashioned, all-American fun.

Los Gatos
  • Los Gatos Celebrates the 4th of July, Oak Meadow Park, 11:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., July 4th. BBQ, picnic and games in the early part of the day, then a banjo band and later a wind symphony playing patriotic songs. Oak Meadow is one of our favorite venues for a picnic or event, so this one should be a hit! Note that the Oak Meadow parking lot is tiny, so if you'd like to park in a lot, park in Vasona, as close as possible to the bridge over to Oak Meadow (there is a charge for parking). Or, if you're like us, find street parking on University, or father afield along the Los Gatos Creek Trail, and walk in. You can burn off some of the BBQ calories you're about to eat.

  • Pancake Breakfast, Quinlan Community Center, 7:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m., July 4th. This is exactly what it sounds like, and what it sounds like is delicious.
  • Morning Celebration at Memorial Park, 9:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m., July 4th. The festivities will kick off with the flag-raising at 9:30, followed by a children's parade at 10:00 (decorate those balance bikes and scooters!) and a concert by rock band OTR from 10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. at the amphitheater.
  • Afternoon Celebration at Blackberry Farm, 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., July 4th. Free swimming from 10:00-4:00, a BBQ lunch from 12:00-2:00, and a band from 12:00-3:00.
  • Evening Celebration and Fireworks, Creekside Park/Hyde Middle School/Sedgewick Elementary School. 6:45-9:15 p.m. (music and games), 9:30 p.m. (fireworks). They highly recommend carpooling, as parking will be scarce in the area and many streets will be closed to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

  • All-American First Friday, Downtown, 12:00-3:00 p.m., July 4th. Campbell's monthly First Friday event, which features entertainment, shopping and food, is being moved to mid-day, with a special 4th of July theme, this month. There will be family-style karaoke, crafts and more.

Morgan Hill

As with many celebrations and holidays, Morgan Hill proves to be uber-family-friendly with its 4th of July "Freedom Fest" lineup -- check out all these events!
  • Patriotic Sing, Britton Middle School Gym, 6:00-7:00 p.m., July 3rd. A chance to get together with other families and sing patriotic songs with your kids (I love patriotic songs!) kicks off Morgan Hill's Freedom Fest weekend.
  • Family Music Fest, Downtown Amphitheater, 7:00-10:00 p.m., July 3rd. After the Patriotic Sing, head downtown for this fun event, which evolves from patriotic songs to a symphony performance to a classic rock band over the course of the evening. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.
  • Freedom Run, Downtown Morgan Hill, 7:45 (1 mile walk), 8:00 (5k walk), 8:15 (5k run), July 4th. Start the holiday with some healthy exercise for the whole family!
  • Car Cruise and Show, Downtown Morgan Hill, 9:30 a.m. (cruise) and 12:00 p.m. (show), July 4th. If you're a classic car fan, this will be a great addition to your 4th of July. Check out the link for the specific route, and combine it with the parade for a toddler-friendly morning.
  • 4th of July Parade, Downtown Morgan Hill, 9:00 a.m. (entertainment begins), 10:00 a.m. (parade begins), July 4th. 4th of July parades are awesome. Enough said.
  • Fireworks on the Green, Downtown Morgan Hill, 1:00 p.m. (the Green opens to spectators and entertainment begins, including car show awards), approx. 9:30 p.m. (fireworks), July 4th. Morgan Hill seriously has a FULL day of celebration planned for you, but even the most hardy toddler won't make it from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. without a rest. Maybe send some family members over to grab a spot on the Green while your toddler naps -- otherwise the spectators may be viewing toddler fireworks rather than the ones in the sky that night!


Mountain View
  • San Francisco Symphony and Fireworks, Shoreline Amphitheater, 8:00 p.m., July 4th. Mr. X and I went to this annual event several years ago, well before Toddler X entered the picture, and while we had a great time at the show and fireworks, we also sat in the parking lot for well over an hour waiting to get out of the insane gridlock afterwards. I've been to many, many Shoreline shows in my day, and this was by far the worst experience I've had. While it may have just been an isolated event, I can't even begin to imagine what it would've been like if we had a toddler in the car. Anyhow, I'm including this because it's a neat event, and a big draw from all over the South Bay and Peninsula, but be forewarned of the traffic nightmare that might face you afterwards. Those of you who work at Google or other Mountain View companies probably have some great ideas for spots to watch the fireworks outside of the amphitheater, but I'm guessing you'd rather keep those to yourselves. :)

Los Altos
  • Glorious 4th of July Celebration, Shoup Park, 10:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m., July 4th. Music, games, food, songs, and an all-around great park for the venue. Another nice option for the 4th!

Los Altos Hills
  • 4th of July Parade, Town Hall to Gardner Bullis School, 10:00 a.m. (parade stages at 9:30 a.m.), July 4th. This is a classic, small-town 4th of July parade, where everyone decorates bikes, trikes, wagons and themselves and walks down the street for a while. Lots of fun if it's your small town, maybe not as much if you don't know everyone. Anyhow, wanted to include it for my readers lucky enough to live in Los Altos Hills. 

Palo Alto
  • 33rd Annual Summer Festival and Chili Cook-Off (and Ice Cream Taste-Off, apparently!), Mitchell Park, 12:00-5:00 p.m. (chili tasting starts at 1:30 p.m.). This popular festival features music, dancing, kids' activities, of course chili tasting, and it looks like this year there's ice cream tasting too! Plus, if all else fails to entertain your toddler, there is a fun playground with a great water feature (and I believe it's on, despite the drought). Admission to the festival is free, and chili or ice cream tasting kits are available for $5. Fun!

Menlo Park
  • 4th of July Parade and Celebration, Downtown to Burgess Park, 11:45 a.m. (parade start) - 3:00 p.m. Decorate your balance bikes and wagons to participate in this low key parade, then continue the celebration at Burgess Park with music, games and food.


  • Independence Day Celebration at Ardenwood Farm, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., July 4th. Ardenwood is one of our family's favorite places to visit, and seems like an ideal venue for an old-fashioned 4th of July picnic (bring your own), with lots of old-timey games and patriotic music for your enjoyment. 

  • 4th of July Celebration, Roaring Camp Railroads, July 4th. Games, live music, and a traditional BBQ, with steam trains departing at 11:00, 12:30, 2:00 and 3:30.
San Francisco
  • Red, White and Zoo, San Francisco Zoo, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., July 4th-6th. Special events with some of the zoo's patriotically-hued animals (red panda, polar bear, blue-tongued skink, for example), live animal shows, concerts by Hanna Banana, face painting and more. Free with zoo admission.
There are more celebrations to be found in nearly every city in the Bay Area, but these are the ones that are closest to home or jumped out to me. If you have any you'd like me to add, just let me know.

Happy Independence Day, toddler friends! Have fun and toddle safely!


  1. Curious about the Shoreline fireworks... can every seat see the fireworks or just the lawn area?

    1. I'm not sure. We sat on the lawn and could obviously see from there, but I vaguely remember people with reserved seats under the overhang having to move to get the full effect. (And even if they didn't have to move, they would certainly be sitting in an awkward position in their seats to face away from the stage.)

  2. Thanks... your site and FB posts rock.


Hmm...what to do today?