ALAMEDA -- It's birthday time again for the United States and around Alameda and beyond there are wonderful options for celebrating 237 years of independence. Think of it as a huge party with a you-name-it-you've-got-it attitude. The secret seems to be to throw together all the elements that make this country uniquely American -- community parades, activities and games for the kids, danceable music, foods that represent our diversity of cultures and everyone's favorite, fireworks.

Alameda has its famous parade and 5k run, music and fun at South Shore Center, and a full day of activities on the USS Hornet. In Fremont, Ardenwood Historic Farm turns back the clock for an old-fashioned celebration; while at the Berkeley Marina festivities last into the night with a blast of fireworks after the sun's gone down.

Alameda boasts one of the largest, longest Fourth of July parades in the nation, one that encourages full community participation. No surprise then that close to 20,000 paradegoers will see more than 170 floats and 2,500 participants including dance troops, bands, equestrians, and every age group from children on bikes to distinguished war veterans.

This year's theme, "The Power of Alameda," seems to fit considering how everyone turns out to cheer along the three-mile route at their traditional parade location or from their front yards. Show up early because the parade begins at 10 a.m.

Participants in the Alameda Mayor's July 4th Parade R.A.C.E. will already be on the parade route, having shown up at 9:45 a.m. for the 5k walk or run. All ages are welcome with the top three winners in various age categories receiving medals and proceeds going to benefit Alameda Midway Shelter for Abused Women and Children.

At South Shore Center, July 4 kicks off its Summer Beats Concert Series with family activities, face painting, henna tattoos, R&B wines, Peter's Kettle Corn and the music of Mustache Harbor. Celebrate the day with this melodic rock group prized for their spot-on renditions of favorite hits from the 1970s and 1980s.

Over at Alameda Point, the USS Hornet starts the festivities at 11 a.m., with enough fun to last until the fireworks fill the sky in San Francisco. The historic aircraft carrier will be ready with tours and explorations of its three decks, family entertainment, music and dancing and American and international choices of food and beverage. Who can beat the jump house or flight simulator; touring the captain's bridge and torpedo room; dancing to Tempest, Bay Area Heat and others; or waiting until dark to watch bursts of light from on-deck this national treasure.

Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont is again pulling out the stops for a back-to-the-19th century independence day with a great deal of old-fashioned family fun. The brass band will fill the air with patriotic tunes, while the farmyard rings with music from the fiddle. Everyone will be encouraged to join in on games, contests and races, to try their hand at nail driving, watermelon seed spitting, and a tug-of-war. Bring a picnic and take time to soak up the fun.

Fourth of July fun at the Berkeley Marina begins at noon and lasts into the night with its grand fireworks display from the end of the Berkeley Pier. Kids will want to join in the fun at Adventure Playground where they can hammer, saw, nail and paint to their hearts content. This is an everything-goes party with that distinctive Berkeley style. Bungee trampoline, free dragon rowing, pony rides, magic and juggling acts, Afro Cuban drumming, UCA Capoeira, circus acts and more than nine hours of live entertainment fill the day.

More than 25 vendors will be selling wonderful things to eat and drink from California corn and San Francisco barbecue to teriyaki, jambalaya, lumpia and samosas, befitting the mix that is the Bay Area, along with plenty of mouth-watering sweets.

Everyone's asked to keep the party green by bringing water bottles, dishes and bandana-napkins, reducing the trips to the landfill on July 5.

IF YOU GO
Alameda: Race begins at 9:45 at 1417 Park St., http://www.alamedarace.com/. Parade begins at 10 a.m. at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Park Street, http://www.myalamedaparade.com/.
South Shore Center: 523 South Shore Center west, 5-7 p.m., www.alamedasouthshorecenter.com/events/summer-beats-concert-series-1.
USS Hornet: 707 West Hornet Ave., Alameda, 510-521-8448, www.uss-hornet.org/calendar/4thjuly. Gates open at 11 a.m. Tickets are $20 adults, $25 at the door, $10 for ages 5 through 17; free under 5 with a paying adult.
Ardenwood Historic Farm: 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont, 510-544-2797, www.ebparks.org/features/ardenwood_independence_day. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., tickets $8 for adults, $6 seniors, $5 ages 4 through 17, under 4 free.
Berkeley Marina: 201 University Ave., 12 to 10 p.m., www.anotherbullwinkelshow.com/4th-of-july. Free admission, free bicycle valet parking, marina parking $15, no alcohol permitted.