America's 237th birthday will not go unnoticed in the East Bay Regional Parks, where a variety of family-oriented Independence Day celebrations are scheduled.

If you plan a picnic in a regional park on July 4, it's best to arrive early to claim a space, especially in regional parks that have swim areas. July Fourth is usually one of the busiest holidays of the year.

One note of caution: no fireworks of any kind are allowed in the regional parks. The prohibition is especially important this year, due to the dry weather and high fire danger.

Here's a roundup of Independence Day activities in the regional parks:

All sorts of 1900-style fun is in store as Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont stages its annual Independence Day celebration on Thursday, July 4.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., activities will include patriotic music on the Patterson House lawn, fiddle music in the farm yard, and games, races and other contests for all ages all day long.

Nail driving, egg toss and watermelon seed-spitting will be among the non-Olympic events. Or you can join a bucket brigade or tug-of-war team.

Other attractions will include rides on Ardenwood's unique horse-drawn railroad, visits with the farm's barnyard animals and tours of the historic Patterson house. You can bring your own picnic lunch and make a day of it, or purchase food on-site.

Ardenwood is a restored 19th century farming estate located at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., just north of Highway 84 in Fremont. The Independence Day admission fee is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors 62 and older, $5 for children ages 4-17, and free for ages 3 and under. Parking is free. For information, call 510-544-2797.

  • n n

    Or you can join the ranks of the staff at Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. as they "swim" in the town's annual Fourth of July Parade, featuring Crab Cove's Mobile Visitor Center. You can participate for the entire route, or just a section of it.

    Crab Cove also continues its free Concert at the Cove musical series with a performance by the Bob Clare Orchestra from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 12, on the lawn in front of the visitor center.

    The center will have family friendly activities on its front deck starting at 4:30 p.m. Bring a blanket or lawn chair and a picnic dinner, or purchase food and beverages at the concert.

    Concert sponsors are the park district, Regional Parks Foundation and Alameda Rotary Club.

    Crab Cove is at 1252 McKay Ave. Parking for the concert is available on Webster Street or at the Crown Beach lot at the intersection of Otis and Shore Line drives.

    For more information on the parade or concert, call the center at 510-544-3187.

  • n n

    Not to be left out, Tilden Nature Area in Berkeley plans its own observance of Independence Day. It will have a Fourth of July free open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, July 4, hosted by naturalist Trail Gail Broesder and the interpretive staff.

    Farm activities, crafts, nature exploration and homemade ice cream are all part of the program, based at Tilden's Environmental Education Center and adjacent Little Farm.

    The center is located at the north end of Tilden's Central Park Drive, accessible by way of Canon Drive in Berkeley. For information, call 510-544-2233.

  • n n

    As part of the multiagency Healthy Parks Healthy People campaign, the East Bay Regional Park District is sponsoring a series of hikes and fun activities for both children and adults Saturday, July 6, at regional parks throughout the East Bay. Parents or guardians must accompany children:

  • There's a hike for adults from 9 to 11:30 a.m. and activities for kids from 1 to 2:30 p.m., both at Crown Beach in Alameda.

  • There's a stroll from 10 to 11:30 a.m. for ages 6 and older at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont.

  • Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch will offer an underground rock and fossil tour from 10 to 11:30 a.m., designed for ages 7 and older. This one requires registration and there's a fee of $5 per person. Call 888-327-2757, select option 2 and refer to program 2928.

  • And at Ardenwood Historic Farm, it's rabbit food time from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., during which kids can taste carrots, cucumbers parsley and other delicacies from the farm garden. From 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., relay races will be in action for all ages, with hoops, potatoes and maybe even eggs to balance.

    For more information on these and other Healthy Parks Healthy People programs, visit the park district website at www.ebparks.org/activities/hphp/HPHPBayArea.

  • n n

    A couple of free pre-Independence Day programs are also scheduled at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.

    From 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 29, naturalist Bob Kanagaki will give a talk at Rose Hill Cemetery about the lives and deaths of the people buried there -- miners and their families who inhabited the nearby towns during the park's 19th century coal mining era.

    Bob's program is intended for ages 7 and older. Meet him at the cemetery, which is a 15-minute walk up the hill from the parking lot at the end of Somersville Road.

    And from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Sunday, June 30, naturalist Eddie Willis will lead a beat-the-heat hike at Black Diamond. It's a rugged three-miler for ages 10 and older. The reward for the hill climb is panoramic views, exercise and perspective on the park's unique history.

    Black Diamond Mines is located at the end of Somersville Road, five miles south of Highway 4 in Antioch. There's a parking fee of $5 per vehicle when the kiosk is attended. For information on either program, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

    Contact Ned MacKay at nedmackay@comcast.net.

  • n n

    Naturalists Kevin Damstra and Mike Moran are hosting an interesting series of informal discussions this summer at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley.

    From 8:30 to 9 a.m. Wednesdays, July 3 and 17, Aug. 7 and 21, you can drop by the Big Break Visitor Center with your coffee mug. Kevin and Mike will offer free coffee, while answering questions and discussing the science and current events now shaping the future of California's Delta.

    Big Break is located on Big Break Road off Main Street in Oakley. The park also will hold family campfire programs from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Sundays, July 14 and Aug. 11. For more information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 3050.

    Ned MacKay writes about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at nedmackay@comcast.net.

    Contact Ned MacKay at nedmackay@comcast.net.