San Francisco Festivals & Events
If celebration and protest are polar twins, San Francisco does both with equal verve. San Francisco makes a festival out of a neighborhood, holds world-renowned jazz, blues and music festivals, explodes fireworks over the Bay for a blow out Fourth of July festival and hosts a festival and parade to celebrate San Francisco's diverse ethnic communities, from the Fiesta Filipina to Chinese New Year Parade to Oktoberfest. This list of San Francisco festivals and events, compiled by SanFrancisco.com editors, offers a festival for every San Francisco season.
Bay to Breakers
For almost a century, thousands have flocked to San Francisco for this annual event which is part fundraiser for a variety of charities and part celebration of the San Francisco's diversity. Participants include the world's top runners in addition to cardiovascular laymen: families, nudists, frat boys, artists, sexual deviants and politicians. On their way from Bay to Ocean Beach's breaks, runners begin near the Bay Bridge (in downtown San Francisco) and proceed down Howard, Hayes and Fell streets serenaded by onlookers blasting inspirational tunes and sipping on screwdrivers and other spiked concoctions. The homestretch is a downhill jaunt through Golden Gate Park where organizers hold a costume contest. The 12k race ends with "Footstock," a festival with music and activities at Ocean Beach.
How Weird Street Faire
It's no surprise that bold and daring San Francisco is home to something called the How Weird Street Fair. This creative gathering showcases different types of electronic music in a setting where performances reign, worldly vendors peddle cool finds, exotic foods fill the air with intoxicating aromas, and colorful costumes are encouraged. The ten stages support local organizations and collectives with the likes of Opulent Temple, Groove Garden, Space Cowboys and more doling out amazing beats for the crowds to enjoy. Held in the beginning of May from noon through nightfall, this street celebration is not one to be missed.
San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual And Transgender (LGBT) Parade
The San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual And Transgender (LGBT) Parade is the world's largest gay pride event. It's an annual two-day festival that travels along Market Street and features live entertainment, guest speakers and 300 booths selling merchandise. The festival booths peddle arts and crafts, food, sex toys, T-shirts and educational information. 500,000 people attend this late June event, much of which takes place in Civic Center Plaza near City Hall. Past participants have included San Francisco Mayor Mayor Gavin Newsom and the San Francisco Women's Motorcycle Contingent. Salsa, swing, hip-hop, house, indy and country musicians perform on the festival's 12 stages.
San Francisco Waterfront Festival
An annual San Francisco waterfront Independence Day party that unfailingly delivers brilliant fireworks over the Bay, live entertainment as well as food, arts and crafts. 12-9pm, fireworks begin around 9pm.
Fillmore Street Jazz Festival
This free jazz festival features live music on three stages in addition to 200 arts and crafts booths.
San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
American and international filmmakers will screen over 40 of their work at this, the first and oldest Jewish film festival in the world.
North Beach Jazz Festival
North Beach has always played a key role in the rich history of San Francisco's jazz scene. Every year, organizers pick some of the hottest and most innovative bands in the country to play at the North Beach Jazz Festival. This five-day celebration of the Soul of San Francisco begins on Wednesday when over 40 bars and clubs along Grant Street host local and national jazz talent. Throughout the week, all forms of jazz flow freely from North Beach's nightlife, including bossa nova, latin jazz, acid jazz and all the inventive amalgamations the form can muster. For the weekend, hip cats abandon their dark, lusty venues and syncopate openly among the curious and faithful with free concerts in Washington Square Park.
San Francisco Shakespeare Festival
The genius of Shakespeare in San Francisco's most relaxing setting. Admission is free every Saturday and Sunday through the month of September. Arrive early for a good seat; shows begin at 1:30pm.
With over 80 artists and more than 100,000 attendees, the San Jose Jazz Festival holds a well-earned ranking among the best Bay Area jazz events. This live music festival not only includes fantastic performances, but also activities like a jazz brunch, master classes, a club crawl, mural painting and after-hours entertainment. Located in the heart of downtown, the San Jose Jazz Festival is easily accessible from San Francisco by both freeways and CalTrain, making it an ideal and convenient weekend activity.
San Francisco Fringe Festival
An ever-changing collection of unusual and lively experimental theater pieces.
Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival
Sample the sinful fruits of chocolatiers like Ghirardelli and others in the 8th Annual Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival. Admission to this San Francisco festival is free, but five chocolate tasting samples require a $6 ticket.
San Francisco Blues Festival
Join local blues artists and blues legends in a weekend of outdoor performances on Saturday and Sunday from 11am - 6pm each day. Tickets are $25 per day in advance, $30 at the door, special two-day tickets for $40.
Folsom Street Fair
In one of San Francisco's most beloved examples of exhibitionism, see the latest in bondage techniques, products and fashion. The fair runs officially from 11am - 6pm, but the bars and restaurants in SoMa stay crowded with latex and leather wearing voyeurs all night long, especially the mainstay Stud Bar.
Castro Street Fair
The Castro comes to life all over again in this street fair featuring arts and crafts, music, dancing and food. The fair officially lasts from 11am to 6pm, but the Castro District party lasts much longer in local Castro District bars and restaurants.
San Francisco Jazz FestivalOctober-November, 2004; San Francisco CA
Arguably one of the world's best jazz festivals, the San Francisco jazz festival celebrate traditional and groundbreaking figures in the jazz movement bringing local and national musicians to venues throughout San Francisco and the Bay Area. This three-week event also showcases the work of visual and performing artists in photography and dance, among others. The full schedule is available late summer 2003.
Oktoberfest By The Bay
San Francisco morphs into a mini Munich at this annual San Francisco festival, complete with singing, dancing, food and, most importantly, pints and pints of beer. This year, the noted Chico Bavarian Band headlines this San Francisco festival. Admission is $12 for adults, children 12 and under free. The festival runs Friday from 4pm-midnight, Saturday from 11am-11pm and Sunday from 11am-7pm.
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Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Ghirardelli SquareFri, November 26, 5:30 pm, 900 North Point at Larkin, San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.775.5500
Ghirardelli Square kicks off the holiday season with its 39th Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony. The spectacular 50-foot Christmas tree will be lit with sparkling lights and adorned with red ribbons, ornaments, decorations and oversized Ghirardelli Chocolate bars. Enjoy the Ghirardelli Christmas carolers' performance and stop in for a visit with Saint Nick. If it gets too chilly for holiday revelers, they can warm up with Ghirardelli hot chocolates at the nearby Ghirardelli cafe. The Square's festivities begin at noon with a musical theatre performance, puppet shows and stilt walkers until the tree lighting ceremony.
Holiday Festival: Great Dickens Christmas FairCow Palace Exhibition Hall, 2600 Geneva Ave at Santos St., San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.392.4400. Sat and Sun, Nov 29-Dec 30, 11am-8pm, Admission $16-$6
Impress your high school english teacher by visiting the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, where visitors are encouraged to dress as literary characters from Charles Dickens' novels. Visitors can sample an assortment of Christmas delicacies, holiday spirits and drink. Entertainers will also be on hand costumed as characters from the pages of A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities. If you have Great Expectations, you won't be disappointed as you weave your way through this Dickens Christmas Fair while celebrating the late author.
Holiday Festival: Celebration of CraftswomenFestival Pavilion at Fort Mason Center (Buchanan St. and Marina Blvd.), San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.383.3470; Nov 29-30, 10am-6pm. $5-$7 (kids free)
A holiday gift and art crafts show presented by talented artisans celebrating the feminine spirit. This year marks the 25th anniversary as San Francisco's top holiday crafts show. Here you will find one-of-a-kind gifts for that aunt who has everything. More than 300 of the world's finest craftswomen will display their original handcrafted wares such as decorative ceramics and glass, sculpted wood and metals, art sculptures, photography, paintings and children's toys. Live music, gourmet specialty food and a silent auction and benefit raffle further entertain holiday shoppers.
Holiday Festival of LightsNov. 26th-Dec. 31st, ongoing. Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco CA
Fisherman's Wharf may be a favorite tourist spot for your cousins from Cleveland, Ohio, but San Francisco locals know the holidays take place a t the Wharf from Nov. 26th-Dec. 31st. Bright lights outline the building and decorations line the inner and outer lagoons. Get an early start on your shopping with four major outlets: The Anchorage Shopping Center, The Cannery, Ghirardelli Square and Pier 39. Nearby, pick up world-famous sourdough bread from Boudin's (they ship worldwide). The Christmas tree beneath the Fisherman's Wharf sign is a great way entrance to the shops and restaurants on the Wharf.
Holiday Festival: Marin Art and Garden CenterSat & Sun, Dec 6-7, 10am-4pm. 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross CA; Tel. 415.925.9186
A weekend drive across the Golden Gate Bridge will not only provide beautiful scenic views but give Marin visitors a chance to stop at the Marin Art and Garden Center. On Saturday, on display is a baked goods sale that features holiday delicacies and treats. As visitors stroll and shop through the fair, they enjoy live theatre performances on the hour. Children take photo opportunities with St. Nick and shoppers buy fresh wreaths, ornaments and kissing balls available at the "fresh greens" sale.
Macy's Union Square Tree Lighting CeremonyFri, November 28, 6pm. Union Square (at Geary & Powell Streets) San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.781.7880. Free.
Macy's Union Square hosts its annual the "Day After Thanksgiving" holiday season kick-off with all-day festivities beginning at noon. The Square will feature artisans displaying their holiday crafts as well vendors selling their San Francisco souvenirs. There will be free entertainment throughout the day to entice shoppers and tourists to take a break from their Macy's shopping marathon. San Francisco shoppers and visitors can relax and over cappuccinos from Emporio Rulli Il Cafe atop Union Square. The day culminates with a spectacular tree lighting ceremony in the evening.
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Ongoing San Francisco Events
Chinatown Night Market FairEvery Saturday through November 8; Portsmouth Square, San Francisco; Tel. 415.397.8000
Chinese fortunetellers and traditional lion dancers converge in this weekly display of vibrant Chinese culture. This San Francisco event is free every Saturday night from 6pm-11pm.