Spring in San Francisco means festival season has officially arrived. From May through October, most of the various big free events are held in neighborhoods throughout the city.

 

MAY

May 6 – October 27: Yerba Buena Gardens Festival
Yerba Buena Gardens Festival is an organization dedicated to enhancing the vitality and quality of life in the parks and open spaces of Yerba Buena Gardens and other public sites of San Francisco, through the curated presentation of free artistic, community, and cultural programs. The YBG Festival presents classical, world, and jazz music, contemporary and traditional dance, theater, children’s and family programs, and cultural events.

May 19: Bay to Breakers
Bay to Breakers is a San Francisco tradition that is more “fun” than “run” for participants who get decked out in their wildest costumes (or wear nothing at all). The always-crazy 12k race, that’s been held in San Francisco for more than 100 years, starts along the Embarcadero before cutting across the city and ending on the Great Highway at Ocean Beach. There’s a fee to register, but many people crash the course for free.

May 26 – 27: San Francisco Carnaval
San Francisco Carnaval is a parade and festival held during Memorial Day weekend in the Mission District. Whether it’s foggy or a classic hot day in the Mission, there’s always plenty of skin and Latin-flavored beats. The parade Sunday features costumes, dancing and floats and even a few neighborhood lowriders. The festival includes the grand parade on Saturday and several stages of music and dance performances, along with local artists, vendors, street food, and family-friendly activities. Photos

JUNE

June 1 – 2: Union Street Music Festival
Now in its 43rd year, the Union Street Festival is one of San Francisco’s largest annual free events! It will feature over 24 live bands sprinkled throughout the 5 blocks of the festival.

June 9: Haight Ashbury Street Fair
The Haight Ashbury Street Fair is a celebration of the old-school Haight Street hippy ethos—peace, love and happiness. The festival draws big crowds with six blocks of 200+ vendors, food, arts and crafts, as well as three stages with live entertainment and activities for families with children.

June 15: Phono Del Sol
Phono del Sol is back! The Bay Bridged and Noise Pop are teaming up to bring the return of your favorite summer park festival. Expect everything you know and love about Phono — only this year is FREE!

June 16 – 17: North Beach Festival
North Beach Festival boasts one of the country’s longest-running street fairs. Like other San Francisco festivals, there will be plenty of street vendors selling food, arts and crafts, and multiple stages with live entertainment. Features of the North Beach Festival you’re not likely to find anywhere else include the blessing of animals at The National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi, and Italian street painting.

June 16 – August 18: Stern Grove Festival
The Stern Grove Festival is an admission-free music festival. Thousands of people flow into the Stern Grove canyon for these free concerts. If you get there around 12 noon you’ll be able to get a good spot.

June 19: Surrealistic Summer Solstice Jam
A flower-powered night under the stars, kicking off the summer by spreading out a blanket, hearing live music and checking out the psychedelic visuals at the Conservatory of Flowers.

June: 29 – 30: San Francisco Pride Parade and Celebration
A week of festivities celebrating LGBT culture in San Francisco culminates with the Pride Parade and party at the Civic Center. The celebration is the largest LGBT gathering in the nation. Get ready for an enormous party, with a large parade, 300 exhibitors and 19 stages and venues. Several events are held throughout the city during the week leading up to the weekend.

JULY

July 6 – 7: Fillmore Jazz Festival
The Fillmore Jazz Festival is the largest free jazz festival on the West Coast, according to organizers, offering multiple stages and eight blocks of food, beverages, and all kinds of jazz. Bars and restaurants along Fillmore Street join in with live music and specials. Photos

AUGUST

August 3 – 4: Nihonmachi Street Fair
This Japantown street fair considers itself the original “melting pot” of street fairs, with many aspects of Asian-Pacific American life—and San Francisco’s cultural life—expressed through performance, tradition, art, music, food, and community outreach and service.

August 4: Jerry Day
Jerry Day is a civic and cultural event that celebrates one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time and San Francisco native son – Jerry Garcia at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in McLaren Park.

August 17: 20th Street Block Party
The free neighborhood celebration will bring an eclectic mix of music and entertainment, food and drink, and art to multiple stages along 19th and 20th Streets.

August 17 – 18: Polk Street Blues Festival
For many years, San Francisco has been known for its love of the blues. We are bringing the festival back to Polk Street! The free Festival will feature two main stages, a merchant marketplace, arts and crafts, food booths, cafe seating areas, and much more.

OCTOBER

October 4 – 6: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival
With several large stages throughout Golden Gate Park, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass draws more than 500,000 people annually with big headliners and lesser-known acts. From Emmylou Harris to Bright Eyes and Robert Plant, the lineup features an eclectic mix of acoustic music legends and top musicians from other genres. Photos

October 6: Castro Street Fair
The Castro Street Fair has been held at Castro and Market streets on the first Sunday in October each year since the fair was founded by Harvey Milk in 1974. Expect lots of entertainment, including music, dance, comedy and variety shows, as well as tons of local art and food. A favorite exhibitor of previous years, Barnaby’s World of Wonderment, features sword swallowers, burlesque dancers and other wild performers. The Castro Street Fair puts extra special emphasis on costumes, encouraging attendees to dress in their wildest outfits, which also makes for some great people-watching.

October 11 – 13: Fleet Week San Francisco
SF Fleet Week celebrates the rich naval tradition in the Bay Area, honors the men and women serving in today’s armed forces and facilitates annual disaster preparedness training with the Navy, Marines, and local first responders. Look up! The main events will be taking place over three consecutive days—in the skies above the City.

October 10 – 19: Litquake
Litquake units readers and literature lovers alike. Litquake inspires writers and readers to celebrate the written word with diverse literary programming, interactive workshops, and a nine-day festival.

October 26: Clarion Alley Block Party
Since 1998 CAMP has hosted an annual DIY block party in October. Organized without corporate sponsorship, the event features live music, street performance, film and video projections, children’s activities and surprises to benefit the neighborhood-based, volunteer-run Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP).

NOVEMBER

November 2: Dia de Los Muertos – Day Of The Dead Procession and Festival of Altars
Day of the Dead San Francisco is a community event that has been happening for over 30 years. Join in the colorful tribute to honor those who’ve passed away. Bring flowers, candles, and remembrances of your loved ones for the community altar.

DECEMBER

December 7: Santa Con
Every December, both naughty, nice, and totally-sloshed Santas make their way through the City. The tradition started back in 1994 when several dozen Cheap Suit Santas paid a visit to downtown San Francisco for a night of Kringle Kaos. Since then things have reached Critical Xmas and Santarchy is now a global phenomenon.