It’s that time of year again, Bay Area residents! Not Christmas, but the next best thing (or for some of you, the best thing). Labor Day weekend is upon us, and with so many local events to choose from, the problem isn’t finding something to do- it’s narrowing down your choices. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of unique Bay Area Labor Day weekend events for you! We’ve got something for everyone on our list, and we do mean everyone. If you’ve been searching for some holiday inspo, hopefully our top Bay Area Labor Day weekend events is just what you need.
1. Yerba Gardens Festival
During the months of May-October, San Francisco’s Yerba Gardens Festival treats the public to nearly 80 free performances. Nestled in a flowered paradise during the most beautiful times of year in San Francisco, the festival offers diverse performances in music, theater, dance, poetry, and even circus events! Many of these free-admission programs feature artists from the Bay Area and around the world.
Yerba Gardens is a globally renowned cultural destination. The festival brings live cultural experiences to local adults and children, as well as those who come from far and wide. This Labor Day weekend on Aug. 31st, Yerba Gardens presents Caterpillar Puppets at the Children’s Garden. Caterpillar Puppets is a highly interactive performance featuring a colorful hour of dance and sing-along. (It gets bonus points in our book for letting kids get their crazies out so that parents can relax by night). The madness and mayhem begins at 11: 00 A.M. But for those who can’t make the first performance, or those rare kids who like to sleep in on Labor Day weekend, there’s a repeat performance at 12:15.
Located in downtown San Francisco, this Yerba Gardens Festival event spans three blocks between Market and Howard Street, and 3rd and 4th Street. Adding signature cultural interest to Labor Day weekend, American Bon Dancing will commence at the Esplanade at Yerba Buena Gardens at 1:00 P.M. American Bon Dancing is an authentic performance of traditional Japanese dances that celebrated departed ancestors.
2. Shakespeare in the Park
Shakespeare is coming to the historic Civil War Parade Lawn for free. Read that again. On Aug. 31st, you can enjoy a new, musical rendition of the old classic “As You Like It”. The play is a revived celebration of a brave heroine who pursues who her own ecstatic destiny in defiance of rigid societal norms. Modern women may not have to dress like a man, as the fabled Rosalind did, in order to fulfill our desires in a patriarchal world- but we can resonate with themes of freedom, empowerment, choosing our own fate, and becoming who we are rather than what’s expected of us.
This special twist on an old favorite feature’s songs by the Bay Area rock duet The Killebanes, and local favorite Phil Wong.
3. Civic Center Commons Block Party
This party in the streets evokes a feel-good, down-home energy that locals will likely remember from their own youth. But as cozy as the environment will be, this is a block party of epic proportions! There will be plenty of family-friendly games, DIY arts and crafts, upbeat music, and (hopefully) sunshine in the streets.
There’ll also be street soccer matches with Street Soccer USA, the city’s best curbside catering from Off the Grid, an open-air craft market by local SF Etsy artists, and DIY activities to spark your own creativity. But that’s not nearly all. If you can picture it (we’re trying), this block party will feature an enormous climbing wall for kids of all ages. If you’ve ever wanted to take a top-rated dance fitness class for a day, Alonzo King LINES Dance Center is offering it up.
For those of us who are less athletically ambitious, there’s no need to worry: This Labor Day weekend event scores major points for diversity and versatility. It literally has something for everyone, including free Jenga, hula hooping, and a book sale with Friends of the San Francisco Public Library (more our speed, but that’s just us).
However, our favorite featured activity is an interactive art installation where the inspiring theme is “How to Become a Hero in Your Own Life” at Village Artist Corner. This awesome Bay Area Labor Day Weekend event cultivates a sense of community and a spirit of learning and adventure. It’s a perfect local celebration as well as a fun tourist destination for San Francisco-themed vacations (of which there are many on Labor Day Weekend.
It’s all going down on Sept. 1st on Fulton Street at Larkin, from 11:00 A.AM- 3:00 P.M.
4. San Francisco Giants vs. San Diego Padres at Oracle Park
You know we had to throw in one for the sports lovers, particularly the three-time World Series winning San Francisco Giants. In a three-game series that lasts from Aug. 30- Sept. 1st, the reigning champs take on the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park. (For those of you who are either not locals or are living in a cardboard box, that’s at 24 Willie Mays Plaza).
But there’s more than just the thrill of the game for those who attend. It’s not a Bay Area Labor Day weekend event without cultural diversity (duh). Italian Heritage Night is happening on August 30th. It will be followed up by “Peanuts Day” on Aug. 31st. If you’re wondering what the actual heck that is, apparently, it’s where 20,000 fans can score a free collector’s edition Charlie Brown beanie. Last but not least, on Sept. 1st, there will be an opportunity to receive a free Buster Posey item in honor of Pediatric Cancer Awareness Day.
5. 16th Annual Architecture and the City Festival
We get it- when you hear “citywide architectural festival” and you’re not a total architecture buff, you may be rolling your eyes a little at this one. But this Labor Day weekend event is all about exploring the way cultural diversity and connectivity continue to inspire the architecture around us. On Sept. 1st, the 16th Annual Architecture and the City Festival presents its latest theme, “We the City”.
How many times have you walked by the crumbling grandeur of historic buildings, the modern allure of sleek skyscrapers, and colorful art murals without a second thought? The 16th Annual Architecture and the City Festival is a day to learn more about this iconic city and appreciate its rich history and beauty.
if you’ve got an artistic nature, take pleasure in the aesthetic of your city, and would like to learn about how it was planned and designed, this hidden gem of an event is a real treasure. Take a guided walking tour through history and learn about how its architecture of the city has evolved as its people did over many years. Or you can sit back and relax at various films, exhibitions, and interesting lectures that address the design and planning process.
We love this event concept because it’s a chance for busy local people to stop and smell the proverbial flowers- and the tinge of autumn in the air, the salty bay air, and the tangy scent of hot dogs being grilled on food trucks. In other words, everything that makes San Francisco ironically itself. Needless to say, this festival is also a great hidden gem tucked into city touristy. So if you’ll be travelling through the Bay Area and looking for a classically San Francisco thing to do, consider attending this year’s citywide architectural celebration.
6. Annual Sausalito Art Festival
America’s Premier Waterfront fine art, music, and wine festival really is a celebration of art at its finest. It begins with a sneak preview party on Aug. 30th., where you’re invited to enjoy open wine and champagne bars, and delicious curated appetizers by McCall’s Catering and Events. More importantly, you’ll get to meet and mingle with 260 prestigious artists from around the globe.
The sneak preview party, as well as the main event, features a diverse variety of high-quality fine art pieces, live art performances, and interactive exhibits. Stroll through the quiet beauty of the grounds at Marinship Park while mingling with the artists from around the world. Explore the intersection between art and technology at the Art Tech Pavillion, where you can experience the latest trends in virtual reality, augmented reality, video, and much more. The Sausalito Art Festival isn’t just one of the oldest, most renowned open-air art events in the nation, it’s also an opportunity to converse with the creators of old and new favorite works, seeing them through the artist’s perspective.
The three-day festival isn’t just one long walk in the park, and this is not a sleepy event by any means. This year, the preview party has a 60s “Summer of Love” theme. So when you decide what to wear, think swanky glam meets modern elegance. As the night goes on, a DJ takes over, and you can feel free to dance the night away as if it really were the Summer of Love.
Here’s a pleasant surprise: If you’ve got kids, they’re cordially invited as well- to the “Messy Art Festival”, which is a combination of fun, organized activities for young artists! The Sausalito Art Festival website states that “we believe it is never too early to immerse children in art, and we believe that children should not hinder the ability of adults to be exposed to great art”. In fact, children under 12 get in for free.
Every day of the festival, from 11:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M., the Shibori Dyeing workshop hosts a hands-on program for children. For those who aren’t familiar, Shibori is a traditional Japanese dyeing method that becomes easy for children to explore at a beginner’s level by dyeing their own piece of fabric.
There’s also the Mobile Maker Club, where kids participate in activities that encourage them to engage in teamwork with their peers to complete a project. This mini-workshop cultivates artistic as well as real life and social skills. It’s just for 3rd- 8th graders, however, so leave your little ones in the capable hands of the Shibori Dyeing workshop.
In terms of transportation, getting to the Sausalito Art Festival is fairly easy. The Blue & Gold Fleet offers ferry service to Sausalito, and from there a free shuttle takes you straight to the festival. There will also be bus service from Golden Gate Transit.
7. Labor Day Weekend- Afternoon Adventure Sails on San Francisco Bay
If your perfect Labor Day weekend involves a little bit of adventure and a lot of relaxation, you’ll love these scenic afternoon tours of the San Francisco Bay. As long as the weather permits, the Schooner Freda B will be setting sail under the Golden Bay Bridge, and then cruising along the Marin Headlands to Point Bonita Lighthouse.
Perfect for locals and tourists looking to have the ultimate Bay Area experience (and capture it on their iPhones), this sailing adventure features some of the most breathtaking, iconic city views. As for food and drink, there will be a cash bar and a delicious array of artisanal cheese platters, which are included in the ticket price. (In case you were wondering, the ticket price is $69 per person- not a bad deal for such an extensive tour of one of the most beautiful cities in the country!
These special city sails run from Aug. 31st- Sept. 2, and happen daily from 2:15 P.M.- 5:00 P.M. They depart from Yacht Harbor, Slip 465 in Sausalito, CA.
8. The Annual Belmont Greek Festival
The annual Belmont Greek Festival is gaily celebrating its 49th year of Greek culture, food, and entertainment. If the authentic Greek meals and scrumptious desserts weren’t enough reason to attend, there will also be Greek cooking demos, mythology play, flavorful folk dancers, singers, and instrumentals. If you’ve got kids, this is a fun opportunity for them to learn about Greek culture the way kids learn best- by playing in the children’s area.
The festival is serving up Greek lamb, chicken, gyros, loukoumades, baklava, moussaka, spanakopita, and much, much more! Come celebrate the Greek culture’s appetite for life and hearty, delicious food. All of the food will be cooked from flavorful old country recipes. There’s also excellent shopping on the menu, from an agora flee market and distinctive boutiques to a bookstore.
This exciting Labor Day weekend starts on Aug. 31st, and the party doesn’t stop until Sept. 2nd at 3:00 P.M.! Come to the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross, and stay for an afternoon or treat yourself to the three-day course!
9. Annual Blue Wings Festival
This Bay Area Labor Day weekend event will have you singing the blues- and enjoying a delicious buffet dinner around cozy tables in the garden. Featuring six touring blues bands over three quaint evenings in Upper Lake, CA. These include some of the biggest names in the blues: The Laurie Morvan Band from Long Beach, Sean Carney’s Blues Caravan from Ohio, and the Bay Area’s very own Ms. Taylor P. Collins and her Band.
The festival is known for its quaint coziness and intimate atmosphere- just the right setting for the blues. Beginning at 6:00 P.M. from Saturday, Aug. 31st through Labor Day, the festival starts out on a funky, upbeat note with the The Tri-Tip Zydeco Trio. The headliner on the opening night is the Laurie Morvan Band, whose powerful vocals and talent on the guitar have been winning over the hearts of loyal listeners for years.
On Sunday, Wendy DeWitt, a.k.a. “The Queen of Boogie Woogie”, opens for the Sean Carney Blues Caravan. Sean Carney is also known for his mastery of the guitar, winning the Albert Collins Guitar Award at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Topping it all off on Labor Day is Levi Lloyd and his band, making way for Ms. Taylor P. Collins and her rocking seven-piece band.
This festival is known to capture the essence of the original southern blues culture, and does so with style and finesse.
10. Reggae on the Bay Labor Day Weekend Midnight Cruise
So far this list has gone the family fun/relaxation route, but let’s go out with a bang on the “best reggae cruise in the bay”! Reggae on the Bay is just what it sounds like and so much more. A three-hour cruise with two jammin’ DJs, this event transforms the Bay into a makeshift tropical paradise with major island vibes. The cruise has a definite nightlife energy, and DJS Veyn and Slappy create magical rhythms that will have you dancing the night away! Reggae on the Bay gets bonus points for qualifying as a romantic date night as well as a feel-good night with friends.
The cruise has two fully stocked bars and amazing panoramic views of the Bay, the city skyline, and the Bay Bridge. There will also be VIP sections with luxe plush seating and of course 12,000 watts of music, including reggae, roots, afrobeats, soca, and hip-hop reggaeton to really get the party going.
Hosted by popular Bay Celebrations, the cruise departs from Broadway in Oakland, CA.