Are you tired of the same old things to do, and looking for summer events with personality? Fortunately, if the Bay Area is anything, it’s diverse. You can probably talk to at least a dozen people who spent a summer in the SF Bay Area, and each would describe totally different agendas. So in a melting pot of culture and summer events, how does anyone ever choose what to do over the next two to three months? Hopefully we can help. Here’s our top 10 summer festivals and events for 2019.
Do you like your summer events cultured and delicious? Carnaval kicks off the season every year with one of the largest summer festivals in the Bay Area. It’s a two-day event that spans 8 blocks and is dedicated to celebrating Latin and Caribbean cultures. Dancers and performers don authentic native dress, and many attendees buy or create their own renditions of Latin and Carribean clothing for the day. Think colorful Bahia skirts and ornate deathered headdresses. Attendees will be serenaded by music and dance numbers of Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, and the Bahamas.
The whole event, complete with low rider cars and dancing in the streets, gives the event the feel of a carefree, barefoot summer in a more tropical place. Numerous bands, DJs, and floats make this summer festival an even livelier affair. Naturally, there will be food vendors offering just about any kind of food you can imagine- from Latin and Caribbean foods to hearty American staples like cheesesteaks and fries. (There are always vegetarian and vegan options within walking distance- this is San Francisco). This parade and celebration is located in the heart of the Mission District, so there will be no shortage of cultured cuisine.
Did we mention the actual parade? It’s a spectacular ensemble of Mexican Aztec performers, Japanese drummers, Polynesian dancers, and folkloric indigenous music and dance from Guatemalan, Honduran, and Bolivian groups. This festival is one of our favorites, especially for families. Many children learn best while having fun and participating in hands-on or interactive experiences. So, if you want your child to learn about and experience different cultures- which is more important than ever- this summer event is so much fun, they won’t even know they’re learning.
The parade route starts at the corner of 24th and Bryant and wends its way west toward Mission Street. From there, the parade proceeds north on Mission to 17th St., where it eventually leads to South Van Ness. For those who can’t or don’t wish to follow the parade on foot, there are bleacher seats with a great view available.
All in all, you’ll have the chance to see more than thirty music or dance groups- and spend quality time with family and friends along the way.
2. The Fillmore Jazz Festival
You may already know that this jazzy summer festival is the largest free jazz event on the West Coast. Located in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood, the Fillmore Jazz Festival takes you back to the nostalgic, bluesy feel of bygone eras when jazz first exploded onto the music scene. There will be four stages with live music. The two main stages will be located on Fillmore at California and Fillmore at Sutter, but this year there are two more. These will be located at Fillmore and Jackson and Filmore and Ellis.
This year’s lineup includes California Jazz Conservatory, Michael Zilber’s Originals for the Originals, the Marcus Shelby Orchestra feat. Tiffany Austin, Kim Nalley, and more.
There are quite a few bars and restaurants along Fillmore Street, so you can wine and dine the night away to the soulful tunes of live jazz music.
3. San Francisco Pride & VIP Party
We couldn’t very well create a list of Bay Area summer events without including one of the oldest and biggest LGBTQIA parades in the world! Every year, this larger-than-life celebration attracts more than 100, 000 spectators. The parade will feature grand marshals Mrs. Vera, Ms. Billie Cooper, Donna Personna, and Vince Crisostomo. “Vida” series creator Tanya Saracho and several of its cast members will also be making glorious special appearances. You’ll also get the chance to see Amara La Negra of “Love and Hip-Hop: Miami” fame. Brazillain drag performer Pabllo Vittar will also be bringing some dramatic flair to this explosive two-day celebration. The parade starts at Beale St. and runs along Market St. toward 8th.
If you don’t want the fun to end, it’s totally worth upgrading to VIP status for Sunday’s ultimate pride gathering. The Pride Party rolls out the rainbow carpet, but this is an exclusive VIP-only event. Tickets sell out early each year, so be sure to snag yours ahead of time. The Pride Party gives new meaning to the words “summer festival”, featuring three rooms of non-stop entertainment and delicious hors d’ oeuvres from the Whole Foods Market.
The Pride Party includes a benediction from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, art by Dierdre De Franceaux, entertainment by the infamous DJ Paige Hodel, Vivvy’s Faces Drag Cabaret, fashion by Dark Garden Corsety and Couture, beats by Ryder Moor, DJ Chelsea Starr, and Mission Delirium. That mouthful of names and performances hints at the unique talents of each featured performer.
As you know, Pride is a place where the LGBTQIA population can freely express who they are and celebrate how far they’ve come. In reality, every day should be Pride day, so take some of the spirit from this proud summer festival and spread it around.
4. Cine Francisco: San Francisco in Film & Memory
Whether you’re a tourist or a local who loves your great city, Cine Francisco caters to everyone who would like to view San Francisco through a creative, historic lens. This cinematic summer event is a lecture in film and tour of mostly forgotten city sites. To name a few, these include the ruined Embarcadero freeway, the Cliffhouse, Playland-by-the-beach, Fort Point, and the far outer edges of the Mission District. Through cinema, presenters David Cox and Molly Hankwitz unearth these hidden gems and bring them to life again onscreen.
This special screening takes place in the Latino Room at the San Francisco Public Library, so locals don’t have to travel far to make it. Locals are treated to a summer event that caters to their love of this iconic city and lets then see it in a new light. Tourists get a window into San Francisco’s rich history. It’s a win-win for everyone.
5. Festival of Microbiology & Hands on Activities
Leave it to San Francisco to festivalize microbiology. We know some people will be a bit dubious at this one but keep reading. (This event unfolds at the San Francisco Public Library, after all, in the Latino Room). This summer, the American Society for Microbiology is hosting a day of microbial fun (yes, that’s really a thing). This is an intriguing summer event for all ages- there’s even a special career table for kids. We love that it’s led by actual scientists, not just instructors or librarians. You’ll have the opportunity to explore fields in microbiology such as the human microbe, food-related microbiology, pathologies, and infectious diseases. Okay, so it might not be the most appetizing event, but it does fulfill the curiosity of science-minded individuals and those thirsty for knowledge. We think it’s a great way to make learning about science fun for kids, who like to process information through fun, play, and interaction with subjects. If interacting with microorganisms sounds like your idea of summer fun, your day will be well spent at the Festival of Microbiology & Hands on Activities.
6. Off the Grid at the Presidio
Attention, foodies! Would you like to go off the grid this summer- even just for one carefree day? Off the Grid, a catering and food truck company that supports sustainable living, hosts a picnic in the park every Sunday, from spring to fall. The Presidio is one of the most picturesque places for a picnic in San Francisco, so pack your old-fashioned baskets and wear your Sunday best- whatever your version of that is. Get ready to spend a sun kissed day in this little slice of heaven away from the bustle of the city. There are several absolutely glorious scenic trails to explore, and the Presidio is easily accessible by transit. And if you bicycle there, you can take advantage of free parking courtesy of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition!
In true San Francisco form, Off the Grid is known for its diverse, cultured selection of foods. Picnics in the Presidio also showcases cultural dance performances every third Sunday of the month. This year, this summer event has taken it up a notch by offering an even more culturally diverse selection of international street food fare from the Bay Area’s very best mobile food artists. There will be Mexican fusion bites from Cool!naria, Thai coconut curry tofu from Bomnzies BBQ, lavish Filipino desserts from Turontastic, and much more. Some delicious newcomers onto the scene this year include La Santa Torta and Sam Choy’s Poke, which is infamous for its mouthwatering Hawaiin style poke. Bowl’d Acai will also be making its debut at the Presidio, serving up fresh juices, smoothies, and of course acai bowls- a California favorite.
This is one summer festival in which furry friends are welcome. However, since Off the Grid strives to be an environmentally conscious brand, people are reminded to dispose of garbage in appropriate bins and clean up after pets.
Yet another thing we love about these Off the Grid picnics at Presidio? It’s the perfect opportunity to explore the national park at Presidio. The park is an adventure in its own right, including art exhibitions, scenic overlooks, museums, and a 24-mile long trail network for hardcore hikers. Cyclers take heart- Presidio is the first national park in the west to offer an electric bike share! There’s good news for mini cyclers, too. The Presidio Trust offers free bicycle lessons on the first Sunday of every month! Kids and sports lovers alike will also enjoy the park’s spacious seven-acre lawn.
Did you know? Off the Grid hosts events all over the Bay Area, including Fort Mason on Friday nights. If you’ve never spent a night (sort of) off the grid, you’ll want to come see what you’ve been missing. Off the Grid nightlife is still family-friendly, but it’s a bit more of a party scene, complete with live music and DJs, firepits, and cabanas. Like we said, something for everyone. It’s just far enough off the grid to be a tranquil respite from your busy daily life- and just enough on the grid to bring you delicious, handcrafted foods and yoga classes every Sunday. Yes, you read right. To top it all off, Picnics at the Presidio offer yoga classes just before noon each Sunday.
7. Ritual’s $1 Food Festival
While we’re on the topic of delicious cultural cuisine, there’s an app for that. That’s right, Ritual is an app that lets you order ahead of time and jump the line at top-rated restaurants in your part of the Bay Area. The app saves you both time and money- during this summer festival, which lasts throughout most of June, you can order meals that typically cost $10 for just $1! There’s a limit of 5 redemptions per customer, but this means you’re saving close to $50 on great food in a month. That’s a lot of value in a little amount of time. Wondering if your favorite restaurants participate? Find out by doing a simple search for “DOLLARFEST” in the app.
Here’s how to be a part of this mouthwatering summer festival: Simply download Ritual, search “DOLLARFEST to see a list of all participating restaurants and make your order.
8. Psychedelic Photosynthesis and Surrealistic Solstice Jam
Infamous for its psychedelic visuals and All-Star concert, this summer festival is like a time capsule that transports you back in time. If you want to be part of the wild and free spirit of the 60s without a time travel machine, this is your chance. Spread out a blanket on grassy fields for a night of free live music. Legendary songs from 1960 will be performed by both iconic artists and new, emerging talents, artfully bridging the gap between now and then. Get ready to spend a night steeped in nostalgia at the Conservatory of Flowers this June. The concert begins with Photosynthesis, an explosion of vivid, colorful light art. You’ll be able to dance slowly and then pick up the tempo as the beat goes on. Spirit in the Sky will be performed by Norman Greenbaum, and Fixin’ to Die will be crooned by Country Joe McDonland. The iconic Evil Ways will be revived by the moody instrumentals of the original members of Santana. Everyday People will be performed by none other than the original members of Sly & The Family Stone.
Time-honored Bay Area Bands will also get their chance to shine at this unforgettable summer event. You’ll tune into the sounds of Bay Area music legends like Big Brother & The Holding Company, Jefferson Starship, Rat Dog, Sons of Camplin, and Jerry Garcia Band, to name just a few. The classics will be followed up by a new generation of San Francisco bands such as Moonalice, Con Brio, ALO, The California Honeydrops, Strangefolk, Midnight North, Katdelic, and many more. The concert celebrates San Francisco’s past, present, and future in the space of one magical night.
This wild and (literally) free summer event is open to all ages, so you can swing it as a family fun night or an edgier adult party. It’s what you make of it, which is why it made our list (along with all the other obvious reasons, not the least of which is the star-studded musical cast- an ingenious blend you won’t find anywhere else). Again, Off the Grid makes our list: A diverse variety of food trucks from this cultured food company will be in attendance, offering something for everyone.
Photosynthesis, made possible by the non-profit arts group behind The Bay Lights and Obscura Digital, will showcase the best in large-scale light-based arts. Gobo projectors will be used to transform the landmark with a high-tech series of flower-powered scenes. Fun fact: The series was inspired by the rare tropical flowers that grow within this beautiful California landmark.
9. Renegade Craft Fair
One of the summer’s most immersive artistic experiences, Renegade Craft Fair invites art lovers of all ages to spend a festive weekend creating and admiring contemporary, handcrafted art exhibits. Featuring the country’s most renowned voices in craft and design, this inspired summer festival is the real deal. Renegade showcases over 200 creators, designers, art installations, and interactive features. This is definitely a worthwhile event for adults who have a passion for art. But its hands-on, interactive exhibits are also a great way for kids to experience the joy of art for themselves in an authentic marketplace. This summer event takes sophisticated art experiences that are usually exclusive to adults and makes them inclusive for everyone. This is a rare experience in the art world, so we recommend taking full advantage of it.
As for food and drink, there will be plenty of of it, courtesy of some of the best local food trucks. You can also partake in a seasonal drink while attending workshops with iconic bayside views. As you can imagine, this is a wonderful event for both locals and tourists who want to capture the San Francisco aesthetic on film (or at least their iPhones). This hot summer event offers people of all ages the ultimate San Francisco experience. Adding to the lively scene, DJ sets will swing from uptempo to moodier beats, creating a backdrop to some of the contemporary workshops.
What do we love most about this ultra-modern take on a summer festival? Renegade’s participating museums, design studios, and educational institutions provide a marketplace for artists of every discipline. (Again, this includes artists young and old). San Francisco has a finger on the pulse of global creative trends and continues to redefine art and design. If you want to be a part of it, all you have to do is register for Renegade this summer.
10. The San Francisco Hazy IPA Festival
If you love unfiltered, dry-hopped craft beer, this summer festival will give you a run for your money. Featuring a contest in which you vote for your favorite brews, Hazy IPA brings you one of the most diverse selection of craft brews you can imagine in your most alcoholic-imbued dreams. From rich and smooth to fruity and fragrant, this beer fest has them all on tap. The best part? Attending means you get unlimited tastes of twenty floral beers created by some of the most authentic brewers in the Bay Area. Some are even downright tropical on your tongue! Pair this most delicious of contests with a dozen food trucks and this is one summer event you can’t miss! Whether you prefer to engage in fun drinking games or luxuriate on The Lawn in a pleasant haze, you’ll want to mark this one on your calendar.
It would be impossible to cover the thousands of summer events unfolding in the Bay Area in one (or a hundred) articles. But we hope our top 10 gave you at least a starting point in the right direction!