Each year in May, the Mission goes Brazilian with a vengeance as Carnaval turns our town topsy-turvy with masks and music, pomp and percussion and flesh and fantasy. If you can’t visit Brazil this year, San Francisco’s Carnaval celebration is the next best thing. For the best time, don’t just limit yourself to watching the parade (although it is one of the city’s most fun annual events!) Here are some suggestions for making the most of Carnaval.
Don’t miss CBS San Francisco’s Events Listings for Carnaval Events all over the Bay.
Check the weather before you head out.
Carnaval Festival and Parade
Saturday & Sunday, May 24-25: 10am-6pm
Harrison Street (between 16th and 24th Streets)
San Francisco, CA
Carnaval San Francisco is a beloved two-day event featuring a Grand Parade and two-day Festival, celebrating music and cultural elements from Latin American and Caribbean traditions. Now in its third decade of celebration, Carnaval San Francisco has been an event for many cultures to come together in one spirit to share their creative expression. Come celebrateat the 35th annual Carnaval San Francisco, a FREE 2-day family festival in San Francisco’s Mission District over Memorial Day weekend, May 24 and 25, 10am-6pm, where we will showcase the very best Latin American and Caribbean cultural arts and traditions. Carnaval San Francisco is the largest multi-cultural celebration on the West Coast. This year, Carnaval San Francisco is happening due to the 500 volunteers coming together to preserve this San Francisco tradition.
On Sunday, May 25, the Grand Parade starts at 9:30am at the corner of 24th and Bryant Streets, where it will proceed West to Mission Street. From there, the parade heads North on Mission down to 17th Street, where it will turn East and flow into the Festival area. Parking can be touch, so public transit is strongly recommended.
Canto Do Brasil
41 Franklin St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Canto Do Brasil, right near City Hall downtown, bills itself as “a piece of Brazil in the heart of San Francisco.” On Friday nights, it offers a floor show after dinner featuring samba performances. Its menu features Brazilian specialties such as pumpkin stew and the traditional Feijoada, which is a black bean and meat stew simmered all day in garlic and Brailizan spices. Canto Do Brasil is a family affair. Owner Claudia Kuna runs the kitchen herself and her daughter Erika handles the service.
2087 Addison St.
Berkeley, CA 94704
Although a bit outside of San Francisco proper, this East Bay spot is worth checking out for the Carnaval celebration. The San Francisco Chronicle has called Berkeley’s Jazz School “one of the most vital centers of jazz education in the West.” It is a very popular place for concerts and is certainly one of the Bay Area’s most treasured musical institutions. On Carnaval weekend, it will be featuring a performance on May 26 of the Primavera Latin Jazz Band. The band blends Afro-Cuban rhythms, Brazilian bossa and classic American jazz. The performance is from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and tickets cost $15.
650 Indiana St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
This is the place to party Latin style in San Francisco. Whether you love tango, salsa or rhumba, you’ll find your groove at Cafe Cocomo. This is a restaurant, a nightclub and a dancing school all rolled into one incredibly saucy Latin stew. It has a full schedule of events featured seven nights a week. Check out the website to see what’s happening during Carnaval.
Peña Pachamama Center
1630 Powell St.
San Francisco, CA 94133
On the Peña Pachamama Center’s website, it quotes Robin Williams saying this spot is “…the kind of place even the Amish would dance.” At Pachamama, it is always Carnaval. Its strictly organic dinner menu features Bolivian specialities and — unusual for a Latin restaurant — a number of vegan friendly selections. Fans of world music will be thrilled by its house band which focuses on music of the Andes. This is one of San Francisco’s most celebrated night spots, and for good reason. Check out the website to see what’s happening during Carnaval.
1805 Haight St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
When the party’s over and you’ve slept in a bit the day after, head to Parada 22 in the Haight for a Puerto Rican feast. Panada 22 is owned by Philip Belber, the same talented restauranteur behind the Haight’s popular Cuban destination, Cha Cha Cha, so he knows a thing or two about Latin cuisine. Puerto Rican natives report that the food is “incredibly authentic.” Try the fried green plantains, and if you’re up for it, sangria is available by the pitcher at happy hour.
Charles Kruger is well known in the Bay area as “The Storming Bohemian” ever since he entered the Bay Area cultural scene in the summer of 2009, attending 90 cultural events in 90 days and blogging about it. This project was successful enough to warrant a mention in The New York Times. His coverage of Bay area theatre can be found at Examiner.com.