Natasha Bedingfield at Alice’s Now & Zen (credit: Steve Wyrostok)

With soaring ticket prices for top name acts, many Bay Area music fans are unable to see their favorite music artists or bands. Fortunately, there are free concerts held this summer and beyond in more than 25 cities across the Bay Area. But what may surprise music fans and visitors is the stellar lineup of world-class entertainment scheduled to appear soon, all for free. Read on to learn more about the five best free concerts in the Bay Area.

Walk Off The Earth performing at Alice’s Now & Zen Fest 2013 (credit: Marc Fong)

Alice’s Now and Zen
Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA 94121
(800) 400-3697
Date: TBD (End of September)

Sponsored by Alice 97.3, one of the nation’s top Hot AC radio stations, the Now and Zen Fest annually draws huge crowds to Sharon Meadow in Golden Gate Park. Entering its 16th season, the local radio station has hosted a number of world famous music artists, like The B-52s, Jewel, Train, Duran Duran, Maroon 5, Joss Stone, Seal and Tears for Fears. Last year’s free event featured headliners OneRepublic and the Goo Goo Dolls. Last month, the station hosted Alice’s Summerthing, another free summer music concert featuring popular music artists Magic!, Ingrid Michaelson and Kodaline. This year’s lineup for the Now and Zen Fest will be announced later this summer.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival (credit: Randy Yagi)

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival
Hellman Hollow, Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA 94121
Date: Oct. 3-5, 2014

Held the first weekend in October, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival is easily the largest music festival in the Bay Area. Founded by the late San Francisco financier and philanthropist Warren Hellman, the three-day event held on six stages drew an estimated 750,000 people last year. The bluegrass festival has always been free and non-commercial and continues to host annual events through an endowment Hellman created before he passed away in 2011. Among the prominent artists who have appeared at the festival include Emmylou Harris, Doc Watson, Dolly Parton, Hazel Dickens, John Mellencamp, Robert Plant and AlIson Krauss. Last year’s event featured the likes of Natalie Maines, Boz Scaggs, Nick Lowe, Ralph Stanley, Steve Martin and more than 70 other acts. The 2014 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival is scheduled for October 3 to 5 and the lineup will be announced online later this summer.

Music on the Square, Redwood City (credit: Randy Yagi)

Music on the Square
Courthouse Square
2200 Broadway St.
Redwood City, CA  94063
(650) 780-7000
Date: Fridays through Aug. 29, 2014

Redwood City hosts free summer music concerts at two locations – Music in the Square at Courthouse Square in downtown Redwood City and Music in the Park at Stafford Park, about a mile away. Visitors won’t see big name acts here, but can be treated to a host of tribute bands and top-notch entertainers. One of the nation’s best Beatles tribute bands, The Sun Kings are among the upcoming bands scheduled to appear, in addition to popular blues band Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers, a Prince tribute by The Purple Ones, Michael Jackson tribute from Foreverland and an Eagles tribute band, the Boys of Summer. During the summer, Redwood City also hosts Art on the Square and Movies on the Square and guests can enjoy recent movies like “Saving Mr. Banks,” “Gravity” and “Secret Life of Walter Mitty” in addition to classics like “The Wizard of Oz.”

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (credit: Randy Yagi)

FREE Friday Night Bands on the Beach
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
400 Beach St.
Santa Cruz, CA  95060
(831) 423-5590
Date: Fridays through Aug. 29, 2014

California’s oldest amusement park still in operation has been entertaining guests for more than 100 years. During the Big Band Era, many of the country’s biggest names appeared at the Coconut Grove, including Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Tommy Dorsey and Lawrence Welk. By the ’60s, top name artists continued to appear, such as Nat King Cole, the New Christy Minstrels and Sonny and Cher. Since 1988, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has hosted the Free Friday Night Bands on the Beach concerts, featuring classic rock bands and artists like Eric Burdon and the Animals, Foghat, Terri Nunn and Berlin and Blue Oyster Cult. Among the upcoming free concerts this summer are The Fixx, original Santana lead singer Gregg Rolie, Starship with Mickey Thomas and Eddie Money.

Stern Grove Festival
Sigmund Stern Grove
19th Ave. and Sloat Blvd.
San Francisco, CA  94132
(415) 252-6252
Date: June 22 – Aug. 24, 2014

Now in its 77th season, the Stern Grove Festival is nation’s oldest free summer performing arts festival. Located in the in the 33-acre Sigmund Stern Recreation Grove in the Sunset District, up to 20,000 people pack into the area, with many perched on the hillside overlooking the outdoor amphitheater. Recent performances include George Duke and Al Jarreau, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs, Pharoah Sanders, Rickie Lee Jones, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Motown legends Smokey Robinson and Patti Austin kicked off the season last month but other artists slated to appear are Rufus Wainwright, Darlene Love, Sergio Mendes and The Zombies. Parking at Stern Grove is extremely limited and visitors may wish to take pubic transportation.

Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on