North Beach Festival (credit: Steven Restivo Productions)
It’s that time of year when every weekend brings outdoor street festivals and art festivals throughout the city’s neighborhoods and the entire Bay Area. It’s fair enough to say the “best” ones are those nearest to wherever you live, since parking and festivals don’t mix, but festivals and good times certainly do. That’s why some of these events have been well-loved for decades and the crowds keep growing.
62nd North Beach Festival
Washington Square Park
San Francisco, CA 94133
Dates: Saturday & Sunday, June 11 and 12, 2016
An oldie but goodie, this Italian-themed weekend is San Francisco’s grandfather of street festivals. Traditional Italian happenings, such as the Blessing of the Animals, and traditional Italian food are always a highlight. Kids love the sidewalk chalk art, grownups love the wine gardens, everybody loves the arts and crafts vendors and live entertainment onstage. It’s a smoke-free event, rain or shine, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday and free for everyone. Driving isn’t recommended.
Cinco de Mayo
Valencia Street between 21st Street and 24th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Date: Saturday, May 7, 2016
The colorful 11th annual Cinco de Mayo Festival comes to the heart of the Mission District on the first Saturday in May. This stage features an abundance of live entertainment. The lineup of catchy music and dance features Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco, Conjunto Picante, Ms. Berta Olivia y El Mariachi Mexicanisimo and Mission High Mariachi. Food vendors aplenty plus more than 65 arts and crafts vendors are on hand as crowds of up to 10,000 typically turn out for dancing in the streets.
Bay to Breakers
Howard Street and Main Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
Date: Sunday, May 15, 2016
The world’s oldest consecutively operating annual running race, since 1912, is a signature San Francisco event covering 12K from east-to-west, coast-to-coast inside our own seven-by-seven. Everybody winds up at the Finish Line Festival is at the Great Highway at Ocean Beach between JFK Drive and Lincoln Way. Music, dance and food attracts 50,000 runners and admirers. This includes celebratory centipedes, whose costumes get better and better every year. Sponsor Zappos.com challenges everybody to make and break some imaginative new records in 2016.
Carnaval San Francisco
Harrison Street between 16th Street and 24th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Date: Saturday & Sunday, May 28 and 29, 2016
On Friday, May 20th, 2016, Carnaval Night at the de Young Museum officially kicks off the two-day event. This may not be New Orleans or Rio de Janeiro, but San Francisco puts on its own good Caribbean and Latin American-influenced carnival as it has done for 38 years over Memorial Day Weekend. Some 400,000 participants and some talented salsa dancing amateurs make this the largest festival on the West Coast. On Sunday, May 29, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. the parade begins at 24th Street and Bryant Street before proceeding along Mission Street. Spectators can purchase tickets for VIP seating in the grandstand for the performance between 21st and 22nd streets.
34th Annual San Francisco
201 Franklin Street
San Francisco, CA
Dates: June 7 through 19, 2016
The festival opens on June 7 at 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. with a free event of live entertainment, videos on the big screen, a beer garden and food trucks at the outdoor Proxy space at the along Octavia Street at the corner of Hayes and Fell streets. Now that the new SFJazz Center is open, the festival has a home. See the lineup and buy tickets for dozens of events, mostly taking place at the center.
Notable headliners include soul jazz legend Roy Ayers, contemporary jazz all-stars Fourplay and GRAMMY-Winning Big Band Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band at Herbst Theater. The festival closes out at Davies Symphony Hall with a Tribute to the Master, McCoy Tyner. Featuring Chick Corea, Kenny Barron, Joe Lovano, Marcus Roberts, Benny Green, Geri Allen, Taylor Eigsti & special appearance by McCoy Tyner himself.