No matter when you visit San Francisco, there’s always something exciting going on. Whether it’s a fireworks display, a road race, a cultural event, or a beer festival, it’s pretty much impossible to be bored on a day in SF. Check out our list of top annual events in San Francisco so that you can attend one next time you’re in the city by the bay.
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New Year’s Fireworks Over the Bay (Nearby Hotels)
If you’re ringing in the new year in San Francisco, there are few better ways to do it than watching fireworks over the bay at midnight. This is a free event on the Embarcadero from Mission to Folsom, and it’s recommended to go south of the Ferry Building near Pier 14 for the best views. The fireworks show usually lasts about 15 minutes and is synced to music with speakers along the promenade. For the best seats, plan to get here by 7pm. You can also watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks from Yerba Buena Island, Treasure Island, or Telegraph Hill. Alternatively, you can buy tickets for a fireworks cruise and see the display from out on the water for a special treat.
Chinese New Year’s Parade (Nearby Hotels)
San Francisco has one of the busiest and most historical Chinatowns in America, so make a point to attend the next Chinese New Year parade if you can. It usually takes place in February with multiple events and locations around town. It’s one of the top parades in the entire world and truly a feast for the senses. Aside from the parade, other festival events include a basketball jamboree, flower market fair, Miss Chinatown pageant, street fair, and 5K/10K walk or run.
Cherry Blossom Festival (Nearby Hotels)
Another fun way to get to know the various cultures of San Francisco is to attend the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown. The event features a parade, cultural performances, martial arts demonstrations, live music, and many more traditional activities that define the way of life in Japan. The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival typically takes place in mid-April and draws in over 220,000 people. The event is free to attend, but some special events require a fee and food vendors change for their products as well.
St. Patrick’s Day Festival and Parade (Nearby Hotels)
To celebrate San Francisco’s Irish culture, make a point to attend the St. Patrick’s Day parade in town. Thousands of people join in the fun here to learn about Irish traditions, dancing, songs, and watch colorful floats and marching bands make their way down the street. The event typically draws over 1000,000 people per year and is free to attend. It begins at 11:30am on St. Patrick’s Day at 2nd and Market Streets. However, the festival runs from 10am to 5pm at the Plaza. This is where you can listen to music on the main stage, look at craft exhibits, and entertain the kids with children’s rides.
Pride Parade (Nearby Hotels)
Lots of cities have their own pride parades each summer, but there’s really nothing quite like San Francisco’s Pride Parade. The big event features lots of rainbow flags, extravagant costumes, and celebrations of freedom and diversity. Hundreds of parade entries and exhibitors flood the streets for the Pride Festival, and there are dozens of stages and venues to check out. San Francisco Pride runs through the heart of the city on Market Street and takes place in late-June. In recent years, the event has been drawing nearly a million people.
Bay to Breakers Footrace (Nearby Hotels)
If you’ve ever walked up and down the steep streets of San Francisco, you’ll understand why you need to be in good shape to live here! There are lots of races in town throughout the year to help locals and visitors stay fit, including the famous Bay to Breakers Footrace. This is one of the largest races in the world, and it’s well known for its amazing costumes. In fact, prizes are awarded for the best costumes and creativity. This event typically takes place on the third Sunday in May.
Outside Lands Festival (Nearby Hotels)
There are lots of music festivals that take place in San Francisco throughout the year, but one of the most iconic ones is Outside Lands. This is an exciting summer event that has plenty of music to listen to, as well as artwork to see and awesome food and drinks in Golden Gate Park. This music festival takes place in August and includes music acts from all over the world.
OysterFest (Nearby Hotels)
Foodies love being in San Francisco in May because this is when OysterFest takes place. But this is also a music festival that includes an eclectic lineup of artists. Oyster farms from the Pacific Coast, Northeast, Gulf Coast, and Canada make an appearance here to serve up delicious oysters that are raw, baked, deep fried and prepared in other ways. There are also lots of great craft beers here too.
Update: Not being held in 2019
Folsom Street Fair (Nearby Hotels)
Street fairs are unique and fascinating in San Francisco, especially ones like the Folsom Street Fair. This event for adults celebrates wearing leather and fetishes of all kinds, with lots of electronic music playing and fabulous outfits all around. The event is spread out over about 13 city blocks and usually draws around 250,000 leather and fetish enthusiasts each year.
Oktoberfest by the Bay (Nearby Hotels)
It’s also fun to celebrate German beer, food, music, and traditions at Oktoberfest by the Bay. This September event has non-stop music and runs for three days. It takes place near AT&T Park at Pier 48 and features traditional Bavarian dancing as well.
Ghirardelli Square Tree Lighting (Nearby Hotels)
Although the snow won’t be falling in San Francisco to create a festive holiday mood, it’s still fun to celebrate Christmas and other winter holidays in the city. Stop by Ghirardelli Square to watch the famous tree lighting ceremony with plenty of options for sweet treats all around you. The square is filled with boutique shops, a brewery, and vendors selling coffee and hot chocolate to keep you warm and toasty in the evening. The tree lighting typically takes place in late-November.