San Francisco’s Hippest Happenings

Golden Gate from Russian Hill
Golden Gate from Russian Hill



Chinese New Year
(415) 982-3000
San Francisco’s Chinatown is one of the largest in the U.S. and the January parade works hard to live up to the title. It’s noisy, it’s colorful, it’s unavoidable. The festivities paralyze downtown for the day with firecracker salvo and wandering puppet dragons. If hunger strikes, top-notch Dim Sum is rolling all day throughout the district.


St. Patrick’s Day Parade
(510) 644-1164
Concentrated in the construction industry, San Francisco’s Irish community is large and boisterous. It’s no surprise that St. Patty’s day is raucous affair. The Richmond and Sunset districts are home to most of the city’s Irish population. Hit Ireland’s 32, 3920 Geary St. or Dirty Nell’s, 22nd and Irving Streets, for the heartiest, yet coziest St. Patty’s ëcheers’ in the city. The Parade starts at Market and 2nd and ends at City Hall.


Cherry Blossom Festival, Japantown
(415) 563-2313
Meander through the arts-and-crafts and food booths aligning the blocked-off streets. Watch traditional drumming, flower arranging, origami or a parade celebrating the cherry blossom and Japanese culture.San Francisco International Film Festival
(415) 931-FILM
Started 43 years ago, this is America’s oldest film festival, featuring more than 200 films and videos from more than 50 countries, and awards ceremonies where renowned honorees join the festivities. Tickets are relatively inexpensive and screenings are very accessible to the general public. Entries include new films by beginning and established directors. Screenings are at the AMC Kabuki 8 Cinemas, at Fillmore and Post streets, and other locations


Cinco de Mayo Celebration, Mission District
May is Latin month in San Francisco, and the 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo) is the Mexican community’s most important holiday, celebrating the victory of the Mexicans over the French at Puebla in 1862. Mariachi bands, dancers, food and a parade fill the streets of the Mission, the city’s largest Mexican neighborhood. Look for the rotund tamale sellers on the street and ask for a heavenly sweet Tamale de Alote (sweet corn dumplings).Carnival
(415) 826-1401
Mission Street between 14th and 24th streets, and Harrison Street between 16th and 21st streets. Think Rio in February but add a little fog and limit the party to one afternoon on Memorial Day Weekend, and you’ve got S.F.’s carnival. More than half a million show up for the party where samba bands and dancers and floats transform this warehouse district into Ipanema.


Gay Pride Festival
(415) 476-3902
Anything goes here. There will be nudity. There will be campy performances and plenty of men in drag. You will be shocked but you will never forget the Gay Pride Festival, a San Francisco classic. A colorful parade converges on civic center at 11a.m. Sunday in the third week of June.Haight Street Fair
(415) 661-8025
The fair, held during the second week of June, is a pleasant way to remember the neighborhood’s roots as the vanguard of the 60’s lifestyle movement, and the breeding ground for idealists and peace activists. Arts and crafts, jewelry and, of course, tie-dye shirts dot the sidewalks, while street music entertains the crowds. North Beach Festival
(415) 989-2220
In 1999, this Father’s Day weekend party celebrated its 45th anniversary; organizers claim it’s the oldest urban street fair in the country. Close to 100,000 city folk meander along Grant Avenue, between Vallejo and Union streets in North Beach while venders line the streets.

Stern Grove Midsummer Music Festival
(415) 252-6252
Pack a picnic and head out early to join thousands who come here to lie in the grass and enjoy classical, jazz and ethnic music and dance in the Grove. These free concerts are held every Sunday from mid-June through August at 2 p.m. Show up with a lawn chair or blanket.


The San Francisco fog often blights the Fourth of July Celebration and fireworks, but the crowds line up to see the million-dollar display all the same. Bring warm clothes and a good sense of humor. Best viewpoint is from Fisherman’s Wharf.


A La Carte, A La Park
(415) 458-1988
Over 40 of the town’s favorite restaurants, accompanied by 20 microbreweries and 20 wineries, offer tastings in Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow.


Opera in the Park
(415) 861-4008
Each year on the Sunday after Labor Day, the San Francisco Opera launches its season with a free concert featuring a selection of arias. Bring a blanket and bask in Sharon Meadow in Golden Gate Park.


Reggae in the Park
(415) 458-1988
This event on the first weekend in October conjures up the ambiance of Haight-Ashbury’s heydey. Hippies come out of the woodwork to groove to reggae and world-beat bands. Patchouli oil is rampant, as is the marijuana. Ethnic arts-and-crafts and food booths are also available.Halloween Parade–The Castro
The time, care and money that goes into the costumes for this Halloween-eve Castro parade all pay off when you enter this madcap creative scene. Men in Carnival-regalia, 19th -century madams with white powdered wigs, pharaohs and slaves. You name it: the mixed gay/straight crowd revels in costumes of wild imagination.


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