The best free concerts in San Francisco

The San Francisco Bay Area is crawling with free outdoor concerts during the summer months. You just have to know where to look. Photo: 2011

SAN FRANCISCO, July 27, 2011 — San Francisco is not well known for its outdoor concerts. But, little known fact, the Bay Area is crawling with free outdoor concerts throughout the summer months. You just have to know where to look.

The Stern Grove Festival is the nation’s longest running free outdoor concert and performing arts series. It takes place in Sigmund Stern Recreational Grove. Performances begin at 2 pm on Sundays from June through August every year. 

Stern Grove Festival - Marcia Ball performs


Every year since 1938, Stern Grove has featured amazing acts that vary from soul, Brit-pop, blues and jazz to the San Francisco Symphony, Ballet and Opera. No matter your musical taste, Stern Grove is dedicated to putting on a diverse array of high quality performances. 

San Francisco. Stern Grove Festival, James Bachleda, San Francisco Ballet, 2007


The concerts are performed in the Grove’s breath-taking outdoor amphitheater. The natural acoustics, fragrant eucalyptus and towering redwood trees make for a perfect setting. Bring blankets, low lawn chairs, and a picnic. There are concession stands if you don’t want to pack your own snacks. 


*Arrive no later than 11 am if you want to get seats inside the amphitheater. Be prepared to hike down to the amphitheater. The venue is located in the valley floor of Stern Grove. There are trails and stairs, but wear good shoes for walking.

* If you can’t get there early, never fear. There is a large lawn area outside the main amphitheater area to the West. This is an open lawn area where you can set up camp. You won’t be able to see the concert from there, but you can certainly still hear it, relax and enjoy.

* If you want to drink beer or wine while enjoying the concert, you have to bring it yourself, as Stern Grove does not sell alcohol. If you forget your wine-bottle opener, there will likely be a happy group nearby to help you out.   

* The weather can be very unpredictable in the summer in San Francisco, especially in this part of town (Sunset District). Be prepared with sunscreen as well as sweaters and scarves. 


There is limited reserved picnic table seating available to members of the Festival. If you are not a member, you might still get a table seat through the weekly lottery, if any are available. You can enter the lottery online or by mail. 

To download the 2011 concert calendar, click here.

For more on the history of the Stern Grove Festival, click here.

Click here to check out photos and videos from the 2010 season.

And for info on getting to The Grove, click here.  Click here to download a PDF Guide.

If you are biking, Stern Grove has a complimentary bike valet service. It is located at the top of the main entrance to the park at 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard. Valet service opens at 10:00am and closes one hour after the concert ends. Click here for a PDF map of bike routes in San Francisco.

If you are taking public transportation, you can take MUNI buses and streetcars. MUNI lines 23, 28, K & M will get you there. If you are coming from the East Bay, you can take BART and transfer to MUNI. If you are coming from the South Bay, you can take CalTrain and transfer to MUNI. From Marin, try Golden Gate Transit buses. To plan your trip with all available public transportation, click here.

For a list of additional free concerts and other outdoor performances, click here.

Cover photo of San Francisco Symphony and photo of Afrocubism courtesy of Scott Wall Photo.  Rights to these images belong to Scott Wall Photo.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Sherrie Perkovich

Sherrie is a perky, music and wine-loving, Northern California local that seeks out and spreads the word about San Francisco experiences as well as unforgettable wine-related travel experiences.  She is CMO of The Grape Hunter USA, where they focus on helping artisan wineries and developing unique wine travel for consumers. Follow her on Twitter @BigNoseWino

Sherrie is a San Francisco local that fancies herself an extroverted fine dining, wine drinking, know-it-all.  If it’s happening near SF, Sherrie is in on it.  Follow her columns,  for the widest range of Out and About San Francisco ~ San Jose treats and Wine Country Weekly.  


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