Fabulous and free fall festivities in San Francisco

With the economy in the dumps and everyone looking to save a few dollars on their activities, here is a short list of fun activities you can do for free or cheap in the San Francisco Bay Area. Photo: Stern Grove, credit Scott Wall

SAN FRANCISCO, August 23, 2012 – With the economy in the dumps and everyone looking to save a few dollars on their activities, here is a short list of fun activities you can do for free or cheap in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Free Concerts

Stern Grove Festival: this year marks the 75th anniversary of free concerts and performing art on Sundays in the summer at Stern Grove.  This beautiful outdoor setting and natural amphitheatre is an ideal setting for music and performances of all types. This Sunday is their season finale featuring alternative rockers Ok Go with opening local indie band, The Family Crest.

Shows start at 2pm, but come early to get a good spot.  Pack a picnic, wine, low chairs and blankets (note: alcohol is not sold, so you have to bring your own).  VIP reservations can be made, which include reserved picnic benches, wine (Sofia sparkling and Layer Cake Wines are sponsors this year), beer, and soft drinks.  Check with Stern Grove as to availability; you must reserve in advance.  Read Out and About’s previous article about Stern Grove for advice before you go.  Location: Stern Grove Park, 19th Avenue at Sloat.  Date: August 26, 2012.


Golden Gate Park Band – free concerts in the park on Sundays.  They’ve been putting these shows on for 130 years and they continue to be free and open to the public.  Get there early for a good spot, and bring your own snacks and drinks.  Location: Golden Gate Park music shell.  Date: Sundays through October, 1pm, check the schedule for details.   


Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park. Image: HSBF


Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival: In the true spirit of the 1960s, the organizers of this concert have kept it free to the public.  The hippies would revel in the open air, dance in the grass and bend an ear to hear the melodies streaming from the stage, tuning in to hear the magical sounds ranging from jazz, blues, folk, rock, and bluegrass to country.  The festival officially kicks off on Thursday with activities for kids, but the real show starts on Friday and runs through Sunday.  Read Out and About’s previous article about the music festival for advice before you attend.  Location: Golden Gate Park - Speedway, Lindley and Marx Meadows. Date: October 4 – 7, 2012.


Fall Street Festivals

Napa Blues, Brews & BBQ festival: this festival is everything it should be.  Live music on three stages, twenty craft beers and pounds of mouth-watering BBQ.  Admission and parking are free.  Location: downtown Napa on First & Main Streets.  Date: Saturday, August 25 1:00-6:00pm.

Napa Brews, Blues & BBQ Festival


Polk Street Blues Festival: San Francisco loves its blues.  From former resident John Lee Hooker to current resident and Swing revivalist Lavay Smith, the blues certainly left its heart here.  This free festival is a wonderful way to experience some local, down and dirty San Francisco blues.  Location:  Polk Street from Jackson to California.  Dates: September 29 and 30.


Castro Street Fair:  the Castro Street Fair was founded by Harvey Milk back in 1974 as a community celebration, and is always the first Sunday in October.  This fair is well planned, as it is always during San Francisco’s unofficial summer.  The festival features hundreds of local artists, vendors, artisans, and musicians.  Any donations/proceeds go to local Castro charities.  Location: Castro and Market Streets.  Date: October 7, 2012.


Union Street Wine Walk: this is the 3rd Annual Wine Walk and is free to the public.  Of course, no free wine will be given out (you might be able to get a free sample here and there), and you will need to purchase a $30 tasting wristband for that privilege, but the rest of the festival is open to the public and free.  There will be wine and food pairings, music and mingling.  Don’t forget your cash!  This is a cash only event.  Location: Union Street from Gough to Steiner and on Fillmore Street from Union to Lombard.  Date: Thursday, October 11, 4-8pm.

Union Street Wine Walk. Image: SR Productions.



24th Annual Fiesta on the Hill: this event grows by leaps and bounds year after year, and with attendance growing to over 20,000, this is a must-see event.  This is a very family friendly event, complete with petting zoo, pony rides, pumpkin patch, live music, great food and more.  Leave the wine at home - this is an alcohol free zone.  Location: Bernal Heights.  Date: Sunday October 21, rain or shine!


Shakespeare Festival

The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival: this free celebration of the work of The Bard is an annual tradition, 30 years in the making.  This year Henry V is being performed.  Bring your family, friends, blankets and picnic to enjoy professional performing arts in a beautiful park setting.  Location: The Presidio: main post parade grounds lawn. Dates: September 1-23


Golden Gate Park

San Franciscans and tourists alike are fortunate to have such a breathtaking park in the middle of this fine city.  The park alone has enough beauty, intrigue and unique destinations to keep you exploring for weeks on end.  From museums to flower gardens, tennis courts and even a bison paddock, the 1,000 plus acres of Golden Gate Park have it all.  Just a few of the attractions you can explore for free or cheap include: the Botanical Gardens, Stow Lake, Japanese Tea Gardens, Conservatory of Flowers, Children’s Playground, Rose Garden, Dutch Windmills and Queen Wilhelmina’s Tulip Garden.  Then add in the museums such as the DeYoung and the Academy of Sciences.  Top it off with Sunday Streets every Sunday, where the major roads are closed off to car traffic to allow the free use of the roads for cyclists, runners and pedestrians.  This is the perfect place to enjoy some good, clean, cheap fun all year long. 

Now add a bunch of amazing free events to that list, and you will be busy throughout the year.  Golden Gate Park is full of history, culture, and the beautiful Northern California landscape.  The events are too numerous to list here.  You can check out the complete list on the Golden Gate Park website as well as Out and About’s previous article on Golden Gate Park for even more local insights.

SF, Golden Gate Park, Japanese Tea Garden



Insider-tips: the weather in San Francisco and the Bay Area can be very unpredictable.  San Francisco does not have LA or San Diego weather.  There are nooks and crannies of weather pockets here, where it will be foggy in one area yet sunny and warm in another.  Bring layers for sun and cold.  October is the city’s best weather month. 

Check the event and company websites in advance for more details on planning your free and cheap events!


Columnist Sherrie Perkovich offers an insider’s perspective of the very best San Francisco has to offer. Join her weekly to experience the best the City by the Bay has to offer - from parties to parks and everything in between. 

Sherrie is a San Francisco local that fancies herself an extroverted fine dining, wine drinking, know-it-all.  If it’s happening in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sherrie is in on it.  Follow her column, for the widest range of Out and About San Francisco treats.  

Read more of Sherrie’s work at Out And About San Francisco in the Communities at the Washington Times.  Follow Out and About on Twitter and on Facebook for even more inside scoop.  Follow her on Pinterest to follow the visual story.

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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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