20 Things to Do in the Bay Area This Summer, and They’re All Free
Ah, summer. The days are long, and whether or not the fog rolls in, we all want to be out and about enjoying the great things our city has to offer. Lucky for us, so many of these awesome things are free. From Stern Grove concerts and film nights in the park to beer shuttles and milk tasting rooms, we’ve got you covered. Here are 20 things to do that won’t cost you a dime.
1. For 12 days this July, the SF Botanical Garden will become an outdoor concert hall as part of Flower Piano, the latest project by musical duo Sunset Piano. It’s free to play or listen (SF residents get into the garden gratis), and on select days professional musicians, including classical pianist Allison Lovejoy (July 15), will perform for the public.
2. Have no fear if you can’t wait until October for Hardly Strictly’s free music festival. The annual Stern Grove Festival is back with performances by Brazilian Girls, Nicki Bluhm and Amadou & Mariam. You can even enter a lottery to score reserved seating so you don’t have to fight for a patch of grass.
3. Show your true colors at this year’s SF Pride celebration with Betty Who, Cazwell and Madame Gandhi (June 24 to 25).
4. Here’s your chance to meet designers Fanny Singer (daughter of Alice Waters!) and Mariah Nielson (daughter of California artist J.B. Blunk) of Permanent Collection during a trunk show at Hero Shop (June 28). Be sure to do some serious shopping after you rub elbows with the dynamic duo.
5. Got milk? Clover—the third-generation, family-owned Sonoma dairy—has popped up as a Milk Tasting Room in Hayes Valley through July 21. Yup, you read that right: For a few more weeks, you can get free cereal, coffee, Greek yogurt and grilled cheese sandwich bites made with Clover products and even attend a churro happy hour every Friday.
6. We’re going to let you in on a little secret: You can catch a Giants game for free from behind the fence on the McCovey Cove side of AT&T Park. There’s just one catch: It’s standing room only.
7. Then take a break from baseball with SF Opera in the Ballpark (June 30), a live simulcast of Don Giovanni from the War Memorial Opera House to AT&T Park. If you miss that, catch some arias alfresco in Golden Gate Park on September 10.
8. Pencil in the Fillmore Jazz Festival (July 1 and 2), the largest on the West Coast, for two days of free music on four stages, plus 12 blocks of local vendors selling their arts and crafts.
9. Pack a picnic dinner and the warmest blankets you have for this year’s Film Night in the Park. Catch Footloose in Dolores Park on August 5 and La La Land in Washington Square Park on August 26. Smuggle in a flask of whiskey for extra warmth.
10. On the third Wednesday of every month, the SF Brewers Guild will whisk you around town on a free Drink SF Beer Shuttle. Next up is the Mission line on July 19, which will take you to Almanac, Woods Cervecería, Southpaw BBQ, Alamo Drafthouse and Old Bus Tavern.
11. Wait for the fog to pass through SF this summer and go to Shakespeare in the Park (September 2 to October 1). Catch a free performance of Hamlet—an ever-timely tale about disenfranchisement, frustration and the need for action during troubled times—in the Presidio or McLaren Park.
12. Head to the park during lunch hour for the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, the annual summer series of 100-plus free outdoor concerts and performances including everything from poetry readings to circus acts.
13. As if the Conservatory of Flowers weren’t beautiful enough, now it’s going to be lit up at night in celebration of the Summer of Love. From sundown to midnight (June 21 to October 21), the building’s exterior will be illuminated with spinning flower mandalas and animated butterflies—courtesy of the same folks behind the Bay Lights and Obscura Digital.
14. The weekly closed-to-cars block parties known as Sunday Streets run through October, which means summer is your chance to skate, bike and play on the pavement, just like you did when you were a kid.
15. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it: The SF Mime Troupe is a spectacle to be seen, and you can catch them up to their speechless antics during free summer performances all around the Bay Area.
16. So you never got around to that macramé workshop you’d been meaning to try. Well, this summer you can bring home handmade pieces from the Renegade Craft Fair (July 15 to 16) instead.
17. A few months ago, we told you about Off the Grid’s Presidio Picnic, and now we’re going to let you in on another gem. Presidio Twilight is back, and that means food trucks, fire pits and lantern-lit cabanas with views of the sunset and fewer crowds. And once a month, local astronomers bring giant telescopes for clear-night stargazing.
18. Tuesday nights are about to get interesting. Every week, Top of the Mark is hosting free movie screenings (through August 29) in its 19th-floor lounge, and there's a wine tasting (yep, also free) before each flick. Think Funny Girl, Easy Rider and La La Land. Mark your calendar now.
19. Gear up for old-fashioned summer block parties with free admission in Oakland’s Jack London Square. We’ve got our eyes on Tacopocalypse (June 24), Backyard BBQ (July 4), Grilled Cheese and Mac & Cheese and Steaks & Cheese and Beer Festival (August 19) and Oyster Oyster Block Party (September 16). That’s a lot of good eats.
20. There’s nothing quite like a bonfire at Ocean Beach with s’mores and hot chocolate to get you in the summer spirit. Fire rings are open through October 31, but since there are only 16 of them, get there early to nab your spot.