25 Incredible Things to Do in the Bay Area This Summer
Summer’s officially here—break out the swimsuits and sundresses! Oh, right… it’s still a chilly 59 degrees and breezy here in San Francisco. But despite the cooler-than-normal temps, there are still plenty of fun things to do over the next few months, both indoors and out. Just remember to wear your layers.
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 (and SF residents get into the garden gratis), and on select days, professional musicians including classical pianist Allison Lovejoy (July 7), will perform for the public.
2. Do not miss the Oakland Museum’s exhibit exploring five decades of hip-hop culture. Respect: Hip-Hop Style & Wisdom (through August 12) takes us to its roots on the street before break dancing, rap and graffiti made it into mainstream pop culture. Line up early to score yourself some tickets.
3. Craving adobo chicken or pancit noodles? Then get yourself to Undiscovered SF, the Filipino night market that’s back for another season starting July 21. The free monthly happening celebrates all things Filipino—emerging chefs, artists, entrepreneurs and, of course, lots of good food and drink. It’s going to be delicious.
4. Show your true colors at this year’s SF Pride celebration (June 23 and 24). Oakland artist Kehlani (Kehlani!!!) is headlining, and this year’s grand marshal, Jose Xtravaganza, is hosting a Vogue & Tone class at ODC Dance Commons. He was a lead dancer on Madonna’s Blonde Ambition Tour, so get ready to strike a pose.
5. Need a weekend getaway? Summer is the perfect time to go glamping along the coast at Mendocino Grove, a sophisticated camping experience for those of us who prefer a real bed. Watch the sunset from a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the 37-acre property. Then retreat to your safari-style tent and keep warm under your down comforter.
6. The annual Stern Grove Festival is back, with performances by M. Ward, Ziggy Marley and Femi Kuti. You can even enter a lottery to score reserved seating so you don’t have to fight for a patch of grass.
7. Get some new shades at the first-ever brick-and-mortar for celeb-endorsed sunglasses brand Westward Leaning. (SF native Jamie Chung is a brand ambassador, and Kourtney Kardashian and Kylie Jenner have been spotted wearing them.)
8. Wait for the fog to pass through SF this summer for Shakespeare in the Park (September 1 to 23), with free performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Presidio and McLaren Park.
9. Summer means it’s time for Powder at Spark Social in Mission Bay. No, we’re not talking about the snowy mountain kind but rather the Taiwanese-style shaved snow served up with a California twist in flavors like horchata and cereal. Or opt for a boozy powder like the rum-infused passion fruit mojito or strawberry daiquiri during a weekly happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m.
10. 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.
11. Catch arias alfresco on September 9 when the SF Opera puts on a free performance in Golden Gate Park.
12. If you missed this year’s SF Jazz Festival, pencil in the Fillmore Jazz Festival (June 30 and July 1) for two days of free music on multiple stages, plus 12 blocks of local vendors selling their arts and crafts. It’s the largest free jazz festival on the West Coast!
13. Pack a picnic dinner and the warmest blankets you have for this year’s Film Night in the Park. (A flask of whiskey will keep you extra toasty.) Screenings will kick off in August, and the schedule will be announced later this month.
14. What’s better than seeing California grizzlies, bison and mountain lions up close and personal? Seeing them from high in the sky aboard the Oakland Zoo’s gondola. The free ride ferries you to the new California Trail, a 45-acre expansion housing California native plants and animals, some of which no longer inhabit the state. Ooh and aah at the grizzly bears from four observation towers as you reflect on the biodiversity of the state and the role humans have played in shaping the ecology of the Bay Area.
15. 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.
16. Beloved live-music venue the Great American Music Hall has some downtown competition now. The new August Hall, named after the building’s pioneer architect, August Headman, is a combination concert hall/bowling alley/restaurant in partnership with events promoter Live Nation. Catch DJ Party Favor (July 13) and get your dance on.
17. 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 Bayview line on July 18, which will take you to Old Bus Tavern, Seven Stills Brewery, Barebottle Brewing, Laughing Monk Brewing and Ferment.Drink.Repeat.
18. Now through harvest season, you can hang out on the vineyard’s edge at Ram’s Gate Winery without having to make a reservation. Summer at the Pond is a casual, walk-in experience on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Think lawn games, lounging on the grass and delicious snacks from the kitchen—perfect for an afternoon wine pairing.
19. On July 11, the incomparable Alan Cumming brings his show Legal Immigrant to San Francisco for one night only. It’s a collection of musings on his ten years as a U.S. citizen and what it feels like to be an immigrant in today’s political climate. And it wouldn’t be Cumming without the addition of a cabaret of song and dance.
20. So, you never got around to that macramé workshop you’d been meaning to try. Well, this summer you can bring handmade pieces home from the Renegade Craft Fair (July 14 and 15) instead. Need more of a craft fix? There’s also the American Craft Show (August 3 to 5).
21. We all know about the Presidio Trust and Off the Grid’s Presidio Picnic, but 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.
22. Lose yourself in the light at this show inspired by the Haruki Murakami quote, “Where there is light, there must be shadow; where there is shadow, there must be light.” Halation at the Midway Gallery (through July 31) explores what it means to create a sense of place using light-based installations by local artist Marpi and Burning Man regular Christopher Schardt.
23. Irish-Indian playwright Ursula Rani Sarma brings her stage adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s novel A Thousand Splendid Suns to life at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater (July 17 to 29). David Coulter’s score enlivens the heart-wrenching story about three generations of Afghan women bound together amid the war-torn streets of modern Kabul.
24. Warm or freezing, the weather doesn’t really matter—Starbelly’s quarterly picnics take place in the restaurant’s covered backyard patio so you’ll stay nice and toasty while you gorge on food and drink. The menu for August 7 is still TBD, but past dinners have featured whole roasted pig, fried chicken and seasonal fruit cobblers. In other words, you’re gonna want to book your tickets ASAP.
25. Time your SFMOMA visit to catch not one but two blockbuster shows this summer: the René Magritte exhibit (through October 28), which is the first to look exclusively at the artist’s late career (sorry, “This Is Not a Pipe” fans); and the Susan Meiselas retrospective (through October 21), which highlights the American photographer’s work exploring issues of war, human rights, cultural identity and domestic violence—apropos to issues we’re still grappling with today.