San Francisco

Annual Free Events and Places to Go All Year Round in the Bay Area

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The Berkeley Kite Festival

The Berkeley Kite Festival happens annually toward the end of July and has developed a reputation as one of the premier free family festivals on the West Coast. The festival features kite competitions, octopile, and a Kid Zone with pony rides, bounce houses, food, crafts, and free kites. The event also features a kite making space for kids to build and fly their own kites. This year’s festival will take place on both July 28 and July 29 at Cesar Chavez Park from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Hike Marin County’s Cataract Falls

According to Bay Area Hiker, of all the waterfalls in Marin County, Cataract Falls is the most popular. Hikers can choose to walk on Cataract Trail, which runs along Cataract Creek and the waterfalls, in the form of a loop-hike, or keep going and turn around to head back the same way whenever you please. Start the 6-mile out-and-back journey at the Fairfax-Bolinas Road pullout, the staging areas on West Ridgecrest Road, or the Rock Spring trailhead.

Hike the Coastal Trail between Tennessee Valley and Muir Beach

The stretch of the Coastal Trail from Tennessee Valley to Muir Beach offers absolutely breathtaking views of the Pacific shore. Head to the trail on sunny days for a crystal clear view, or foggier days for an eerie feel. The full journey reigns in at 9.7 miles, so bringing water and a snack is advised, although experienced hikers of this trail recommend stopping by the Pelican Inn for a mid-hike hot cocoa on cold days or beer on the lawn on warm ones.

Christmas Displays at the Fairmont Hotel San Francisco

The Fairmont San Francisco definitely upholds its iconic reputation during the holiday season. Each year around Christmas time, the hotel installs an impressively-decorated floor-to-ceiling tree, as well as a life-sized gingerbread house immersed in Christmas lights and decorations. All it takes to see the beauty and holiday cheer is a walk into the hotel’s lobby.

Hakone Gardens

One of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's premier sites and 100 years old, Hakone is one of the oldest Japanese estate, retreat and gardens in the Western Hemisphere. The gardens in the hills of Saratoga overlooking Silicon Valley offer 18 acres of lustful beauty, tranquility, peace, and harmony, as well as a variety of peaceful activities: one can leisurely stroll the hill and koi pond garden, ascend the moon bridge, have tea overlooking the dry landscape garden, or enjoy quiet reflection in the tea and bamboo gardens.

Hikes at Point Reyes National Seashore

The vast expanse of protected coastline in Marin Country known as Point Reyes National Seashore presents hikers with numerous different extensive hiking trails. Beaches here include Wildcat Beach, with the cliffside Alamere Falls. On a rocky headland, the 1870 Point Reyes Lighthouse is a viewpoint for migrating gray whales. Among many other options, one can choose to walk the “Earthquake Trail” to explore the San Andreas Fault Zone, “Woodpecker Trail” to explore the beautiful local forest and meadow ecosystems of Bear Valley, “Chimney Rock Trail” for views of Drakes Bay, or “Mt. Wittenberg Loop” to climb to the highest point in the park and observe views of Olema Valley.

Earth Day San Francisco

This year marks the 49th year of Earth Day, and what better way to celebrate than attending an all-day “eco-carnival” that features indigenous dance, DIY home-energy fix-ups, organic cooking demos, and live music? The festival takes place on April 21 each year at Civic Center Plaza.

Wildcat Canyon Wilderness Area

Wildcat Canyon Regional Park encompasses 2,427 acres along the Wildcat Creek watershed and the surrounding hills and ridges. The park extends from the Tilden Nature Area above the Berkeley hills in the south to the historic Alvarado Park at the north end in Richmond. Hike all the way up to Inspiration Point for an amazing view.

Carnaval

One of California’s largest annual multicultural festivals, Carnaval is a two-day celebration of both Latin-American and Caribbean culture and traditions. Dancers dressed in authentic wear adorned with glitter and feathers roam the festival as well as aromas of the variety of global cuisine that is available. The event’s website states that the festival strives to “pay homage to those who came before us and the efforts made to create this multicultural community that we have in the Bay Area.” This year’s Carnaval will be held on May 26 and May 27 on Harrison Street between 16th and 24th Streets in San Francisco.

Stern Grove Festival

The Stern Grove Festival fills the small valley of Sigmund Stern Grove with free performances of music, dance and theater on Sundays from mid-June to mid-August. The Grove was gifted to the city of San Francisco in 1931 and is located at 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard. The festival is known for covering a wide variety of genres in its performances, from ballet to hip-hop to opera.

The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival

April is the time to celebrate the blooming of cherry blossoms at San Francisco’s Japantown, one of three remaining Japantowns in the United States. According to the event’s website, the festival serves to “cultivate the continued alliance between Japan and United States using culture as its bridge.” Set to take place this year on the weekend of April 14, the two-day festival features a grand parade, food booths, cultural performances, martial arts, live bands and a lot more traditional Japanese activities. The festival will be held within the borders of Laguna and Fillmore Streets and Geary Boulevard.

Alice Summerthing

Alice’s annual concert in San Francisco offers local music artists a place to showcase their performances. The concert features well-known talents as well as newer ones. All ages are welcome and attendees can bring food inside and enjoy the music picnic-style.

Climbing in Castle Rock State Park

Castle Rock State Park is a 5,242-acre state park of California, USA, located along the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains and almost entirely in Santa Cruz County. The area envelops lush woods, challenging trails, and incredible stone formations. Amongst the numerous trails lies the 5-mile heavily trafficked loop named Goat Rock Trail, which is considered one of the most popular options as it features a breezy waterfall and pits of lush green trees.

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