THE BEST "ALT" EVENTS IN SAN FRANCISCO THIS AUGUST
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And while you might have your sights set on going to a Giants game at Oracle Park, chowing down on seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf or even heading to the Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park, we’ve put together this handy dandy round-up of more low-key “alt” events if you will, that are guaranteed to showcase the vibrance and diversity that make San Francisco so unique. Check it out!
The annual Origami-palooza on Sunday 25 August, showcases the Japanese Art of folding paper in an inviting afternoon celebration in SF’s Japantown. Beneath the picturesque pagoda at historic Peace Plaza, you can learn the art of origami, fold a paper crane with an origami Master and even participate in a paper airplane challenge with a world record holder. Peace Plaza is also just outside of the Japan Center Mall, where you can peruse the expansive Kinokuniya Bookstore, eat a proper Japanese Curry at On The Bridge and get Tokyo subway station-style conveyor belt sushi at Tenroku.
On the first Tuesday in August, a half dozen of San Francisco’s world-renowned museums are FREE to visit! The Contemporary Jewish Museum Downtown always has exhibits that touch the mind in creative ways, while the DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park is showing an intriguing Ed Hardy Tattoo exhibit. Meanwhile, the Legion of Honor, just off the Land’s End Trail overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, has early works by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens on display in what might just be the most beautiful location in the city.
Part street food festival, part concert and part local bazaar, Noise Pop’s 20th St Block Party is now in its 7th year of showcasing a unique stretch of the Mission District. On Saturday 17 August, you’ll walk through a showcase of local vendors while sampling food from neighbourhood staples Farmhouse Thai’s surreal offerings and Central Kitchen’s unique locally-sourced bites. Two live stages of music feature both local talent, as well as big-name indie acts like Alex Cameron and Speedy Ortiz. Best part? It’s free to attend and all donations benefit local education non-profit 826 Valencia.
Talk a stroll down a serene grove, to a meadow at the bottom with a large amphitheatre among thousands of visitors and San Franciscans alike enjoying picnics and live music on a Sunday afternoon. August’s slate of free programming includes English rockers The Psychedelic Furs on 4 August, eclectic jazz orchestra Pink Martini on 11 August and the grand finale of the summer season with R&B legends, The Isley Brothers on 18 August. So pack a bag of food and drink and don’t forget to bring a blanket to lay on!
At San Francisco’s southern end, Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in McLaren Park offers unique views of the city unlike anywhere else. On 4 August, the amphitheatre plays host to a gathering of Grateful Dead fans and Excelsior District locals alike, who come together to celebrate the life of Garcia with jam sessions and a whole lot of tie-dye. You’ll feel like you stepped back into the hippie hey-day of San Francisco in the ’60s and ’70s, if only for an afternoon.
If there’s something Downtown San Francisco does especially well, it’s multi-cultural parades. On Saturday, 10 August, the 26th Annual Pistahan Festival celebrates the rich Filipino tradition in the city with colourful floats, dancers and other groups marching up bustling Market St from the Civic Center on down to 4th St. Pull up a seat on the sidewalk and watch it all go by, and finish the day off enjoying the Adobo Cook-off and Filipino martial arts display at the gorgeous Yerba Buena Gardens.
Did you know that San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is larger than Central Park in New York? It’s true and the SF Botanical Garden is one of the many gems within GG Park’s vast greenery. On 16 August, a Botanical Garden docent leads a guided excursion through the brisk grounds at nightfall, beneath the light of the wonderful full moon. End the evening with dinner in the nearby the Sunset District for Japanese small plates at Izakaya Sozai or a famous San Francisco burrito at Gordo’s Taqueria.
Surrounded by dotted cypress trees and the Presidio’s classic red brick buildings, the Main Parade ground overlooking the Bay is a sweeping canvas for colourful kites in the sky on Saturday, 10 August. The 5th annual Presidio Kite Festival features giant kites, team kite-flying, Taiko drummers entertaining the crowd, food trucks and even a build-your-own kite station.
Want to eat and drink your way through all of San Francisco, but don’t have enough time? Leave it to Eat Drink SF to put darn near every Chef and bartender in town under one roof at The Midway in the Dogpatch neighbourhood. On 24 August, you can opt for either afternoon or evening grand tasting session of all the city’s diverse fare. From Souvla’s upscale Greek food to Canela’s Spanish tapas in the Castro District to Pizzeria Delfina’s divine pies from The Mission, you’ll be in for a culinary treat.
Adrian Spinelli is a Brazilian-born, San Francisco-based writer, editor, event producer and photographer. He contributes regularly to Paste Magazine, the SF Chronicle and hosts the Noise Pop podcast. Local music, local spirits, coffee from wherever he travels to and a well-constructed sandwich are his muses.