SF/Arts Guide to Summer Festival-ing!

By Marshall Lamm

Pack your Picnic Basket - and Parka - and Get Your Groove On!

Pictured: Angelique Kidjo, who performs at Stern Grove on July 16th

The Bay Area knows how to put on outdoor summer festivals and its people sure know how to enjoy them.  From the intimate to the massive, the offerings in the Bay Area go from one-day free events to multi-day genre-bending destination extravaganzas.  The region has an uncanny ability to effortlessly combine scenic locations with the right amount of musical styles from local and international performers, topped off with award-winning wine and food prepared by globally recognized chefs.  On any given week or weekend in June and July, you can indulge your food and wine senses al fresco, dance to salsa rhythms on urban stages, and take in a movie under the stars, albeit with the San Francisco Symphony providing the live music score. To help you decide where to go, we have compiled a diverse list of outdoor festivals, so you can concentrate on what to bring in your picnic basket.

BANANAS! Circus Bella’s New One Ring Outdoor Circus Show takes place June 23 & 24 at Yerba Buena Gardens Festival

In downtown San Francisco, San Francisco Pride 2023 (June 24 & 25) celebrates the theme "Looking Back and Moving Forward." Also downtown, the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival (June & July) serves as an urban oasis with free concerts, salsa dancing, poetry, yoga classes, and family programs.  Now in its 23rd year, the festival presents multiple daily and weekend performances, including SF Uke Jam’s Summer Uke-Splosion (June 10) and Embodiment Project’s Get Free Festival (July 8).  The Children’s Garden Series opens with RhythmALLogy (June 9) and presents the Bay Area institution Circus Bella and their new show "Bananas" (June 23 & 24).  The festival’s fall series launches September 23 with ChoreoFest, a two-weekend festival of site-specific dance.

Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, play Stern Grove on Sunday July 9. Andrew St. James opens.

Located on 33 acres in San Francisco’s Sunset, the 86th edition Stern Grove Festival presents performances on 9 consecutive Sundays starting in June.  This year’s edition features Snarky Puppy with Isaiah Sharkey (June 18), Indigo Girls & Neko Case (June 25), Santigold with Ogi (July 2), Lyle Lovett & His Large Band with Andrew St. James (July 9), Angélique Kidjo with Jupiter and Okwess (July 16), San Francisco Symphony with special guest Lettuce (July 23), Bob Moses with Neil Frances (July 30), Buddy Guy with Eric Gales (August 6), and Patti Smith with Bob Mould (Aug. 13).

Stanford Live and SF Ballet Present "Starry Nights" August 3 & 4

Opened in 1937, Frost Amphitheater on the Stanford University campus will host the Stanford Live Arts Festival and its month-long outdoor concert series in July.  The series, in partnership with San Francisco Symphony, SFJAZZ, and San Francisco Ballet, begins July 7 with the Symphony’s performance of Dvořák’s "New World Symphony." The Symphony’s orchestra also accompanies "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on July 28. SFJAZZ presents Sérgio Mendes (July 8) and San Francisco Ballet presents "Starry Nights" (August 3 & 4). Stanford Live will present a celebration of Hawai’i with Jake Shimabukuro, Jake Anuhea, John Cruz (July 9), Steve Hackman’s “And I Love Her” (The Beatles Re-Imagined) on July 16, and the National Youth Orchestra of the USA featuring Bay Area youth musicians on July 26.

The streets and parks of San Francisco are tailor-made for neighborhood gatherings and day-long musical experiences.  The 67th North Beach Festival (June 17 & 18) celebrates the rich history and cultural heritage of one of The City’s most iconic neighborhoods. The long-running Fillmore Jazz Festival (July 1 & 2) will present live music from multiple stages with food offerings from many of the street’s businesses and restaurants.

Dianne Reeves and Samara Joy among the music greats at Healdsburg Jazz Festival

Next, we get away to the Wine Country to focus on the Healdsburg Jazz Festival (June 17-25) as it celebrates its 25th year and its recent successes under the artistic direction of Marcus Shelby.  This year, there are 9 consecutive days of food and music, including the 2023 Best New Artist Grammy Winner Samara Joy (June 18), NEA Jazz Master Dianne Reeves (June 24), and the free outdoor Juneteenth celebration on the Plaza ( June 17).

Carrie Underwood is Gala Headliner at Festival Napa Valley

More than 200 artists, wineries, resorts, theaters, restaurants, chefs, and vintners come together for Festival Napa Valley (July 8-23) at venues throughout Napa Valley. Programs include concerts for kids, classical music performances, and a wide variety of food and wine pairings, events, and conversations.

Dave Chapelle hosts 2023 Blue Note Jazz Festival

With their eponymous jazz club in Napa, Blue Note returns with the second edition of the Blue Note Jazz Festival (July 28-30) hosted by Dave Chappelle, with music from Mary J. Blige, Chance The Rapper, Robert Glasper, Bilal, and more.

LeTigre takes to the stage at Mosswood Park, July 1

In the East Bay, the Mosswood Meltdown (July 1 & 2) takes place at Mosswood Park, Oakland.Founded in 2009, and hosted by the legendary film director John Waters, the 2023 lineup features Le Tigre, Bratmobile, JJ Fad, Snooper, and more.

Annual "Jerry Day" takes place at San Francisco's McClaren Park August 5

Finally, on August 5, Jerry Day celebrates all things Jerry Garcia with a day-long musical trip in San Francisco’s McLaren Park. You won’t need a miracle to attend and the lineup will be announced later this summer. 

Marshall Lamm
Marshall Lamm
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