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San Francisco's Top 10 : Festivals and Parades - Top 10 Fairs and Gatherings

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  1. St. Patrick’s Day Parade

    With its large Irish population, not to mention the 25 or so Irish pubs scattered around town, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the revelry that follows deep into the night is one of the city’s largest celebrations. The parade journeys from 5th and Market streets to the Embarcadero.

    • Sun before Mar 17

  2. Cherry Blossom Festival

    Japantown comes spectacularly to life when the cherry trees blossom. Traditional arts and crafts, taiko drumming, martial arts demonstrations, and dancing, as well as delicious Japanese food make this one of the city’s favorite celebrations. There’s also a colorful and impressive parade.

    • Two weekends in Apr

  3. Cinco de Mayo

    Commemorating the defeat of the French army at Puebla, Mexico, in 1862, by General Ignacio Zaragoza, this is one of the Latino community’s biggest annual festivals, featuring parades, fireworks, music, and dancing. In addition to the Civic Center, much of the fun happens in the Mission District.

    • Sun before May 5

  4. Carnaval

    Having nothing at all to do with Lent or any other traditional date, San Francisco’s Carnaval is staged at the time of year when the weather will most likely be at its best for the glittery event. Groups work all year long, with the help of municipal grants, to create their dazzling costumes and put together their infectiously rhythmic routines, all to a samba, rumba, or salsa beat.

    • Mission District

    • Last weekend in May

  5. Pride Celebration Parade

    More than 300,000 people attend this amazing gay event, the largest of its kind in the US, that takes over Market Street, from the Embarcadero to the Civic Center. It’s up to four hours of Dykes on Bikes, drag queens in nuns’ habits, leather-clad clones, gay parents, gay marching bands, muscle men, and much more. The floats – as well as the cheering throngs – are likely to be the most over-the-top, outlandish things you’ve ever witnessed.

    • Sun in late Jun

    Performer, Pride Celebration Parade
  6. Independence Day

    This waterfront festival, held from Aquatic Park to Pier 39, involves live entertainment, food stalls, and state-of-the-art fireworks launched from several points along the Bayfront. If it’s foggy, the bursts of light seem that much more romantic.

    • Jul 4

  7. Stern Grove Festival

    A much loved San Franciscan tradition, this festival showcases every kind of music you can name .

    • Sun, early Jun–late Aug

  8. Exotic Erotic Ball

    Just as outrageous as the title suggests, this indoor masquerade ball is reputedly the world’s largest.

    Cow Palace

    • 2600 Geneva Ave, Daly City

    • 415 334 6700

    • Late Oct

  9. Hallowe’en

    This Castro party is a time for dress-up, dress-down, or undress, as the case may be; let your imagination run away with you as you join the gay fray.

    • Oct 31

  10. Chinese New Year

    This is the biggest Chinese New Year celebration outside Asia. It incorporates traditional displays and the parade of dragons and performers that winds through Chinatown.

    • Jan or Feb

    Chinese New Year

Top 10 Fairs and Gatherings

  1. Haight Street Fair

    You’ll know hippiedom is alive and well after attending this Gathering of the Tribe.

    • Early Jun

  2. North Beach Festival

    The city’s oldest street fair features arts and crafts and some great Italian food.

    • Jun

  3. Fillmore Street Jazz Festival

    Playing up the jazz heritage of this neighborhood, with crafts and live music.

    • Early Jul

  4. Renaissance Pleasure Faire

    This delightful event recreates Elizabethan England, with all its ribaldry and rowdiness.

    • Late Aug–early Oct: Sat–Sun

  5. Burning Man

    One event that defies description. It is group performance art on a behemoth scale.

    • 1st weekend Sep

  6. Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival

    A chocaholic’s dream, with the chance to sample various nibbles.

    • Early Sep

  7. Folsom Street Fair

    One of the biggest events for the gay community is SoMa’s leather-and-body-hair carousal.

    • Last Sun Sep

  8. Castro Street Fair

    A build-up to Hallowe’en, it focuses attention on everyday gay life.

    • Early Oct

  9. Tet Festival

    A multicultural party, but mainly Vietnamese-American.

    • Jan–Feb

  10. Tribal, Folk, & Textile Arts Show

    An arts and crafts fair at the Fort Mason Center, offering pottery, jewelry, textiles, and more.

    • Early Feb

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