Whatever time of year you visit San Francisco, there’s guaranteed to be plenty going on – it’s that kind of city! And with the year having barely begun, there’s already an exciting roster of festivals and fairs on the horizon. Whether it’s food, film, music or art, there’ll be something to satisfy every taste.
Venues across San Francisco, 7-24 January
What better way to shrug off the January blues than by laughing them away at SF Sketchfest? First held in 2002, the event has grown to become one of America’s most beloved comedy festivals, providing a platform for a diverse range of established and emerging performers to showcase their talents in front of a captive audience of comedy lovers. Taking place in theatres and comedy clubs across the city, the 18-day festival is one of the highlights of the New Year and the 2016 edition is expected to be bigger and better than ever.
Golden Gate Park Music Concourse, 10 January
Humans are incentive-driven animals and for sweet-toothed folks there’s nothing more motivating than the promise of chocolate! Established in 2008, the Hot Chocolate 15k/5k race has grown into a true phenomenon, offering chocolate treats to runners in cities across America. The San Francisco edition takes place this January, with the course passing some of the city’s main attractions. It will also feature an array of mouth-watering indulgences, including a pre-event goodie bag and a Post Race Party where runners can enjoy lashings of hot chocolate, chocolate fondue and more. It’s enough to bring out the Forrest Gump in anyone!
Fort Mason Festival Pavilion, 14-17 January
Taking place at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion, a major hub of San Francisco’s rich artistic life, FOG Design+Art is one of the highlights of the city’s cultural calendar. Named after the iconic low lying cloud for which the city is famous, the 2016 edition will once again see the fair collaborate with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to offer more art and design-themed exhibitions than ever before, along with a diverse programme of events.
Moscone Center, 17-19 January
There’s nothing like good, hearty food to warm the cockles during the winter months and with this in mind it’s no wonder the annual Winter Fancy Food Festival is such a roaring success. Each January, the speciality food trade event brings together the industry’s top manufacturers, buyers and influencers for three days of delectable discovery. With more than 80,000 products on display, there’s plenty of inspiration for the year ahead, not to mention an array of tantalising tasters. Be sure to arrive with an empty stomach and an open mind and you’re certain to depart with both well stocked!
Hotel Whitcomb, 11-14 February
Salsa dancing has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years and never is this better reflected than at the annual San Francisco Salsa Rueda Festival. Now in its 8th year, the festival returns this February with four days of social dancing, professional performances, workshops, lectures and classes for all levels and abilities. Some of the best Cuban Salsa instructors in the world will be on hand to impart their twinkle-toed talents, while late night parties run until the early hours. What better way to get fit, learn a magical dance style and have masses of fun among like-minded dance-lovers?
Venues across San Francisco, 11-26 February
Showcasing the very best in independent, alternative and subversive cinema from around the world, the San Francisco Independent Festival is back with a bang this February, welcoming a dazzling line-up of maverick filmmakers and their work. In addition to the event’s extensive film programmes, IndieFest also knows how to throw a party, including the annual Big Lebowski Party, named after the classic cult movie of the late 1990s. There’s also live music events and theatre productions throughout the festival.
Venues across San Francisco, 19-28 February
Established in San Francisco in 1993, Noise Pop is one of America’s most renowned indie music, arts and film festivals. Staying true to its roots, the event still invites a large number of local talents, but has also expanded to include established and international performers. But anyone present is sure to have one thing in common – a deep-rooted passion for arts and culture with an indie flavour. As well as live performances, the festival also features a film series exploring the intersection of music and art, a local designer fair and an interactive workshop on DIY culture.
PIER 39, 13-21 February
What better setting to enjoy a kaleidoscope of floral colour than the scenic waterfront complex of Pier 39 with its stunning views of San Francisco Bay? Each year, this popular tourist spot plays host to Tulipmania, where almost 40,000 tulips and seasonal garden favourites bloom with pride. For those with green-fingered aspirations, guided tours offer the chance to pick up useful gardening tips, while there’s also an array of restaurants and shops, as well as a 5-acre park, to keep you entertained.
Fort Mason Center, 5 March
Chocolate lovers on the West Coast will already be licking their lips in anticipation of the 10th annual San Francisco International Chocolate Salon, to be held this March. The event offers chocoholics the chance to taste and savour some of the finest cocoa-based treats in the world, with a diverse range of chocolatiers in attendance, along with food experts, authors and chefs. The packed programme will feature speakers and panellists as well as workshops on chocolate and drinks pairings, cake decoration and an awards ceremony to honour the innovators pushing the boundaries of chocolate-making today.
Fort Mason Center, 10-13 March
San Francisco and the sea are intrinsically linked and this relationship is never more evident than during the city’s annual International Ocean Film Festival. The globally recognised festival offers a curated selection of aquatic-based movies that capture the beauty, power and mysteries of the ocean. Each year over 45 films – including documentaries, narratives, shorts and animations – provide audiences with the opportunity to discuss current issues including exploration, wildlife, conservation, oceanography, seafaring adventures, ocean sports and coastal cultures. With our oceans making up 71% of planet earth, this festival is the perfect reminder of why they should be cherished.