Free arts and entertainment events and performances to enjoy in the S.F. Bay Area


Alasdair Fraser directs the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers. Photo: S.F. Scottish Fiddlers It seems like everything has gotten more expensive these days. Gas prices aside, inflation and higher operating costs are making many entertainment offerings out of reach for many Bay Area patrons. Luckily, there is a variety of things […]

Alasdair Fraser directs the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers. Photo: S.F. Scottish Fiddlers

It seems like everything has gotten more expensive these days. Gas prices aside, inflation and higher operating costs are making many entertainment offerings out of reach for many Bay Area patrons. Luckily, there is a variety of things to do in the region for a low price, or even for free.

Take a look at The Chronicle’s guide to upcoming events full of local fun, helping to support local organizations without having to break the bank.

Bay Area Jazz Mobile Shows

Filled with equipment needed to provide free jazz concerts in parks, farmers’ markets and other public spaces across the Bay Area, the Jazz Mobile has upcoming shows on its schedule including Liza Mezzacappa and Aaron Bennett on Thursday, May 12, Ollie Dudek on Thursday, May 19, the James Mahone Quartet on May 22 and Riley Bandy on May 26.

5-7 p.m. Thursdays, May 12, 19 and 26 at Muriel Leff Mini Park, 420 Seventh Ave., S.F. Noon-3 p.m. May 22 at Bayview Sunday Streets, S.F. Free.  

Book Passage and College of Marin Present: Isabel Allende Live

As part of a Book Passage and COM shared reading program — which is currently featuring Allende’s novel “A Long Petal of the Sea” and short stories from “The Stories of Eva Luna” — the California author plans to discuss her work, which celebrates feminism, bilingualism, love and the struggle for democracy over authoritarianism. Following the talk, there will be a performance of excerpts from College of Marin Theater’s upcoming dramatization of “A Long Petal of the Sea,” directed by Erin McBride Africa.

6:30-8 p.m. Thursday, May 12. Free, masks required indoors. James Dunn Theater, College of Marin, 835 College Ave., Kentfield. 

Nellie Wong, Flo Oy Wong and Genny Lim of the Last Hoisan Poets Photo: S.F. Asian-Pacific Islander Cultural Center

United States of Asian America Festival Presents: Generations of Power Showcase

A multidisciplinary outdoor showcase is scheduled to include performances from the Last Hoisan Poets and Del Sol Quartet, jazz fusion with Autonomous Region, First Voice story theater, Leela Youth Dance Company and Tashi Tamate Weiss. Free COVID testing available on site.

Noon-4 p.m. Saturday, May 14. Free, registration encouraged. Japantown Peace Plaza, 1610 Geary Blvd., S.F.

Bay to Breakers

With a route from downtown San Francisco to the Great Highway and Ocean Beach, the long-running foot race, which was first run in 1912, has a big reputation for fun. Featuring individual runners and tethered teams, many in wild costumes, participants compete for fastest times as well as applause for creativity. Register to be a participant for a fee or check out the course map and find a place to watch the race go by, walk along the route on sidewalks, or sign up for a volunteer slot for free.

8 a.m. Sunday, May 15. Free to watch or sign up to volunteer along the course. Starts at Main and Howard streets, S.F.

Courtney Woo dances in the bubbles during the 2018 Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco. Photo: Mason Trinca / Special to The Chronicle 2018

Bloom Shaboom

Join neighbors and friends for a day of outdoor fun with gardening activities, art making, a kids crafts area and a beer and wine garden. Get a preview of the new Portola Greenway, with murals by Amandalynn and Kaiya Canja Wong Jones, and enjoy live music from Oscar Cervarich, La Familia Peña-Govea and Aireene Espiritu.

Noon-4 p.m. Sunday, May 15. Free, registration encouraged. Burrows Pocket Park, 1 Burrows St., S.F. 415-715-6746.

Town Up Tuesday Live Music and Voter Awareness Festival

Urban Peace Movement sponsors a day of community connection with an afternoon, hosted by Goapele, featuring live performances from LaRussell, Symba, Stunnaman02, Baby Gas, Young Jr., Turf Feinz, Two14 and Harmoni & Lyric and DJ sets from D-Sharp and Fuze & Kleptic.

3-7 p.m. Tuesday, May 17. Free, registration required. Edoff Memorial Bandstand, Lake Merritt, Oakland. 510-444-5400.

KQED Presents Night of Ideas: (Re)Building Together

Made possible in partnership with the French Consulate’s Villa San Francisco, California Humanities, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the San Francisco Public Library, Night of Ideas will explore the theme “(Re)building Together: Where Are We Going?” through an evening of talks, art and live music. The event will also feature some of SFMOMA’s Soapbox Derby cars created by local artists and a cash bar in the lobby.

7 p.m. Tuesday, May 17. Free, registration required. Live stream available. KQED, 2601 Mariposa St., S.F.

Save the Planet Irish Dancing Feis 2022

This two-day Irish dance competition is set to feature live cultural entertainment, and a beer garden with food and drinks available for purchase. The Irish Center Shoppe will be open during the event.

5 p.m. May 20; 8 a.m. May 21. Free, registration encouraged. United Irish Cultural Center, 2700 45th Ave., S.F. 415-661-2700.

Performers at the Himalayan Fair in Live Oak Park, Berkeley. Photo: Himalayan Fair

Berkeley Himalayan Fair

Founded in 1983, the East Bay event is a celebration of the arts and culture of the Himalayan region and its people. The annual two-day outdoor festival is set to feature food and artisan vendors and live world music and dance performances from Ancient Future, Odissi dance with Jyoti Kala Mandir, Tibetan Bells with Karma Moffett, Indian classical music with the Sukhawat Ali Khan Band, Riffat Sultana, Dholrhythms Dance Company and more.

10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, May 21; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 22. Free admission, registration encouraged. Live Oak Park, 1301 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley.

Bug Day at the Randall Museum

Join in for insect-inspired fun, and learn how these little creatures are important for Earth’s ecosystem. Kids and their families can make bug-related crafts to take home; see and touch live exotic insects; view bugs through microscopes; compete in the Insect Olympics and even eat a bug. Watch beekeepers at work and learn from the San Francisco Beekeepers Association, who will have a hive of live honeybees on display. There will be honey from city hives and other bee-made products for sale and the new, on-site cafe will be open.

10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, May 21. Free. Randall Museum, 199 Museum Way, S.F. 415-554-9600.

Madeleine Parry, 5, peeks into a microscope during the annual Bug Day held at Randall Museum in San Francisco in 2019. Photo: Jessica Christian / The Chronicle

Berkeley Farmers’ Market Salsa Festival

A day of environmental and cultural experiences, featuring live salsa music and dance with KCSM music director Chuy Varela as MC, and including performances from Latin Jazz Youth Ensemble of San Francisco, Erick Peralta band, Christian Pepin y Su Orquesta Bembe, dancer Rebecca Galindo and more.

Chefs from Berkeley’s Kitchen on Fire and Chica restaurant will demonstrate and sample their favorite salsa recipes using ingredients sourced from the farmers’ market. There will be vendors, a “Fashion Trashion” selfie booth, a kids eco-zone with music and dance activities, creative crafts, a puppet show, and more.

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, May 21. Free, registration encouraged. Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, 2151 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley.

2022 Ocean Avenue Car Show

OMI Cultural Participation Project and Ocean Incubators invite the public to an antique car show with classic and exotic cars on display, giving visitors the opportunity to view the rides up close. There will also be a kids bounce house, arts and crafts activities, face painting, local vendors, and live DJ music.

Noon-3 p.m. Saturday, May 21. Free, registration encouraged. Ocean Avenue and Lee Street, S.F.

San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers

As part of their spring concert series, join founder and music director Alasdair Fraser for a program of fiddle music, song and dance.

3 p.m. Saturday, May 21. Free, donations welcome. Salesforce Park Amphitheater, 65 Minna St., S.F.

Pardon the Interruption performs as part of the Dining Under the Lights weekly street party in downtown San Rafael through September. Photo: Dining Under the Lights

Dining Under the Lights

A stretch of downtown San Rafael will once again be closed to traffic for a weekly outdoor celebration, featuring live music and entertainment, and al fresco “streateries” for dining and dancing under strings of festive Tivoli lights.

6-10 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, May 26-Sept. 29. Free. Fourth from Lincoln to the West End Village, San Rafael.

San Francisco Carnaval Parade and Street Festival: ‘Colores de Amor’

This year marks the return of the annual two-day festival and parade, featuring live music, dance, arts and crafts, and food after a pandemic-related hiatus. There will be a new tech and gaming pavilion sponsored by Alaska Airlines, an LGBTQ-dedicated stage and more.

The Grand Parade is set to feature performers, including Brazilian-style samba schools dancing through the streets in feathered headdresses; Caribbean contingents performing music and dance of the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Trinidad; Mexican Aztec performers; traditional African drummers; Polynesian dance; Japanese taiko; giant puppets and folkloric groups representing Guatemala, Honduras and Bolivia.

Festival takes place 10 a.m.-6 p.m. May 28-29. Free. Harrison St. between 16th and 24th streets, S.F. Parade begins at 9:30 a.m. May 29, starting at 24th and Mission streets, S.F. 415-691-1147.

Blossoms on display in San Francisco’s Union Square Photo: Union Square Alliance

Union Square in Bloom: Live Salsa Music and Dance

Head downtown for an afternoon of live music from Los Kimberos. The event includes free salsa dance instructions on each hour. Register and receive a free flower to remember the day.

1-4 p.m. May 28. Free, registration encouraged. Union Square Park, 333 Post St., S.F.

Sazon Latin Food Festival

Join the fun at a family-friendly, foodie-inspired outdoor event featuring DJ sets from Celo G and curated food options from all over Latin America. There will be food vendors selling dishes from Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Peru, Haiti, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico and more.

11 a.m.-5 p.m. May 30. Free, registration encouraged. Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, 1195 Evans Ave., S.F.

Members of the GAPA Men’s Chorus. Photo: GAPA

Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center Presents: Hearts and Minds

A collaborative performance featuring selected works by the LGBTQ+ Asian and Pacific Islander GAPA Men’s Chorus, along with new works developed by the GAPA Theatre collective, presented by the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center as part of the 25th annual United States of Asian America Festival.

2 p.m. June 4. Free, reservations required. Gunn Theater, Legion of Honor, 100 34th Ave., S.F. 415-829-9467.

Golden Gate Bandshell Concerts

The Lift Every Voice performance series and Illuminate SF are hosting live, outdoor shows with expanded, multicultural programming. The free, all-ages concerts are set run through November and feature singer-songwriters, folk and rock on Wednesdays; jazz and soul Friday happy hour shows; reggae on Sundays; and more.

4:30-7:30 p.m. Sundays; 4-7 p.m. Wednesdays; 4:30-7:30 p.m. Fridays. Check the online schedule before heading to the park, as programming varies from week to week. Through November. Free. Golden Gate Park Bandshell, Music Concourse Way, S.F. 415-831-2700.

Yerba Buena Gardens Festival

The outdoor park’s latest season of performances includes a children’s garden series; open-air salsa dancing and live music with Salsa at Jessie; Saturday sessions, Poetic Tuesdays, Thursday Lunchtime Concerts and more. Upcoming schedule highlights include a Ukraine benefit performance with Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble; the Mads Tolling Quartet; an Alice Coltrane tribute with Brooklyn Raga Massive, featuring 2020 NEA jazz master Reggie Workman; Gamelan Sekar Jaya; Circus Bella and many others.

Various times and dates. Through Oct. Free, donations welcome. Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission Street between Third and Fourth streets, S.F. 415-543-1718.

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