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10 Best Things To Do In SF In May

best things to do in SF in May
Best things to do in SF in May #2 and #5

With the advent of May Spring slowly starts to turn into Summer. This is a great time to be in San Francisco as the days get warmer and longer, and there are some really cool events happening in San Francisco this month. There’s Cinco de Mayo, the Bay to Breakers run, Giants games and Carnaval. However, as you consider your options, be sure to check our list of the 10 best things to do in SF in May, so you can make the most of these beautiful Bay Area opportunities.

Events & Activities in San Francisco This Month

1. INVESTIGATE THE DARK SIDE OF SF (EVERY SATURDAY NIGHT)

San Francisco has a fascinating and unique criminal history. The tour starts by taking guests back to the Gold Rush era, when Vigilance Committee’s took over “policing” in the city (which is where the term ‘vigilante’ originates).

Then it makes its way through an alley that was SF’s main red light district a hundred years ago. After that the tour hits Chinatown, which was full of opium dens, brothels and gambling hellholes at that time.

The last part of the tour takes guests through the infamous Barbary Coast neighborhood, where sailors had to be wary of what they drank in the bars, in case ‘crimps’ tried to drug and ‘shanghai’ them onto a ship leaving San Francisco for the East  (which is how the term was invented).

And we haven’t even mentioned the Fatty Arbuckle Affair, the original Hollywood sex scandal, which is the reason why some employment contracts today have something known as a ‘morality clause’.

During the tour there are a couple of opportunities to visit historic bars and speakeasies from those days.

More information here.

Notorious SF: Ghost & Crime Tour video

2. CINCO DE MAYO (MAY 1-5)

This is one of those weird anniversaries that’s celebrated much more in another country, than it is in its home nation (in this case Mexico). On May 5th the Mexican Army defeated the army of the French Emperor (Napoleon III) at the Battle of Puebla. The war continued for a while longer, but it was a morale-boosting victory for the Mexicans.

Although it’s been largely forgotten in Mexico it’s BIG in the U.S. and is viewed as a celebration of Mexican culture – and a perfect excuse to drink copious amounts of Tequila! There are lots of events, all over the Bay Area, but the best option is probably to head over to the Mission District and join the party there (lowrider optional).

More information here.

3. TAIWANESE AMERICAN CULTURAL FESTIVAL (MAY 11)

Continuing the festival theme, this one’s another important event in San Francisco, since we have so many immigrants from Taiwan here.

The festival began in 1993 and takes place in Union Square, right in the heart of the city. Over 10,000 people attend every year.

More information here.

4. BAY TO BREAKERS RACE (MAY 19)

This is one of the most famous city races in the world and dates back to the early part of the twentieth century, when it was created as a way to raise the city’s spirits after the 1906 Great Fire. It gets its name, logically enough, because it starts on the Bay, at the Embarcadero and runs (pun intended) 7.6 miles, or 12 kilometers, to the Pacific, at the Great Highway.

For a while it held the record for the biggest footrace in the world (in 1986 110,000 people participated), and it’s estimated that up to 100,000 people will take part in some way this year. A lot of participants dress in costume, and a few just wear their birthday suit which is brave, but either way it’s a lot of fun.

More information here.

5. CARNAVAL (MAY 25-26)

Another week another festival! This one’s Carnaval San Francisco and cultivates and celebrates the diverse Latin American, Caribbean and African Diasporic roots of the Mission District and the San Francisco Bay Area. 

The Grand Parade covers twenty blocks of the Mission and boasts a 60–contingent lineup, with over 3,000 artists representing the countries of those regions. This is always a special event and definitely one of the best things to do in SF in May.

More information here.

6. VISIT AN AMAZING MUSEUM FOR FREE (DATES THROUGH MAY)

For several days of the month, and for certain people on every day of the month, many SF museums are free. We have great museums and you could make the most of these opportunities this month.

Exploratorium: free admission for EBT cardholders and San Francisco Medi-Cal or CalFresh recipients. Also free for California public school teachers.

SF Botanical Gardens: free admission second Tuesday of every month.

Japanese Tea Gardens: free Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9-10 am.

De Young Museum: free first Tuesday of every month, also free every Saturday for Bay Area residents.

SFMOMA: free first Thursday of the month for Bay Area residents.

Legion of Honor: free Saturdays for Bay Area residents and free Tuesday’s for all.

Cable Car Museum: free every day, and one of the most interesting museums in all of San Francisco.

7. ENJOY JAZZ AT A HIDDEN TEAHOUSE (DATES THROUGH MAY)

Jazz is a true American art form, developed by African Americans in the Old South at the end of the nineteenth century, but you can enjoy it here in San Francisco at this incredible venue.

Our intimate concert series, nestled within the iconic Golden Gate Park, offers the perfect setting to unwind and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. As Karl the Fog sets in and illuminates the lake, join us inside for an evening of influenced jazz music from the Bay Area’s finest musicians, paired with a glass of wine or beer.

A little more about the hidden location:

Located in the heart of SF’s famous Golden Gate Park, there’s a lovely boathouse known only by a few locals. Every Friday we transform this space into a non-conventional intimate music venue. Nearby you can start off your evening by visiting the best Gold Gate Park has to offer.

Lakehouse Jazz

More information here.

8. GO TO THE THEATRE (TO MAY 26)

Funny Girl is coming to the stage at the Orpheum Theatre, in downtown San Francisco.

Featuring one of the most iconic scores of all time by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, an updated book from Harvey Fierstein based on the original classic by Isobel Lennart, tap choreography by Ayodele Casel, choreography by Ellenore Scott, and direction from Michael Mayer, this love letter to the theatre has the whole shebang!

Orpheum Theatre

More information here.

9. EXPLORE THE EAST BAY (ALL MONTH)

The Bay Area cities of Berkeley, Oakland and Alameda have a lot of attractions, cultural sites and things to do. They’re also pretty easy to get to from San Francisco, either by using BART or the ferries (definitely the most scenic way to do it)..

You can visit enormous parks, gaze at the stars and eat some great food in Oakland. Or you can go to the theatre or a great museum in Berkeley. And Alameda has an aircraft carrier and a historic movie house.

Read our neighborhood guide to the East Bay here.

10. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (DATES THROUGH MAY)

The Giants’ home ground, right by the Bay at Oracle Park, has to be one of the most photogenic in the American baseball. Consider that as recently as 2014 we won the World Series, so we play some good ball too. Why not enjoy a game this May as the new season gets into full-swing?

More information here.

Oracle Park

If you have any feedback on The 10 Best Things to Do in SF in May please email us or reach out on social media, we’d love to hear from you.

By Damien Blackshaw (Twitter)

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