The Best San Francisco Summer Festivals and Fairs for Older Adults

It’s summer in San Francisco. And while it isn’t quite as warm here as it is in other areas, it still means getting outside, taking in the air, getting down to the water, and spending time exploring the neighborhoods and the artistic and cultural energy that makes this city great.

aging in america conferenceIt’s summer in San Francisco. And while it isn’t quite as warm here as it is in other areas, it still means getting outside, taking in the air, getting down to the water, and spending time exploring the neighborhoods and the artistic and cultural energy that makes this city great.
For a lot of people, including older adults, that means one thing: street fests and fairs.

Street fests and fairs are great ways to explore the diversity that makes this city great, walking around a swirling potpourri of foods and sounds and lights and activities. For older adults, they offer a wealth of opportunities to improve well-being:

But while there are a lot of health benefits, that’s also not entirely the point: the point is to have fun. It’s to explore areas of the city that you may never have seen, see artists you never would have discovered, and hear music that would never have found your ears if you didn’t turn down that one street.
They’re all about experience, and reminding ourselves that it is never, ever too late to do something new. So if you are able to get to one, check out our list of some of the best San Francisco fests and fairs for older adults.

San Francisco Street Fests and Fairs for Older Adults

Stern Grove Festival
Dates: Sundays through August 19th
Location: Stern Grove Park
Cost: Free
Now in its 81st year, the Stern Grove Festival is as much a local institution as fog. A weekly concert series featuring legends, local celebs, and global musicians who you may never have heard of, but will lilt your afternoon away, gather at Stern Grove Park every Sunday at 2:00.
The concert is free, so bring your own chairs, food, some drinks, and anything else you need. It isn’t luxury. It’s just relaxing. Upcoming artists include M. Ward, the Mexican Institute of Sound, the San Francisco Ballet Company, and the Ronnettes.
San Francisco Sunday Streets
Dates: Varied
Location: Varied
Cost: Free
Here’s one for the more active older adults among us. Every few weeks during the summer, through September, the city closes off a few blocks in the city to car traffic. It allows anyone to walk, run, ride bikes, or just stroll along the usually crowded boulevards. It turns the street into an open corridor, a large expanse of usually-crowded areas into which anyone can fill, for any reason. It’s like a city-wide block party.
While this isn’t a “Fest”, per se, it is a gathering, or a happening, as some of our Boomer readers would call it. It’s a self-made fest of people experiencing San Francisco without traffic and forming a new kind of community.
Check out the link above to find out what the next date and location is. July will see parts of the Mission closed off, a rare treat indeed.
Breastfest Beer Festival
Dates: July 14th
Location: Marin Center in San Rafael
Cost: $40-$65
What’s better than fun? Fun for a good cause. On July 14th, from 1-5PM at the Marin Center in San Rafael, almost two dozen local brewers will ply their wares. It’s a chance to try some of the best beers the region has to offer, all in the beauty of the North Bay. But the best part is the cause. As the name implies, this is a fundraiser. Your $40-$65 ticket (depending on when you buy) raises money for low-income women with breast cancer. The money raised goes to the Charlotte Maxwell Complimentary Clinic, a free clinic for women in need.
So have a few beers, and help out people who need it. You’ll feel great for a lot of reasons.
San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival
Dates: July 14-15th and July 21-22nd
Location: War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
Cost: $25-$45
One of the great things about living in a huge, global city like San Francisco, sitting at the edge of America’s vastness and looking out over the great ocean, is the huge diversity of culture. You’ll hear that in the hundreds of languages you encounter on the BART. And you’ll see it at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival.
On July 14th-15th, and 21st-22nd, at the War Memorial Opera House, the 40th annual dance fest features the sounds and movements from around the world, including “Brazil, Central Europe, China, Congo, Cuba, Hawaii, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, Spain, Tahiti, West Africa, and Zimbabwe.”
Nihonmachi Street Fair
Dates: August 4-5th
Location: Japantown
Cost: Free (costs for food)
On August 4th-5th, in San Francisco’s Japantown District, the 45th annual Nihonmachi Street Fair is a celebration of Asian-Pacific American cultures. With music, arts, food, and more, you’ll sample from a variety of cultures and recognize that whether it is yours or someone else’s (or most likely a blend of the two), we all want the same things: good food, good friends, and good times.
Polk Street Blues Festival
Dates: August 18-19th
Location: Polk Street
Cost: Free
For eight years, this free festival has showcased some of San Francisco’s, the nation’s, and the world’s best blues. It offers the variety of music in the all-American genre, and how it has been molded and influenced by music from around the globe. The blues are universal; this fest celebrates that.
This year, the fest returns to Polk Street between California and Sutter, on August 18th and 19th from 10-6. There is plenty of seating, plenty of music, and great food from vendors around the city. It might be about the blues, but it’ll make you plenty happy.

Get Out and See the City

At IOA, we’re part of San Francisco. We all live around here, usually in the city itself. We know and love the city and the incredible diversity of people we get to meet. We love their experiences, and we love their vitality, sense of life, and willingness to find new stories and create new memories.
That’s what going to street fests and fairs can do. They combine all of that. They give you a chance to see things you might not have ever seen, whether it is a dance from the other side of the world or a street you’ve never strolled down before. They’re good for you and good for the community.
Street fests and fairs also let you give back. You can support local artists or support good causes. You can try local vendors. You can have a glass of wine with your friends and thousands of happy strangers as music fills the air and the city beats around you. It’s a new memory every day.
At Institute on Aging, our programs and services help older adults, their families, and caregivers explore aging together, through good times and bad, as an adventure and a journey. Contact us today to learn more.

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