There are plenty of exciting new things to do this May in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Whether you’re a foodie looking to try out a new spot, or an outdoorsy type with a hankering for fresh air, these ideas will definitely get the ball rolling. Scroll down to start planning your May in SF!
1. Enjoy classical music by candlelight at this magical concert series
The extremely popular concert series known simply as Candlelight is turning heads right now in San Francisco! The Bay Area’s top musicians perform classical covers of everything from Beethoven to Adele surrounded by hundreds of flickering candles. Venues include Grace Cathedral, St. Ignatius Church, and the International Art Museum of America.
2. Free concerts are in full swing at the Bandshell! Here’s the full lineup through July
The San Francisco live music scene is on another level! The Illuminate Live series is bringing dozens of free concerts courtesy of Illuminate and SF Rec & Parks. All performances are free and family-friendly, with the impressive Golden Gate Bandshell as the backdrop. The Bandshell, which is 120 years old, added new lighting, a state-of-the-art sound system, and a new stage during the pandemic.
- Wednesdays: Singer-Songwriter/Folk/Rock
- Fridays: Jazz, Soul, R&B and Funk Happy Hours
- Saturdays: Cultural and Community performances
- Sundays: Reggae Sundays
3. CA’s largest weekly food truck event takes over Fort Mason Center every Friday
Fridays through June 23
Fort Mason Center has welcomed back an exciting series of gourmet food truck parties courtesy of Off The Grid. The free events will bring dozens of excellent food trucks to the Fort Mason Center parking lot on Friday evenings from 5pm-10pm through June 23rd, followed by the fall season later in the year.
4. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo at the Mission’s Lowrider car show and pop-up block party
Don’t miss out on the ultimate Cinco de Mayo celebration courtesy of SF Lowrider Council and Hella Paisa. The celebrations go from 10am-4pm on Saturday, May 6 at John Connell High School, featuring 30+ street vendors, music, and fun. Stay till the end for the lowrider cruise, which kicks off at 4pm.
5. May at the Ferry Building: movie nights, live music, and more
San Francisco’s Ferry Building is one of the city’s most iconic buildings, serving as a hotspot for tourists and locals alike. It’s a center for events, pop-ups, a farmers’ market, and countless excellent merchants who sell their wares daily in the building’s many stalls. This May brings an exciting new lineup of activities including a special Mother’s Day pop-up and weekly movie nights at Fort Point Beer.
- May 3, 10: All-Levels Vinyasa Yoga
- May 3, 17, 31: Wednesday Flight Nights
- May 7: Head West Marketplace
- May 10: Small Business Boogie
- May 14: The Art of Sushi Making
- May 14: Mother’s Day activities
- Fridays: Ferry Flicks
- Wednesdays: Live Music on the Plaza
- Tues/Thurs/Sat: Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
6. Enjoy science with a cocktail at the Exploratorium’s After Dark events
The Exploratorium at Pier 15 in San Francisco is an exciting place for discovery any time of the day, but these 18+ After Dark events are a must for some epic kid-free fun at their exhibits. After Dark happens each Thursday from 6-10pm with a different theme every week, featuring guest speakers, films, great music, and more.
- May 4: After Dark: Roots
- May 11: After Dark: Thought and Action
- May 18: After Dark: Plants and Place
7. Don’t miss out on May NightLife events at the Academy of Sciences
NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences is one of our favorite ongoing events, and we’re thrilled to see more of these awesome themed soirees on the calendar! The popular Thursday night festivities feature live DJs, outdoor bars, ambience lighting, and more alongside the Academy’s nearly 40,000 animal residents.
- May 4: NightLife: Feel the Force
- May 11: NightLife
- May 18: NightLife Says Who? Culture
- May 25: Jurassic NightLife
8. Check out these May discounts and events from Yelp at Asian-owned businesses
Yelp San Francisco is putting on an exciting new promotion this May for Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Check out Asian-Owned San Francisco from May 1-31, 2023, where anyone with a Yelp account can enjoy a great lineup of free or discounted events, giveaways, and check-in offers from Asian-owned businesses. Guests can win prizes, admission to free events, meals, discounts, and more by simply checking in on various restaurants’ Yelp pages or by RSVPing for events.
9. 10 zesty margaritas to enjoy on Cinco de Mayo in San Francisco
Cinco de Mayo, often mistaken as Mexico’s Independence Day, commemorates Mexico’s underdog victory against France in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. In Mexico, the day’s importance has faded over time, but its significance in the US has grown substantially as a time to celebrate Mexican-American culture. As with many US holidays, commercialization has more or less turned May 5 into another excuse to party. If you like to partake in a margarita or 2 on this special day, we put this list together to help you get started in the city.
10. Let it all out at the Museum of 3D Illusions
The Museum of 3D Illusions has a hilarious and fun new attraction where you can smash plates against a wall to let off some steam! Get 3 plates that you can draw or write on as a symbol of whatever’s got you in a bind, and then let them fly. Get tickets here.
11. 50 places to spend a memorable Mother’s Day in San Francisco
Heads up – Mother’s Day is around the corner! Whether you’re looking to celebrate Mother’s Day on a budget, or you want to go all-out with a nice meal, we’ve got 50 exciting ideas to help you get the ball rolling.
- Take a stroll around the city’s unique gardens
- Make a reservation for a sunny outdoor brunch
- Reserve a weekend away at a top-rated NorCal Airbnb
- And more!
12. See which free museum days are coming up
We love San Francisco for its vibrant culture, history, and resources, but it’s no secret that living here costs a pretty penny. Whether you’re a college student on a budget, or a bargain hunter wanting to see the sights, this list of free museum days will certainly help you save some bucks.
- May 2: Conservatory of Flowers
- Also free daily for SF City & County Residents
- May 2: Legion of Honor
- Also free every Saturday for Bay Area residents
- May 2, 20-21: de Young Museum
- Also free every Saturday for Bay Area residents
- May 3: GLBT Historical Society Museum
- May 4: SFMOMA
- For Bay Area residents only, 1:30-8pm
- May 5: Contemporary Jewish Museum
- May 7: Asian Art Museum
- May 9: SF Botanical Garden
- Also free daily for SF City & County Residents
- Also free daily between 7:30-9am for the general public
- May 13: Museum of the African Diaspora
- Wednesdays: Museum of Craft and Design
- “Pay what you can” Wednesdays
- MWF before 10am: Japanese Tea Garden
- Also free daily for SF City & County Residents
13. Check out SF’s best temporary museum exhibitions this May
As we enter a new month, many museum exhibitions in San Francisco are getting refreshed and replaced. We’re keeping tabs on the best new temporary exhibitions from SFMOMA to the Asian Art Museum, so you’ll never miss an amazing new display.
Museum exhibitions closing soon in SF
- Alison Saar: To Sit A While – closing Apr. 30, 2023 at the Museum of the African Diaspora
- Color Trip: Yoshida Hodaka’s Modern Prints – closing May 1, 2023 at the Asian Art Museum
- Sightlines – closing May 7, 2023 at SFMOMA
- Sadie Barnette: The New Eagle Creek Saloon – closing May 11, 2023 at SFMOMA
- Julian Charrière: Erratic – closing May 14, 2023 at SFMOMA
- Sargent and Spain – closing May 14, 2023 at the Legion of Honor
- (a)way station – closing May 21, 2023 at SFMOMA
- 2022 SECA Art Award Exhibition – closing May 29, 2023 at SFMOMA
- Alexander Calder: Dissonant Harmony – closing May 2023 at SFMOMA
Museum exhibitions opening soon in SF
- Pencils and Passion: A Student Art Exhibition – opening May 11, 2023 at the Walt Disney Family Museum
- Mika Rottenberg: Spaghetti Blockchain – opening May 18, 2023 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum
- Frank Bowling: The New York Years 1966-1975 – opening May 20, 2023 at SFMOMA
- Kinship: Photography and Connection – opening May 20, 2023 at SFMOMA
- The World’s Largest Dinosaurs – opening May 26, 2023 at the Academy of Sciences
- Bouquets to Art 2023 – June 5-11, 2023 at the de Young Museum
14. Attend a fantastic local film festival
San Francisco is home to the second-largest film market in the country, meaning that local cinephiles have an exciting lineup of film festivals to enjoy all year round. We’ve outlined a running list of nearly 40 film festivals happening in San Francisco and surrounding Bay Area cities, but here are the ones to look for in May:
- DocLands Documentary Film Festival – May 10-14, 2023 – San Rafael – A documentary film festival presented by the California Film Institute.
- CAAMFest – May 11-21, 2023 – San Francisco – The Center for Asian American Media presents Asian American documentary works on public television.
15. The Yerba Buena Gardens Festival kicks off this month
Yerba Buena Gardens Festival is now hosting fantastic free programming multiple days a week, and their upcoming schedule is worth putting on your calendar. The independent nonprofit organization is dedicated to presenting accessible cultural events during 6 months of the year, including world-class music, theater, dance, kids’ shows, and more.
16. Support local businesses at SF Small Business Week
SF Small Business is marked by plenty of forums, networking events, and panels meant for business owners, but there are also opportunities for the public to come out and support the best of SF’s small business scene. Save the dates for the City Hall Small Business Pop-Up Shop on May 9 and the Small Business Boogie at the Ferry Building on May 10.
17. Dance the night away at the new Bhangra and Beats Night Market
A brand new Friday night event called Bhangra and Beats Night Market is coming to Downtown SF on May 12, July 14, and September 8. The event exciting event will feature a variety of street food vendors, cocktails, and goods from local artisans. Over 30 unique local artisans and retailers will participate in the event. Goods include hard-to-find Indian goods and San Francisco Bay Area-made jewelry, apparel, personal care, and art.
18. Experience an intimate a cappella concert at Live Living Room
Prepare to be blown away by the talent of this group of a cappella artists as they sing pop songs from the 2000s to present day with zero instruments. The sound of their powerful voices will fill an intimate living room venue in Downtown SF. Listen to favorites including Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers,” Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” and Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive.”
19. Check out the Taiwanese American Cultural Festival at Union Square
The West Coast’s largest celebration of Taiwanese American Culture takes place this month at Union Square. Enjoy a day dedicated to Taiwanese cuisine, entertainment, and family-friendly activities at this event 30 years running.
20. Sip your way through the 2nd annual Half Moon Bay Wine and Jazz Festival
The Half Moon Bay Wine and Jazz Festival is back for its 2nd rendition and it’s shaping up to be an unforgettable day. Enjoy lively performances from local jazz legends including the John Santos Sextet, Paula West, the Marcus Shelby Quintet, El Guajiro, Sammi Joy, the Brian Andres Trio, and HMBHS Jazz Band. While you enjoy the show, be sure to grab a stemless wine glass and make the rounds at dozens of winemakers lining Main Street.
22. Keep the Mother’s Day celebrations going at Union Square in Bloom
Union Square will celebrate Mother’s Day with salsa music, flowers, and more on May 14 from 1-4pm. Indulge in delicious food and drink while dancing the afternoon away with other families celebrating their mothers and mother figures.
22. The Mill Valley Music Festival is back this year for its 2nd rendition
There’s a new musical festival coming to the Bay Area in May! The Mill Valley Musical Festival will celebrate music and arts at the base of Mount Tam on May 13-14. The family-friendly festival will showcase a variety of genres from both local and national touring musicians.
23. Save on a trip to the movies with the AMC Black Ticket
For the cinephile in your life, the AMC Black Ticket grants admission to any 2D movie at any time in participating AMC Theatres®. Take advantage of this discounted price for a movie ticket that never expires, so you can save it for a rainy day or catch the next big blockbuster.
24. Spot some spring flowers in Golden Gate Park
Spring flowers are making an appearance in San Francisco through the coming months. Some blooms to look for in May include the last of the tulips, rhododendrons, California poppies, crabapple blossoms, calla lilies, fuchsia, and the beginning of the rose season.
25. Jam out to the first Blue Note Summer Sessions in Napa
Silverado Resort and Spa will soon kick off its Blue Note Summer Sessions where guests can enjoy a series of fun outdoor performances in Napa Valley. Here’s what’s coming up in May:
- May 19: Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade Tour with special guest Fishbone
- May 20: Dwight Yoakam
- May 21: Emmylou Harris
26. Join in the festivities at Bay to Breakers
Bay to Breakers is San Francisco’s famous fun run dating back to 1912! Hundreds will turn out to run, walk, or dance a 12km route through SF’s most iconic neighborhoods. The race always features elaborate costumes, en route entertainment, and unforgettable moments.
27. See which free activities are coming up at SF’s floating Salesforce Park
San Francisco’s Salesforce Park is an amazing modern marvel in the Financial District. The verdant oasis rests 70 feet above the street atop the Salesforce Transit Center, and it’s completely free and open for the public to visit at any time. It also hosts a collection of free events every week, including yoga classes, bootcamps, live music, bird walks, garden tours, drum circles, and much more.
28. Check out all the events and exhibitions happening at Fort Mason Center
When’s the last time you paid a visit to San Francisco’s amazing Fort Mason Center? The popular art center hosts numerous exhibitions and events throughout the year, and there are some special ones coming up.
- May 3-21: Magic Theatre Season 2023: The N* Lovers
- May 6: The Guardsmen Kentucky Derby Party
- Sundays: Fort Mason Center Farmers Market
- Fridays: Off The Grid: Fort Mason Center
- Through May 27: Elemental
- Through Oct 22: BRAVO: Celebrating SF Opera: Its Italian Roots and Legacy
29. Discover the best of Bay Area cartoonists at this new 836M exhibition
Opening May 25
San Francisco’s innovative nonprofit arts organization 836M presents an exciting new showcase of the work of Bay Area cartoonists, graphic novelists, and zine makers. Cartoonists@836M challenges four local artists to create brand-new work responding to a prompt about the history of SF’s neighborhoods. Check it out from May 25-Sept. 28, 2023 at 836M in San Francisco.
30. Get tickets to the Academy of Sciences’ new dinosaur exhibition
Opening May 26
San Francisco is gearing up for a major new exhibition that is already turning heads. The World’s Largest Dinosaurs is dedicated to the biology of long-necked and long-tailed sauropods, the biggest dinosaurs ever to walk the earth.
The exhibition features imaginative exhibits, life-size models, and exciting interactive elements that are enjoyable for both kids and adults. It’ll be on view from May 26, 2023-January 21, 2024 at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
31. See Post Malone, Lizzo, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers at BottleRock Napa Valley
BottleRock Napa Valley is coming up at the end of May! Headliners this year are Post Malone and The Smashing Pumpkins on May 26, Lizzo and Duran Duran on May 27, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Lil Nas X on May 28. 3-day tickets are sold out, but you can still nab 1-day tickets… run before they sell out!
32. Let loose at Carnaval SF in SF’s Mission District
Carnaval San Francisco is gearing up for a festive celebration taking over 17 blocks of the Mission District on Memorial Day weekend! The highly-anticipated free event is back for its 45th year with the theme, “Celebrating 45 Years of Music and Movement.” The free festival features 5 stages, 50 local performing artists, and 400+ vendors.
33. Visit SFMOMA’s free galleries before they close at the end of May
Through May 29
Did you know that SFMOMA is currently offering free general admission to its Floor 2 galleries through May 29, 2023? For just a little bit longer, visitors (yes, including non-SF residents) can see four spectacular exhibitions free of charge which include both temporary and ongoing installations. Although admission to the galleries is free, you still need a ticket to access them–be sure to reserve a spot in advance to avoid waiting in line.
34. Bowl a last game at Pacifica’s Sea Bowl before it closes
Through May 31
Sea Bowl, the beloved family-owned bowling alley and entertainment center in Pacifica, recently announced that they’ll be closing for good at the end of May. For over 60 years this beloved bowling alley has attracted folks from across the Peninsula for bowling tournaments, birthday parties, and gatherings of all kinds.
This historic 32-lane bowling alley opened in 1958 and was a runaway hit from the start. It was apparently so popular that they didn’t close for three nights in a row, with “several thousand” customers enjoying the lanes.
35. Explore kinetic sculptures and immersive installations at Gray Area’s TECHS-MECHS
Through May 31
Renowned artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer presents eleven dynamic art installations at SF’s Gray Area. One of the most jaw-dropping pieces is Pulse Topology, in which 3,000 suspended light bulbs glimmer to the heartbeats of the audience.
36. 14 marvelous rooftop bars to check out in San Francisco
Everyone knows that rooftops in San Francisco are few and far between, but we managed to round up some stellar spots to try out when you’re looking to grab dinner or drinks with a view. Whether you prefer a swanky environment with craft cocktails, or a laid-back terrace to enjoy a cold beer, we’re sure you’ll find something on this list that caters to your sensibility.
37. 30 most underrated places in SF, according to San Franciscans
Many San Franciscans are vocal about overrated spots in the city. But what about the most underrated places? We took to Instagram and Facebook to ask our followers this question: In your opinion, what’s the most underrated place in San Francisco? After reading through these fantastic responses, we can’t wait to go try some new spots.
38. Get close to nature at these 10 beautiful spots in the city recommended by San Franciscans, for San Franciscans
We wanted to hear your favorite spots to get close to nature, so we asked our Instagram followers for their best local outdoor escapes. They certainly didn’t disappoint, and these places inside of the City come highly recommended.
- Lands End
- Ocean Beach
- The Presidio
- And more!
39. Take a slippery ride down these awesome neighborhood slides
For decades, thrill-seeking adults and children alike have enjoyed these legendary slides hidden near the Castro. The Seward Street Slides were designed by a 14-year old girl named Kim Clark, who grew up nearby.
The slides are located in Seward Mini Park, which is tucked away at 70 Corwin St in Noe Valley. Park hours are from 6am-10pm, and slide hours are from 10am-5pm. The park and slides are closed on Mondays.
40. Enjoy a picnic at these 15 charming spots in the c ity
San Francisco is home to some of the best parks and gardens in the world, so there’s no shortage of awesome picnic spots for you to enjoy a socially distanced meal with friends. Whether you want to support a local cafe and get some amazing food to go, or you prefer to pack your own delicious recipe to enjoy out in the sunshine, you’ll love all of these great options. Some are SF staples, and some are a little less well-known.
- Old Speedway Meadow
- Garden of Shakespeare’s Flowers
- Bernal Heights Park
- Palace of Fine Arts lawn
- And more!
41. Visit this historical country estate and its gorgeous gardens
If you haven’t heard of Filoli, you have got to add this spectacular historical estate to your list. According to its website, the Filoli property covers 654 acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The house and garden themselves cover 16 immaculate acres, having been beautifully maintained for over a century.
Filoli’s gardens are unique in that they bloom all year round, thanks to seasonal planting and carefully planned maintenance by the estate’s 14 full-time horticulturalists. Over 75,000 spring bulbs are planted each year.
You may visit Filoli at 86 Cañada Road in Woodside, CA with prior reservation from 10am-5pm daily. General admission costs $25 and there are reduced prices available for children, seniors and students.
42. Find these breathtaking cliff views just an hour out of the city
Wilder Ranch State Park, just a few minutes south of Davenport, is a 7,000 acre ranch from the late 1800s converted into a museum and nature preserve. This historic site sits along the Santa Cruz County coastline and is home to spectacular views, hikes, and wildlife.
There are several hiking trails you can take at Wilder Ranch. The Old Landing Cove Trail, Pacific to Redwoods Loop, and Wilder Ridge trails will give you up-close views of the breaking waves and access to some of the hidden beaches. The Englesman, Long Meadow, Eucalyptus and Enchanted Loop trails will give you more views of the green countryside, with a dazzling ocean backdrop. Be sure to visit Wilder Ranch State Park for an amazing weekend getaway from the city!