Your field guide to celebrating San Francisco’s Carnaval.

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March 3, 2020
Carnaval is California's largest annual multicultural event

Everything You Need to Know About Carnaval

New Orleans has Mardi Gras. San Francisco has Carnaval. Beginning in February and culminating every year on the Memorial Day weekend, Carnaval includes a Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras party, the annual king and queen competition and, of course, the two-day festival and parade coming up May 23-24, 2020 in the heart of the Mission District.

Conceived 42 years ago by a group of local musicians, artists and residents who wanted to bring the spirit of Latin American and Caribbean culture to the city, Carnaval San Francisco has become the largest annual multicultural celebration in California and draws over 400,000 attendees each year. A project of Cultura y Arte Nativa de las Americas (CANA), the event is one of many supported by San Francisco Grants for the Arts. 

Here are a few tips for Carnaval goers:

Where is the Mission District?  
The Mission District is bounded on the north by Hwy. 101 near 14th Street, Dolores and Potrero Streets on the west and east, and Cesar Chavez Street on the south. The neighborhood’s namesake is Mission Dolores.

Where to eat in the Mission District?
While you can polish off a burrito at one of the local taquerias, the Mission District also has its fair share of Michelin star winners and new hot spots with more sophisticated fare. And if you're still hungry check out these suggestions: Guide to Eating in San Francisco's Mission District Bite by Glorious Bite.

What to see in the Mission District?
In addition to the historic Mission Dolores, one of 21 missions established throughout California, there are hundreds of colorful murals throughout the neighborhood. A few blocks to the west, Valencia Street offers eclectic shopping and a crop of new restaurants. A number of dance organizations are based in the Mission including Joe Goode Performance Group and ODC Dance Commons. Other cultural attractions include Brava Theater Center, Creativity Explored, The Marsh and Z Space. 

Transit Tips
Public transit options to Carnaval include Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stops at its 16th and 24th Street stations. Muni buses in the area include 9, 12, 14, 22, 27, 33, 48, 49 and 67; for schedules and information visit 511.org. Street closures near the festival and parade route will be in effect. Public parking is available at the Mission-Bartlett Garage, 3255 21st St., and 16th and Hoff Garage, 42 Hoff St. Parking may be limited on festival weekends. Use Lyft or Uber and easily call a car to get to and from the Mission right from your smartphone.

Tour Tips
Wild SF offers a walking tour of the Mission, and Dandyhorse San Francisco Bike Tours & Rental offers a 4.5-hour tour of the Mission, its food and its famous murals. Free guided tours of the Mission are offered by City Guides. Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitors Center has mural walks on weekends; customized tours are available by appointment. 

More Reasons to Come
Even if one should happen to miss Carnaval, there are still a number of events coming up including the 20th Street Block Party, Dia de los Muertos in November and the San Francisco International Film Festival in the spring.

YOUR GUIDE TO SAN FRANCISCO’S CARNAVAL

Photo by David Yu / CC BY-NC-ND

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