You are here

Sponsored by

United Airlines
October 10, 2019

Things to Do in San Francisco This October

October signals the return of Open Studios, Fleet Week, and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, among many other annual events. Halloween will bring some extra-special tricks to the Winchester Mystery House, too. It won’t be long before “falling back” prompts us to surrender an hour, so make the most of October's events.


Celebrate Service During Fleet Week

From Oct. 6 to 14, San Francisco will be filled with tributes to America’s armed forces. Fleet Week features a parade of ships, ship tours and an impressive air show that includes the Blue Angels. There will be tours and displays from Oct. 8 to 13 at PIER 39, as well as a Humanitarian Assistance Village at the Presidio's Marina Green, Oct. 5 to 13. Check out our tips for the best places to experience Fleet Week, as well as the best places to stay.


City of Souls at SOMArts Cultural Center

Now in its 20th year, SOMArts' annual Dia de Los Muertos exhibition highlights a multigenerational gathering of rememberance through traditional altars and contemporary installations. This exhibition invites artists who have been impacted by gentrification and displacement to engage audience members in conversations around the future of San Francisco's cultural identity. Dia de Los Muertos 2019: City of Souls will be unveiled on Oct. 11.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Is Back

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, which is described by organizers as “three days of treating your ears,” is just that. From Oct. 4 to 6, six stages in Hellman Hollow, Lindley and Marx meadows in Golden Gate Park will be home to the likes of everyone from Margo Price to The Milk Carton Kids, Jackie Greene and many other boldface names to mention here. It’s free and it’s only in San Francisco.

Winchester Mystery House Terrors & Thrills

It's Halloween all month long at the Winchester Mystery House. Sarah Winchester invites you to Sarah's Spirited Supper, a gourmet Halloween-themed dinner in her beautiful ballroom, on Oct. 19. Ghouls of all ages can trick-or-treat through the gardens of the estate on Oct. 26 and 27. For the bravest souls, experience "Unhinged", a psychological and paranormal thriller exploring the estate's dark hallways through Nov. 2, 2019.


Pumpkin Patch Forest in Salesforce Park

This isn't just your regular pumpkin patch forest. San Francisco fiber artist Kristen McDonnell will cover Salesforce Park in her hand-knitted public art installation on Oct. 19-31. Trees will be wrapped in three-dimensional pumpkins, vines and flowers, available for everyone to see during park hours.

Skate on Art at Fort Mason Center

Visit Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture for nights full of roller skating, music and art! This free outdoor roller rink will feature live DJ sets and vivid art installations. Bring your own skates or rent a pair for $5. Skate through Oct. 6, 2019.

Pinots & Plaid

On Oct. 26, wine connoisseurs can come dressed in plaid and enjoy an afternoon filled with pinot tastings at the historic Hibernia Bank building. The inaugural Pinots & Plaid Tasting will feature 25 of Northern California's leading Pinot Noir producers. VIP guests will have opportunities for one-on-one conversations with winemakers, early access to wine tastings, and luxury cuisine pairings.

Red Bull Heavy Water

Watch the world's best male and female Stand Up Paddle athletes from around the world compete in a 12km surf batter. The course begins at Aquatic Park under the Golden Gate Bridge and finishes at Ocean Beach. This stand-up paddling event comes to San Francisco on Oct. 14 - Nov. 15, 2019.

It's Your Unlucky Day at the San Francisco Dungeon

Hold on to your soul this Halloween season at the San Francisco Dungeon. The spirits of the dead will be summoned at the Dungeon on Halloween night, offering brave visitors a glimpse of the spirits lurking beneath Fisherman's Wharf. Neither rabbit feet or lucky pennies on the ground will be able to ward off these omens of bad luck.


SF Mime Troupe's 60th Anniversary Celebration

Enjoy scenes and musical highlights from SF Mime Troupe's favorite shows from their 60 year history of performing. Join this celebration of comedy and music for one night only, Oct. 7, at 7:00 p.m. at the newly renovated Presidio Theatre.

Oakland Museum of California's (OMCA) Burning Man Exhibition

Marvel at the large-scale installations from one of the most widely-celebrated cultural events, Burning Man. "No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man" takes over OMCA, Oct. 12 - Feb. 16, 2020. Intricate jewelry, head-to-toe costumes, "mutant" vehicles, sculptures and life-sized installations are among the impressive works museum visitors can see up-close.

Museum Moments

You’re going to need a checklist to see all the new exhibits in San Francisco this month. So we’ve created one:

  • See “Annabeth Rosen: Fired, Broken, Gathered, Heaped” at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. This collection of ceramics showcases more than 100 of Rosen's carefully crafted works that evoke life cycles, ecosystems, and traditional objects. Through Jan. 19, 2020.
  • Don't miss your last chance to see Elise S. Haas's "Building a Modern Art Collection" at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), closing Oct. 27, 2019. Over 40 paintings and sculptures in this exhibition will reveal how Haas has built her personal collection and how it has shaped SFMOMA's modern art collection since the 1990s.
  • At the de Young, “Ed Hardy: Deeper than Skin" is the first museum retrospective of tattoo artist and California native Ed Hardy. This exhibition features Hardy's paintings, drawings, prints and three-dimensional works dating back to the 1950s. Museum-goers with tattoos get discounted admission. Through Oct. 6, 2019.
  • Conceived around artworks in different mediums, the Museum of the African Diaspora's "Africa State of Mind," is the only U.S. presentation of artworks from 15 artists from 11 different countries depicting the life and identity of Africa. Through Nov. 15, 2019.
  • Opening Oct. 12, 2019 at the Legion of Honor, “James Tissot: Fashion & Faith” examines 60 paintings, works on paper and enamels by Tissot. Tissot's artworks reveal rich commentary on nineteenth-century fashion, religion, and society.


"Cells to Self" at the Exploratorium

Dive deeper into the world of genetics and DNA at the Exploratorium's newest permanent exhibition, "Cells to Self". The culmination of new experiences will reveal how cells move, interact, and work in tandem with living organisms. Use your own pulse to see the rhythm of your beating heart cells and take a "cell-fie" of your cheek cells to take home. Experience these interactive exhibits opening on Oct. 3, 2019.


Behind-the-Scenes Tour of Oracle Park

Even though the season is coming to a close, San Francisco Giants fans can still enjoy baseball all year-round. Go on an exclusive tour of Oracle Park that will give you an up-close look inside the Visitor's Clubhouse, a Major League dugout, and on the baseball field. History buffs will be able to experience the brand new museum space, the Giant Vault, which details the rich history of the Giants franchise.


The Reel Thing

Start popping the popcorn! The 42nd annual Mill Valley Film Festival takes place Oct. 3-13, 2019 in Mill Valley, San Rafael and other Marin locations, just across the Golden Gate Bridge. Well-known for the quality of its programming, the festival is considered a major launching pad for the annual awards season. This year, the festival includes tributes to Oscar nominee Alfre Woodard and British director and producer Michael Apted.

It's All About the Kids

A ton of events are coming to Charles M. Schulz Museum this fall. On Oct. 5, from 10 to 1 p.m., work with a professional cartoonist to create your own four-panel comic strip. The fun continues from 5 to 9 p.m. at "Kids Night at the Museum", a night full of pizza, crafts, and cartooning. Museum Mondays (Oct. 7, 14, 21, and 28), from 10:00 a.m. to noon, are also a great way to keep the little ones busy with story time, games and crafts.

San Francisco Art Commission's (SFAC) American Indian Initiative

"The Continuous Thread" is a series of public events, concerts, art exhibitions that present modern Indigenous people, culture and traditions. The first event on Oct. 4, 2019 will feature photos of local American Indians and art at the SFAC Main Gallery. On Oct. 14, from noon - 3:30 p.m., celebrate the one-year anniversary of San Francisco's Indigenous People's Day at Yerba Buena Gardens with Native American art, music, and vendors. View the collections from Indigenous fashion designers that bring awareness to murdered and missing Indigenous women on Oct. 26, where the Pioneer Monument will be used as their runway.

151st Italian Heritage Parade

On Oct. 13, 2019, the San Francisco Italian Heritage Parade returns as the oldest continuing American-Italian parade in the U.S. The parade will begin at Fisherman's Wharf at Jefferson and Powell streets and end at Washington Square. Expect to see handcrafted floats and marching bands from local high school Italian clubs. Queen Isabella and her court will also be making a special appearance!


Dance and Sing at the Castro Street Fair

The Castro Street Fair has it all, from local food vendors to live musical acts and open-air dancing. The fair is easily accessible by public transit. Just take the K, L, or M Muni Metro trains and exit at Castro St. Join the fun on Oct. 6, 2019!


Litquake Rumbles Into San Francisco

Litquake, happening Oct. 10-30, is the largest independent literary festival on the West Coast. This program features a variety of authors and participants at 160 different venues. There are events for all ages, including "Kidquake" and "Teenquake," offering the youth a place of encouragement to showcase their readings of poetry, memoir, and prose, along with performances of dance and music. All kinds of art and literature are welcome!


SF Open Studios 2019

Showcasing more than 800 emerging and established San Francisco artists, Open Studios is the perfect moment for art patrons, admirers and collectors to venture out on self-guided tours throughout San Francisco and visit as many studios as possible. Each weekend from Oct. 12 to Nov. 3 highlights a different group of neighborhoods. Celebrating its 44th anniversary this year, Open Studios is the largest and oldest open studios program in the U.S.

It’s Show Time!

"Hamilton" continues throughout October at the Orpheum Theater. This award-winning musical is making its extended run through January 2020, so get your tickets soon!

Also at the Orpheum is "The Simon & Garfunkel Story", a concert-style theater show featuring the music of folk-rock duo, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, Oct. 11-12, 2019.

"Top Girls", written by Caryl Churchill, continues through Oct. 13, 2019 at A.C.T.'s Geary Theater. This modern classic sheds light on working women and the cost of progress in a world divided by class, cruelty, and capitalism.

"This Side of Crazy", a hilarious comedy about fame, family, and finding your way back home, closes on Oct. 20, 2019 at the New Conservatory Theatre Center. "The Cake" premieres a few days later on Oct. 25.

"Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" At The Curran

The wildly popular Harry Potter series based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany has been brought to life in "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" at The Curran, opening Oct. 23. Harry Potter fans will discover the latest chapter in the Harry Potter saga in an intense and magical production.

Wharf Fest Chowder Competition & Street Fair

Wharf Fest returns to San Francisco’s iconic waterfront neighborhood on Oct. 19, 2019. Come enjoy a street fair, exhibitors and fun family entertainment from noon to 8 p.m. The highlight of the festivities is the chowder cook-off competition at noon. The festival takes place at the intersection of Jefferson and Taylor streets, at the base of the famous Fisherman’s Wharf crab wheel sign.

San Francisco Trolley Dances through the City

On Oct. 19 and 20, San Francisco Trolley Dances returns for their 16th year of performances. This annual free event has been dubbed “art for citizens” and “a gift to the City.” This year, audiences will get a taste of contemporary dance, music, and ensembles at specific sites along San Francisco's Muni route.

Get Cultured At Yerba Buena Night

From 5 to 9:30 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 12, there will be surprises around every corner at Yerba Buena Night. The annual free, outdoor arts festival in the Yerba Buena Cultural District includes dance, music, art and video projections. More than 30 groups will be performing in Jessie Square, Yerba Buena Lane and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Cowboy Up!

The spirit of the Old West gallops back into San Francisco, Oct 11-12 and 18-19, 2019, with the PRCA Rodeo at the Cow Palace. Enjoy two weekends full of rodeos, horse shows, and livestock shows. For more than 70 years, the Grand National has been the West's most prestigious western lifestyle event, attracting thousands of participants and fans.

La Cocina’s San Francisco Street Food Festival Celebrates 10 Years

The San Francisco Street Food Festival, an essential element of the thriving Bay Area food scene, returns Oct. 12, 2019 at The Power Station (420 23rd St.). The festival embraces the delicious and diverse story of American food with Mexican huaraches, Vietnamese pho, Southern fried chicken, Nepalese dumplings and so much more, all while promoting equity for women-, immigrant-, and POC-owned businesses.

Potrero Hill Festival Set for Oct. 19

For three decades, the Potrero Hill Festival has been a celebration of this eclectic community as local food vendors, artists, musicians, historians and residents turn out for this community event for all ages. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., join the fun on 20th Street between Wisconsin and Missouri streets to enjoy local food vendors, artists, musicians and entertainment!

Can You Dig It?

The Presidio celebrates International Archaeology Day on Oct. 26. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Presidio Officers’ Club, meet local archaeologists and explore the Presidio Archaeology Lab. learn about the Presidio's archaeological process and see how artifacts are cleaned, cataloged, studied, and curated during Open Lab hours.

Mayhem Mansion at The Haas-Lilienthal House

This is your chance to see what awaits behind the doors of the only Victorian-era house museum of its kind in San Francisco. This haunted tour will have many surprises, from rotting rooms and historic halls to The Spookeasy for guests 21 and over to enjoy the Bootender's special concoctions. Experience this spooky tour for two weekends only on Oct. 18-19 and 25-26!

Sponsored by United Airlines

United Airlines is the leading carrier into SFO, with the most domestic and international flights serving the airport annually. Get started on a trip to San Francisco with United here.

Best Rates Guaranteed on San Francisco Hotels this October


You may also like

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)