31 Things to Do This May in the Bay Area

With spring fully in swing, now is the time to go out and enjoy all the Bay Area has to offer. Here are 31 of our top picks.

May 1-27: “The Color Purple”

"The Color Purple"
Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The hit Broadway show “The Color Purple” is an award-winning musical based on the book by Alice Walker. Follow the struggles of a young African American woman as she grows into adulthood in the American South in the early 1900s. Orpheum Theater (San Francisco), 888-746-1799, shnsf.com

May 1-28: San Francisco Decorator’s Showcase

Eyes on Hue by AJ Oishi
“Eyes on Hue” by artist AJ Oishi

This year’s showcase is the first-ever to be held in San Francisco’s Marina District, featuring Northern California’s top interior and landscape designers who have transformed the home into the West Coast’s premier design event. 465 Marina Blvd. (San Francisco), 415-447-5830, DecoratorShowcase.org

May 3-6: DocLands Documentary Film Festival

Doclands Documentary Film Festival
Photo by Tommy Kau.

This inaugural festival brings compelling stories and the provocative insights behind them. Expanding upon the exchange of ideas and inspiration through public screenings, engaged conversations, and grassroots networking events, DocLands aims to build an active, involved, fully supportive community around documentary film. Various locations (Marin), 415-552-5580, doclands.com

May 6: How Weird Street Festival

San Francisco is known worldwide for being an eclectic city, so how appropriate that the city has a How Weird Day (as declared by the Board of Supervisors) to show just how much we love to let our freak flags fly. The How Weird street festival features multiple stages with electronic dance music, inspiring live and exhibited artwork, local arts, craft vending, and yummy food, while the How Weird Parade has people in costumes doing all sorts of weird stuff. Howard and 2nd streets (San Francisco), howweird.org

May 7-13: SFMade Week

A collection of events highlighting 75 local brands that do all their business San Francisco, including pop-ups at San Francisco’s City Hall and Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, tours and workshops, and more. Various locations (San Francisco), 415-408-5605, sfmade.org

May 10: Pop-Up Magazine, “Spring Issue”

Pop-Up Magazine
Photo by Jon Snyder.

Pop-Up Magazine is unlike anything you’ve seen. This “live magazine” show features artists, writers, musicians, and other talented people sharing stories, photography, film, and original music. There are no recordings, so you have to be there to partake — and put your phone away for the night so you don’t miss anything during this creative, one-time experience. Paramount Theatre (Oakland), 510-465-6400, paramountheatre.com

May 12: Andre Thierry’s Roots Rhythm & Wine

Andre Thierry
Andre Thierry

Join Grammy-nominated Andre Thierry and his zydeco-influenced band for a Louisiana-style dance celebration that features Thierry’s accordion finesse. Local purveyors will be offering traditional delicious Southern French Creole dishes and desserts, mouthwatering BBQ, seafood, and Caribbean dishes paired with a variety of wines from Riggers Loft. Proceeds benefit The Conscious Kitchen, an organization with a mission to bring healthier food to our schools. R&B Cellars (Richmond), 510-234-8477, rbcellars.com

May 12: Facebook Bay Area Brew & FanFest

This is the first in a series of community festivals held by Facebook on its Menlo Park campus, the proceeds of which benefit local youth sports programs. Featuring live music, craft beer and wine, a kids’ zone, arts & crafts, and food trucks. Free admission and parking. Facebook campus (Menlo Park), fbinthecommunity.com

May 12-19: Oakland Mural Festival

This year, the Bay Area Mural Festival is teaming up with Visit Oakland to put on the Oakland Mural Festival as part of the first ever Oakland Art Month. The Oakland Mural Festival will bring together master muralists and Oakland youth through a series of artist residencies and workshops culminating in the painting of at least nine new murals in the Jack London District and a community celebration on May 19 as part of the Jack London Square Art & Wine Festival. Jack London Square (Oakland), bamfest.org

May 13: Community Mother’s Day at the Exploratorium

The Exploratorium hosts regular community, pay-what-you-want days, but on May 13, there’s a special one with a Latina theme. The day includes bilingual programming for moms, folklórico dance performances, a mariachi concert serenading mothers, and workshops on paper flower making. Exploratorium (San Francisco), 415-528-4360, exploratorium.edu

May 13: Sunday Old Time Jam

Sunday Old Time Jam at Freight and Salvage
Photo courtesy of Freight and Salvage.

This free event lets musicians of all levels explore and play Old Time repertoire songs. All instruments welcome, especially fiddles, mandolins, guitars, and banjos. Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse (Berkeley), 510-644-2020, thefreight.org

May 17: Santana Row Rosé Soiree

Local Santa Cruz Mountain wineries will pour rosé and other seasonal wine releases inside participating Santana Row shops and boutiques along with light bites from participating restaurants. There is also DIY flower bouquet making and live music. Proceeds benefit the Junior League of San Jose. Santana Row (San Jose), 408-551-4611, santanarow.com

May 19: Royal Wedding Afternoon Tea

Crown & Crumpet
Photo by Alessandra Cave.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that May 19 is the big day for Harry and Meghan to royally tie the knot. Celebrate their big day by dressing up for the occasion and indulging in a formal British afternoon tea service, including watching the (recorded) wedding ceremony, sipping a “Markle Sparkle,” noshing on crumpets and scones, and playing British parlour games. Crown & Crumpet (San Francisco), 415-771-4252, crownandcrumpet.com

May 19: Jack London Square Art & Wine Festival

The Jack London Square Art & Wine Festival, a fun-filled celebration of wine and art, will be held on the Oakland waterfront. Located at the heart of the Urban Wine Trail, Jack London Square will be filled with more than 40 Northern California wineries offering tastings, as well as small eats, craft beer, cider, live music, vendors, artists, and more. Jack London Square (Oakland), jacklondonsquare.com

May 19: Tiburon Wine Festival

The 35th Annual Tiburon Wine Festival features pours by 60 wineries, complemented by dozens of the area’s top restaurants and specialty food purveyors serving gourmet appetizers. 21 and over. If you’re coming from the city, Tideline Water Taxi is running a special water taxi service that day from Fort Mason in San Francisco to Sam’s Anchor Café. Point Tiburon Plaza (Tiburon), 415-435-5633, tiburonwinefestival.org

May 20: Mountain Play

Mountain Play
Photo by Cindy Lang.

Abba fans, rejoice — the 2018 season of the Mountain Play opens with “Mamma Mia!” The annual outdoor musical experience on Mount Tamalpais is not to be missed, but bring snacks, plenty of water, and padded seats. There’s also food and beverages available at the venue. Cushing Memorial/Mountain Amphitheatre on Mt. Tam (Mill Valley), 415-383-1100, mountainplay.org

May 20: Bay to Breakers

Since 1912, tens of thousands of people have gathered in San Francisco to see the world’s largest footrace unfold as more than 70,000 costume-clad runners and walkers make their way from San Francisco Bay, a few blocks from the Embarcadero, to the Great Highway where the breakers crash onto the Pacific Coast’s Ocean Beach. Various start locations near the Embarcadero (San Francisco), 415-231-3130, baytobreakers.com

May 22: Check Please! Taste & Sip

Join Leslie Sbrocco, host of the Bay Area’s foodie paradise show on KQED, at this year’s Check Please! Taste & Sip, with gourmet food and wine from more than 50 restaurants and local wineries. Entertainment by Bebe Sweetbriar. San Francisco Design Center Galleria (San Francisco), kqed.org/checkplease

May 25-27: BottleRock Napa Valley

The uber popular musical festival returns to Napa Valley with headliners including Muse, Bruno Mars, The Killers, Snoop Dogg, and many more. Napa Valley Expo at 575 3rd St. (Napa), bottlerocknapavalley.com

May 25-27: Marin Greek Festival

For more 46 years, the Marin Greek Festival has offered Bay Area residents the opportunity to experience the faith, culture, and hospitality of the Nativity of Christ Greek Orthodox Community. Features lectures, Byzantine chanting, church tours, YiaYia and Me cooking, dance and Greek wedding demonstrations, Greek food, and dancing to the Hohlax Trio. Nativity of Christ Greek Orthodox Church (Novato), 415-883-1998, maringreekfestival.com

May 26: Ales & Trails

Ales and Trails Kids Race
Photo by Brian Popplewell.

Ales and Trails brings mountain bikers and trail enthusiasts together to support Access4Bikes’ advocacy work in Marin County. Following a rigorous mountain bike ride in China Camp (there’s also a kids race), there’s a barbecue and beer tastings. New this year: camping at Back Ranch Campground. Miwok Meadows at China Camp State Park (San Rafael), access4bikes.com

May 26-27: Carnaval Festival and Parade

Carnaval SF
Photo by Marco Sanchez.

Carnaval San Francisco is a two-day celebration in the colorful Mission District celebrating Latin American and Caribbean arts and traditions. The highlight of the weekend is the Grand Parade on Sunday, May 27, with elaborate multicultural floats plus music and dance groups. Harrison Street between 16th and 24th streets in the Mission (San Francisco), 415-206-0577, carnavalsanfrancisco.org

May 28: Memorial Day Ceremony and Parade

Memorial Day is a serious holiday to remember the sacrifices made by those who gave their lives for our country. The Presidio hosts its 150th Annual Memorial Day commemoration, beginning with a parade starting from the Presidio Officer’s Club, followed by a ceremony at the National Cemetery and ending with a 21-gun salute. Presidio of San Francisco (San Francisco), 415-561-5300, presidio.gov

May 31: Shipyard Swing Dinner Dance

Legendary Bay Area swing and jazz band Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers always gets the joint jumpin’ in no time. Not only can you swing the night away, you can also enjoy dinner and drinks aboard the World War II-era SS Red Oak Victory on Memorial Day Weekend in a bona fide, historic setting perfect for a night of swing dancing and fun. SS Red Oak Victory (Point Richmond), 510-237-2933, richmondmuseum.org

All Month Long

Hump Day Outdoor Yoga

Get your mid-week Namaste fix each Wednesday evening behind Tiburon Town Hall, with an outdoor yoga session. Tiburon Town Hall (Tiburon), npkyoga.com

Hit the Bullseye

Archery in Golden Gate Park

Get in touch with your arrow-slinging self at the archery range in Golden Gate Park. Stop by the San Francisco Archery Pro Shop to rent your bow and arrow, then take aim at the nine target bales that are available for practice. Intro archery classes are available at the practice range on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Golden Gate Park (San Francisco), goldengatepark.com

Grateful Monday

This free, all-ages bar show allows Terrapin guests to celebrate Mondays with music. Terrapin Crossroads (San Rafael), 415-524-2773, terrapincrossroads.net

First Tuesday ArtWalk

Join the Mill Valley Arts Commission’s monthly stroll through town to view exhibits by local artists. Various locations (Mill Valley), cityofmillvalley.org

Marin Poetry Center Monthly Readings

Enjoy regular readings — typically scheduled on the third Thursday of each month — from duos of published poets. Various locations (Marin County), marinpoetrycenter.org

San Francisco Walking Tours

SF City Guides (part of the San Francisco Public Library) offers a number of free, daily walking tours led by volunteers. The walking tours cover the Golden Gate Bridge, Ferry Building, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, and many other sites and neighborhoods; there’s even one dedicated to the impact of the 1906 earthquake. While the tours are free, the library asks for a small donation at the end to keep the tour program going. Various meeting locations (San Francisco), sfcityguides.org

Underwater Art Exhibition

Explore the magic marine wildlife of the Pacific Remote Islands. A photo exhibit by Shark Stewards, Tandem Media and the Earth Island Institute 2 of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Bay Model Visitor Center (Sausalito), 415-332-3871, baymodelvisitorcenter


Donna Berry Glass is the editor of the Bay Area Better Letter, and the online editor at Marin Magazine. When she’s not writing and editing, she enjoys spending time with her family exploring the natural beauty of Marin County, snuggling with her Cavalier King Charles and tackling her never-ending list of DIY home and garden projects. Donna is a supporter of the California Academy of Sciences, a world class science museum and research institution, and SF CASA, which provides court-appointed advocates for foster youth.



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