The best of what to do in and around San Francisco this month.
Eat your weight in chocolate (paired with wine) at the annual Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival, then walk or bike it off with a tour of San Francisco’s unique architecture as part of the Architecture and the City Festival. In addition, the Fringe Festival returns with more than 120 performances from stand-up comedy to one-woman shows and cabaret with a twist.
AFAR Local is our monthly insider guide to the best of what’s happening in cities around the U.S.
September 1 - 30 | Architecture
Architecture and the City Festival
AIA San Francisco and the Center for Architecture + Design’s annual month-long festival throws a light on the city’s stunning architecture with walking and cycling tours as well as visits to showplace homes, films, and exhibitions. You can put together a program suited to your interests, such as taking the secret walking tour of Market Street, watching the film Forever, Chinatown to learn from one of its residents how the neighborhood has changed, and bicycling to tour areas throughout San Francisco that have undergone major transformations as the city has grown.
Times & venues vary | From $25 | website
September 8 - 23 | Theater
San Francisco Fringe Festival
A dizzying 120 events from more than 35 theater companies make up this year’s San Francisco Fringe Festival. Organized by EXIT Theatre, each year’s schedule is chosen by a lottery because so many artists want to participate. This year’s winners include stand-up comedians and serious one-man/one-woman performances, fake game shows, experimental “microsounds,” explorations of racial identities, an alternative take on classic cabaret, and much more.
Times & venues vary | From $10 | website
September 9 - 10 | Food
Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival
Despite the name, regulars of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival know that the annual event is also a pretty sweet place to taste wine as well as chocolate and confections. The annual Earthquake Ice Cream eating contest has been a marquee highlight for 22 years running, but those who don’t want to totally overindulge can also watch pastry and cooking demonstrations. Whatever speed you choose, it’s all to benefit Project Open Hand, the San Francisco–based nonprofit that delivers meals to sick and elderly members of the community.
12:00 PM - 5:00 PM | Ghirardelli Square, 900 North Point St., San Francisco | From $20 | website
September 17 | Comedy
Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow welcomes the free Comedy Day for the 37th year running. This year’s lineup is still under wraps, but it is always a PG-13 event that is heavy on local humor. Organizers are also leading efforts to rename Sharon Meadow to Robin Williams Meadow; the late comedian was often a surprise guest at Comedy Day and he ardently supported the local scene.
12:00 PM - 5:00 PM | Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park, 320 Bowling Green Dr., San Francisco | Free | website
September 23 | Film
Film Night in the Park: “The Breakfast Club”
Film Night in the Park is a beloved annual ritual in San Francisco. Filmgoers pack a picnic and head to Dolores Park for a free screening of a classic film. This month’s showing is of quintessential high school detention movie The Breakfast Club. The night will probably also double as an epic sing-along since the soundtrack includes the enduring teenage anthem “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds.
7:00 PM | Dolores Park, 19th and Dolores Sts., San Francisco | Free | website
September 23 | Outdoor event
The 13th annual Peak2Peak is a rigorous yet uniquely scenic 13-mile walk across various peaks in San Francisco, a grand reward for people with really strong legs. This year’s route is new, starting in the Financial District and climbing through North Beach, Russian Hill, Richmond, Haight, and Alamo Square. Act fast if you’re ready to take the challenge, for tickets have sold out in advance for the past five years.
8:00 AM - 6:00 PM | Starts at St. Mary’s Square, San Francisco | From $150 | website
September 23 - 24 | Film
Iranian Film Festival
The Iranian Film Festival at the San Francisco Art Institute is having its 10th anniversary this year, and the programming reflects an interest in spotlighting emerging filmmakers as well as forerunners. The first independent Iranian film festival outside of Iran, the two-day schedule includes tributes to post-Revolutionary director Abbas Kiarostami and animation innovator Noureddin Zarrinkelk, as well as recent documentaries, features, and shorts.
San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut St., San Francisco | From $12 | website
September 24 | Fair
Folsom Street Fair
For the uninitiated, the Folsom Street Fair is a celebration of sexual freedom that includes vivid expressions of BDSM and leather culture that organizers warn may not be for the faint of heart. This can be shocking to some, yet is liberating for the many who have created this uniquely San Francisco space since it began in 1984. This year’s event expects about 400,000 revelers to dress up, check out live demos, and gear up at fetish vendors and promises unforgettable people-watching and acceptance.
11:00 AM - 6:00 PM | Folsom St. between Eighth and 13th Sts., San Francisco | Free (donations suggested) | website
September 30 - October 1 | Cultural festival
Chinatown Autumn Moon Festival
The San Francisco Chinatown Merchants Association holds a fabulous fall celebration each year, the Autumn Moon Festival, where revelers can watch dragons and lions dance down the streets, take in live musical and dance performances, and view martial arts demonstrations. Exploring the neighborhood landmarks and snacking along the way are encouraged. One delicious option for paying homage to the moon is to eat lotus paste– or duck egg–filled mooncakes.
11:00 AM - 6:00 PM | Grant Ave. btw. California St. and Broadway, San Francisco | Free | website
October 6 - 14 | Plan ahead: Literature
San Francisco’s freewheeling literary festival Litquake has been shaking up staid book readings since 2002. This year’s exact schedule and tickets will become available on September 5. Expect a balance of paid and free events, including the gratis Lit Crawl, where you can bar hop while sampling wildly different presentations and readings. The concept is so much fun that it has been officially replicated in other cities, including London, Helsinki, Los Angeles, and New York City.
Times & venues vary | Free (some paid events) | website
Tamara Palmer is a daily news writer, rapper confidante, DJ, and celebrity chef ghostwriter from San Francisco.