The Fort Mason Center is an old US Army Base along San Francisco's northern waterfront. The Spanish Army originally established it for their army in 1797. The US Army took it over in 1864.
Today, this National Historic Landmark houses a few small museums and one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the city, Greens. However, its main draw is its large annual events, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the Renegade Craft Fair, and the SF International Beer Festival.
Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.
Here are all the things to see and do at the Fort Mason Center.
Laugh the night away during a BATS Improv performance. They offer a variety of shows including head-to-head improv battles, long-form murder mysteries, musicals, and more. You will never see the same show twice!
The BATS Improv performances are every Friday and Saturday night at 8pm.
Full Comedy Calendar: Other Comedy Shows in SF
Another small, yet impressive museum is the Italian American Museum (Museo Italo Americano). It features works from both Italian and Italian American artists. In their permanent collection, you can see works from John Grillo, Emilio Tadini, and Benny Bufano. You can also attend one of their popular Italian cultural events.
Learn More: Italian American Museum
A new museum is the SFMOMA Artists Gallery. It features pieces from several Bay Area artists at all stages of their careers. The exhibits change frequently, so there is always something new to see. The gallery is in Building A. It is open to the public Tuesday - Saturday from 10:30am to 5pm.
There is no question that Green's is one of the best vegetarian restaurants in San Francisco. Not only does it have delicious food, it also has amazing views of the SF waterfront, including the Golden Gate Bridge. Head over for lunch, brunch, or dinner.
Lunch Days & Hours: Tuesday - Friday from 11:45am - 2:30pm
Brunch Days & Hours: Saturday from 11am - 2:30pm; Sunday from 10:30am - 2pm
Dinner Days & Hours: Sunday - Friday from 5:30pm - 9:00pm
If you want to learn more about the history of Fort Mason, I recommend taking one of their history walking tours. On this guided two-hour tour, you will learn more about the fort's early life as a Spanish Army base and its role as the army's main logistics center for World War II. The SF Public Library offers these free walking tours two to three times a month.
The weekly Farmer's Market is another big draw for the Fort Mason Center. Every Sunday morning, dozens of vendors fill the parking lot to sell their goodies. You can find everything from fresh veggies to homemade jams. On a Sunday afternoon, it's also a fun place to grab lunch.
The Farmer's Market lasts from 9am to 1:30pm.
In 2017, the Herbst Pavilion on Fort Mason was reworked into new space for the San Francisco Art Institute. In addition to working studios for their students, the new space offers 4,300 square feet that are open the public and free to visit. Inside, you will see a flagship gallery, a student run gallery and performance space.
In addition to the activities and attractions mentioned above, you will also find events here almost every day of the week. Its warehouse building, the Festival Pavilion, attracts large festivals, fairs, and other events.
Here are some of the biggest Fort Mason events every year.
Chronicle Wine Competition: The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is the largest American wine competition in the world. It's hosted by the San Francisco Chronicle every February which ends with a large public tasting event at Fort Mason. Find out more about this event.
Ocean Film Festival: The Ocean Film Festival is an annual event in March. It features four full days of independent films on topics related to the ocean such as sharks, the impact of climate change, and surfers.
International Beer Festival: The International Beer Festival is one of the largest events here. This annual beer festival offers you the chance to sample some of best SF, Bay Area and California craft beers. It's also an annual fund-raiser for a local non-profit school. It's usually in April but will also sometime fall in May.
Bay Area Brew Fest: The Bay Area Brew Fest is another fun beer festival at the Fort Mason Center. It's usually in March and August each year. It's at the Festival Pavilion and offers more than 200 local brews for samples. You can also step outside to enjoy gourmet goodies from local food trucks. More annual beer festivals in SF.
San Francisco International Arts Festival: The San Francisco International Arts Festival is a two-week festival designed to bring together the arts and artists from around the world. It features a variety of performances, art shows, and so much more. It starts in late May and ends in early June. Learn more here.
West Coast Craft Fair: The Fort Mason Center is also home to several craft fairs throughout the year. One of the biggest is the West Coast Craft Fair. It's twice a year in both the Summer and around the holidays. They feature handmade items from local artists around the West Coast. More about this and other craft fairs around SF.
Renegade Craft Fair: The Renegade Craft Fair is another popular event. It's held twice a year in July and around the holidays. They feature about 200 hand selected artists from around the US and internationally with unique and interesting pieces for sale.
Find out more about upcoming events in SF each month. Click the links below to learn more.
If you are attending one of these events or a conference here, your best bet is to find a hotel in either Fisherman's Wharf or the Marina District. Both are within walking distance or a short bus ride away. Here are a few of my top picks.
HI San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf: This hostel is the perfect spot for those with budget in mind. It's right in Fort Mason and offers both dorm beds and private rooms. You will stay in one of the historic buildings on this amazing site. Visit Booking.com for more details.
Hotel del Sol: In the Marina District, you will find this funky 3-star hotel. It's just a 10 to 15-minute walk (mostly flat). It offers a family-friendly environment with colorful rooms, a swimming pool, and its pet friendly. Visit Booking.com for more details.
Argonaut Hotel: Heading over to the Fisherman's Wharf side, you will find the 4-star boutique hotel, the Argonaut. This stylish hotel sits inside an old warehouse and offers exposed brick walls with all the modern amenities. Visit Booking.com for more details.
Here are additional recommendations for each district.
Fisherman's Wharf: The Fisherman's Wharf area sits just to the east of Fort Mason. This SF neighborhood has dozens of hotels from four-star gems along the waterfront to affordable and highly-rated 2-star options. Discover a list of my hotel recommendations for this neighborhood.
Marina District: The Marina District is on the western side of Fort Mason. This is where you can find several affordable motels and hotels along Lombard Street. Uncover my favorites and a few other tips on things to do in this SF district.
Fort Mason sits along the northern waterfront in San Francisco. It benefits from the breezes off the water, so you will find that it's often quite pleasant here. In the Summer months, it's often in the mid to upper 60s. In the cooler winter months, it's often in the mid to upper 50s. It will cool off about 10 degrees at night throughout the year.
From Fisherman's Wharf: The easiest route from Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 is to walk. There is a shortcut that takes you along the waterfront. This path offers amazing views of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the cute seaside town of Sausalito.
From Union Square: You have a few options to get here from Union Square.
From BART: If you plan to arrive to SF by BART, you have a couple of options to get here.
If you plan to drive, you will find parking on-site. You will also find a few lots less than a 10 to 15-minute walk away.
On-Site Parking: The Fort Mason Center has a limited number of spots on-site. These spots are very popular and are offered on a first come, first served basis. Parking is around $3 an hour and you are allowed to park here between 7am and midnight. Overnight parking is not allowed. You can enter their on-site parking at Marina and Buchanan Streets.
Since the on-site parking fills up quickly or is even more limited due to outdoor events, here are a few other options for you. DO NOT park in the Safeway lot across the street. They do ticket and tow.
2055 Lombard St: This lot is about a half mile away. It offers garage parking and is open from 7am to 12am with hours until 3am on Friday and Saturday. It has more than 200 spaces with prices ranging from $3 an hour to up to $40 events for the day. Check the sign when you enter for information on parking for that day. They will charge more for certain events.
Ghirardelli Square: The lot at 900 Northpoint Boulevard is inside Ghirardelli Square in Fisherman's Wharf. This is a great spot if you plan to visit Fort Mason and then continue on to visit more attractions in Fisherman's Wharf. It's another large garage lot with almost 400 spaces. Prices start at around $6 an hour to around $40 for up to 24 hours. Even though this looks close on the map, you will have to tackle one steep hill to walk here.
3236 Pierce Street: Another place to park nearby is in the Marina. This garage has parking for just over 100 cars. It's open from 9am to 10pm daily. Parking rates here start at about $3 per hour or more for certain events. It's about a mile walk to Fort Mason from this lot, but it's mostly flat.