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Stern Grove Festival San Francisco: 2021 Calendar & Tips to Attend This Popular Festival

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: June 8, 2021

This year the Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco celebrates its 84th anniversary. The 2021 season runs from June 20 to August 29. This year, top performers include the Thievery Corporation, Too $hort, and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.

Every Sunday at 2pm during the summer months, you will find a free concert in the park. The shows usually last two to three hours and are wildly popular.

This year, the process is a little different as well. You must register on their website for advanced tickets. All tickets go on sale 12 days in advance of each performance (Tuesday afternoons at 2 p.m.). No walk-ups will be allowed and the gates will open at noon.

2021 Schedule

Here were the events and performers planned for Stern Grove 2021.

  • 6/20: Ledisi, The Seshen, and La Dona
  • 6/27: Perfume Genius, Madame Gandhi
  • 7/4: San Francisco Symphony
  • 7/11: Thievery Corporation & Dessa
  • 7/18: St. Paul & The Broken Bones with The Dip
  • 7/25: X and The Avengers
  • 8/1: Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
  • 8/8: Thundercat and Cassowary
  • 8/15: Fitz & The Tantrums, Devon Gilfillian
  • 8/29: The Big Picnic with Tower of Power and Too $hort.

>> Visit their site to get tickets to upcoming performances

Stern Grove Festival with crowd and stageLocals and visitors enjoying the afternoon at Stern Grove. Photo courtesy of SternGrove.org.

The Big Picnic

They haven't announced how the Big Picnic will work in 2021, but the information below shows you how they usually set it up.

The Stern Grove Festival ends their season with the Big Picnic, which is their annual fundraiser, and the only event each summer that requires that you pay to get in. You will then be able to enjoy the concert from this special area. The Big Picnic precedes the opening concert from 11:30am and 2pm.

The concert itself is free and open to the public, and starts at 2pm. This last concert is one of the largest event of the season and seating can be hard to get tickets.

What to Bring

Since these concerts are free, there are very few amenities. Here are just a few of the items you will want to bring with you.

  • Blanket or Camping Chairs: You won't find chairs or other seating, so I recommend bringing along something to sit on.
  • Food & Drinks: There is a small cafe on site that sells a limited amount of food and beverages. You can also bring along your own and have a nice picnic lunch in the park during the concert.
  • Alcohol: The cafe does not sell alcohol, but the park does allow you to drink beer and wine during the shows in the Concert Meadow and West Meadow.
  • Warm Jackets & Clothing: Since Stern Grove is closer to the Pacific Ocean, it does get cooler here. Make sure you bring along a jacket or wear warm clothing in case the temperatures are cool during the show. You want to be prepared for the wind, fog, and even a little sunshine.

Other Things You Need to Know

Since the concerts are crowded, here are just a few other things you need to know before you arrive.

  • Reservations Required: This is new for 2021 and will allow them to keep everyone safe. You must visit their site in advance to get tickets for each performance. 
  • Arrival Time: I recommend heading over to the shows early. The gates open at 12 pm. They only allow people with advanced registration in, but you will still want to go early to grab a seat. I like to head over no later than 1pm or so in order to get a good spot.
  • Pets: No pets are allowed in this area of the park during the concerts. There are other areas open for pets, but they will not allow any within the concert seating area. Service animals and support animals are allowed.
  • Personal Belongings: Make sure you keep an eye on your personal items at all times. It gets crowded (and is free!), so can attract people looking to pick up a few unattended items.
  • Recording/Photography: Neither pictures nor video is permitted during the shows. I recommend leaving your camera at home or the place you are staying, so you don't have to worry about it during the performances.

Other Popular Festivals This Summer

Note: For 2021, most of these festivals are on hold until 2022. 

Union Square Live: From April to October, you can catch free cultural performances at SF's Union Square. These events are usually every Wednesday and Sunday. Click here for this year's festival.

Yerba Buena Gardens Festival: The Yerba Buena Gardens Festival also offers free music and other cultural programs all summer long. Performances are held several days a week between May and October. Click here for more details.

Sunday Streets: The annual Sunday Streets event features blocks of car-free streets in a specific district on one Sunday each month. This allows pedestrians to bike, run, or walk without worrying about traffic. Each event also provides live music, free health screenings, and other community activities. Click here for this year's schedule.

Union Street Festival: The Union Street Festival is typically the kick-off to SF's famous summer festival season. This lively event features live music, gourmet food, and dozens of merchant booths with unique arts and crafts. You will also find a premium craft beer and wine tasting pavilion. Click here to learn more.

North Beach Street Festival: Another popular SF Street Fair is the North Beach Festival. This one also features live music, amazing street food, and several fun activities for the kids. Click here to learn more about this year's festival.

Other Pages You Might Enjoy

Tips to Get To Stern Grove

Stern Grove Park is on the corner of 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard in the city's Outer Sunset neighborhood.

Your best bet is to take public transit, since parking is very limited in this part of the city.

From Union Square

Light Rail Trains: The fastest way to get here from Union Square is by taking either the M Ocean View or K Ingleside light rail trains. You can pick them up at the underground station at Powell and 5th Streets. Make sure you hop on an 'outbound' train.

  • Stop: Take either of these to the stop at St. Francis Circle. You will then walk one block west to the park. There will be plenty of other people on these trains, so just follow the crowds.
  • Timing: Allow for at least 35 to 40 minutes to get to the park.

MUNI Buses: There are numerous buses that go out to Stern Grove. You'll have to check the map to find them.

From Fisherman's Wharf

F Streetcar: Take this streetcar to the Embarcadero Station at Market and Drumm Streets.

  • Light Rail Train: Head to the underground Embarcadero Station on this corner. Take either the M or K (outbound) trains to the St. Francis Circle stop. Walk one block west to the park.
  • Timing: Allow at least 50 minutes to an hour to get here from Fisherman's Wharf

MUNI Buses: There are numerous buses that go out to Stern Grove. You'll have to check the map to find them.

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