What to do in San Francisco this September – SFGATE

What to do in San Francisco this September – SFGATE

A community member plays a flower piano in 2019 in Golden Gate Park.
Despite the constant refrain that San Francisco is on its deathbed, our city still has plenty of life left — especially as it stirs from Fogust and welcomes the area’s warmest season. It’s officially/unofficially SF summer, which is expressed in the lively, diverse events throughout the month. We’ve got alfresco film screenings, not one — but three — festivals, high-larious comedy, a world-famous kinky street fair, a magical music/plant experience you can’t find anywhere else and much more. 
One of the greatest things about the city is its diversity of neighborhoods. So to celebrate the varied fabric that comprises our tapestry of 48 hills, we’ve organized this list by neighborhood, with the hopes that people become more familiar with their own hoods and find excuses to visit other ones. 
Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list of every single neighborhood in the city, so forgive us if we didn’t mention yours this time, but we’ll be expanding on this guide every month to highlight the best that the bay has to offer. And for more suggestions, check out our list of free things to do in San Francisco this summer and our Bay Area bucket list activities.
“I do resonate with a lot of character traits,” says Isa Musni, who plays Princess Leia in “The Empire Strips Back.” “You know, she’s a woman with very strong opinions. She can be very hard-headed.”
“The Empire Strips Back,” through September
After a sold-out stint at the Warfield and a critically acclaimed U.S. tour, sexy stormtroopers and tantalizing Twi’leks are back in SF for eight weeks, ready to take you to a galaxy far, far away. “Star Wars” fantasies and sexual politics collide in this burlesque parody show, which features a ladylike Skywalker and a seductive Boba Fett. And the setting for a night on the dark side (with a side of striptease) is just as special: Great Star Theater, a storied and newly revitalized Chinatown treasure. Great Star Theater, 636 Jackson St., Tuesday through Sunday.
“Puff, Puff, Laugh” Cannabis Lounge Comedy Show, every Thursday
Cannabis and comedy go together like popcorn and a movie (or, you know, weed and a movie, too.) But at this show, you won’t have to get high in the parking lot before or during intermission. Hella Funny, the Bay Area’s beloved comedy collective helmed by local favorite Stroy Moyd, brings a handful of comics who normally perform at SF Sketchfest, Cobb’s Comedy Club and Punch Line to the swanky, leather-clad lounge of Mission Street’s Barbary Coast dispensary. Visit the dab bar before the show, roll your own or sink into one of the comfy booths with a CBD elixir and enjoy stand-up comedy as it was meant to be taken in. Like most comedy shows, the dispensary asks that you purchase something, but with daily specials and pre-rolls starting at just $7, the prices beat the usual two-drink minimum. Barbary Coast, 952 Mission St., 7 p.m.
The Art of the Brick, through Sept. 5
It’s your last chance to see what’s dubbed “The World’s Most Popular Display of LEGO(R) Art.” Award-winning artist Nathan Sawaya creates large-scale sculptures using only Lego building blocks — but more than a million of them. From a 20-foot Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton to the Mona Lisa, Sawaya’s creations will put your childhood playtime in a whole new light. 1 Grant Ave., Monday through Sunday, various times.
Cobb’s Comedy Allstars, Sept. 4
A great way to take in the bay’s unique comedy stylings is to hit up this all-star show that features the best local talent. Some of the comics have appeared on Comedy Central and late-night talk shows, while others have simply won over tough crowds throughout SF for years. Either way, you can expect the laughs to be anything but cheap while you enjoy a classic North Beach date night. Cobb’s Comedy Club, 915 Columbus Ave., 7:30 p.m. 
A scene from “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
Sundown Cinema: “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Sept. 9 
Nothing says summer like an outdoor movie night, and it might finally be warm enough to enjoy one without a sleeping bag and hot beverage. Sundown Cinema is in its fourth year of offering free outdoor movies spread across iconic SF parks, and this one takes place in one of SF’s most photographed spaces. Take in a young Harrison Ford along with the iconic Painted Ladies while you enjoy music, food and drinks before the screening. Because let’s be real — you still need that hot beverage. Alamo Square Park, 5:30 p.m. 
Fourth Annual Chuseok Festival, Sept. 10 
You know the seasons are changing when harvest festivals begin. Chuseok, also known as Korean Thanksgiving or Korean harvest, is a celebration of family, food and the new season. This year, the Korean Center is taking over the main parade lawn in the new Presidio Tunnel Tops park for a day of Korean cuisine (look out for songpyeon, a rice cake special to the holiday), along with music, art and a taste of SF’s rich Korean culture. Presidio Tunnel Tops, Main Parade Lawn, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema, Sept. 9, 10, 16
In its 19th year, Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema brings local filmmakers’ works to three of the neighborhood’s sweetest parks. Load up your picnic baskets and get cozy in Bernal Plaza, Precita Park and Bernal Heights Park for three nights of animations, documentaries, music videos and shorts. With each film under 15 minutes, you’ll get a glimpse into the minds of several different up-and-coming artists. The season kickoff night features activism documentaries, a comedy about a robot working at a diner, a musical ode to the neighborhood and much more. Various locations in Bernal Heights, 7 – 9:30 p.m. 
VisValley Jazz & Chocolate, Sept. 9 
If you’re looking for the elusive SF artist, try a night in the creative and hidden neighborhood of VisValley. Organizers of this small chocolate-and-music crawl are ensuring you’ll discover creativity and sugar-free sweetness. The evening begins with a “hands-on” tasting tour of SF’s zero-sugar chocolate factory, where you can make your own chocolate bar. Then the group will stroll down the street to 99 Leland, a creative community space, to enjoy a live jazz music set with vocalist Noa Levy and other surprise local musical guests. The Good Chocolate, 25 Leland Ave., 6:30 – 9  p.m. 
“OKLAHOMA!” through Sept. 11 
Described as a “fever dream in the possible best way,” Daniel Fish’s rendition of this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic is not your grandmother’s musical. Without changing a word in the original script, the production reimagines the 1943 classic through a multiracial, nonbinary cast and updated songs that trade the traditional orchestra for pared-down bluegrass numbers. “OKLAHOMA!” tells a story of the frontier life that shaped America and leans into the dark undertones that persist today, making it relevant and stirring for modern audiences. Expect more than a few eerie surprises that will keep you and your date talking long after curtain. Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., Tuesday through Sunday, 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Farming Hope’s Guest Chef Dinner, Sept. 12
Of all the tasting menus and pop-up dinners SF offers, this one truly delivers — both in quality and heart. Farming Hope’s Guest Chef Series invites influential chefs to cook out of the community food hub, Refettorio San Francisco, former home to Cala restaurant. Ticket sales ($125 each) from each series pay for 1,400 meals for food-insecure SF residents and fund two paid apprenticeships for formerly incarcerated workers. The series is part of Farming Hope’s mission to address food security in a “full-circle, community driven model” and continues the impactful legacy of Cala, which is lending its space to the nonprofit in the wake of pandemic shutdowns. The September dinner will showcase “Californian adaptations of Indonesian cuisine” by chef Siska Silitonga in a convivial atmosphere, reminiscent of Cala’s short (but bright) heyday. Not only will the shared meal leave you satisfied, but the complete story and players behind the dinner will fill you with gratitude for SF’s pandemic-era tenacity and altruistic culinary innovation. Refettorio San Francisco, 149 Fell St., 6:30 – 9 p.m. 
Gavin Bermudez and Oscar Cervarich play the piano at Flower Piano at the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
Flower Piano, Sept. 16 – 20 
If you haven’t yet been to the magical intersection of nature and music that is Flower Piano, this one-of-a-kind event should definitely be on your September bucket list. Now in its seventh year, Flower Piano transforms the San Francisco Botanical Garden into an alfresco concert hall. Twelve pianos are spread across the 55-acre gardens with scheduled performances, as well as opportunities for anyone to serenade the plants. New this year is the ongoing performance “Fall and Fly,” a 12-piano choir, written by SF-based composer Benjamin Gribble. Special guest speakers, writers and poets will contribute to the evening with themes of renewal and regrowth. San Francisco Botanical Garden, 1199 Ninth Ave., 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Fall and Fly: 5 – 6 p.m.
Bollywood and Beyond, Sept. 24
San Francisco has just about as many film festivals as any city in the world. From Frameline to the Silent Film Festival, there’s a wealth of cinematic treasures to take in year-round. This month, don’t miss the 3rd I South Asian Film Festival, which kicks off on Sept. 23 but has a particularly all-star lineup of programming at the Castro Theatre on the 24th, including a documentary on the South Asian music scene from 1990s Britain and the Bollywood blow-up film “Dil Bole Hadippa!” to end the evening. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., 1 p.m.
West Coast Craft Market, Sept. 17 
For those of you wanting to get ahead on your holiday shopping, you’ll be sure to cross at least your artisan-loving friends and family off your list at this biannual open-air market. More than 100 vendors — many local to California and the bay — set up shop selling handcrafted items including textiles, bags, accessories, woodcrafts, furniture, clothing, housewares, body care, ceramics, glass art and jewelry. Bring your dog and pair your outdoor shopping experience with local food and drink vendors to sweeten the afternoon. Fort Mason Center For Arts & Culture, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. 
Due South free concert series with Thao and Ruby Ibarra, Sept. 17 
There are many reasons to visit San Francisco’s third-largest park: almost 315 acres of native plants, biker-friendly roads and hiking trails. Plus, there’s the fact that because it’s often overlooked, you have these amenities mostly to yourself and other in-the-know residents. And this September, Noise Pop and the SF Parks Alliance are giving you one more reason to soak up the relatively fog-free days here: the second installment of a free, three-part concert series taking place in the park’s Greek-style concert venue, which recently underwent a $1.5 million renovation. Due South showcases artists that represent the residents of SF’s southern region. Thao Nguyen will bring her soulful country/folk/hip-hop blend to September’s show along with Bay Area rapper and spoken word artist Ruby Ibarra, who raps (in Tagalog, Waray and English) about her cultural heritage as an immigrant from the Philippines. McLaren Park, Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, 2 – 6 p.m.
Burnside Mural+ Celebration, Sept. 17 
Sandwiched between Glen Canyon Park and Billy Goat Hill, and just below the stroller haven that is Noe Valley, Glen Park is a tad isolated from the rest of the city, which lends it a small-town village vibe. It eschews major grocery stores for the local Canyon Market and skips nightlife (aside from a couple of divey haunts) in favor of ample nature and wildlife. In fact, coyotes, red-tailed hawks and owls still call the neighborhood home. These, and other past and present notable animal residents, are honored in a new mural that now graces Burnside Avenue. The mural pays homage to Glen Park history and depicts the canyon as it was before the land was developed. Step back in time and glimpse a bit of San Francisco as the Ohlone people knew it while hobnobbing with the artists over nibbles and refreshments. Burnside Avenue, between No. 50 and No. 55, 3 – 5 p.m. 
Saturday Night Skate, Sept. 17 
Sure, you’ve probably experienced the Ferry Building, but not like this. SF’s legendary Church of 8 Wheels takes over the back plaza for a pop-up skating rink. Bring your skates or rent them there, and let the Bay Bridge be your disco ball as you skate among gorgeous views. If you get hungry, the Ferry Building’s food-and-drink lineup is just a glide away. While some longtime purveyors have recently closed up shop, the building has seen exciting newcomers, such as food truck favorite Señor Sisiq, which opened in August. Ferry Building, 1 Ferry Building, 7 – 10 p.m. 
Portola Music Festival, Sept. 24 – 25
Move over, Outside Lands, there’s a new festival in town. Those who are still mourning the loss of Treasure Island Music Festival may find a reprieve with this one. From the creators of Coachella, the lineup caters to SF’s EDM lovers with headliners Flume and The Chemical Brothers, plus other well-known acts such as M.I.A., Gorgon City, Kaytranada, Charli XCX, James Blake and more. Just don’t let the name fool you: The festival actually takes place in the Dogpatch. The name references the Portola Fest of 1909, which was held shortly after the 1906 earthquake and fire as the city was rebuilding. It’s meant as a nod to the similar situation SF finds itself in today as music and entertainment make their post-pandemic comeback. Pier 80, doors open at noon. 
Participants pack the streets for the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco on Sept. 26, 2021.
Folsom Street Fair, Sept. 25 
The legendary clothing-optional street fair that draws 200,000 fetish players from around the world is back for its 39th year — and what organizers are dubbing their “daddy phase.” The world-famous (and in some circles, infamous) fair is a celebration of all things leather, kink, BDSM and fetish with a mission to create a safe and inclusive space for alt-sex communities while centering equity for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people. Spread out over 13 blocks, the fair features emerging and big-name performances, two huge dance areas spinning underground EDM, public play stations, an erotic artists’ area with a performance stage and more than 200 exhibitors and vendors. It’s the sort of classic “only in SF” event that makes the city so special and radical. Folsom Street and 145 Ninth St., 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. 
Cole Valley Fair, Sept. 25 
A particular charm of Cole Valley is that it’s central to the city yet still off the main path. Unless you’re a resident, it’s easy to miss the neighborhood’s boundaries, from Haight Street to the quaint vale between Sutro Forest and Buena Vista Park. But that doesn’t stop the community from packing its small neighborhood with local fun. Back for the 18th year, the Cole Valley Fair is a small-town block party that packs a punch, featuring fine art and crafts, food booths, live music, a display of historical Cole Valley photographs and a full block of vintage automobiles owned by neighborhood residents. Cole Street between Frederick and Grattan streets and Parnassus Avenue between Shrader and Belvedere streets, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Sept. 30
After a pandemic hiatus, this beloved three-day music festival is back — and as free as ever! Now in its 22nd year, the festival continues to be subsidized by investment banker F. Warren Hellman, who died in 2011 but continues to fund the fest. Like other years, the lineup lives up to its “hardly strictly” moniker with musical guests such as Sam Bush, Galactic, Marcus Mumford, Jake Blount, The Brothers Comatose, Seratones and Sarah Shook & the Disarmers. While the event is still BYOB, coolers are no longer allowed inside the fest. Instead, expect more food and drink vendors than in previous years. Hellman Hollow, Lindley Meadow and Marx Meadow, Golden Gate Park, 1 – 7 p.m.  
Amy Copperman is a writer and artist based in Oakland. Find her on Instagram

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