Journey beyond the bridges for some fun for all ages at these summer special events.

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June 15, 2018

Summer Fairs and Festivals Beyond San Francisco

Summer is the perfect time to soak in the sun and spend some quality time with your friends and family. If you are visiting San Francisco between the months of May and August, make some time to go beyond the bridges for some special annual events. From a county fair that lets you get up close and personal with animals to an entire food fair dedicated to garlic, the Bay Area has an eclectic mix of summer fairs and festivals ready for visitors.

Alameda County Fair (Pleasanton, CA)

This is one of the longest-running and most beloved county fairs in the Bay Area. It has all the ingredients of an exciting county fair, including monster trucks, horse races and free concerts. The fair has thrilling rides as well, such as the gravity-defying Super Shot Drop Tower. If you are an adventurous eater, you can sample the fried oatmeal ice cream at the fair. The Alameda County Fair runs for three weeks between June 15 and July 8, with season passes available for $40 per person. 

Travel time from San Francisco: 45 minutes

Santa Clara County Fair (San Jose, CA)

This South Bay county fair has a variety of unique attractions, such as a pig race, sea lions and wiener dogs making a run for the finish line. The fair has a different theme each year. What will it be for 2018? We don’t know yet, but stay tuned for updates. The four-day annual fair is scheduled to run Aug. 2-5.   

Travel time from San Francisco: 1 hour

Sonoma County Fair (Santa Rosa, CA)

This 10-day annual fair is a lot less crowded than others, which means you get to have a lot more fun. Like other fairs in the Bay Area, this one, too, has a different theme each year. The theme for the 2018 edition is “Salute to Heroes”. The fair has thrill rides for teens and adults, as well as mellow rides for your little ones. If you want to unwind during the fair, head to the Hall of Flowers exhibit. The 2018 Sonoma County Fair is scheduled to run Aug. 2-12, with general admission tickets priced at $15 per person. 

Travel time from San Francisco: 1 hour and 15 minutes

Kaiser Center's Rooftop Garden Concerts (Oakland, CA)

If music is your thing, head to Kaiser Center's Rooftop Garden in Oakland. The three-acre semi-public space hosts free concerts every Friday, from June to September. You can expect an eclectic bunch of artists to perform. Just pack some lunch, get some wine and enjoy a day out under the sun, with good music to give you company.

Travel time from San Francisco: 20 minutes

San Jose Jazz Summerfest (San Jose, CA)

First started in 1990, San Jose Jazz Summerfest is an annual fixture that brings together some of the most acclaimed jazz musicians from around the world. The 2018 edition of the three-day festival includes such artists as Kool and the Gang, Herb Alpert, and Organic Trio. San Jose Jazz Summerfest 2018 runs Aug. 10-12. Three-day passes for the event start at $50 per person. 

Travel time from San Francisco: 1 hour

Napa City Nights (Napa, CA)

Napa Valley also hosts a series of summer concerts between the months of June and August. The concerts are hosted every Friday between 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Park Amphitheater. The free concerts cut across genres, ranging from rock to jazz, blues, hip-hop and everything in between. There are lawn chairs for attendees, but you can always take your own blankets and have a family picnic in a serene setting.

Travel time from San Francisco: 1 hour

Bottlerock Napa Valley (Napa, CA)

This is one of the newest music festivals in the Bay Area that hosts rock and indie artists. The three-day event has seen performances by the likes of Foo Fighters, Maroon 5 and Tom Petty in the past. Bottlerock Napa Valley 2018 is scheduled for May 25-27 and features artists such as Bruno Mars, Thievery Corporation and The Roots.

Travel time from San Francisco: 1 hour

Gilroy Garlic Festival (Gilroy, CA)

This is one of the most unusual events in the Bay Area and is a must-attend for adventurous foodies. You can try some all-time garlic-flavored favorites here, such as calamari and the pepper steak sandwich. There is also Gilroy Garlic Shrimp, a deep-fried wonder that made its debut in 2017. However, the highlight of the event is the garlic ice cream, which is free! The three-day event also has live music performances. Gilroy Garlic Festival runs  July 27-29. Tickets are $20 per person (adults). 

Travel time from San Francisco: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Marin County Fair (San Rafael, CA)

One of the oldest county fairs in the Bay Area, this fair has thrilling rides for kids and adults alike, including Energy Storm and the Yo-Yo. There are musical performances and competitive games that you can participate in, too. You can design your own carousel or let kids take part in a fun treasure hunt. There are photography and videography awards to be won, as well. Marin County Fair 2018 is scheduled to run June 30 - July 4. 

Travel time from San Francisco: 40 minutes

Taco Festival of Innovation (San Jose, CA)

This annual event is dedicated to the Mexican favorite and always happens on the last Saturday of May. The best taco trucks in the Bay Area participate in the event, which allows you to sample all manner of tacos, including ice cream tacos, shrimp tacos and everything in between. There is local craft beer at the event, family games, musical performances and even wrestling matches to keep you entertained. The 2018 edition is scheduled to take place on May 26. General admission passes for the event are $10 per person. 

Travel time from San Francisco: 1 hour


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