Living in San Francisco means having the richness of art in a major city, and the natural beauty of California all in one fell swoop. Here's your guide to enjoying urban escapes and art and live performance – at the same time! – this summer. Also, check out our guides to the season's falls and festivals, movies, music, and best adventures you can go on without a car.
WITHIN THE CITY
Yerba Buena Gardens Festival
With three stages of free performances, this festival is perfect for a dose of culture and fresh air during your lunch hour with music, dance, theater, and readings. There's weekend concerts too: the SF Mime Troupe performs Aug. 21, SF's local songbird Meklit Hadero on Aug. 27, and SF's pluckiest free ring wraiths, Circus Bella return to the lawn for the weekend of July 1-2.
May through September, free. www.ybgf.org
Stern Grove Festival
Stern Grove’s eucalyptus tree surroundings create a pretty magical summer stage for free performances. The experience gets even better when you pack a tasty picnic spread to enjoy -- but leave your umbrellas and high-back chairs at home to keep the peace with those who didn't snag the primo front row spots. In addition to the annual appearances of the San Francisco Ballet, Opera and Symphony, the concert lineup features Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, the Jazz Mafia Symphony, Neko Case, Afrocubism, The English Beat, Aaron Neville, and Javier Limon and Buika.
Sundays, June 19-August 21, free. www.sterngrove.org
San Francisco Mime Troupe at Dolores Park
Enjoy palm trees and revolutionary spirit with your Tecate: with this historic troupe of not-mimes – forget the pantomime, this is socially relevant theater in the park.
July 2, 3, 4, free. www.sfmt.org
San Francisco Symphony in the Park
This year’s concert, which will be performed in Sharon Meadow, features conductor Michael Francis and pianist Valentina Lisitsa on a program of Mussorgsky’s A Night on Bald Mountain, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.
July 10, 2 p.m., free. www.sfsymphony.org
Shakespeare in the Park, The Presidio
Bring the whole family for this year’s performance of Cymbeline at the Presidio’s Main Post Parade Ground Lawn.
September 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, free. Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park, SF. www.sfshakes.org
Opera in the Park
This year’s annual concert, also in Sharon Meadow, features a special musical program commemorating the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001.
September 11, 1:30 p.m., free. Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park, SF. www.sfopera.com
Seventy miles north of San Francisco in Sonoma County, Oliver Ranch boasts scenic acres and 18 site-specific installations by artists such as Bruce Nauman and Richard Serra, as well as Ann Hamilton's distinct tower where commissioned dance, poetry, theater, and music performances unfold. The tower structure – defined by two staircases built in a double helix form that accommodate the audience on one staircase and the performers on the other -- suits a range of sensory projects and performances hosting artists like Meredith Monk and the Kronos Quartet. Limited capacity allows for only 100 visitors, making this ticket a splurge -- but it's all good, each concert in the tower benefits a non-profit organization. June appearances include Pauline Oliveros and Terry and Jo Harvey Allen. Should you be lucky enough to get tickets, be sure to bring some water and sunscreen and make a day of it visiting all the nearby wineries.
Various dates in June, prices vary. 22205 River, Geyserville. (510) 412-9090, www.oliverranchfoundation.org
Headlands Center for the Arts open house
Just across the bridge in the rugged Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Headlands Center for the Arts synthesizes natural and urban environments in a cluster of historic, 1900s military buildings at Fort Barry among hills, cliffs, coves, and beaches. At the center's summer open house, artists open their studios to the public to show their works-in-progress and talk with visitors about their creative process in a variety of disciplines. Catch one of the many performances and readings scheduled throughout the day and then head to the mess hall, which is transformed into a café serving delicious homemade snacks at down-home prices for the event. While you're there, a hike through the windy Headland hills is a must-do.
July 24, 12-5 p.m., free. 944 Fort Barry, Sausalito. (415) 331-2787, www.headlands.org
Robert Mondavi Winery Summer Music Festival
One of the first wineries in the Napa Valley, the Robert Mondavi Winery offers much more than sipping, swilling, and spitting. A concert series scheduled for Saturday nights in July features music in an open-air setting and this summer’s lineup includes Gavin DeGraw, Colbie Caillat, David Foster, Chris Isaak, K.D. Lang, and the Siss Boom Bang. Mondavi’s grounds also include an art gallery open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with artifacts and paintings as well as a sculpture collection focused on the work of San Francisco artist, Beniamino Bufano, displayed in the main courtyard surrounded by rows of vines. Head here for a fancy summer night of outdoor music and wind down after an afternoon of tastings.
Saturdays in July, $75-$105. 7801 St. Helena Hwy., Oakville. (888) 766-6328, www.robertmondavi.com