The Most Unique Annual Events in San Francisco


The Most Unique Annual Events in San Francisco

San Francisco Hunky Jesus

When you come to San Francisco, you might see someone riding the bus in their underwear.

Don't worry! You're not hallucinating - they're probably just taking part in the No-Pants Subway Ride.

Events in San Francisco are among the most off-beat and crazy on the planet. In fact, it wouldn’t be going too far to say SF is the counter-culture capital of the world.

No matter what time of the year you arrive, there is bound to be a mind-bending parade or festival taking place.

Let’s take a look at 13 of the craziest events in San Francisco so you can get ready for the madness to come!

No Pants Subway Ride

When: January

Where: On BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) trains 

Every January, commuters across the world slip out of their pants and ride the subway like nothing is wrong. They might get stares (and probably a little chilly), but the idea is to behave like everything is normal.

Why? Well, just for fun.

The No Pants Subway Ride was started in New York by comedy troupe Improv Everywhere, but has now become an annual event in dozens of cities across the globe.

The rules are pretty simple. Take off your pants, ride the BART system and act as if nothing is unusual.

The event is free to take part in, but you’ll need to pay for your train ride.

Great San Francisco Pillow Fight

Picture courtesy of Pacific Tradewinds

When: Valentine’s Day

Where: Justin Herman Plaza

If the thought of Valentine’s Day has you blowing steam from your ears, then this is the perfect event for you.

The Great San Francisco Pillow Fight sees hundreds of people gather on the day of love in Justin Herman Plaza for an epic feather-filled battle royale.

Of course, no one gets hurt. It’s just a great chance to do something fun on the most romantic sickening holiday of the year.

There are five rules every participant has to follow:

1. Tell everyone you know about Pillow Fight.

2. Tell EVERYONE you know about Pillow Fight.

3. Arrive with your pillow hidden in a bag.

4. When the Ferry Building Clock strikes 6, begin.

5. Don’t hit anyone without a pillow (unless they ask).

Whether you are taking part or just watching, the Pillow Fight is an excellent alternative to an over-priced set menu at a local Italian restaurant.

Brides of March

When: Middle of March

Where: Across San Francisco

One of the more outrageous parades in San Francisco — and that’s saying something — has got to be the Brides of March.

The annual pub crawl sees men and women alike don wedding dresses and march through the streets of the city.

Along the way, the glammed-up participants stop off at high-end stores and local bars to the delight of camera-wielding passers-by.

The hilarious event is open to everyone — you just need to pick up a wedding dress from a thrift store.

Ask A Scientist’s Pi Day Puzzle Party

When: March 14

Where: SOMA StrEat Food Park

We love to celebrate all the major holidays in San Francisco: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and, of course, Pi Day.

Everyone’s favorite mathematical constant is marked each year on March 14 (3/14) and Ask A Scientist’s Pi Day Puzzle Party is the happening place in town.

The annual event sees teams of up to six pitch against one another in a grand math and logic puzzle competition.

Taking part is free - you’ll just need to bring along some pencils, scratch paper and a non-scientific calculator.

Plus, if you’re anything like us, you might need to brush up on your math skills anyway.

St. Stupid’s Day Parade



Crazy events San Francisco St Stupid Day parade
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Picture courtesy of Lenore Edman/Flickr

When: April 1

Where: Meet at Transamerica Pyramid

The St. Stupid’s Day Parade is an annual tribute to every little dumb thing we’ve done in our lives.

We may not like to admit it but our days are filled with doing the wrong thing. From buying lottery tickets we (pretty much) know aren’t going to win to keeping odd socks in the vague hope the other might turn up (it won’t).

The parade is a celebration of those wonderful choices that make us the wacky, crazy, eccentric people we all are deep down.

To join in, wear anything and everything. Hats on your feet and socks on your hands are more than welcome at this crazy free annual event. 

If you fancy bringing noisemakers, clackers and anything else… feel free. There are no rules here.

To help the fun flow, the team behind the parade also organize a ridiculous talent contest and host a free lunch.

Hunky Jesus and Foxy Mary Contest

When: Easter Sunday

Where: Golden Gate Park

Check out Jesus strutting his stuff and Mary looking fierce at San Francisco’s wackiest Easter weekend event.

The Hunky Jesus and Foxy Mary contest sees participants dress up as the Son of God and his mom for a beauty competition of biblical proportions.

To give you an idea of the tone of the contest, previous winners include ‘Wet T-Shirt Jesus’ and ‘Cheerleader Jesus’.

You might want to think twice about bringing along the children. Nudity can be expected at the show.

The outrageous contest is just one of the many excellent activities at the Easter with the Sisters! annual celebration at Golden Gate Park. More PG events include the children’s morning Easter egg hunts.

Bring Your Own Big Wheel

When: Easter Sunday

Where: 20th and Vermont Streets

Remember when you were a kid and you hurtled down the street on your bike feeling like you were breaking the sound barrier?

Bring Your Own Big Wheel is the adult equivalent of that.

The annual event sees crazy/heroic participants race down Vermont Street on their big wheel bikes with just a barrel of hay between them and hundreds of spectators.

Pile-ups are common. Crashes are guaranteed.

If you fancy getting involved, then you’ll need to get your hands on a small, wheeled vehicle. Not everyone races trikes but they are the most common form of transport.

Aside from that, it’s free to participate although a $10 to $20 donation is much appreciated by the organizers.

In this race, it really isn’t about the winning and definitely is about the taking part.

Click here to take a look at our hostel staff way back in the year 2000 participating in the race!


How Weird Street Faire

How Weird Street Faire

A man in a pink skirt and his friends hang out at How Weird Street Fair 2012

Photo credit: Joped

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Picture courtesy of Joped/Flickr

When: May

Where: Howard Street in the SoMa district

Get freaky and funky at one of the most creative festivals in the city.

Located on Howard Street, the aptly named How Weird Street Faire is a celebration of all things...well, weird. Get it? Howard, How Weird? :)

Each year a different theme is announced for you to keep in mind when you plan your outfit.

Although the festival was donation-based in previous years, it now costs $20 to attend, but for the experience of roaming the streets of San Francisco all day dressed in costume along with thousands of other people, it might be worth it.

Bay to Breakers

Picture courtesy of Bhautik Joshi/Flickr

When: May

Where: All over the city

The Bay to Breakers 12k race takes a flurry of costumed runners from the Embarcadero - "the Bay" to Ocean Beach - "the breakers."

The annual event is actually very historic — the first race took place in 1912, and many people take it very earnestly.

However, somewhere down the line, Bay to Breakers started being less of a serious race and more of an excuse to wake up early and run around San Francisco in elaborate costumes. Not that we always need an excuse for that, but sometimes people look at us funny if we do it on a non-festival day.

We’ve seen pretty much every costume imaginable from the more than two million people who have already completed the famous race, but with every year comes more costumes. People often coordinate costumes with their friends, so it's not uncommon to see a troop of clowns or a school of fish running alongside you.

All along the route of the race, there are live bands and DJs, as well as houses having parties in case you want to take a break from running and have a drink or two.

The race starts at 8 a.m. and officially ends at 12:30, but expect the city to be full of merry-makers for the rest of the day.

If you're registering to run the race for real, the fee is $50, but if you just want to throw on a costume and run the course, it's free. The earlier you show up, the better.

Annual World Naked Bike Ride, San Francisco

When: June

Where: Across San Francisco

When you come to the city, you will probably find that San Franciscans never miss their chance to express themselves in any way possible.

The Annual World Naked Bike Ride is the perfect opportunity to do just that.

The San Francisco edition sees cyclists make like Nelly and, well, "take off all their clothes" for a gentle ride around the city.

Participants meet near the Ferry Building — with clothes on — for a chance to mingle with old friends and decorate their bikes (and other bits).

Once everyone is ready, the clothes come off and the journey begins.

Although it is called a naked bike ride, participants are free to wear whatever they feel comfortable in.

Not only is it an awesome show of liberalism, but the annual event is also a protest against our dependency on oil and a show for renewable energy.

Folsom Street Fair

When: Last Sunday in September

Where: Folsom Street

Leather, metal studs and chains take center stage in the largest fetish fair in the world, the Folsom Street Fair.

More than 250,000 people partake in the annual celebration of all things kink. Aside from the fact that there are naked and mostly-naked people walking around, it has all the things you'd expect at a street fair: booths, games, food and live music. There are also BDSM demos and other live performances.

It’s not all chains and whips, though. The Folsom Street Fair also features fundraising events - such as a spanking booth - that raise thousands of dollars each year for local and national charities.

On that note, although the festival is free, you will be asked for an optional donation when you enter. If you donate more then $10, you get a sticker that will grant you $2 off all drinks you buy that day at one of the fair's many booth.

You don't have to be decked out in leather to attend the festival. However, no matter what you're wearing, if you attend, please remember respect and consent. Just because someone is at the fair in a revealing costume does not mean they consent to being touched or photographed. The Folsom Street Fair is a safe space for people to express themselves, and should be treated as such.

Lit Crawl

When: October

Where: Mission District

Join the world’s most academic pub crawl for a night that deserves a book written about it.

Lit Crawl sees more than 500 authors and more than 10,000 book fans journey around the Mission District, stopping for drinks along the way.

This event includes many venues you would expect — bars, cafes, galleries and bookstores. But also includes some odd stops such as police stations, tattoo parlors, barbershops, and laundromats.

The famous pub crawl marks the end of San Francisco’s Litquake Literary Festival, a fascinating collection of interactive workshops, readings and cross-media events.

Santa Con


Santa Con
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Picture courtesy of Zach Franzen/Flickr

When: December

Where: Union Square/bars in the downtown area

Inspired by a Danish performance arts group in 1974, the very first SantaCon was held in San Francisco in 1994, and now takes place in cities all across the world.

Here in its birthplace, thousands of Santas gather in Union Square at noon every year. There's always a large Christmas tree put up in Union Square for Christmas, which is a great backdrop to take pictures in front of with your Santa friends.

Participants in the free event typically dress up as old Saint Nick, but you’ll definitely see many elves, reindeer and Grinches as well.

Traditionally, participants bring a gift to contribute to the childrens' toy drive that the San Francisco Fire Department puts on every year. There is usually also a singalong and costume contest, although the 2018 SantaCon did not feature these.

What it did feature was the customary massive bar crawl that takes place every year. Starting around 1 in the afternoon and going until the bars close at 2 a.m., most of the bars around Union Square, in Chinatown, in North Beach, along Polk Street or in the Marina district will be overflowing with jolly Santas getting their drink on.


Conclusion: The Craziest Annual Events in San Francisco

We told you it got pretty crazy around here! If you do decide to come to San Francisco, our friendly staff here at Pacific Tradewinds Hostel can give you more information about the various festivals and events around the city.

Not only are we the number one rated hostel in the city, but we’re welcoming to everyone — from hunky Jesuses to naked cyclists and everything in between.

Main picture courtesy of Chris Hunkeler/Flickr

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