San Francisco: 5 best October values

Courtesy Orin Zebest/Flickr
The Castro

Castro Street Fair

Founded by Harvey Milk in 1974, the Castro Street Fair is an excellent place to celebrate the neighborhood's culture, with dancing, food, live shows, and some of the city's biggest personalities. This year's theatrical highlights include live performances of the award-winning musicals Pearls Over Shanghai and Jerry Springer The Opera. Get ready to party with sword swallowers and contortionists, comedians, and burlesque and cabaret troupes, among other local characters. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., $5. Intersection of Castro and Market, from 16th to 19th Streets. See map.


This weeklong literary celebration features readings and other events around the city. While there are big-name headliners like Jonathan Lethem and Daniel Handler, the festival is a great chance to discover local authors. The grand finale is a "lit crawl" through the Mission District, sort of a bar crawl/book reading, featuring some 300 authors doing five-minute readings at bars, shops, art galleries and even an alleyway. The event always draws huge crowds, filled with revelry, drinks, and literary inspiration. Most events are either free or cost around $10, but some, including Lawrence Ferlinghetti's night top off at $30. Full disclosure: I will be reading from my new book, Tortured, during the Oct. 9 Lit Crawl at the Elbow Room (647 Valencia St.) at 7:15 p.m. Stop by and say hi! Oct. 1-9. Check the website for full schedule and venues.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Crowds of locals will be heading to Golden Gate Park this weekend to catch the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, an annual favorite. It's one of the largest free music festivals in the country, with six stages and more than 350 musicians. Highlights for the 10th anniversary of the festival include Emmylou Harris, Patti Smith, the Indigo Girls, Elvis Costello, and many more. Food and drink is available, but I think bluegrass is best enjoyed with a picnic. Friday 2-7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Speedway Meadow, Golden Gate Park. Valet bike parking available.

"Japanesque" exhibit at the de Young

To accompany the amazing Impressionism and Post-Impressionism exhibits on loan from the Museum D'Orsey, the de Young is also showing Japanese prints from 1700 to 1900. Many Impressionist artists, including Edouard Manet and Vincent van Gogh, were heavily influenced by the prints of this time, and the exhibit, The Japanese Print in the Era of Impressionism at the Legion of Honor is a rare opportunity to see the little-known Japanese artists who had a huge impact on their Western contemporaries. And remember, admission is free the first Tuesday of each month. $10 for adults. Tuesdays-Sundays, 9:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m.; closed on Mondays

Happy Hour at the Beach and Park Chalets

"Where the park meets the Pacific" is how locals know the historic Beach Chalet and small-plate sister restaurant Park Chalet. Both are popular for amazing views of the park and the ocean and are now hosting the new 3-6-9 happy hour. The menu has items priced at-$3, $6 and $9 (easy to remember, eh?). Try the house-brewed chalet beer ($3) or a $6 glass of wine, or the cevice ($6), fish and chips ($9), or sweet-potato fries ($3). Monday-Friday, 3 p.m.-6 p.m. and 9 p.m.–close, free parking, 1000 Great Highway at Ocean Beach.

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