Archive for the ‘Bay Area Events’ Category

99th Annual Bay to Breakers

May 19, 2010

What do you call a footrace where the participants dress up in costumes or wear nothing at all, throw old tortillas at each other and drink like there’s no tomorrow?  The beloved Bay to Breakers 12K – a San Francisco tradition since 1912.

I think of it as a “Mardi Gras with a California Fitness twist.”  Tolerance is the order of the day, and people feel more than free to express themselves through their attire (or lack thereof).  Technically nudity is not allowed, and neither is the consumption of alcohol now, but as long as you are discreet (with the alcohol and not the nudity obviously), the police leave you alone.

It’s funny, but instead of asking each other in the week leading up to the third Sunday in May what they are doing for the weekend, San Franciscans ask each other “Are you going to the Bay to Breakers?”  It’s that big an event.  In terms of the actual number of people, we’re talking about 70,000 participants.

So what is the “Bay” and what is the “Breakers”?  Well, the race starts at Howard/Beale, near the Embarcadero, and ends at Golden Gate Park (the western side).   In terms of miles, that just under seven-and-a-half miles (7.46 mi).

A couple of cool factoids about Bay to Breakers?

* It was recently named one of the 101 things every sports fan must do before they die by ESPN.

* It is the world’s longest footrace that has been run consecutively without changing in length or changing course.

* It made the Guiness Book of World Records in 1986, when 110,000 people participated in the event.

Next year is the 100th year of the race, and you can bet that I will be there.  Will you?

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Glen Park Festival

April 27, 2010

This weekend, my husband and I went to see a house for rent in Glen Park, a neighborhood in the southern part of San Francisco.  Even though we’ve lived in the city for three-and-a-half years, I haven’t been to that part of town before.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Glen Park, based on my one visit, is a quiet little part of town.  The Glen Park Festival happened to be going on the day we went to the open house, and my husband – the typical Norwegian – had us arrive early.   It was an unbelievably warm day, so we headed to the small cluster of tents that was the festival.

It was rather quaint.   Most of the vendors were artists selling jewlery and other arts and crafts.   The cafes and restaurants flanking the little festival were filled with people out and about, enjoying their neighborhood.   Not a single franchise was in sight.

Glen Park, as far removed from the city as it seemed, was a surprisingly painless BART ride from downtown.   We would have enjoyed renting a house there, but I am certain we won’t get the place we went to see.  There were literally dozens of people at the open house, all desperate to put in an application.  It was an entire house with 2 bedrooms and parking (!) for $1750!

Even if we don’t get the apartment, at least I can now say I’ve been to Glen Park.  If you have a lazy weekend afternoon, it’s a great place to go and sit in a cafe or to shop at a “Whole Foods but more authentic” market.

2010 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival

April 19, 2010

I love festivals.   There’s nothing like turning a regular old day into a giant outdoor party.   That’s why yesterday when my friend invited me to meet her at the “Japantown festival,” I was excited to go.  I looked it up online, and it turned out to be officially called the  43rd Annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival.

San Francisco’s Japantown is fun to visit even when there are no festivities.  The neighborhood is really nice to walk around, and the Japanese stores have so many goodies.   It’s also really easy to get to from the Union Square area –   a straight shot down Sutter Street on the public bus (#3 Muni).   Or you can go on the #38 Muni down Geary Street.

Today was an especially fabulous day because the weather was “tee-shirt only.”  Naturally the four of us who met there all had jackets with us (locals always do), but they actually proved to be quite handy in providing shade during the demonstration by the Japanese sword club.  The seats were in the blazing sun, but there were few people complaining.  The previous Sunday had been pouring rain, so we were all glad for some sunshine.

My friend disobeyed one of the three cardinal rules of living in San Francisco though (Never leave the house without sunblock), so we limited our broiling time to about 40 minutes.  Then we headed for the shade to none other than Daiso; no trip to Japantown is complete without going there.  It is like a Japanese dollar store.  Everything there is $1.50 unless otherwise marked.  Locals love it, but if you’re a tourist, you should definitely stop by there if you want some really cute but inexpensive souvenirs like delicate little fans or beautiful little cups.

And of course no festival outing would be complete without the delicious street vendor fare.  We wandered past bonzai tree displays, cute tee-shirts and tons of shiny baubles to the bustling heart of the festival – the food vendors.   At first glance, the lines were a little disheartening, but they mostly moved fast.   Everything we tried was yummy, though I wasn’t feeling super adventurous in my food choices.  Next time I’ll have to try the Japanese popcorn, which I overheard someone say has seaweed in it.

There’s a two-hour parade that starts at City Hall, but we had to miss it because we had to leave.   But next year I definitely plan to see it.    Anyone in town that day should too.