Carnaval is a cultural celebration with a long history. Similar in energy and style to Mardi Gras celebrations, Carnaval is a tradition with its roots in many Latin American and Caribbean cultures which celebrate this festival as a precursor to Lent. More recently, however, Carnaval festivities in the United States have become a way of celebrating the cultural heritage of these countries. Home to an incredible diversity of people from all cultures and nations, the City by the Bay embraces this tradition with its famous annual Carnaval San Francisco.
Known as “the Mission District’s biggest and most important cultural event,” Carnaval San Francisco is celebrating its 35th year in 2013! Despite worries that the event might suffer from budget cuts, volunteers have stepped up to save the day and Carnaval San Francisco 2013 will go on as planned!
Featuring a variety of entertainment from many nations, Carnaval will showcase dance, music, and art in a magnificent Grand Parade and street fair, held May 25-26, 2013. It’s the biggest cultural festival of its kind on the West Coast, so it’s definitely an event not to be missed. Carnaval is also designed with families and children in mind; there will be plenty of food, dancing, arts & crafts, and other activities just for kids.
The theme of Carnaval this year is “Carnaval Harlem Shake,” so expect to see and hear variations on that song being performed throughout the weekend. Festival events are held between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm both days. The street fair and other events will be held along Harrison Street between 16th and 24th Streets, in the heart of the Mission District. The Grand Parade will go off on Sunday, May 26th. The Parade route begins at the corner of 24th and Bryant Streets at 9:30 am, and ends in the heart of the Festival area.
Although Carnaval itself is a two-day long celebration, if you’re from out of town you might only want to spend an afternoon exploring the cultural riches Carnaval has to offer. In that case, we recommend attending on Sunday so you can see some of the famous Grand Parade (plus, then you’ll have a chance to see the Carnaval King and Queen!). For more details on the Festival’s events and performances, consult the Carnaval San Francisco 2013 Festival guide. All events are free and open to the public, so it’s the perfect budget-friendly way to spend an afternoon.
If you and your family enjoy these cultural festivities, San Francisco has plenty more to offer that capture the same elements of fun and creativity. A little west of the Mission District you’ll find the famous Golden Gate Park, a beautiful urban oasis that’s full of museums, gardens, and galleries. Check out the best of Golden Gate Park to continue your immersion into local San Francisco culture. Located north of the Mission District is the famous Fisherman’s Wharf area. This is a great spot to pick up cruises and tours, or meet local sea life at the Aquarium of the Bay. There are also a few unique points of interest here, like the Wax Museum or the SS Jeremiah O’Brien naval vessel. Whatever interests you and your family about San Francisco culture, there’s plenty of things to do in San Francisco during Memorial Day weekend and beyond!