Music to Your Legs - Biking Golden Gate Park’s Summer Festivals

Posted on 08/10/2011

In recent years Golden Gate Park has transformed itself into a prime area for bicycling touring. Between the road bike paths and the gentle mountain bike trails, the park (almost 20% larger than Central Park in New York) has also become a haven for recreational cyclists. On Sundays, most of the park’s major arteries are closed, allowing [Golden Gate Park] cyclists to bike to and from all the points of interests with ease.

In August when “summer” more or less begins in earnest (i.e., the fog lifts) the park really comes alive because of the start of festival season. Golden Gate Park hosts a number of music events each year, all of which are easy to get to via bicycle. In fact, in order to lessen congestion, most organizers encourage people to travel by bike and typically offer valet services to park your bicycle once you get to the festival. Check out our suggestions for some of the best – and most bike-friendly – festivals this summer.


San Francisco’s biggest music and arts festival kicks off its 4th year in Golden Gate Park for three days on August 12-14. Outside Lands typically features four stages; two near Speedway Meadow, one near Lindley Meadow, and the main stage at the Polo Fields. The festival  [Outside Lands] has played host to several big headliners in the past, including Radiohead, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Jack Johnson, Pearl Jam and Kings of Leon. This year’s lineup should prove to be just as epic. Of course, cyclists will be able to take advantage of a bike valet service near Marx Meadow, just off John F. Kennedy Drive near the box office.


On September 11th, the San Francisco Opera will hold a special Opera in the Park to remember and honor those who lost their lives and to celebrate the service of the many firefighters, police, and paramedics who offered first response assistance on that day. The San Francisco Chronicle along with the San Francisco Mayor’s Office are sponsoring this free event at Sharon Meadow near Hippie Hill. The San Francisco Bike Coalition (SFBC) has volunteered to offer complimentary bike valet services for attendees.


What happens when a bike-crazed brewing company takes to the road all summer to promote the benefits of bicycles? You get an artsy, carnival-like atmosphere that’s sort of like a cross between a bike ride, a beer tour, and a burlesque show. Tour de Fat is a free traveling festival sponsored by the New Belgium Brewing Company out of Fort Collins, Colorado. Between the marching band, magic show, acrobatics, and whimsical bike creations, there’s plenty to see at this daylong event at Lindley Meadow. The tour also features a bike ride through the park to kick off the festival and the SFBC will offer their bike valet services.


Arguably one of the most popular music festivals in San Francisco (mainly because it’s free) Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is held the first weekend of October and features some of the most popular names around in bluegrass music. Originally called Strictly Bluegrass, [Hardly Strictly Blue Grass] the “Hardly” was added in 2004 because of the festival expanded into other genres. Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Elvis Costello, and Dolly Parton have all played Hardly Strictly in the past, which typically takes place at the Speedway Meadow. Like the other music festivals, bike valets will be on hand to take care of your ride.

Here’s a fact: San Francisco boasts the coldest average summer temperatures among all major cities in the United States. When it reaches upwards of 90 degrees in places like New York or Washington DC in late July, San Francisco usually stays at a cool 60. Not exactly fantastic beach weather; however, it’s perfect for biking - especially if you’re going to Golden Gate Park.