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Fall has finally arrived in San Francisco and to ring in this cozy season is one of our favorite events, Hardly Strictly! If this is your first fall in the city, you cannot miss out on this weekend-long bluegrass festival. And if you’re not in the Bay Area, this is definitely worth the drive.

Almost five years since F. Warren Hellman’s passing, his philanthropic effort is still being continued through an endowment he created to promise the festival would go on. Hellman gifted the city of San Francisco with Hardly Strictly 16 years ago, and it’s become an iconic event, deeply woven in the city’s musical fabric. The festival has instilled a strong sense of community between fans and artists, and become a tradition, drawing in tens of thousands of people.

With easy vibes, Hardly Strictly is somewhat of a dream festival. Surrounded in rolling meadows and the lush green groves of trees Golden Gate Park, attendees can bring their own alcohol and food. The crowds are warm and friendly with a general sense of looking out for each other. Also, it’s completely free. That’s right, some of the greatest bluegrass artists on intimate stages, and you don’t have to pay a cent.

Still not convinced? Here are a few reasons that may sway you to attend. We also threw in a few tips for first timers.

1/ Just need to reiterate that it’s FREE! Music festivals have become increasingly costly to attend, and on top of San Francisco rent, the price of having a social life can be less friendly to our wallets. But, Hardly Strictly costs nothing more than commitment and time to round up your friends.


2/ The diversity. There will be over 100+ artists playing across 7 stages, busting out sweet, sweet bluegrass tunes. This will be not only a great opportunity to listen to some of your favorite musicians but also discover new music.


3/ It’s the perfect excuse for a picnic! Don’t forget to bring a blanket to sit on and definitely don’t forget to pack beer and wine in non-glass containers. While there will be onsite vendors for food and non-alcoholic beverages, getting your group together and packing snacks for the whole day allows you to indulge on exactly what you want to eat and drink, avoid lines and the potential of getting hangry, and spend more time enjoying the music.


4/ There’s valet bike parking–great incentive to hop on your bike and cruise over. While you can self park your bike, the festival will help make your arrival easier with valet bike parking. Don’t forget that parking is EXTREMELY limited. Your best bet is to take public transit, walk, or even uber there. If you do decide to drive, make sure you’ve got on some comfy walking shoes because you may end up walking much further than you think.


5/ Golden Gate Park. You get to experience a FREE music festival in one of the most beautiful locations in the city. The stages will be at Hellman Hollow, Lindley and Marx meadows. Need we say any more?


6/ Silent disco! Each day starting at 1:30 pm, you can grab your friends or rock out solo in Shady Grove between the Banjo and Rooster stages. You have to admit, this is sounding pretty cool now, right? More info here.



7/ The lineup! We had to save the best for last. A few of our favorites for Friday are Jamestown Revival, Patty Griffin, and Conor Oberst. Saturday we will be singing along to KT Tunstall, Cyndi Lauper, The Mother Hips, and M. Ward. And Sunday, you’ll find us still dancing away to Tim O’Brien Band, Emmylou Harris, CAKE, and more! See the full schedule and lineup.


Make sure to check out the official website for the schedule, map, and any other information: