KFOG Kaboom – mid-May San Francisco's favorite classic-rock station has put on this event along the Embarcadero waterfront for the past 15 years. The highlight is an elaborate fireworks display synchronized to rock music, but early arrivals can enjoy live bands, a children's stage, games, food, and activity booths. www.kfog.com/kaboom.
North Beach Festival – June One of the the longest-running street festivals in the country, North Beach Fest (entering its 55th year) celebrates the multicultural flavors of the mostly Italian neighborhood with live music, arts and crafts, a celebrity pizza toss, Beat poetry, the annual Blessing of the Animals, Arte di Gesso (Italian street chalk art painting), and of course, tons and tons of food and drink.
Independence Day Celebration – July 4 A fireworks display over the Bay – invariably obscured by San Francisco's famous summer fog – is part of the day-long Fourth of July festivities in the city. Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf also hosts a waterfront celebration that includes live bands, food booths, and street performers. www.pier39.com
Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival — SeptemberThe annual festival at this famous former chocolate factory brings chocoholics from around the Bay Area to sample cocoa-flavored delicacies, sip and nibble at the wine and chocolate bar, watch chef demonstrations, and participate in other sweet activities. The event is free, but chocolate tastings require a ticket. San Francisco's answer to Willy Wonka, www.ghirardellisq.com
Autumn Moon Festival — September With its fancy parade and giant dancing dragon, Chinese New Year gets all the attention, but the Autumn Moon Festival (mid-September) is a locals' favorite — a celebration of the harvest and the full moon, when residents take to the streets and pay homage to the moon goddess, Chang-O. Native foods, crafts, taiko drummers, lion dancers, dragon boat races and performances by the Chinese opera, martial artists and acrobats highlight the two-day festival along Grant Avenue, Chinatown's main drag. Be sure to pick up a box of moon cakes—flaky moon-shaped pastries filled with sweet beans and lotus-seed paste that will bring you good fortune.
San Francisco Symphony – September-June The world-renowned Symphony and its charismatic conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas, rarely disappoint – offering a season that features works from the classical canon as well as groundbreaking modern compositions. Thomas is famed for his interpretation of Mahler, with several works usually presented each year. Good seats can be tough to come by (especially when MTT conducts), but as the old Zen saying goes: Where there are no tickets, there are also some tickets. Check at the box office the day of performance for center terrace and unused season-holder tickets. www.sfsymphony.org
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival — OctoberA megawatt line-up of country, bluegrass, and crossover stars, including John Prine, Steve Earle, and Emmylou Harris join up-and-comers and local favorites at this free weekend musical gathering of tribes in Golden Gate Park the first weekend in October. The annual festival brings the likes of Elvis Costello to the stage with traditional bluegrass acts such as Del McCoury and the Pine Leaf Boys. In all, more than 60 bands perform on five stages at Speedway, Marx and Lindley Meadows (John F. Kennedy Dr. around 25th Ave.) from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. www.hardlystrictlybluegrass.com.