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Visiting the Bay to Breakers Race

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Bay to Breakers Main Photo

If you’re going to be in San Francisco around the third weekend of May, you don’t want to miss the world famous Bay to Breakers!

First held on January 1, 1912, the Bay to Breakers footrace began as a way to improve the mood of the city after the destruction of the 1906 earthquake and fire. It’s one of San Francisco’s oldest traditions, and we’re proud to say that it’s the oldest continuously-run footrace in the world! It has persevered through wars, the Great Depression and of course, subsequent earthquakes.

In San Francisco, we celebrate our weirdness, and it comes out every year in this race.

But Bay to Breakers isn’t famous for its history; it’s famous for the people who run the race and the costumes they wear. Following behind the elite runners attempting to win the grand prize of the race, thousands of other “runners” show up in costume – or even totally naked! Bay to Breakers Turtles

You’ll see traditional super hero costumes, as well as costumes referencing local culture. One of our favorites is a group of runners dressed as salmon who run the race from the finish to the start, i.e. upstream. Many of the costumed participants aren’t actually trying to run a race, they’re here to have a good time and make new friends. Unlike a traditional race, you will see people walking, dancing or performing in character. And be warned: some people you will see won't wear a costume at all--they'll be totally naked!

Bay to Breakers Gold Men

Alcohol is officially banned from the event, but don’t be surprised if it shows up anyway. Bay Area residents are famously inventive and will definitely apply those skills to skirting this rule. On the other hand, bags, backpacks, strollers and large containers are banned from the course because of security concerns, and we would expect that rule to be fully enforced.

Bay to Breakers Elvis


Parking is notoriously difficult for both spectators and participants, so we’d encourage using public transportation if at all possible.

Bay to Breakers really a giant outdoors costume party that showcases the some of best parts of being in this diverse, colorful, creative city. If you’re in town, it’s worth working into your schedule – and then taking a tour with us later that afternoon to learn more about our amazing city!

About The Author


Britt is a San Francisco Bay Area native, and has spent 25 years in this magical city. He has traveled to over 30 countries, and has never found a place he loves as much as this one! If you come to San Francisco, you might join one of Britt's tours of the city. A graduate of the University of Maryland and University of Southern California, he has been leading tours for Free Tours by Foot since 2015.
Updated: September 27th, 2021
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