This post covers the best things to do in San Francisco in May, including nighttime, free, as well as family-friendly events and activities, updated for 2020.
- Top 10
- Nighttime Activities
- Free Things to Do
- Things to Do Any Time
- How's the Weather
This section features our top 10 activities to enjoy in San Francisco throughout May. Be sure to check out our master post, Things to Do in San Francisco, for even more ideas.
For tips on the most popular activities in San Francisco, check out our other popular posts:
- Free Walking Tours
- The Best Bus Tours in San Francisco
- Which Boat Cruises To Take
- Tourist Discount Passes
San Francisco is just one hour away from the SAP Center which hosts large stadium tours.
Find out about all the great concerts taking place in May. Below the video are some top shows this month.
- Todd Rundgren - May 1-3 at Fillmore San Francisco
- Sturgill Simpson - May 5 + 6 at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
- Meat Puppets and Mudhoney - May 7 at Fillmore San Francisco
- Millenium Tour with Omarion, Bow Wow & more - May 8 at Oakland Arena
- Nelly - May 10 at Fox Theater Oakland
- Adam Ant - May 14 at Fox Theater Oakland
- Die Antwoord - May 15 at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
- The Residents - May 15 + 16 at The Chapel San Francisco
- James Arthur - May 18 at Fillmore San Francisco
- Niall Horan - May 20 at SAP Center
- Watsky - May 22 + 23 at Fillmore San Francisco
- Madness - May 27 + 28 at Fox Theater Oakland
- Lady Antebellum - May 29 at Shoreline Amphitheatre
- Journey w/ The Pretenders - May 30 at Shoreline Amphitheatre
2) Attend a Sports Event
In May, baseball is in full swing, and basketball and hockey are also in their playoff seasons.
This month you can choose from many sports events like these.
Find out what other sporting events in San Francisco are happening when you are in town.
There are over 50 shows on in San Francisco at any time of year.
If you are in San Francisco this month, you are in luck! Hamilton is closing at the end of May so take advantage of seeing this hit show while you still can.
Harry Potter fans can rejoice if you are in San Francisco this month! You can see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Curran Theater.
Also playing is The Band’s Visit, a Tony-award winning musical that poignantly depicts several encounters amongst strangers over a single night.
You can choose from a number of other plays and musicals this month.
4) Take a Mother's Day Cruise
If you are on a budget, you can go to the free Mother’s Day Rose Show on May 10, 2020, in the San Francisco County Fair Building at Golden Gate Park.
5) Consider a Tourist Pass
If you want to get the most bang for your buck in San Francisco, you might consider purchasing a tourist discount pass.
These passes are so value-packed that once you’ve done a couple of activities, everything else on the card doesn’t cost you a dime!
The following attractions are included on most of the tourist attraction discount passes in this city:
- California Academy of Sciences
- Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
- Walt Disney Family Museum
- California’s Great America
- Golden Gate Bay Cruise
- Hop on Hop off Bus Tour
- Ripley’s Believe it or Not
- Aquarium of the Bay
- San Francisco Zoo
- Madame Tussauds
- Oracle Park Tour
- And more!
Depending on which pass you choose and how you use it, you should be able to save at least 20% – 50% off or more.
For more information, please read our post covering San Francisco tourist attraction discount passes.
6) Carnaval San Francisco
On May 23 - 24, 2020, experience global cuisine, arts & crafts, international dance and music, and more at the annual Carnaval in San Francisco.
The grand parade will be held on Sunday at 9:30 am. More information is available on their website.
This event is free to attend. For more free activities and events, see the free section below.
7) Go On a Walking Tour
May's nice weather makes it an excellent time to take a walking tour. We offer a number of pay-what-you-wish walking tours in San Francisco.
Here are a few of the tours you may want to consider during the spring:
- Lombard Street, Little Italy, Fisherman’s Wharf
- The Original San Francisco Tour
- San Francisco in One Day
- Golden Gate Bridge
Check our list of San Francisco walking tours for even more excellent options to consider.
8) Enjoy a Night of Live Comedy
There will be a handful of notable comedians performing in the San Francisco area throughout the month of May.
Hilarious humorist and essayist David Sedaris is playing several nights at multiple venues in the bay area. Get tickets here.
Also playing (unfortunately on the same night so you can only pick one) are:
Gabriel Iglesias - May 16 at the Chase Center
Russell Howard - May 16 at the Cobbs Comedy Club
See who else is performing comedy in May.
9) Visit Alcatraz
One of San Francisco's most famous attractions, this historic high-security prison can be visited by taking a tour.
Read our full post on Alcatraz tours and tickets.
If you are planning on going to Alcatraz as well as visiting other popular attractions in San Francisco, you can save money on your Alcatraz ticket by getting a tourist attraction discount pass.
10) Take a Food Tour
San Francisco has a diverse food scene and you may find it hard to narrow down the options of where and what to eat.
Taking a food tour gives you the opportunity to taste several cuisines. Secret Food Tours offers an outing you’ll enjoy.
During their food tour, you’ll have a chance to sample a variety of great dishes including a Mission-style burrito, clam chowder, lumpia, pupusa, locally made ice cream and more.
This tour is 3 – 3 ½ hours long and they keep it to a maximum of 12 guests, ensuring that everyone gets a chance to try the food and it’s never too crowded.
For even more ideas of how to spend your time in San Francisco, see our in-depth post on things to do in San Francisco all year round.
Below is a list of some things you can enjoy at night in San Francisco in May.
For suggestions on other nighttime activities, see our post on things to do at night in San Francisco.
Take a Nighttime Bus Tour
San Francisco is beautiful during the day and is more so at night. A bus tour at night is perfect if you have spent all day on your feet.
Just sit back and let someone else do the work while you take in the views of the city, lit up and shimmering.
San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Go back in time and enjoy some silent movies at the Silent Film Festival from April 29-May 3, 2020. Films are accompanied by a live local orchestra. Find out more from their website.
It is held at the Castro Theatre in the Castro District. Want to explore the area with some guided help?
Check out our GPS-led audio tour of the Castro District. You can use it in the evening, or any other time you'd like.
Listen to a sample of our Castro District Tour
Go to a Museum with Late Hours
There are quite a number of San Francisco museums that stay open as late as 10 pm on certain nights. Many have a DJ and bars to make it a party atmosphere
For example, the California Academy of Sciences has late nights on Thursdays from 6-10 pm. They hold lectures and live music.
The de Young Museum is open late every Friday from 5:30-8:45 pm. And admission is free!
See our full list of museums with late hours.
Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Finals
A cappella went mainstream with the Pitch Perfect movies, but now you can catch a live competition.
On May 16, 2020, at 8:00 pm, the best vocal groups in the country will compete to win the 2020 National Finals.
For more information and to grab your tickets, click here.
On the last Friday of each month, a free nighttime bike ride is held by Critical Mass.
In May 2020 that is the 29th. The event begins at 5:30 pm and is open to everyone.
Need a bike? You can rent bikes all over the city. We recommend rental companies we think have great deals and that get rave reviews in our post on the best San Francisco bike tours.
Be sure to look at our post on things to do at night in San Francisco for many more ideas.
It’s relatively easy to find free activities in San Francisco--just walking around the city and taking in the sights is one of them!
There are other free activities mentioned throughout this post, like seeing Carnaval San Francisco and visiting the Cable Car Museum, so be sure to look through the whole post.
For even more free activities, see our guide to free things to do in San Francisco.
Cinco de Mayo
Every year, the Mission Neighborhood Center hosts a Cinco de Mayo festival. Though the holiday is always May 5, the festival is Saturday, May 2, 2020.
From 10 am - 6 pm, the streets will be filled with the very best Mexican and Latin music, dancing, food, and artistry for everyone to enjoy.
Tour a Fortune Cookie Factory
At San Francisco's Fortune Cookie Factory in Chinatown, you can take a free tour of the facility to see how these unique cookies are made. At the end of the tour, you can grab a free sample!
If you want to see more of Chinatown, take our pay-what-you-wish Chinatown walking tour.
Go to the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival
Throughout the month of May, people of all ages can enjoy the artistic community brought about by the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival.
Guests will experience a variety of music, dance, theatre, children’s and family programs.
Hear a Free Concert in the Park
Every Sunday in May, enjoy a free concert at the Spreckels Temple of Music in Golden Gate Park.
May concerts will include a variety of music including Polish, Armenian, and a patriotic theme for Memorial Day.
Concerts begin at 1:00 pm and typically end between 2:30 pm and 2:45 pm.
Memorial Day at the Presidio
Every Memorial Day, the Presidio Officers' Club honors the one million American soldiers who lost their lives during their military service. with a Memorial Day ceremony.
In 2020, the holiday falls on May 25th. If you do go, why not spend some time after the ceremony exploring the area. Our post on things to do in the Presidio can help guide you.
Looking for more suggestions? See our post on free things to do in San Francisco.
San Francisco is very family-friendly and welcoming to all. Some of the items we’ve listed in other sections of this post are suited for people of all ages, like taking a cruise or the Cinco de Mayo festival.
Below are a few more kid-friendly activities for the month of May.
You might want to check out our master guide on things to do with kids in San Francisco for ideas for any time of year.
Enjoy a Free Day at the Exploratorium
Located on Pier 15, San Francisco’s Exploratorium will offer a free community day on Sunday, May 10, 2020.
This museum explores interactive science and kids really go for it!
Children’s Day Festival in Japantown
On May 2, 2020, bring the whole family to Japantown’s Peace Plaza for a day of cultural performances, arts & crafts, bounce houses, games, prizes, and more!
The festival will take place from 11 am-4 pm and is free to attend.
Tucked into a warehouse in the back of Fisherman’s Wharf is the Musée Méchanique, a large penny arcade hall with gaming equipment that dates back to the early twentieth century.
It’s a great place for kids (and adults!) to have some after eating lunch at the wharf. Admission is free.
See the Golden State Park Bison
If your kids love animals, you can visit the Bison Paddock in Golden State Park. A small herd of bison has been in the park since the 1800s as part of conservation efforts for the breed.
Now, bison are no longer in danger of becoming extinct but are still a great feature of the park. See their website for information.
Visit the Cable Car Museum
At this free museum, you and your family will see a number of historic cable cars, mechanical exhibits, and photographs.
It is a kid-friendly museum, as they will be able to see cable cars work and even ring one of the famous cable car bells.
See the museum's website to plan your visit.
Visit the Sea Lions!
Catch the sea lions at Pier 39 before they head out to sea near the end of the month for their annual mating period.
The sea lions rest near J dock at Pier 39 at all hours of the day. Be warned--they’re pretty stinky!
Our post on things to do with kids in San Francisco has many suggestions for all times of the year.
- Where to Store Your Luggage
- Things to Do in San Francisco Year-Round
- Tourist Attraction Discount Passes