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 2023.
- Top 10
- Nighttime Activities
- Free Things to Do
- Things to Do Anytime
- 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's central location makes it close to some large music venues.
San Francisco is also just one hour away from the SAP Center which hosts large stadium tours.
Find out about all the great concerts taking place in May.
San Francisco Area
Concerts Further Afield
BottleRock Festival | May 26th - 28th | Napa
- Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Post Malone
- Duran Duran
- Smashing Pumpkins
- Lil Nas X
- Wu-Tang Clan
- Luke Combs
- Sheryl Crow
- and more!
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.
- Golden State Warriors (potential semifinals performances)
- San Jose Sharks (potential semifinals performances)
Find out what other sporting events in San Francisco are happening when you are in town.
Although there won't be many musicals/plays to see in San Francisco during May of 2023, you can expect at least a few opportunities to visit the theatre this month.
- The Book of Mormon | May 23rd-30th | San Francisco
- 1776- The Musical | May 16th - 21st | San Jose
- Stars on Ice | May 21st | San Jose
4. Take a Mother's Day Cruise
Mother's Day is on May 14th, 2023. Take mom out onto the water for a Brunch Cruise for nice food and an even nicer view.
If you are on a budget, you might want to consider heading to the Bay Area Book Festival which is taking place on Mother's Day weekend.
Alternatively, you might also want to visit the Conservatory of Flowers or perhaps even the Japanese Tea Garden to enjoy some of the beautiful plant life that is surely in bloom at this time of year.
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 27th and 28th, 2023, experience global cuisine, arts & crafts, international dance and music, and more at the 45th Annual Carnaval in San Francisco.
The grand parade usually takes place starting at 9:30 am on Sunday. 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.
Here are a few of the more notable comedians you can see this month:
- Taylor Tomlinson | May 11th & 13th
- Jo Koy | May 13th
- Carlos Mencia | May 11th-14th | San Jose
- Josh Blue | May 19th, 20th
- Pinky Patel | May 20th
On May 6th you can attend the Straight Jokes No Chaser with Mike Epps, Cedric the Entertainer, DL Hughley, and more.
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 on 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.
Watch a Silent Movie with Live Music
The Club Foot Orchestra and San Francisco Conservatory of Music play along to the silent movie Pandora's Box starring Louise Brookes.
The takes place May 6th, 2023 at Oakland Paramount Theatre.
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.
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.
On the last Friday of each month, a free nighttime bike ride is held by Critical Mass.
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.
UNCONFIRMED: 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 typically held during the weekend closest to the holiday which is just after the 5th.
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.
Note that they had to cancel the 2022 event due to Coronavirus but there are hopes it will return in 2023.
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.
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 2023, the holiday falls on May 39th. 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.
Children’s Day Festival in Japantown
Early in May, 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 usually takes 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 visit 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.