“Pack out what you bring in,” is the number one rule at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Experience a weekend of old-time music performed by veterans of the genre and dynamite newcomers on the scene. Rising stars, poetic collaborators, acoustic experts, single performers, and large bands will grace the stage over three days. Whatever the age of the performer, they are sure to have you tapping your toes in time to the fiddle and banjo.
An expansive festival held in the meadows of Golden Gate Park, it sounds like the ideal venue for a relaxing atmosphere on the tip of San Francisco, California. And it is! It is so laid back that the event is free. No tickets required here, just a respect for others and for the environment in which you are enjoying the performances.
Over 75 artists on six stages please the ear and tell stories that touch the heart through song. Bring the family, sing along, and practice the songs around the campfire at night. Break out the S’mores ingredients, strum on the guitar, and blow the harmonica. It’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass!
Come one, come all! The admittance to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass has bee free in the past thanks to the legacy of the late Warren Hellman, and festival organizers welcome fiddle and banjo lovers of all ages. The family dog is invited too, but be a responsible owner by keeping them leashed throughout the weekend and of course, pick up after them. Volunteers work hard every year to put together an incredible event. Work alongside them to keep the venue clean by using the garbage, recycling, and composting bins. Do your part; that is all that is asked of you as a guest at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.
Several streets surrounding Golden Gate Park will be closed for the duration of the festival. Whether you are coming in from the North, South, East, or West, you will want to consider the size of your camper as you come into the city. Traffic will be busy with many bluegrass fans headed in the same direction! Motorists will drive through local neighborhoods, so be on the lookout for children playing and riding bikes.
Although there will be parking lots near Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, these lots require payment and will be first-come, first-served. Check the parking lot list for exact locations and times. Remember to respect the rules that organizers work so hard to maintain in the neighborhoods: do not block driveways, keep the noise down, and do not litter. Larger vehicles may find it preferable to stay parked at a local San Francisco RV park and then take public transportation to Golden Gate Park.
Public transit and ride sharing may be the way to go! It’s stress-free, and you have your choice of bus, train, or cable car. Typically, extra buses run on event days. The San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority works hand in hand with the festival organizers to make getting to and from Hardly Strictly Bluegrass a breeze. Taxis and ride-sharing are options, too. Download the app, and you are on your way!
Despite the beauty and the size of Golden Gate Park, camping is not permitted. Areas surrounding San Francisco have a variety of experiences to offer when it comes to relaxing in the RV with the family, like San Francisco Candlestick RV Park. The hardest part of the planning will be deciding on which campground to choose!
You can camp with a view of the sea by pointing the RV toward the Pacific Ocean and driving until you see the shore. Golden Gate National Recreation Area sits just across the Golden Gate Bridge and is surrounded by the iconic beauty of San Francisco.
If a scenic mountain setting is more your style, head across the bay. Wine country is nearby, and you may want to pull your RV into a campground and relax by the fire with a glass of wine at a spot like Napa Valley Expo RV Park.
Fans can bike to the venue but must park bicycles upon arrival. Self-parking and valet services are also offered. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass sees the attendance of 800,000 people over the three days of the event. Bringing a stroller or wagon for the kids would be nigh impossible; allow the kids to walk there slowly while they enjoy the trees and flowers, or consider giving them a lift on your shoulders. Get there early to set up your blanket, and you may avoid some of the incoming traffic.
The daily temperature will dictate your attire for the day, but you will typically see most festival-goers dressed in layers. Jeans, your favorite t-shirt, and a light sweater make for a comfortable bluegrass concert outfit. Bring along a jacket, as the evening may be damp or chilly. Closed-toe shoes are recommended, too. A hat that covers the neck is a must for the kids. San Francisco sees a lot of sunshine in October!
Guests can bring a cooler with a delicious picnic into the park, along with beer and wine but no glass, please! Bring plenty of cold, non-alcoholic drinks to keep you cool in the California sun. Sunglasses are a must as well. Folding chairs must be short-backed to allow for better viewing for all attendees. Blankets are permitted but no saving spaces overnight. A clean sweep of the park will be done at the end of each evening.
To keep the family feeling great, apply sunscreen often and stay hydrated! The little ones especially mind the heat, the crowds, and the noise, so consider setting up your gear in a space where there are fewer people. With a selection of six stages, it won’t be difficult to scope out the quietest area. The crowds will be plentiful so set some rules for sticking together right from the start.
Not sure what to do in your RV kitchen? Stock the RV refrigerator with picnic-friendly food like crunchy vegetables for easy munching, meat, hummus, pitas, and cheese for savory wraps, and muffins for a mid-afternoon snack. Don’t forget to start the day off with bacon and eggs or some oatmeal cooked on the galley stove. In the evenings, hotdogs and burgers are a yummy way to end the day.
If you’d like a break from food prep, try Korean barbecue San Francisco style. Other options are spicy Mexican dishes like tortilla chips dressed just right, creative California pizza, or a delicious cafe sandwich. Flavors of all kinds can be found within minutes of the park. Pick up your lunch on the way to the park and support local business surrounding this outdoor festival.
Over 50 food vendors are ready to serve you in Golden Gate Park. The choices are kept simple and the dishes easy to manage for young and old. There will be artists’ merchandise in the form of CD’s and t-shirts for sale, too. Bring along cash (there are no ATMs on site) or use your credit or debit card to make the purchase.
Volunteers will be on hand to keep the area clean, but the organizers ask that attendees of this typically mellow event work together to respect the enjoyment of others by keeping the noise down so that everyone can enjoy the music. Consideration for the neighborhood is a high priority. Be courteous in regards to property. Hard alcohol is not permitted in the park and will be subject to fine if found and confiscated. Guidelines follow Golden Gate Park rules.
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is held close to the gorgeous coast which means that the fog can roll in at any time, most often in the morning and evening. The fog can make the air feel cool and damp at the beginning and end of the day, sandwiching the glorious sunshine in between morning and evening. Temperatures are considerably lower by fall, and the days are often described as pleasant and perfect for festival-going.
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is disability accessible, and shuttles are readily available. Wheelchair-ready seating, offering a good view of the guitar picking and foot-stomping, can be found at each stage. First-aid stations are well placed throughout the meadows; familiarize yourself with the location as you enter the park.