Fun, free, cheap: What to do in San Francisco this week

Cinco de Mayo, Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, Art Walk S.F. neighborhood block parties

By Johnny Funcheap

Special to The Examiner

Cinco de Mayo bike ride + lowrider car show & cruise

For the third year in a row, the big Cinco de Mayo street fair in the Mission has been canceled. So while we wait for this community festival to return, the San Francisco Lowrider Council comes to the rescue with a weeklong series of events with a purpose. On Sunday, May 1, the lowriders trade in their gas guzzlers for pedal-powered two-wheelers and host a “Bike Ride Out” fundraiser for the Mission Food Hub with free breakfast burritos, followed by a group ride to the de Young (with free museum admission) and then back to the Mission for a free early dinner. A week later, all the lowriders gather together to flex their four-wheelers at a free six-hour classic car show before they head out to “cruise and dine” Mission Street in support of local restaurants between Cesar Chavez and 22nd. Bike Ride Out: Sunday, May 1, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Car Show & Cruise; Saturday, May 7, 10 a.m.-10:00 p.m. Both events start at John O’Connell High School, 20th and Harrison, S.F., Free. @sanfranciscolowridercouncil

(Photo by Leslie Liu)

(Photo by Leslie Liu)

‘The Empire Strips Back’ preview party

Star Wars is just for kids, right? Scruffy-looking nerf herders might change their minds after seeing sexy stormtroopers and a dangerously seductive Boba Fett. “The Empire Strips Back” is a full-on burlesque tribute to a tantalizing galaxy far, far away. Since it’s a parody, it somehow manages to escape the grasp of Disney’s copyright lawyers. The full production, complete with amazingly detailed naughty costumes, doesn’t arrive on this planet until July for an eight-week run. In the meantime, on May 4, the day tickets go on sale, you’re invited to a free preview party to get a peek at the show with DJ Darth dropping the beats. And if you want to play the part, there are bonus free drinks for those in costume. Wednesday, May 4, 6-8 p.m., Great Star Theater, 636 Jackson St., S.F., Free with RSVP.

(Yerba Buena Gardens Festival)

(Yerba Buena Gardens Festival)

Yerba Buena Gardens Festival 2022

The Yerba Buena Gardens Festival returns! May 7 is the official kickoff of six months of fun in the park, with over 100 free outdoor concerts, theater, circus shows, dance, poetry and kids’ programs. Plan your summer, saving the date for big events like the Native Contemporary Arts Festival (June 19), Afro Arts Festival (Aug. 6), Pistahan Filipino Festival (Aug. 13-14), ukulele jams, S.F. Mime Troupe and world premiere dance performances. Or just pack a picnic and grab a spot of grass every week for Thursday lunchtime concerts. Don’t want to just sit back and watch? Cross the street to Jessie Square to join the conga line just before sunset for open-air dance parties with live salsa bands every third Thursday. May through October, Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission Street. between Third and Fourth, S.F., Free.

(Art Walk S.F.)

(Art Walk S.F.)

Art Walk S.F. neighborhood block parties

Small neighborhood businesses in San Francisco need your help (and dollars), so they’re doing everything they can to make it fun for you to shop local and support them. The brand new Art Walk S.F. pop-up festival starts May 7 and rotates through different neighborhoods every first Saturday. This City-sponsored block party invites you to explore local shops that have been converted into pop-up galleries and live music venues for the day. Throw in sidewalk sales and community mural-making and you’ve got a party. Plus, whenever Muni allows its buses to be rerouted, most months the festival will spill off the sidewalks and into the streets for even more fun. Future art walks take over the Castro, Fillmore, West Portal and other ‘hoods, but it all kicks off in the Outer Richmond’s Balboa Village between 35th and 39th streets. Every first Saturday starting May 7, Noon – 5 p.m., rotating neighborhoods, S.F., Free.

Bubbles and ballots: A boozy brunch tour of your ballot

Screw all those damn political flyers put on your door around election time. If you hate trying to make sense of all the confusing propositions (and you like day drinking), then you’re probably going to love “Bubbles and Ballots.” Local nonprofits TogetherSF and SPUR break down the June ballot (plus dish on some City Hall gossip) to help get you up to speed at this free boozy brunch with a side order of politics. So while you’re learning about the impact on San Francisco of propositions like recall reform (Prop C) and if Prop B will actually make it easier to build affordable housing, you’ll get the chance to enjoy a free pancake and bacon breakfast, dig into a taco station or sip on one of seven types of mimosas (one for each ballot measure). Saturday, May 7, 1-3 p.m., TogetherSF, 2505 Mariposa St., S.F., Free with RSVP.

Visit for a hand-picked list of more fun, free and cheap things to do in San Francisco.

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