Don't be disappointed! Scroll down for 12 Insider Secrets that you won't find in any official guide to the Sausalito Art Festival!
The Sausalito Art Festival, held each Labor Day weekend, is the biggest outdoor art festival in the U.S. It features both a wide variety of artists showing (and selling) their work and major musical performers.
Dates and Festival Hours for 2014:
Saturday, August 30th 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Sunday, August 31st 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Monday, Sept. 1st 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Ticket Prices for 2014
A ticket allows entry into the festival for one day only -- the old weekend passes are no longer sold. Buy multiple tickets to attend the festival on different days.
Gen. Admission (ages 13-61) -- $25.00 per day
Seniors age 62+ -- $20.00 per day
Juniors age 6-12 -- $5.00 per day
Children under 6 -- Free with Adult
Insiders Tip: You can also buy combined event tickets and ferry passes on the boats that unload at a pier adjacent to the Festival grounds.
Quick Links for 2014:
To be updated as announced: Artists Exhibiting at the Festival
12 Insider Secrets for
The 2014 Sausalito Art Festival
1. What's Allowed
Pets have to stay home: Only service animals like Guide Dogs are allowed on the grounds. It's far too warm for a dog to wait in the car, so please leave them at home. Miss T is terribly disappointed.
Chairs, food and beverages (see below) are not allowed inside the Festival grounds. Apart from the music performance tent there are not a lot of places to sit down, so plan accordingly.
2. The Mysterious Big Tent
A great new treat for this year is the Educational Tall Ship Shipbuilding Facility, located in a large tent near the Festival entrance. It's open to Festival goers, and you'll see them building a traditional wooden sailing ship right here in Sausalito for sailing training and youth activities.
3. Parking on the Cheap, If You Park At All
Note: The parking lot "arrow signs: are now up along Bridgeway and unlike prior years IMHO the 2014 placements are confusing, alternating between $10 and $20 prices. Here's how the system works:
Handicapped Parking and Exhibitor Artist parking are adjacent to the Festival. Watch for the "Artist Parking" sign.
Parking within two blocks (more or less) of the Festival is $20, parking farther away is $10 even though the signs are unclear.
Insiders Tip: There are fancy air conditioned parking shuttles, so parking at the first available lot is often the best bet even though it's farthest from the show. It also means you have less traffic in the crush after the show closes. (See map below.) Better yet, take mass transit (see below).
Don't park on the street in the nearby neighborhoods: Residents have passes and if you're in street parking without a pass your odds of getting an expensive ticket are virtually 100%. They have posted more warning signs this year but if there's no sign the posted parking rules still apply.
Sausalito Residents: If you live close to the Festival and did not get your residential parking passes email email@example.com or call 415-272-4684. If a Festival visitor has blocked your driveway, parked on your lawn etc. call the Sausalito Police non-emergency number at 415-289-4170.
Sausalito Office Workers: If your office is nearby (as is OurSausalito.com), your building manager will have special parking passes if you need to work that weekend. Our advice as veterans of many Festivals in our parking lot: if you have to work that day, come in early so the lot isn't already full when you present your pass.
Also: If you are very close to the Festival watch who parks next to your car during the unloading process. Last year we had damage from a major local brand name moving company van with a cracked window that slammed an artist's box into the side of an editor's car and then swore up and down that they didn't do it.
4. Two Wheels are Better than Four
Bikes get free valet parking. It's hosted by the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, and they're waiting to help you just outside the main Festival entry gates, to the left of the entrance area. Bikes may not be brought inside the Festival.
I've worked in jobs where it felt like this.
5. So Many Ferries, So Little Time
The Golden Gate Ferry to downtown Sausalito adds extra crossings each year, plus Special ferries sail from San Francisco directly to a pier adjacent to the Festival. The schedule for the expanded service is here.
Many people get confused about which ferry goes where, so here are both options summarized one-by-one:
Downtown Sausalito Ferries & Shuttles
-- Regular Sausalito ferry service from Fisherman's Wharf (Blue and Gold Fleet) and from the Ferry Building (Golden Gate Ferry) goes to the same place it always goes, the Sausalito Ferry pier. Free (comfortable) buses run from 9:30 AM to 7:00 PM each day will to shuttle visitors from the downtown pier to the Festival, and this is a great way to get to the event and save the headaches of driving and parking.
Insiders Tip: If you have a regular ferry ticket and leave the Festival a little early you can take the free shuttle back to downtown Sausalito, but don't immediately board the ferry. You'll have time to eat at one of the many great nearby restaurants, some with great views, before taking a later ferry back to San Francisco. Just check the ferry schedule to make sure you know the time of the last voyage to your destination in San Francisco, either the Ferry Building (Golden Gate Ferry) or Pier 41 at Fisherman's Wharf (Blue and Gold Fleet).
Insiders Tip: If you take the ferry from the downtown Sausalito pier, there are separate lines for people riding bikes and people walking. If you don't have a bike be sure to stand in the shorter, non-bikes line. Bike riders are also more likely to have to wait for the next boat when the late afternoon ferries get full.
The Festival Pier Ferries & Hustle
-- The special Art Festival ferries go directly to a pier adjacent to the fairgrounds at Marinship Park. You can buy combined event tickets and ferry passes. This is super convenient, but cuts you off from all the other dining and sightseeing of Sausalito and adds the hassles described below.
Insiders Tip: In the late afternoon the pier adjacent to the fairgrounds can be crowded with people waiting for the ferry, and although the volunteers try their best the crowd control is uneven. Monday is often the worst day, with the biggest crowds packed into fewer hours. The lines can get long, there may be people who cut in line, and the afternoon breezes can get cool.
If you're planning to stay till the Festival closes and don't want to hassle the lines don't buy this ticket, but use the regular Sausalito Ferries instead. You can take the luxurious free shuttle bus to the downtown Sausalito Ferry pier, where boats run later and the pedestrian lines (which are separate from the bike rider lines) are usually manageable.
Note: IMHO the Festival volunteers should get a medal for the work they do. It's the system that creates these bottlenecks, and the unpaid volunteers on the ground who try to help deserve our appreciation and support.
Why It Gets Extra Crowded at the Festival Pier: Blue and Gold Fleet accepts any Blue and Gold ticket for the trip back to San Francisco from the Festival pier, so people who came to the downtown pier in the morning can embark at the Festival and go directly to Pier 41 in the afternoon without taking the shuttle back downtown. This makes the afternoon crowds unpredictably larger than the inbound ridership and Blue and Gold Fleet says that tickets are good only on a "space available" basis... even if you thought you bought a reserved round trip ticket!
6. More Ways to Ride in Style
Golden Gate Transit buses also serve the area. The three closest stops are:
1) Bridgeway at Harbor (by Mollie Stone's)
2) Bridgeway at Nevada
3) Bridgeway at Easterby (by the 7-11).
7. Weather Predicted to be Unpredictable
Sausalito's hottest days of the year often come in September, and even if it's cloudy you want to wear a hat and bring sunblock. If you're not in the music performance tent or inside the Bay Model there is not a lot of shade at the Festival, and it's easy to get sunburned.
The Festival has seen all sorts of weather over the years. Our usual afternoon breeze can turn chilly, which means you'll want to have a sweater or windbreaker, and in some years if you're in the shade it can feel downright cold.
8. Can You Break a $10,000 Bill for Me, Buddy?
Art prices run from a $5 necklace to a $10,000 sculpture. The variety -- and the talent -- are amazing.
Some visitors are surprised that a majority of the items for sale are over $100. In addition to the usual paintings, jewelry, photography and sculpture we've seen rugs, woven clothing, furniture, ceramic and glass serving pieces, decorative ceramics and glass, lamps, all sorts of useful items carved from wood, and many other one of a kind displays.
Insiders Tip: As great as the art is at the Festival. only a handful of the exhibiting artists are from Sausalito. Check out the ICB Artists Association, who work together in an historic local building and whose Gallery 111 in Sausalito is only about 3 blocks from the Festival grounds.
9. The Sounds of Music
Music plays almost all day on two different stages and you'll want to arrive early if this is the focus of your visit. The main stage and seats are under a large tent, which usually fills up early. The seating is at large round tables, and people crowd into an open standing-room-only area in front of the stage, blocking the view from the front tables. Lawn chairs are not allowed. You can see our complete list of 2014 bands and musicians and the schedule here.
Insiders Tip: There's also a special children's entertainment area for younger kids.
Insiders Tip: I've seen some of my favorite bands on the big stage here, but IMHO sometimes the small Artists Stage performances are better than the people in the main tent.
10. Foodies and Moodies
Although you can certainly find some food that can be classified as "Gourmet", only some of the food and wine is premium. In many spots be prepared to stand in line for County Fair style food at lunch. You cannot bring in food or beverages, and neither breakfast nor dinner are available on site.
Many veteran fair-goers take in a hearty breakfast before they come, and stay in Sausalito to enjoy a great dinner at a local restaurant after the fair closes, allowing the evening traffic to dissipate before they head out. The food booths are run by local service organizations to support their programs, so the money goes to good causes.
Insiders Tip: Mid-day food lines can be long and slow. If you do eat at the Festival, eat a little earlier than the usual lunch crush or go for an afternoon snack. Packaged items like ice cream can be a better bet than some of the food cooked on site, although the quality of the food varies year to year and booth by booth.
Insiders Tip: Those volunteers don't get paid so that the proceeds go to charity, so please be considerate to them even when the lines are long and slow.
11. In-N-Out With No Drive-Thru
There's a hand stamp so you can leave and come back. This hand stamp rule is strictly enforced, so make sure you get the stamp before leaving.
The old weekend passes were discontinued several years ago.
12. You Don't Have to Stand for That
Wear comfortable shoes. You'll be standing in line for drinks and food, and there are not a lot of places to sit down in the art area. There are lots of seats in the main tent for the musical artists, but even those fill up early in the day. Much of the Festival is set up on asphalt and concrete surfaces, but over half the artist booths are located on the grass of Marinship Park.
Insiders Tip: If you're looking for a place to sit down, go to the back area of the music tent just as one act is completing its performance. When they finish some people will get up and leave, freeing a seat for you.
Disabled Seating: Ask Festival staff regarding any special needs and they'll be happy to get you seated. The SAF makes this a priority so don't hesitate to ask anyone who works there.
Before and After the Festival: Be prepared for traffic in Sausalito. Take a deep breath and enjoy the beautiful setting. Better yet, take the ferry or bus.
Here's the KGO TV preview from a few years ago:
2014 Entertainment and Special Events
Getting to the 2014 Sausalito Art Festival
You can take a regular Sausalito Ferry from the Ferry Building in San Francisco, or from Pier 41 in Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. Regular free shuttles bring fair visitors from the downtown ferry pier to the Art Festival grounds.
You can also buy a special combined event ticket and ferry ticket. This ferry service from San Francisco goes directly to a pier adjacent to the Festival grounds, not to the Sausalito Ferry landing pier in downtown Sausalito.
You can take a Golden Gate Transit bus to Sausalito and get off at the "Bridgeway at Easterby" or the "Bridgeway at Nevada" bus stops.
You can drive to the Festival, taking the Sausalito-Marin City exit off highway 101. Be sure to check out our advice about driving and parking above.
You can ride your bike, since there's free bike valet parking.
You can stay in a Sausalito Hotel downtown, and then take the free shuttle from the ferry pier to the Festival.
Google Map Instructions: Use the "+" and "-" buttons to zoom in and out, click and grab to scroll the map, and the SAT button to see the satellite view.
Art Festival Parking
We find the Ferries to be a far easier way of getting to the Festival, but here is a map of the Festival parking lots. The closer the lot to Marinship Park (where the event is held), the more money you'll pay -- click on a blue "stick pin" button on the map below to see the charge for parking in each lot.
Google Map Instructions: Use the "+" and "-" buttons to zoom in and out, the arrow keys to scroll the map, and the SAT button to see the satellite view.
Where Does the Money Go?