2016 Sausalito Art Festival Guide

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Don’t be disappointed! Scroll down for 12 Insider Secrets that you won’t find in any official guide to the Sausalito Art Festival!


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 2016:

Saturday, September 3rd       10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Sunday, September 4th         10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Monday, September 5th         10:00 AM – 5:00 PM


Ticket Prices

A ticket allows entry into the festival for one day only. Buy multiple tickets to attend the festival on different days. The old multi-day passes were discontinued several years ago.

VIP Ticket — Reserved seating at front of Main Stage, 2 free drinks — $100.00 per day
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

You can buy tickets at the event, or pre-purchase through EventBrite.

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.  One catch: If you are age 62-64, the seniors discount for tickets without a ferry trip is 62, but for the combined ferry trip and ticket it’s 65. That adds a $27 penalty for two people ($13.50 each) for buying the Blue and Gold package deal for a couple ages 62-64.

See below for details and links.


Quick Links:

Note: Children’s musical performers are at the bottom of the music schedule page. Local mascot Clo the Cow will be in the Children’s area Saturday and Sunday from Noon to 2:00 PM. Face Painting will be offered from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily, thanks to the generosity of the Bay Model Alliance.

Click here for the 2016 Festival Music Schedule 

Sausalito Ferry information and Festival-Direct Ferry Schedules for 2016 

Parking and Traffic at the Festival

Sausalito Hotels, plus a list of Best Sausalito Breakfast Restaurants for early risers and Best Sausalito Dinner Restaurants for after the show

Volunteer for the 2016 Sausalito Art Festival

What the heck is inside that big tent outside the Festival entrance?

Who the heck owns that big yacht out on the Bay?

Bus Schedules



12 Insider Secrets for 

The 2016 Sausalito Art Festival


1.  Parking on the Cheap, If You Park At All

We had so much information under this heading that we moved it to its own page — click hear to read about Parking and Traffic at the Sausalito Art Festival!


2.  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 (except for the $100-a-pop VIP seats in front), 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 2016 bands and musicians and the schedule here.

Insiders Tip: If your favorite band ever (and I really mean ever and ever) is playing you can also get a $100-per-person VIP ticket for that day, which gets you reserved seating in front of the stage, plus two free drinks. These seats are in rows (unlike the table seating farther back), so its better for those who want to come and go in a tent where every empty seat is quickly filled. But it’s not as good for picnics, eating etc. You will still have people standing front of you, but the stage is raised so you still have some sight lines.

Insiders Tip:  There’s also a special children’s entertainment area for younger kids, with its own scheduled musical programs. It’s located past the big music tent, on the lawn between the Bay Model and the Bay. This years performers, which include the legendary Tim Cain, are listed on our music schedule page.

Insiders Tip:  I’ve seen some of my favorite bands on the big stage here, but IMHO there are times when the small Artists Stage performances are better than the people in the main tent. Where available we have preview videos on our music schedule page.


3.  What’s Allowed and Prohibited  

Pets have to stay home: Only working service animals are allowed on the grounds.  Our Editor Miss T is terribly disappointed.

Please only bring real service animals: I’m a Guide Dogs for the Blind volunteer (their world headquarters is located near Sausalito) and can tell you that the fake and counterfeit vests and certificates are endangering access to many areas for blind people with real service animals. The prevalence of fake credentials is already used as an excuse to exclude all animals, even our Guide Dogs, from some businesses in the U.S.

You can’t bring in alcoholic beverages. Various kinds of wine, beer, champagne, cocktails etc. are sold inside. You also cannot take alcohol back out through the Festival gates.

Large bags and backpacks are prohibited, and smaller ones are subject to search. Standard practices for security at large events in the U.S.

There is no smoking inside the Festival grounds. You have to get your hand stamped, go outside the gates and then return if you want to smoke.

Skateboards, roller skates, skate shoes and those Back to the Future board things are all prohibited inside the grounds. Bikes have to use the valet parking outside and cannot be brought through the gates.

Chairs, food and beverages 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.

The artists ask that you request their permission before taking photos of their original art works.


4.  The Mysterious Non-Musical Big Tent

A great treat back 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. If you’re a repeat visitor you’ll be amazed at how much progress they’ve made in the last year.

Contrary to what the sign says, there is no underground parking at the Sausalito Art Festival!
I’ve always heard that people pay dearly for going to Hell,
but I didn’t realize they were referring to the parking!


5.  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 near the main Festival entry gates, with the bikes parked between the Bay Model and the hillside below Bridgeway.  Bikes may not be brought inside the Festival.

We promise: by the time the Festival opens there will no longer be signs that contradict each other!

I’ve worked in jobs where it felt like this. 

6.  So Many Ferries, So Little Time

The Golden Gate Ferry that sails from the pier in downtown Sausalito offers expanded service over the Festival weekend, and special Blue and Gold fleet Sausalito Art Festival ferries sail directly to the pier at the Festival grounds. Click here for all the ferry information and links and you can also Click Here for Direct Ferry Schedules and Combined Festival-Ferry Tickets.


7.  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).


8.   Weather Predicted to be Unpredictable

Sausalito’s hottest days of the year often come in September.  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.

It’s likely to feel hot in the open sun, and may be chilly in the shade outside the tents if the afternoon breeze comes up, so dress in layers to be ready.

Update: The long range forecast for 2016 is for high temperatures in the low 70’s. That means it will feel warm in the direct sun but is likely to feel chilly in the shade, especially with our usual afternoon breeze. As with all things San Francisco, dress in layers so you can adapt to whatever weather comes your way.


9.  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, but some visitors are surprised that a majority of the items for sale are over $100 and many are over $1,000.

In addition to paintings, jewelry, photography and sculpture we’ve seen rugs, woven clothing, furniture, ceramic and glass serving pieces, decorative ceramics and glass, lamps and all sorts of useful items carved from wood or cast in metal.

Insiders Tip:  As great as the art is at the Festival, the artists come from all over North America and only a handful 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.


10.  Foodies and Moodies

Be prepared to stand in line for a diverse mix of County Fair style food at lunch — last year we had a gyro for lunch one day and tacos the next.  You cannot bring in food or beverages, and neither breakfast nor dinner are available on site.

OK, the Sausalito Chamber of Commerce Oyster Bar is not exactly County Fair food, but you get my point! (And the Chamber does a lot of good for the community, so it’s a good cause!)

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.

Insiders Tip:  Those volunteers at the food booths 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, and they do check the stamps so make sure you get the stamp before leaving. Oh, and did I mention the hand stamp?


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 seats in the main tent for the musical artists, but even those fill up early in the day and by the later musical performances chairs become a rare and precious commodity.

Insiders Tip:  Much of the Festival is set up on asphalt and concrete surfaces (which can get very hot), but over half the artist booths are located on the grass of Marinship Park. Plan your footwear accordingly.

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.  Since there’s a gap between acts some people will get up and leave, freeing a seat for you.  The number of such freed chairs, however, declines as the day goes on!

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.


Image from the fairgrounds as the small tents are erected for the art exhibits

Want to see what the Art Festival area looks like when the event isn’t going on? Check out the photo above, and our pages on a prior year’s Art Festival Construction and on Marinship Park!

Here’s the KGO TV preview from a few years ago:


View Larger Map

Where Does the Money Go?

Here’s the answer!

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