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 2015:
Saturday, September 5th 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Sunday, September 6th 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Monday, September 7th 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Ticket Prices for 2015
A ticket allows entry into the festival for one day only. 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. See below for details.
Quick Links for 2015:
To be updated as announced: Artists Exhibiting at the Festival
12 Insider Secrets for
The 2015 Sausalito Art Festival
1. Parking on the Cheap, If You Park At All
Handicapped Parking is adjacent to the Festival. Turn off Bridgeway a) at Liberty Ship Way and bear left at the bottom of the hill, or b) at Harbor Dr. and then make an immediate right onto Liberty Ship Way. If the sign says “Lot Full” pull up to the volunteers anyway, because handicapped will still be open and they will happily guide you to the right spot.
Parking within two blocks (more or less) of the Festival is $20, parking farther away is $10. In general, turning from Bridgeway onto a) Liberty Ship Way or b) Harbor Drive will lead you towards more expensive parking, while turning either direction on Coloma will lead you to cheaper lots. (See parking map near the bottom of this page.)
Insiders Tip: The parking shuttles are nice air conditioned buses, so parking at the first available lot (like those off Coloma St.) 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 parking 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%.
Sausalito Residents: If you live close to the Festival and did not get your residential parking passes email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 415-281-8822. 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 or procedures if you need to work that weekend. Our advice as veterans of many Festivals: 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 work very close to the Festival watch who parks next to your car during the unloading process. Damage to cars in the lot is not unusual — it’s even happened to us.
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, 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 2015 bands and musicians and the schedule here.
Insiders Tip: There’s also a special children’s entertainment area for younger kids, with its own scheduled musical programs.
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.
3. What’s Allowed
Pets have to stay home: Only service animals like Guide Dogs are allowed on the grounds. 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.
4. The Mysterious 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.
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 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.
6. 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.
Many people get confused about which ferry goes where, so here is a summary of each option:
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
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. The schedule for the expanded service is here.
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. 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 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!
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.
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.
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 significant 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.
Here’s the KGO TV preview from a few years ago:
2015 Entertainment and Special Events
Getting to the 2015 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.
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.