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. and runs for three days each year on Labor Day Weekend.
The Festival features both a wide variety of artists showing (and selling) their work and major musical performers.
Dates and Festival Hours for 2018:
Saturday, September 1st 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Sunday, September 2nd 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Monday, September 3rd 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
2018 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 raised seating at side near front of Main Stage, 2 free drinks — $100.00 per day
Gen. Admission (ages 13-61) — $25 per day Early Bird, $30 per day after August 30
Seniors (ages 62+) — $20 per day Early Bird, $25 per day after August 30
Children (ages 12 and under) — Free with Adult
You can buy tickets at the event, or pre-purchase through EventBrite. See below for details and links.
Note: The ferry service that ran directly to the Festival pier from San Francisco is no longer being offered, so there are no combined ferry and Festival admission tickets.
Scroll down for 12 insider tips for attending the Festival!
12 Insider Secrets for the 2018 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 three 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 2018 bands and musicians and the schedule here.
Insiders Tip: If your favorite band of all time is playing you can also get a $100-per-person VIP ticket for that day, which gets you reserved seating with enhanced sight lines near the stage, plus two free drinks.
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. They have not announced all the musical performers, but they include major figures like the legendary Tim Cain.
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 even better than the people in the main tent.
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 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 and stadiums 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 that catch fire so why are you riding one anyway?” are all prohibited inside the grounds. Bikes have to use the valet parking outside and cannot be brought through the gates. The festival grounds are far too crowded for these items to be of any use anyway. Even those that don’t spontaneously burst into flames.
Chairs, food and beverages cannot be brought inside the Festival grounds by guests. 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 is Gone
A great treat in recent years was the Educational Tall Ship Shipbuilding Facility, located in a large tent near the Festival entrance. They used the tent to build much of a traditional wooden sailing ship right here in Sausalito for sailing training and youth activities. If you’re a repeat visitor you’ll recognize the ship, the Matthew Turner, still under construction, moored at the pier behind the Festival grounds..
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.
I’ve worked in jobs where it felt like this.
6. Sail Me Two Times
The Golden Gate Ferry that sails from the pier in downtown Sausalito offers expanded service over the Festival weekend, and there are also Blue and Gold fleet Sausalito ferries coming from Fisherman’s Wharf. Click here for all the ferry information and links.
Insiders Tip: In past years some ferries came direct to the Festival pier from San Francisco. That service is no longer available. Instead, you’ll take a ferry to the downtown Sausalito ferry pier, where free high-end air conditioned buses will constantly shuttle guests back and forth to the Festival. All of our ferry schedule pages reflect this added holiday service.
7. More Ways to Ride in Style
Golden Gate Transit buses also serve the area and we have a page that gives you all the details. These are clean and well-maintained commuter buses that link Marin and San Francisco, and they “kneel” to make boarding and exiting easier for disabled riders. 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
Bring layers and be ready for varied temperatures. In 2017 we boiled and broke all the high temperature records — I was a volunteer in a food booth on the hottest day, and it felt like we were starring in a play written by a guy named Dante. Three or four years ago, however, we were getting cool afternoon breezes off the Bay each day that would made you shiver if you didn’t have a windbreaker or sweatshirt, especially in the shadows of the main tent.
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. Be sure to bring sunblock and (despite the great cocktails) drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
Most years you’ll feel hot in the open sun, and may be chilly in the shade if the afternoon breeze comes up, so dress in layers to be ready.
9. Can You Break a $1,000 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 Booties
Be prepared to stand in line for a diverse mix of food at lunch — last year we had a quinoa salad for lunch one day and tacos the next and there are many more choices. You cannot bring in food or beverages, and neither breakfast nor dinner are available on site.
The food booths are run by local service organizations to support their programs and everyone who serves you (including me) is a volunteer, so the money goes to charity.
Shameless Plug for a Non-Profit: The Sausalito Chamber of Commerce Oyster Bar and Quinoa Salad stands (where I volunteer) offer high end treats. The Chamber does a lot of good for the community — both the businesses and the residents of the city — so it’s a good cause!
Insiders Tip: Some Festival visitors prefer being able to have a sit down meal with table service, which is not available inside the event. (There are tables for eating your food in the tent for the main music stage, but you still have to stand in line for your meal.) Some veteran fair-goers just have light fare for lunch, but start their day by taking in a hearty local 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.
Insiders Tip: Mid-day the food area will have lines for the more popular items, though in general the lines are faster now than they were a few years ago because of tablet credit card systems. If you plan to eat at the Festival and don’t want to wait, go a little earlier than the usual lunch crush or wait for an afternoon snack.
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 (especially when the band is well known and has major hits) 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.
Want to see what the Sausalito Art Festival area looks like during the 51 weeks of the year 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!
Where Does the Money Go?
This event started its life as a small non-profit fundraiser, and the profits from the Festival are donated to various charities and used for scholarships. You can read all the details here.