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Your Ultimate Guide to the Carnaval San Francisco

Carnaval San Francisco was started in the year 1979 and is a yearly street parade and festival in San Francisco, California, United States. It is usually held on the last weekend in May. It takes place in the Mission District of San Francisco and attracts about 400,000 people every year. It is one of the most diverse and unique carnival celebrations in the United States. Guests can experience global cuisines, international music, dance, arts, and many other fun activities. Let us get to know more about Carnaval San Francisco

Carnaval San Francisco


It is an annual carnival celebration in San Francisco that has been going on for over four decades now. It is a passionate weekend celebration that has its highlight with the Carnaval SF- the Grand Parade. Carnaval San Francisco is all about embracing and recognizing some of the city’s cherished cultures. Over here you will be able to cherish and enjoy the culture of people from all over the world. You can vibe to some Latin tunes or look to dance to Caribbean beats. You will also be able to witness amazing performances from Mexican Aztec performers or Japanese drummers.

Timings and Tickets

Carnaval San Francisco takes place over the Memorial Day Weekend. The date for the 2024 two-day carnival will be May 25, 2024 – May 26, 2024.   

Everyone is welcome to join in the celebration as it is free for the entire family to enjoy. Tickets to the Children and Youth Royalty Competition will cost you $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Tickets to the Carnaval San Francisco King, Queen, and Drag Royalty Competition will cost you between $21 and $17. If you wish to watch the parade while sitting down, Grand Prade seating costs $29. All these tickets can be purchased from their official website.   

Children and Youth Royalty Competition at Carnaval SF

Events of Carnaval San Francisco

  • Saturday – The Royalty Competition – Just like many other carnival celebrations around the world, Carnaval San Francisco has its own Carnival Royalty. This popular event will see contestants battle it out for Prince, Princess, Queen, King, and a Drag Majesty Crown. It will often include performances of dance and some beautiful costumes. The winner of the contest will serve as the Official Ambassador for Carnaval San Francisco and will also win many cash prizes and feature in the Grand Parade. The location for the event is Mission High School 3750 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94114. The time is noon for the Children and Youth competitions.    
  • Carnaval SF Grand Parade – This is an outstanding parade that includes more than 50 dance and music groups who entertain and engage the crowds. Many of the groups tend to feature beautifully decorated floats which help depict rich multicultural themes. Other than these themes, there are also a lot of musicians, dancers, drummers, roller-skaters, and stiltwalkers. You will find sound systems that will play salsa, hip hop, and reggae that help create a wonderful street party vibe. Highlights of the parade include Brazilian-style samba schools which have over 300 members and they dance through the streets in brilliant costumes. Other than this, there are Polynesian dances, giant puppets, and many more cultural performances displayed. It is on the corner of 24th and Bryant Street, traveling west onto Mission Street and north to 15th Street. The parade begins at 9.30 am.   
  • Carnaval San Francisco Family Celebration – It happens on Harrison Street between 16th and 24th Streets. The times are between 10 am and 6 pm. There are loads of fun activities and entertainment for the whole family to enjoy.   
  • Official Season Kick-Off – Fat Tuesday – Carnaval San Francisco’s official season kicks off on Fat Tuesday. On Mardi Gras Day, Carnaval San Francisco will invite people to meet their neighbors and to make friends at their Annual Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras celebration. These will occur at three different venues through Mission and will have live dancers and music. Guests that visit are highly encouraged to participate by dressing up, wearing a costume, or wearing a mask or beads.   
  • VIP Party at the de Young Museum – The de Young Museum will host an official Carnaval Kick-Off Party the week before the festival and parade. It is a free event and will feature energetic dancers, brilliant costumes, and a small preview of what is to come at the Mission District.
Carnaval exhibits

Getting there

Carnaval San Francisco is held in the Mission District of San Francisco. It occurs on Harrison Street, between 16th and 24th Streets. San Francisco is a major U.S. city, so if you are coming from overseas or interstate you should have no problem getting there. It has two international airports including San Francisco International and another in Oakland.   

The Mission District is bordered on the north by Highway 101. It is near 14th Street, Potrero, and Dolores Streets on the east and the west, and by Cesar Chavez Streets on the south.   

To get there from downtown Union Square, you can take the BART (underground train) and exit at stops at 16th and 24th street stations. You could also take the minibus that services the area including 9, 12, 14, 22, 27, 33, 48, 49, and 67. It is not recommended that you drive out there although there is public parking available at the Mission-Bartlett Garage. You could also use a ridesharing app such as Uber or Lyft to get there which will make it very easy and convenient for you.   


There are plenty of lodging options available in San Francisco that range from hotels, resorts, hostels, guest hotels, and of course, Airbnb. Everything depends on your budget and comfort level. Since San Francisco is not that large of a city, it is pretty easy to get around. Our recommendation would be to stay around the Union Square/Powell BART stations as there are plenty of hotels around and you would be quite central to everything in the area.   


Food usually plays a vital role at Carnaval, with over 400 vendors offering a taste of the world to you. These range from spicy Latin American dishes to savory Asian treats. The wide array of international foods that is available over here is astonishing. Therefore, sampling varieties of foods is a must-do while you’re visiting as it goes well with the overall experience of cultural appreciation. You will notice that food stalls line up the streets of Mission District and offer a taste of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Carnaval food

What to Wear

You can expect a feast for your eyes while you’re at the Carnaval San Francisco as their costumes reflect the diverse cultures that are represented. There is no such strict dress code, but it is better if you look to embrace the spirit of Carnaval and wear colorful and comfortable attire. Many people also choose to wear costumes or traditional clothing that reflects their culture being celebrated. Do not be shy and get ready to show off your vibrant outfits that will blend right in with feathered headdresses and sequined ensembles.  

Carnaval San Francisco is more than just an event, it is a full-on experience. Get ready to pack your bags and be ready to fully immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of San Francisco

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