About This Festival
Outside Lands boasts one of the best settings for any festival in the world—the polo fields on the western end of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, only a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean. It features four primary stages: Lands End is the largest, followed by Twin Peaks, Sutro, Panhandle, and the newest Presidio stages. You’ll also find a comedy tent, a DJ tent that always seems to have the longest lines waiting for entrance, more food choices than you can imagine, art being created everywhere you look, and even a bike valet.
Created in 2008 in conjunction with Superfly Productions (responsible for the Great Googa Mooga, Life is Good, and Bonnaroo festivals), Another Planet Entertainment takes its location to heart and celebrates music, art, food, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
The line-up is consistently stellar and eclectic, sometimes making it difficult to take in all the shows you want to see. They do have a great app that allows you to organize your personal schedule on the festival grounds, but still the range of possibilities is too great to take it all in. And you really shouldn’t try to take it all in, because you’ll be exhausted by the end of the first day.
Past headliners have included Radiohead, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, Sigur Ros, Neil Young with Crazy Horse, Tenacious D, My Morning Jacket, Arcade Fire and the Shins (to name only a few). Willie Nelson has jammed with John Stamos, Chic with Nile Rodgers pulled a surprise replacement show, and DJs like Baauer threw long sets that energized the crowds into a frenzy.
The music is usually the heart of any festival, but the array of culinary experiences served up at Outside Lands gives any performer some serious competition. While some attendees might be carefully mapping out their cross-campus musical itinerary, others will be checking off a long list of all the items they’re planning on eating and drinking.
Without question, San Francisco is one America’s primary engines in culinary innovation and it’s made readily apparent at this festival. Yes, you can find the usual fare: burgers, hotdogs and sausages, garlic fries, slices of pizza, and fried pickles (even these items are elevated here), but we challenge you to find another festival where you can choose from lumpia spring rolls (from Hapa Ramen), raw and BBQ oysters (from Woodhouse Fish Co.), fried chicken and waffles (from Farmer Brown’s Little Skillet), organic made-to-order salads (from Split Pea Seduction), porcini mushroom donuts (from Rich Table), kaagu (from Namu) or an entire lamb butchered and roasted daily served with paella or poutine (from The Whole Beast).
After you’ve made your selection from the nearly 80 vendors, you can head over to Choco Lands (charmingly nestled into a section of the woods) to share a cup of liquid chocolate (from San Francisco institution Guittard Chocolates), or throw back an espresso (from Oakland-based Blue Bottle Coffee).
If it’s something more spirited your looking for, head over to either Beer Lands or Wine Lands. At the former, you can choose your favorite style from nearly 20 local breweries. At Wine Lands, over 40 Bay Area wineries offering up tastings of over 200 different pours all day long. Choose a flight, then head over to Cheese Lands to buy a tasting board of locally produced cheeses (we recommend including the Point Reyes Farmstead Blue, the only blue cheese made in California). There's also Bacon Land, yes, Bacon Land.
Events Within the Event
In addition to the music, food, and drink, Outside Lands hosts a variety of diversions to keep patrons entertained in the park. The Barbary, located south of Polo Field by the Lands End Stage, is a velvet-tented room reminiscent of a traveling sideshow hosting a long line-up of popular comedians, authors, and podcasters. If you have a favorite funny person from Comedy Central, Adult Swim, The Nerdist, or Funny or Die, there’s a great chance they’ll pop up here. And, there are always surprise guests who appear just because they’re here for the festival, too.
Eco Lands is set up in Hellman Hollow, near the smaller (and solar-powered) Panhandle Stage. It’s an outdoor education and workshop center focusing on eco and environmental issues like green energy, ocean clean-ups, urban gardening, and a refillable water station. There’s even a local farmer’s market if you want to DIY a raw lunch.
The final stand-out feature of Outside Lands is Outsider Art, a festival-wide arts show that’s practically everywhere you go through Golden Gate Park. Over the three days, blank walls become murals; sculptures rise up; installations appear on the grounds, in the tree, and in the air—and everyone is invited to watch and participate where permitted. Annual performer Mike Shine sets up his Revival Medicine Show near Choco Lands—think carnies on olde timey instruments performing three-penny operas. There’s even a Digital Detox Center, where all electronics must be turned off and visitors are invited to rest in a hammock, sit for tea in a tented tea house, or write poetry and messages on manual typewriters—a quirky treat in the woods.