Summer fun reaches a climax in September at the City by the Bay. There's something for everyone, from American football matches to symphony concerts and world-class art from Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz

San Francisco prides itself on the diversity of its tribes and commitment to its countercultural past. In September, the City by the Bay’s notorious summer fog is banished to the coast, the summer season begins and the community opens its arms to anything exceptional and controversial, from protest art to haute bar food and everything in between.

Classical pianist Yuja Wang

Classical pianist Yuja Wang

Bring your black tie for the annual grand opening of the San Francisco Symphony’s season on 3 September. Count on full-throated vocal arrangements from folk and blues legend Bonnie Raitt and expressive beauty from classical pianist Yuja Wang. Popping flashbulbs at the glittery opening gala promenade and the quietly glamorous after-party in an adjoining tented pavilion give the concert the feel of an interlude amid the paparazzi.

An exhibition at the de Young Museum

An exhibition at the de Young Museum

In town until 12 October and exclusive to San Francisco, Modernism from the National Gallery of Art: The Robert & Jane Meyerhoff Collection at the de Young Museum showcases post-war stars such as Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. A chapel-like gallery is devoted to the 15 paintings of Barnett Newman’s The Stations of the Cross.

American football team the San Francisco 49ers

American football team the San Francisco 49ers


Don red and gold togs on 14 September to watch San Francisco’s iconic American football team the San Francisco 49ers kick off the new season against the Chicago Bears at their brand new stadium, located in the heart of Silicon Valley. Nosh on traditional ballpark fare such as frankfurters and hamburgers, or sample the range of the valley’s flavours in dishes such as vegan barbecue jackfruit sandwich, Peking duck steamed buns and chicken tikka masala. The Niners are home again on 28 September when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles.

Catch an afternoon ferry to Alcatraz Island to witness @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz. The once-imprisoned Chinese dissident, activist and artist Ai WeiWei is creating seven site-specific sculptures, sound and mixed-media installations in locations around the former federal prison, which are not usually open to the public. The exhibit opens on 27 September and runs until 26 April 2015.

Plan to return from Alcatraz after dark to witness the spectacle that is the Bay Lights, the world’s largest LED lights sculpture, installed on San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Created by artist Leo Villareal in honour of the Bridge’s 75th anniversary, the exhibit runs daily, from dusk until dawn, until March 2015.

The Michelin-starred Saison restaurant

The Michelin-starred Saison restaurant

The food is as innovative as ever at the two-Michelin-starred and the World’s 50 Best Restaurants ‘One to Watch’, Saison. At its new downtown digs, guests can customise the dining experience. Sit in the comfortable bar area or in the cosy dining room and enjoy the shorter regular menu or the more spontaneous discovery one, with as many as 22 precision-crafted, thrillingly delicious dishes from chef Joshua Skenes, or dine in the kitchen to experience his cooking at its most experimental. For another culinary highlight, visit Brasserie S&P at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco and try the bar’s new craft drinks menu, a range of beverages made with seasonal ingredients mixed and bottled in-house.

Wrap up a San Francisco visit at the Presidio, a military post converted to a national park, visitor destination and workplace. Alternatively, learn the tricks of the world’s best animators at the Walt Disney Family Museum, where classes on character maquette sculpting (miniature visual aides for animators) and armature building (the inner structure of puppets and stop-motion figures) help you bring your own characters to life.

After class, stop in for a bite at The Commissary, the latest from renowned San Francisco chef Traci Des Jardins. Fittingly housed in a former mess hall at the Presidio, it serves Spanish-influenced California cuisine. The roast cuttlefish with arroz verde and squid ink and the chickpea galetta with summer squash and harissa vinaigrette are not to be missed.

Christina Mueller writes about food, wine and travel.

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