1. Travel
Send to a Friend via Email

Columbus Day in San Francisco

A Colorful Celebration of Italian Heritage and Culture

By

Columbus Day in San Francisco

The Party Spills into the Street Every Columbus Day in San Francisco

Photo by Ocean Malandra
The oldest Columbus Day celebration and parade in the United States, San Francisco's "Italian Heritage Parade" was started way back in 1869. The festival continues to be a highlight of the city's cultural calender, filling the North Beach neighborhood with revelry all day. Local restaurants and bars also roll out specials and throw night-time parties, making this holiday one of the best dates to plan a vacation to San Francisco around, especially since October tend to support the best weather in the city all year.

The Italian Heritage Parade

In 1992 the Columbus Day Parade in North Beach officially changed its name to the Italian Heritage Day Parade to reflect the fact that the holiday is not about the famous "discoverer" but actually a celebration of Italian-American culture in the nation's most picturesque little Italy.

Beginning at 12pm, the parade makes its way up Columbus Avenue from Fisherman's Wharf to North Beach and features a wide variety of community organizations, including not only Italian but Chinese and other city groups as well.

Handmade floats, high school marching bands, various ethnic dance groups, motorized cable cars and classic cars all take over the streets and live opera, pop and other music fills the air.

The parade ends at Washington Square Park, the green heart of North Beach, where other events including a Ferrari car show and live entertainment last throughout the day.

Dining during Columbus Day in San Francisco

The many Italian restaurants along Columbus Avenue offer the best seats in the city for the Italian Heritage Parade - right out on the sidewalk.

The night of the Italian Heritage Day Parade will also pack the restaurants of North Beach. If you are coming for either lunch or dinner, make sure you make a reservation far ahead of time.

The Columbus Day Bazaar at St. Peter and Paul's

A tradition almost as old as the San Francisco Columbus Day Parade itself is the annual bazaar in St. Peter and Paul's, one of the most beautiful churches in the city, located right in front of Washington Square.

Here you can browse for hours among food booths and children's games - think Italian sausage and dunk booths. Its a family-friendly event that helps support the Salesian Boys and Girls Club located next door.

The Columbus Day Block Party and Wine Tasting

Another San Francisco Columbus Day tradition is the annual block party and beer and wine garden which shuts down Vallejo st between Columbus and Grant, right in front of the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi, to vehicular traffic. Live music rocks the street, beer and wine flow all day long and light food is usually available.

Partying It Up on Columbus Day

After the day's festivities are over, most of the bars in North Beach throw Columbus Day's parties of their own. Expect packed but friendly bars, with everybody already slightly sun-burnt and beer soaked from a fun day on the street of San Francisco.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.