With a history ranging from Alfred Hitchcock classics to the latest Matrix and Marvel blockbusters, San Francisco boasts an impressive moviemaking and cinematic tradition all its own. Burnishing the city’s film bona fides further is the fact that it’s also the home of the San Francisco International Film Festival, the longest-running event of its kind in the Americas. Typically held in April at multiple theaters (the opening gala is at the Castro Theatre), it’s a great way to experience one of the more glamorous sides of the City by the Bay. Attend one or several of the offerings during the 15 days of screenings and special events, and you’ll be hanging with some of the more than 300 film industry notables that will be there from 20-plus countries.
In addition to viewing movies, there are live musical performances, plus a chance to hear film notables engage with audiences and one another in candid discussions about both the artistic and technical aspects of their work and current cinema trends. And yes, you’ll almost certainly spot stars, too: Recent attendees have included Harrison Ford, Jeremy Irons, Charlize Theron, Gus Van Sant, and Ryan Gosling.
The festival offers ticket packages that are the best way to attend regularly priced screenings at a discount. An early-bird six-pack is available, and if you really have a thirst for film (and the time), spring for a 10-pack. Otherwise, individual tickets to individual screenings are your best bet.
Insider tip: If a film you want to see is listed as being “AT RUSH,” that means it’s sold out. You may still be able to get a ticket just before showtime, or as part of the daily Noon Ticket Release. A rush line will form 30–60 minutes before the start of the screening.
When you’re not taking in the festival’s offerings, keep in mind all there is to see while you’re in town. Set aside a day or two—or even an afternoon—to visit a few of San Francisco’s iconic attractions, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, the Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, or just a ride on a streetcar. If you feel more drawn to the Bay Area’s nature offerings, head out to Point Reyes National Seashore or Muir Woods National Monument, or take a road trip to tour the San Francisco Bay Loop. Not your first trip to San Francisco? Test your knowledge—and discover hidden gems—by reading this article about the city’s lesser-known attractions.