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Navigating SF's Most Insane Weekend Ever

The October 5th weekend promises much fanfare—and gridlock.

 Spectators at the 2011 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. 

Imagine this: Supersonic F-18 fighter jets zipping through the sky, stealing the attention from the AC45 catamarans tacking and jibbing below, while from afar, could that be Patti Smith you hear? Next weekend promises to be one of the city’s most event-filled weekends of the year with America's Cup, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and Fleet Week—oh, and did we mention the 49ers host the Buffalo Bills, and UNIQLO is having their very-anticipated grand opening? Streets will be congested, traffic will be a nightmare. But fear not. Below, a handy guide to navigating the ruckus, what to avoid, and what not to miss.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
This banjo-picking, boot-and-shoe stompin’, completely free music festival is back, and this year’s line-up is as sweet as it comes. With the likes of Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, and Les Claypool set to grace the stages at Golden Gate Park, this three-day jamboree is sure to draw thousands.
What to Avoid: The general Golden Gate Park area, especially after 7 p.m. when concert goers flood out of the park in all directions. In the park, JFK Drive, Transverse Drive and Middle West Drive will be closed to traffic.
Crowd Control: The HSB smartphone app packages show times and maps for easy planning. Don’t have a must-see musician? Festival publicist Tracey Buck recommends checking out the Friday festivities when crowds will most likely be much thinner than Saturday and Sunday’s.
Don’t Miss: HSB announced last week that all Arrow Stage performances will be live streamed on their website. Ditch the crowds and get folksy at home.
Event details: Fri. Oct. 5 and Sat. Oct. 6 (11 a.m. to 7 p.m.), Sun. Oct. 7 (11 a.m. to 7 p.m.) @ Golden Gate Park

America’s Cup / Fleet Week
In August, America’s Cup racing drew over 150,000 fans to the Marina Greens. For October’s regatta, America’s Cup has teamed with Fleet Week and the acrobatic Blue Angels to share the waters. Nearly one million sailing and flying enthusiasts are expected to clog the areas around the waterfront. Brace yourselves.
What to Avoid: Marina Boulevard will be hellish with the America’s Cup Village at the Little Marina Green, and spectator events for Fleet Week on the Marina Green. Avoid Saturday when Fleet Week’s Parade of Ships and Air Show add to a packed schedule of sailing semifinals and finals.
Essential Tips: The SFMTA has crafted a nifty guide filled with useful transportation information, including this San Francisco street closure map.
Don’t Miss: Don’t care much about America’s Cup racing? Snag a comfortable spot for Saturday and Sunday’s Blue Angels air show at an alternative destination (i.e. Treasure Island). America’s Cup racing events will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet and NBC.
Event details: Fleet Week, Oct. 4 to Sun. Oct. 8. Fleet Week Parade of Ships, Sat. (11 a.m.). Fleet Week Air Show, Sat. (12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.), Sun (noon to 4 p.m.) @ Marina Green & Little Marina Green

Castro Street Fair
Everyone’s favorite neighborhood festival brings hundreds of artists, vendors, and live performances to the Castro District. Pedestrian foot traffic is inevitable.
What to avoid: The area surrounding Castro and Market. The SFMTA has closed Market Street between Noe and Eureka, Castro Street between 16th and 19th Streets, and 17th and 18th Streets between Noe and Diamond.
Essential Tips: If you must drive, paid parking is available at the Everett Middle School parking lot on 17th St. in between Church and Sanchez. MUNI trains K, L, M and T all stop at the Castro station.
Event Details: Sun. Oct. 7 (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.) @ Castro St. & Market

144th Annual Italian Heritage Parade
This year the nation’s oldest Italian heritage parade promises to be even “bigger, better and more colorful than ever,”—and most likely the crowds will be too.
What To Avoid: The parade route which starts at Fisherman’s Wharf at Jefferson and Stockon Streets, turns on Columbus Ave. through North Beach and into Washington Square. One lane on northbound Embarcadero will be turned into a single lane bike path.
Don’t Miss: Don’t feel like heading to the waterfront to get your Fleet Week fix? The US Navy Band performs at the parade at noon.
Event Details: Sun. Oct. 7 (12:30 p.m.) @ North Beach