Headed to Outside Lands? Here's Everything You Need to Know
By Nastia Voynovskaya
One of the Bay Area's most popular festivals, Outside Lands, has grown into a celebration of music, comedy, art and gastronomy that draws tens of thousands of attendees every year. Here's our handy guide to navigating the big weekend coming up at Golden Gate Park.
Who To See
The eclectic curation at Outside Lands hits all the right notes, with nostalgic acts, reigning chart-toppers and buzzed-about new talent. This year's lineup stars classic rock legend Paul Simon, Grammy-winning pop acts Twenty One Pilots and Childish Gambino, rap icon Lil Wayne, rising club music luminary Yaeji, raunchy up-and-coming rapper Cupcakke and local neo-soul band the Seshen. 2000s pop punk heroes Blink-182 also perform, as well as Berkeley '90s alternative rockers Counting Crows.
Music is the centerpiece of the experience, but there's a lot more to see and do. An underrated part of the fest is the Gastromagic stage, where chefs get silly in the kitchen with comedians, drag stars and musicians. It's an opportunity to see your faves in a more intimate setting, with plenty of crowd participation. This year, Cupcakke pairs up with chef and Bon Appetit editor Andy Baraghani to make slurpable food and drinks (an homage to some of the dirtier acts the rapper describes in her lyrics). Drag Race star Alyssa Edwards and Counting Crows' Adam Duritz are also among the entertainers rolling their sleeves up at Gastromagic.
Unless you want to waste gas driving around in circles for hours and then parking 20 blocks away, we strongly suggest leaving your car at home for Outside Lands. The festival has a shuttle from Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, just a stone's throw from Civic Center BART, with passes going for $49.50 for all three days.
A little-known pro-tip for those who live in the East Bay, North Bay or South Bay? For a steeper price ($112 and up for a three-day pass, depending on where you're coming from) you can take one of the regional shuttles that pick up and drop off in Sacramento, Palo Alto, San Jose, Mill Valley or Oakland.
Uber and Lyft will likely have crazy surge pricing—plus, phone reception is spotty in the main festival zone. MUNI is a solid and much cheaper option for traveling within San Francisco, with several lines walking distance from festival gates. Another pro-tip: MUNI buses are going to be packed with festivalgoers by the end of the night, so ride a few stops in the outbound direction and get back on where it's less crowded. And of course, you can always bike, or rent a scooter. The festival partners with JUMP bikes and SKIP scooters this year, and JUMP has a promo code (OSL19D) for a free ride.
What to Wear
Racist fashion choices are to music festivals as plastic trash is to the ocean. The positive news is that Outside Lands banned appropriative Native American headdresses, so you won't be seeing them paired with furry raver boots or bro tanks there (shudder). Otherwise, wear whatever you want—just make sure to bring layers. You might feel silly carrying a puffer jacket when it's a warm 68 degrees in the afternoon, but once that Pacific wind and fog hit when it gets dark, you'll thank yourself for planning ahead.
Like many mass gatherings these days, Outside Lands requires backpacks and larger bags to be made out of clear plastic. Fortunately, you can find those at major retailers like Target and Amazon. H&M, Top Shop, Zara and other fast-fashion brands have a bunch of cute clear purses too.
Bags and fanny packs smaller than 6" x 8" x 3" don't have to be clear, and drawstring bags with only one openings (up to 13" x 16") are fine too.
What to Eat and Drink
San Francisco is all about fine dining, and Outside Lands has plenty of gourmet food trucks and vendors lining the paths to most of the stages. But for those on a budget, it's perfectly fine to bring your own food—or at least snacks to keep you fortified while you do laps around the festival grounds to catch all your favorite acts. You can save money on water too. Outside Lands allows you to bring two factory-sealed water bottles, or an empty container to get your H2O from one of their many free dispensers.
Beer and wine lovers will find some of Northern California's best offerings at Beer Lands and Wine Lands (which is a hop and a skip away from Cheese Lands, who knew!) Those who like something boozier can find craft cocktails in the Cocktail Magic section in McLaren Pass, where you can catch magic shows and intimate performances between mixology demos.
When You Need a Break from Crowds
Though marijuana is legal in California, smoking isn't permitted in Golden Gate Park. (However, that says nothing about edibles—which are technically food.) Cannabis enthusiasts can learn more about the local weed industry at Grass Lands, an educational and multi-sensory showcase with lots to smell south of Polo Field.
The festival has a Sober Lands tent for those who are in substance recovery and want to attend a quick meeting to stay sane among all party people.
The Barbary comedy and improv stage is definitely worth a visit when you get tired of jostling through crowds. (It's indoors! And has ample seating and a bar!) Alyssa Edwards has a headlining comedy set there, and Tony Danza and Crazy Rich Asians and Silicon Valley star Jimmy O. Yang are slated to perform too.
Remember to Have Fun
With all there is to see and do, Outside Lands can be overwhelming. The festival's official app is helpful for scheduling your days. But don't plan too strict of an itinerary—leaving room to explore off the beaten path is what it's all about.