Everyone loves a festival, and we go searching them out wherever we go. Sometimes it’s unique to that particular place, like the famous Gilroy Garlic Festival, but no matter what the reason, they’re just plain fun. Close to San Francisco, the Berkeley Kite Festival falls into the latter. It’s tons of fun with all kinds of activities to keep everyone smiling from the youngest to the oldest person in your family.
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What to Expect
Never having been to the kite festival before, I didn’t realize how popular it was and how far away we’d have to park. One of us got up early and sequestered a great viewing and shade spot up on one of the hills. Was I ever grateful. I love sitting under a shade tree, don’t you?
At any rate, we got there mid-morning, and yes, the parking areas were filling up already. Thankfully there is a free shuttle bus that ferries you between parking areas and the main festival site.
Upon walking in, I was pretty amazed at how many people were flying kites. Jim always loved flying kites, and he’s from California. Apparently they do a lot of kite-flying there. Well, being from all over, my family had a few kites over the years, yet we were never very successful at getting them in the air. So, needless to say, I never fell in love with the activity.
I was willing to change my mind, though, seeing young and old flying everything from paper kites to stunt kites. I was mesmerized.
Highlights of the Fest
- Bring your kite and join in
- Make a Kite
- Learn to fly stunt kites
- Watching or participating in the kite competitions
- Kite ballet
- Humongous Japanese kites
- A candy drop
- Activities for the kids
Go Fly A Kite
The whole idea is to get down to the bay where the winds are just right. Bring your family and your own kites and make them soar. We saw so many people from toddlers to grandpas running up and down the hills trying to get those kites in the air, and most were successful.
If you or your kids don’t have one, that’s okay. You can attend the kite workshop and make a simple paper kite. You can see them flying in the photos. They were surprisingly easy to get up in the sky.
Shows and Competitions
Throughout the weekend the Berkeley Kite Festival hosts many shows and competitions to watch while you’re taking a break from flying your kite.
We really enjoyed the Rokkaku battles where the last kite flying won. The competitors were really good at wrapping their kite strings around another so it would go down. I’d never seen anything like it before.
On both days there are plenty of opportunities to see the Kite ballet performances. Teams of two and four, all with the same colors and make of kites, have practiced a flying routine set to music. Think gymnastics in the sky.
The routines vary, and for some of the time all the team members are doing the same coordinated movements, then as the song progresses each player does their own coordinated part of the routine. It is amazing to watch. I could have sat there all day watching the different routines.
There’s also a special time when the Japanese, all the way from Hammamatsu, show off their gigantic bamboo and fabric kites. It takes a whole team to get each kite in the air, and the kites are just gorgeous. We loved this part so much that it inspired us to go to Hammamatsu and see their competitions for ourselves.
Special Kids Activities
Kids love the candy drop, the kite ballet, and especially making and flying their own kites, but there’s so much more for them to do. I was surprised to see a petting zoo, bouncy houses, face-painting, and even pony rides. They know a happy family will stay longer, so the festival has plenty for the little ones to do.
How to Get There
Most people drive and park at Golden Gate Fields where they take a shuttle to the venue. Parking costs $20 per day, which is pretty cheap since there’s no fee for the festival. If you want to get closer, you can also ride your bike and utilize their free bike valet as well.
To get to Golden Gate Fields:
- From the north traveling southbound take Hwy 580. Then take the left hand exit at Buchanan St.
- From the south traveling northbound take Hwy 80 exiting at the Albany exit.
Where to Stay
There is plenty to do in the area, but planning a San Francisco trip around this festival will really keep the kids happy. You can stay in San Francisco, but it will be cheaper to stay in Oakland or Richmond, and still have great access to the city and surrounding areas.
- Compare prices of hotels in San Francisco.
- Compare hotel prices in Oakland.
- Compare hotel prices in Richmond.