Time is money, after all.
There’s a lot of really cool stuff to do in the Bay Area at any given time—but not all of us have the deep pockets to field the ticket costs. Luckily, there are a ton of opportunities to trade a few hours of your time for free admission to somewhere. (Or to something.)
And, as it turns out, Bay Area residents love to volunteer for flashy events—so here are some for your consideration next time you feel like getting your warrior pose or your inner laugh track on.
Lightning in a Bottle
Since 2000, Lightning in a Bottle has celebrated art, music, performance, sustainability and life. Past performers have included Bassnectar and Flume. // Lightning in a Bottle: May 2018, Bradley, lightninginabottle.org
This event is still pretty underground, so you may not have heard it yet. Metallica, Radiohead and Paul McCartney may or may not have played here in past years. // Outside Lands: August 11-13, 2017, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, sfoutsidelands.com.
High Sierra Music Festival
If you love the great outdoors and have a tough time deciding between bluegrass and reggae, this music fest’s diverse lineup could be right up your alley. // High Sierra Music Festival: June 29-July 2, 2017, Quincy, highsierramusic.com/volunteering
SF Sketchfest has been a San Franciscan tradition since 2001 that mixes local favorites and national headliners. // SF Sketchfest: January 11-28, 2018, San Francisco, sfsketchfest.com/voluntee
Conventions and Conferences
Game Developers Conference
Be like a kid in a candy store discovering the latest in gaming and tell your boss it was work. The Conference Associate program allows you to work for your admission. // Game Developers Conference: Spring 2018, Moscone Center, San Francisco, gdconf.com/attend/conferenceassociates.html
For the entrepreneur and the entrepreneurially inclined, HustleCon is a gathering of successful founders. // HustleCon: June 23, 2017, Oakland, hustlecon.com
TechCrunch Disrupt SF
How many times have you heard the word “disrupt” used to describe a startup in the Bay Area? TechCrunch is where key tech innovators come to rub elbows, say dramatic things about the future of tech and unveil their latest products. And yes, there is a Startup Battlefield. // Disrupt SF: September 18-20, 2017, San Francisco, https://techcrunch.com/event-info/disrupt-sf-2017/
This practitioner-driven conference is designed for team leads, architects and project managers. // Q Con SF: November 13-17, San Francisco, qconsf.com/sf2017/volunteer
Dare to Bare
Dare to Bare is the Movemeant Foundation’s flagship outdoor charity fitness event. It also doubles as a body-positive event, and San Francisco is one of its host cities. // Dare to Bare: May 2018 TBD, San Francisco, movemeant.org/volunteer
Wanderlust Yoga Festival
Wanderlust Festivals are multi-day yoga, music and outdoor celebrations held in locations around the world – including San Francisco, Sacramento and the upcoming Lake Tahoe festival.// Wanderlust Yoga Festival: July 20-23, 2017, North Lake Tahoe, https://wanderlust.com/festivals/squaw-valley/
San Francisco International Film Festival
The San Francisco Film Society puts on one of the longest-running film festivals in the Americas, and it’s also known for its innovative live music. // San Francisco International Film Festival: April 2018 TBD, San Francisco, sffilm.org/volunteer
Frameline’s San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival
Would it even be San Francisco without an LGBTQ film festival? The volunteer experience is not to be missed here – the film passes are a given and the parties go all week long. // San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival: June 2018, San Francisco, frameline.org/support/volunteer
Mill Valley Film Festival
There’s plenty of fun to be had and movies to be seen north of the Golden Gate. Music, panels and parties illuminate the experience, which volunteers keep running smoothly. // Mill Valley Film Festival: October 5-15, 2017, Mill Valley, mvff.com/volunteer
San Francisco Silent Film Festival
For over 20 years, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival has been fulfilling its mission to present rare and classic silent film programs, all with live music performed by the most accomplished composers and musicians in the field. // San Francisco Silent Film Festival: June 2018 TBD, San Francisco, silentfilm.org
Food and Booze Events
San Francisco Vintners Market
Drink, drink and be merry at the historic Fort Mason Center’s Festival Pavilion. Volunteers not only receive free entry, but a free meal – cheers to that! // San Francisco Vintners Market: November 4-5, 2017, Fort Mason Center, sfvintnersmarket.com
Oktoberfest By the Bay
Every September, Northern Californians break the lederhosen out of the closet and down pints of beer. You can get behind the bar and guest bartend through volunteer agency One Brick for free brew. // Oktoberfest By the Bay: September 22-24, 2017, Pier 48, San Francisco, oktoberfestbythebay.com
Gilroy Garlic Festival
A true Bay Area bucket list item; purchase garlic-infused everything for your home kitchen and dare to sample the garlic ice cream. // Gilroy Garlic Festival: July 28-30, 2017, Gilroy, gilroygarlicfestival.com/about/volunteering/
Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival
Mingle as 250 wineries and 100 celebrity chefs gather on the California coast. Bring your wallet and your appetite. // Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival: April 2018 TBD, Pebble Beach, pbfw.com/forms/volunteer
Sausalito Art Festival
Take fine art, music, food, wine and sweet bridge views in Sausalito for Labor Day weekend. Shake gently; serve over ice. // Sausalito Art Festival: September 2-4, 2017, Sausalito, sausalitoartfestival.org/volunteer-opportunities/
Motul FIM Superbike World Championship
Get your blood pumping at Laguna Seca, where the Motul FIM Superbike World Championship is set to take place for its third season. // Motul FIM Superbike World Championship: July 7-9, 2017, Monterey, http://www.mazdaraceway.com/fim-superbike-world-championship
You can also get yourself a spot at one of Noise Pop’s impressive lineup of events, including Treasure Island Music Festival and Noise Pop Festival. If you join Team Noise Pop as a volunteer, you could be doing anything from selling merchandise at events to distributing posters and fliers across San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland.
“Team Noise Pop members can attend almost all of our concerts. The majority of our concert options come from our concerts at Swedish American Hall and the newly reopened Cafe Du Nord,” said Connor Griffith of Noise Pop.
That said, it you’d like to volunteer at a bigger festival like Treasure Island (held every fall), Griffith recommends getting in touch as soon as you know you want to volunteer. “We fully schedule our larger events about one month out.”
Work with Reverb to keep local concerts green by tabling and selling reusable water bottles. Touring artists who’ve participated in the program include Zac Brown Band and John Mayer, and volunteers are always allowed to stick around for the show. Spots fill up quickly, so set your expectations accordingly.