Out & About: the Flower Piano at the San Francisco Botanical Garden
By Beth Ryan
Happy Independence Day to all! With summer fully underway, the Flower Piano at the San Francisco Botanical Garden is back in action from July 5-16th. In a nutshell, parents: you MUST go. This is the absolute kid-friendliest of the kid-friendly events here in the city. Our own Beth Ryan has the lowdown on the many reasons why this is a can't-miss event.
It's downright magical. Twelve pianos are placed throughout the garden, creating sweet little outdoor music parlors, which you stumble upon as you wander along the paths. All of the locations are beautiful and some are particularly stunning, such as the grand piano set up on the deck of the Moon Viewing Garden and the one nestled in the Redwood Grove. During the weekdays, the pianos are open for any visitors to play. You may come upon a virtuoso playing Debussy at one piano, and a novice banging out chopsticks on the next. The fellow spectators are encouraging and kind—enthusiastic applause after a song is not uncommon—and there are always plenty of open pianos and good humor among the other players when you allow your toddler to take a turn to bang on the keys. Weekends are more scheduled, though every bit as enchanting, with multiple and simultaneous performances spread throughout the grounds, allowing you to dip into one and then promptly chase your kid into the next.
It's free for SF residents. Bring your driver’s license or other proof of residency. Non-residents pay the regular Botanical Garden admission fee ($9 adults, $7 youth 12-17 and senior, $2 children 5-11, free for children 4 and under, $19 for family of two adults and all children under 17).
It's TWELVE days long. If you just can’t get it together and get your kids out the door on the first day, you have eleven more tries!
There are lots of events within the event. On the weekends, pianists, accompanying singers, dancers, and orchestras perform at the different pianos. The small concerts are perfect for setting up a blanket and enjoying a picnic. The vibe is festive-but-mellow, way more approachable than some of the other more crowded free concert scenes in the city. Several of the programs are designed for families, such as the Kick-off Sing Along (Friday, July 6, 4-6pm, Great Meadow), Rabbit-Hole Theater Company Character Scavenger Hunt (Saturday, July 7th, 14th, 10-11:30am, Main Gate), and Movement and Mindfulness for Families with Charity Kahn (Sunday, July 8th and 15th, 9-11am, Garden of Fragrance). There is so much more! Check out the website for information on the artists and their performances throughout the weekends of the 7th and 14th.
There's weekend coffee, pastries and ice cream. This year, Outer Sunset favorite Andytown will be selling coffee and pastries on the Great Meadow from 9am-4pm. Their scones and corn muffins (gf) are perfect for breakfast, snacktime, or even lunch in a pinch. Churn will also be selling their ice cream between 11am-4pm.
It's easy to get to. The N-Judah and the 44, 71, 5, and 7 busses all drop off near the gardens. There are lots of bike racks, and a bike valet will be available on the weekends at the main gate. If weekend parking near the Botanical Garden is impossible, you can head to the western side of the park and pick up the the free Golden Gate Park Shuttle (9am-6pm on Saturdays and Sundays) at any of the major park attractions, including the two windmills, the bison paddock, and the Great Highway.
You can go without the kids, too. Treat yourself to some alone time with Yoga in the Garden (Saturday July 7th and 14th, Great Meadow), or go back with your partner or some friends for the NightGarden Piano (July 12, 13, 14, 8-11:30pm), where the paths will be illuminated and the pianos creatively lit up for concerts. This event sold out last year and advance purchase is required, so don’t wait to buy tickets!
Beth is an archaeologist, freelance writer, and compulsive researcher. She lives in the Outer Sunset, but drags her two kids and husband to sites all over the Bay Area.
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