San Francisco Bay to Breakers Race Party May 17, 2009

Bay to Breakers race starts out on Howard Street near the San Francisco Embarcadero and passes by the W San Francisco and InterContinental San Francisco in the first mile of the race.

Bay to Breakers is an annual street party stretching 7.5 miles across the city. The race has been held since 1912, but the party atmosphere is a modern phenomenon. The competitive racers are never seen by most of the thousands who complete the Bay to Breakers course. Most of the participants who complete the cross-city street course never even officially register for the race.

W San Francisco Hotel at Third and Howard on Bay-to-Breakers course

W San Francisco Hotel at Third and Howard on Bay-to-Breakers course


The race winner had probably already passed the finish line before the crowd I was in even made it to the starting line. The noncompetitive participants spent an hour waiting and shuffling along, the air filled with corn tortillas being tossed like Frisbees from Costco hundred packs. This is Halloween in May. One hundred thousand course walkers feed onto Howard Street from several corrals of fenced off streets, each corral a couple of city blocks long to provide controlled access to the official race start line.

San Francisco had an uncommon weather day when the temperature reached the upper 80s and 90s in the city. Even more unusual was a warm morning in the mid-60s for the race start at 8am.

Beer and nudity were supposedly barred this year. There was plenty of beer to be seen, perhaps less nudity and the party stretched for 7.5 miles across the city.

Bay to Breakers is always the third Sunday of May. Book a night or two at the W San Francisco or InterContinental San Francisco and request a Howard Street facing room for an incredible front-row spectacle.

Bay-to-Breakers crowd on Howard St. InterContinental SF in background.

Bay-to-Breakers crowd on Howard St. InterContinental SF in background.

Or stay anywhere in the Bay Area and come join in the street party. This is San Francisco and you do not have to officially enter the Bay to Breakers race to participate. Just follow the crowd and make your way 7.5 miles across the city. And take your time. The journey is the point of the trip.

I saw a t-shirt today after crossing the finish line on the Great Ocean Highway that borders the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco.

“You can see the spectacle or you can be the spectacle.”

San Francisco bay-to-breakers-start-line

San Francisco bay-to-breakers-start-line

Links: San Francisco Chronicle story 5-18-09 link. Lots of photos.

This YouTube video from 2008 captures the spirit of Bay to Breakers in two minutes:

Top 10 Bay to Breakers Survival Tips:

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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