The Folsom Street Fair (FSF) is the ultimate BDSM holiday, with over 400,000 kinky folks descending on San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood for a glorious day of flogging, tying, spanking, and slutting their stuff on the city streets. While some locals may eschew the fair itself as “touristy,” for me the lusty appeal and unique freedoms offered by this day of adult play in the sun have never gotten old – I haven’t missed one since my first Folsom in 2005, when I was a fresh new arrival from Minnesota, wide-eyed with wonder.
There’s a lot to know about the fair itself – and I’ll get there! – but like many holidays, the run-up is a huge part of the fun. Whether you’re a local who likes to get the party started or an out-of-towner looking for excuses to lengthen your vacation, the week before the Fair has lots of amazing opportunities for you. I’ll be focusing on pansexual events (ones for all genders and orientations) – if you’re looking for a more focused crowd, there are tons of those events as well! The calendars at Erobay and Folsom St Events can get you started.
If you fancy some kink education to kick off your Folsom week, opportunities abound! The SF Citadel, a large community dungeon space built in a venue that spent decades of life as a nightclub (check out the lighted dance floor now filled with St. Andrew’s crosses), is about a mile from the fair. On Tuesday, Bay Area Rope Club (BARC) will be having a skillshare; the Thursday Citadel class is Rope Bondage Basics: How’s & Why’s of Supercharged Scenes, presented by Linworth, a featured presenter visiting from Ohio.
If that’s not enough rope for you, consider the schedule at VoxBody Studios, a beautiful dedicated rope space in Oakland. Their calendar features a class on Mind/body connection for rope on Wednesday, and an Openspace-Style rope jam during the day on Saturday!
Looking to socialize? Kink coffeeshop Wicked Grounds is right on the edge of the FSF event area and has numerous events filling their calendar in the week leading up to the fair (as well as being open the day itself, of course)! Their munches that week include a Little’s gathering, and unsocial social for shy foks, and a roleplayer munch. You can caffeinate, have your human pup’s beverage of choice served in a dog bowl, stock up your toybag, order a full meal, and meet other kinky folks… all in one place!
Looking to shop before hitting up the vendors at the Fair itself? Options include Mr. S Leather, Leather Etc, Good Vibrations, Wicked Grounds, and second hand store for leathers and boots Worn-out West.
The Wednesday before FSF, the must-attend party is Bondage-a-Go-Go (BaGG) at the Cat Club, which is less than a block from Wicked Grounds. This nightclub and bar has a dungeon playspace in the back (featuring two suspension points, two spanking benches, and a cross, as well as a full toybag that you can borrow from), dance platforms, go-go dancers, dance floor in the front, and two full bars! The dungeon gets busy, so be sure to check in with the Dungeon Monitor (DM) if you’d like to play, and keep it PG-13 because there are liquor laws to follow (and lots of time to get XXX later in the week).
Friday is when things really kick into high gear! Options include inclusive women’s party Crave at the Citadel and Twisted Windows, a large scale bondage and BDSM performance event hosted at SOMArts (which is located just a half mile from the fair). Twisted Windows features over 50 performers from as far away as Kobe, Japan, as well as all over the US and the best of the Bay Area for an incomparable and sensual evening. Acts include suspension bondage, aerial acrobatics (lyra, silks, straps, trapeze), pole, cyr wheel, self-suspension, and more, all taking place on four simultaneous stages. Remember your toybags, because after the performances, this event includes a play party!
Once Folsom Eve is upon you, the Bay Area is bursting with options. Want to get your groove on? Perhaps you’d like to look into Magnitude, the leatherman-focused official dance party of the FSF, held at Fort Mason Center! If you’re looking to play, Threshold at Mission Control in Oakland will be celebrating with a special workshop and kinky play event; the SF Citadel’s Folsom Eve Event is another excellent choice! Mission Control is great for folks looking for a more intimate, sensual vibe, while the Citadel will be hosting 300+ kinksters in their spacious, see-and-be-seen space. Be sure to arrive early (before 9pm) to get your choice of their huge selection of dungeon equipment – as the night goes on, the venue gets packed with folks getting kinky! The Citadel is a sex-positive dungeon where you can get as XXX as you like – check in with the Dungeon Monitor if you have any questions.
Of course Sunday is the main event! Even though you were likely up late partying on Saturday, it behooves you to arrive to the fair early. Earlier in the day it is much less crowded, and also cooler – if you’re planning to shop at the numerous vendor areas, you’ll have a lot easier time before 1pm. Weather can change quickly, so remember to bring layers. Parking at the fair can be quite challenging – f you don’t mind walking 5+ blocks, you may be able to find a free street spot on the Brannan St side of the fair. Avoid getting stuck in congested traffic by not taking your car too close to the closed streets – if you get within a couple blocks, turn around. Taking the BART is a better bet than driving. The Civic Center stop is only a few blocks away, just exit and walk south toward the numbered streets. Remember that there are multiple entrances to the Fair, and the major ones on Folsom St (especially at 8th and Folsom) can be packed with long lines. If you go a couple blocks along the outer edges of the fair, you can usually avoid the lines and just walk into the smaller side entrances! There is an optional donation requested at the entry; if you donate $10 or more, you get a sticker that will give you $2 off your drinks.
Once you’re at the Fair, apply (and re-apply) lots of sunscreen and remember to hydrate! There are multiple performance, music, and dance areas to check out, as well as over 200 exhibitors. Be sure to stop by the Bay Area Rope Exchange (BARE) booth to take in some amazing bondage performances, the combined Bondage-a-Go-Go and Citadel booth, and the Society of Janus booth if you’d like to get spanked! Take it all in and enjoy this incomparable event!