One of the most common questions for first timers to Outside Lands is where they should stay. Booking accommodations for a big music festival like Outside Lands can be pretty daunting. I am writing this article to offer you some friendly advice and make the process of booking a hotel for Outside Lands a little less stressful. This article will go over where to stay, how to get to Outside Lands from those areas, general booking advice, and more. Let’s get to it.
Sorry, but no – this isn’t Coachella or Bonnaroo. There is no camping at Outside Lands as the festival takes place in Golden Gate Park, which is in the middle of San Francisco. Some people camp far away and travel in for Outside Lands, but there is no official festival camping for Outside Lands.
This really comes down to personal preference and your group size. I would say if you are going solo or have a large group then a house is a solid option for Outside Lands. If you go solo you should be able to snag a private room in a shared house at a really reasonable price. This really cuts down on the costs since you won’t be able to split things with a group. If you have a large group a house is also a great option as Airbnb has plenty of listings in the Bay Area that can accommodate 6+.
That said, plenty of us just prefer a hotel to renting an Airbnb for Outside Lands. Full disclosure, I am in this boat – I always go with a hotel. Hotels will cost you a little more than renting a house, but you do get all the perks of staying in a hotel.
One thing to keep in mind if you use Airbnb is the fact that the owner of the house can cancel on you at their whim basically. I have read horror stories of people having their Outside Lands house cancelled last minute right before the festival. I’m sure this doesn’t happen often but just keep in mind it is a risk.
Book early! The earlier you book for Outside Lands the better chance you have at saving money and getting a hotel in a good location. Hotels and houses WILL fill up for Outside Lands and the prices will rise. People legitimately start booking accommodations for Outside Lands 10+ months in advance. I’m not saying you have to do this, but if you want to save as much money as possible for Outside Lands you should be booking early, well before the Outside Lands lineup drops in early April.
Now that those formalities are taken care of, let’s discuss where you should book accommodations for Outside Lands. It really doesn’t matter if you go with a house or a hotel, the advice will be the same. Outside Lands has a couple of good things going for it: it’s location and the public transportation system in San Francisco. Both of these make it so you really have a lot of options for where you book your hotel in San Francisco. I will now go over the different areas in the Bay Area you should consider for your Outside Lands accommodations.
If you can find something in the Golden Gate Park area then that would be fantastic for Outside Lands. Above you can see Outside Lands location, so anything in or around the park would be great. The problem is there are very limited hotels near Golden Gate Park. The picture below shows the locations of the hotels we are tracking for Outside Lands.
As you can see there are very few on the west side of San Francisco. If you book really early for Outside Lands (9+ months) you may be able to find a hotel or Airbnb within walking distance of the festival, but more than likely you will need to book in another area.
This is the epicenter of San Francisco tourism. If you have never been to San Francisco, or like touristy areas of cities, then you should strongly consider the Union Square area. You will find tons of shops, restaurants, bars and more. Here you will find all your standard chains such as Hilton, Sheraton, and Marriott, as well as more expensive chains such as Intercontinental or Four Seasons. If you stay in Union Square you won’t be able to walk to Outside Lands as it’s about five miles away, but you still won’t have a hard time getting there. You could easily bike there or you can take the bus. The N-Judah bus will only cost you $2.50 and runs right from Union Square to Golden Gate Park. From where the bus drops off it is a short walk to Outside Lands. You can also use the official Outside Lands shuttle from this area as it picks up nearby at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.
So what’s the downside to Union Square? It is expensive. If you can get a decent hotel for under $200 I would be surprised and tell you to book immediately. Most of the hotels in the area will be in the $200 to $300 range, with prices quickly increasing as Outside Lands gets closer. If you want to stay in this area for Outside Lands you are going to have to shell out some decent cash.
Honestly San Francisco is quite condensed so the other areas of the city will all be fine. Other popular areas to stay with a lot of hotels are the financial district, the wharf, and Nob Hill. Any of these areas will have a bus that goes to Golden Gate Park and are perfectly adequate for Outside Lands. This is a good general rule of thumb: if your hotel is in San Francisco you will have an easy time getting to Outside Lands. You just need to find the best bus route for your area, but there is absolutely going to be an option for you. We have a full guide for navigating San Francisco and getting to Outside Lands that you can check out here.
Just know that if you stay in San Francisco it is going to be expensive. In 2015 San Francisco ranked as the second most expensive city for hotels, only behind New York City. This price gouging will only increase with a big event like Outside Lands occurring. If you stay in San Francisco you can fully expect to pay $200+ a night for a hotel. Obviously you can find a motel for cheaper, but if you want to stay in a decent hotel it’s going to be at least that much for Outside Lands.
In summary, the pros of staying in San Francisco for Outside Lands are it will be easy to get to Outside Lands no matter where you stay and there will be plenty to do when you aren’t at Outside Lands (restaurants, bars, etc). Keep in mind Outside Lands ends at 10, so it's fairly early. The downside is San Francisco is really expensive so you have to accept paying expensive prices.
Of course, San Francisco isn’t the only area people stay at for Outside Lands. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system is probably the best on the west coast and allows people to stay all over the Bay Area and still make it into San Francisco for Outside Lands. Here are some areas to consider for Outside Lands that aren’t in San Francisco.
Daly City is about 20-25 minutes south of San Francisco. If you stay here you will have to commute into San Francisco daily for Outside Lands but you will save a lot of money. There are plenty of hotels in Daly City for between $100 and $175 for Outside Lands dates, which puts them substantially cheaper than the hotels in San Francisco. If you are looking to save some money this is a nice option for Outside Lands without being too far away. To get to Outside Lands you can take the 28 bus to the 29 bus, which takes you right to Golden Gate Park and Outside Lands. You can also take the BART to the 29 bus. The bus will only cost you $2.50 and takes approximately 35 minutes, which is a nice, inexpensive option for getting to Outside Lands.
Just across the bay in Oakland is another nice option for Outside Lands. Tons of people do the commute from Oakland to SF everyday for work, so it is setup fairly well to do this for Outside Lands. There are plenty of BART stops in Oakland, so regardless of where you stay in the city you should have no problem getting back to San Francisco for Outside Lands. The total travel time from Oakland to Outside Lands will be just under an hour, so it’s not as convenient as San Francisco for Outside Lands, but you will save a lot of money. Oakland is also very close to the touristy side of San Francisco (just across the bridge), so if you did want to do that while there for Outside Lands it will be fairly easy to do so. Hotels are also much cheaper in Oakland. There are a ton of options for under $200, which is much better than San Francisco.
South San Francisco also has a lot of hotels for under $200, and is about an hour commute to Outside Lands using public transportation. From South San Francisco you can take the Pittsburg/Baypoint – SFIA/Millbrae BART line to Bus 29 and take that to Outsie Lands. This again will save you a lot on your Outside Lands acommodations, but you will have a bit of a commute into the city.
If you do stay far away from Outside Lands you may have concerns about getting home at night. Luckily, during Outside Lands BART has expanded its hours in past years so people utilizing it for Outside Lands can get home. While there is no guarantee they will do so in the future, I would be shocked if they didn’t. Outside Lands continues to get more popular each year and the BART typically expands to accommodate it.
You may of noticed I always gave advice on how to get to Outside Lands utilizing public transportation. Of course, you can rent a car and drive to Outside Lands, but I strongly advise you not to do this. San Francisco traffic is awful, the roads can be confusing for out of towners, there is very limited parking, and you won’t be able to fully enjoy yourself at Beer Lands or Wine Lands. Just use public transportation to get to Outside Lands, you will be happy you did. One strategy I can recommend is driving to San Francisco and finding a parking garage far away from Outside Lands, and from there utilize public transportation to get to the festival. I generally just recommend against driving to the actual festival site.
When booking your hotel or accommodations for Outside Lands there is a trade off. If you stay in San Francisco it will be incredibly convenient to get to Outside Lands and you will have a lot to do outside of the festival. However, it is going to be expensive with most hotels $200 at a minimum. If you stay outside of San Francisco you will save money, but will have about an hour commute into the city on the public transportation system. It really comes down to your personal preference and budget. For either scenario, I highly suggest booking for Outside Lands early! If you can find something near Outside Lands on the cheap then this is the best option, but usually the only chance for this is if you book early!