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All the Pros and Cons of Outside Lands in San Francisco

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Article Summary

  • I present an aggregated list of the good and bad of Outside Lands
  • The Bad: Expensive, crowds, and disorganization
  • The Good: Great music, food, alcohol options, weather and location 

So many music festivals, so little time…and money. If we all had unlimited capital I’m sure we would attend Outside Lands and every music festival under the sun. However, we don’t have unlimited capital, at least I know I don’t. Life is about making hard decisions on what is worth your precious capital. This article goes over all the good reasons you should attend Outside Lands as well as the crappy things about Outside Lands. Read it, digest it, and decide for yourself if the pros outweigh cons for Outside Lands for you. Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first and start with the cons of Outside Lands.

Con #1 of Outside Lands – It is expensive

Outside Lands is a big investment, with most costs being spent on the Outside Lands wristband and accommodations. For 2017, Outside Lands raised their prices to $355 for Eager Beaver and $375 during the general sale. When you include the $39.95 fee, Outside Lands is more expensive than nearly every other music festival including Coachella, Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits.  Even more expensive are the accommodations in San Francisco for Outside Lands. In 2015 San Francisco was the second most expensive city in the United States for hotel prices, only behind New York City. Thus for a big event like Outside Lands you can expect the prices to be even worse. This sucks, but it is just how it works with Outside Lands. As with most travel items the earlier you book the cheaper it will be. Hotels and houses will fill up very quickly, especially once Outside Lands announces their lineup so don’t wait too long to book your accommodations for Outside Lands! The biggest con with Outside Lands is absolutely just how expensive it is.

Con #2 of Outside Lands – The Crowds

Outside Lands continues to grow in popularity every year, which isn't all bad. For example, as Outside Lands continues to grow it gets better music lineups with more exclusive headliners. On the other hand, this means Outside Lands continues to get busier and busier each year. If you go to Outside Lands just expect a lot of lines – lines to get a beer at Beerlands, lines to get into Outside Lands, lines to go to the bathroom, and especially lines to get on a bus to leave at night. The large crowds also make it difficult to find your friends – there are just so many people that it’s hard to spot them and cell phone service is quite limited. Admittedly this isn’t a problem exclusive to Outside Lands, but it is something to consider if you don’t like big crowds. 

Con #3 of Outside Lands – Sound Issues

This can vary from year to year, but in 2016 there were a lot of complaints about the Twin Peaks stage sound quality. There were a lot of claims of the speakers being very weak at Outside Lands 2016. Hopefully this isn’t an issue at Outside Lands going forward, especially given their continuous price increase - they can afford a speaker upgrade.

Con #4 of Outside Lands – Generally Unorganized

Nothing specific here, but many people complain about how unorganized Outside Lands is. For example, there are not signs throughout Golden Gate Park pointing you to the gates or to the stages. Additionally, there weren’t enough bathrooms so people would just relieve themselves in the woods near the trails. There also weren’t enough garbage cans so trash ended up scattered everywhere. All of this is unfortunate and leads to many people complaining that Outside Lands needs better management overall.

Outside Lands Pros

That’s enough about the negative side of Outside Lands. Let’s turn the page now and look at all the great things about the festival.

Outside Lands Lineup

Pro #1 of Outside Lands – Music Lineup

Regardless of your type of music there is something for you at Outside Lands. Every year Outside Lands snags some of the biggest names in music, but also some artists that aren’t just festival whores playing at every single festival. Outside Lands also always features a legacy act, which is a great opportunity to see someone great from years past. Obviously lineups are a subjective topic, but in general Outside Lands gets critical accalim for the lineups they put together annually. Outside Lands also resists the urge to go heavy on the EDM to attract a younger crowd, which is something I can fully appreciate.

Pro #2 of Outside Lands – Wine & Beer

One of the great parts about Outside Lands is their different lands. These are areas themed after certain indulgences with two of the most popular lands being Wine Lands and Beer Lands. As you can probably surmise, these lands revolve around wine and beer respectively. Outside Lands, being in San Francisco, is quite close to the US capital for wine in Napa, CA. Every year Outside Lands hosts some of the best wineries the valley, giving you a chance to sample some delicious vino. If you aren’t into wine don’t worry, there is also Beer Lands, which features some of the best craft beers from both the Bay Area and the country. If you want to enjoy some good adult beverages at Outside Lands you are going to spend a lot of time in these two areas. 

Pro #3 of Outside Lands – The Food

Outside Lands isn't just about the booze. San Francisco is certainly known for its food, and Outside Lands is no exception. Every year Outside Lands puts on the Taste of the Bay Area, which features some of the best restaurants and food trucks throughout the greater San Francisco area. Who exactly is there varies every year but there is guaranteed to be great food each year. They are also very friendly to both vegans and vegetarians (it is liberal California after all). You can see who will be serving up delicious food at Outside Lands by visiting this link. Outside Lands actually allows you to bring in your own food, but you should try some of the goodies they have there as well. A lot of festivals claim to have great food, but Outside Lands truly does. Plus, remember those lands I mentioned earlier? One of the Outside Lands annually is Choco Lands, an area built for those with a sweet tooth. Need I say more?


Pro #4 of Outside Lands – The Location

Outside Lands has one of the best locations of any festival in the country. The only festivals that immediately come to mind with such a central location in a major city are Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza and Bumbershoot. Outside Lands takes place in Golden Gate Park, which is on the western side of San Francisco. This is a beautiful park with picturesque views and nice walking trails. Regardless of where you stay in San Francisco you will easily be able to get to Outside Lands. Many people walk or bike to the festival, but there are also plenty of public transportation options for getting to Outside Lands. You can read our full guide for getting to Outside Lands here.

Pro #5 of Outside Lands – The Weather

I feel like every music festival is unbearably hot. Coachella, EDC, Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza, and others are all saunas where you are going to sweat all day. Outside Lands is refreshingly cool as San Francisco is one of the coolest cities in America in the summertime. Despite Outside Lands taking place in the middle of the summer, you can expect temperatures to be in the 70s and quite comfortable. Obviously this can vary year to year, but it’s pretty rare to see a day above 75. Outside Lands has great weather for being outside and enjoying some live music. 


Summary

There you have it – all the pros and cons of Outside Lands. Hopefully this helps you determine if Outside Lands is the festival for you. I personally feel the pros outweigh the cons so Outside Lands if you can afford it. It is one of the most expensive music festivals in the country to attend, but it is a really terrific festival. That said, the final decision is up to you and depends on your tastes - hopefully this article has helped you make up your mind!

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