Summer, fresh air and family-friendly flicks—that means that outdoor movie season is upon us! Venues all over the Bay Area are hosting free flicks from Zootopia to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. So grab some eats, set up your picnic blanket, forget about bedtime for the day and enjoy a movie night under the stars.


union square movie night Diana B via YelpPhoto credit: Diana B. via Yelp  

San Francisco

Three San Francisco parks play host to this year’s Film Night in the Park series – a summertime tradition attended by thousands of moviegoers since its start in 2003. Getting there early will give you the best chance of a good view as these events get pretty crowded. This year’s schedule and locations:

July 23 – Finding Nemo, Union Square
August 13 – The Goonies, Dolores Park
August 27 – Lost in Translation, Washington Square Park
September 10 – The Devil Wears Prada, Union Square
September 24 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Dolores Park

Dining: A block from Dolores Park, stop by Bi-Rite Market or Dolores Park Café for a quick and tasty bite to go. Bring along an extra grown-up to wait in line at the Bi-Rite Creamery right on the corner of 18th and Dolores. At Union Square, grab a meal to go at The Cellar at Macy’s (or skip directly to dessert at the Tout Sweet Patisserie).

outdoormoviePhoto credit: waferboard via Flickr creative commons

East Bay

The EB hamlet of Danville presents Moonlight Movies on the Town Green on Friday nights. Sweltering East Bay days usually mean blissfully warm summer evenings, so no need to swap out the shorts and t-shirts for this post-sunset excursion. The best part just might be the kids crafts and activities starting at 6:30 and running up until movie time (sundown). This year’s movies:

June 24 – Little Rascals
July 15 – The Muppet Movie
July 29 – Ant Man
August 12 – Inside Out

Dining: Chow Danville (part of the Park Chow clan) is open late and offers American/California cuisine with lots of options for the kiddos. Or grab a slice to-go from Blue Line Pizza.

Jack London Square hosts Waterfront Flicks on Thursdays throughout the summer. Get there early to play trivia games or take in the waterfront. This year’s picks include:

June 23 – The Devil Wears Prada
July 7 – Selena
July 21 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
August 4 – East Side Sushi
August 18 – The Pursuit of Happyness

Dining: Right at Jack London Square, you will find lots of dining options, from takeout to food trucks to sit-down dinner.

Redwood Heights Recreation Center (Oakland) 
Oakland residents can enjoy Movies in the Park beginning at dusk. Bring your own food from home or enjoy popcorn and hot chocolate for sale. This summer’s movies are:

June 17 – Finding Nemo
July 8 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
July 22 – Big
August 26 – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
September 9 – Guardians of the Galaxy
September 30 – Ant Man
October 14 – Goosebumps

Hayward and Vicinity
Various venues in and near Hayward host free outdoor flicks as a part of Outdoor Movies Around the District. Festivities start at 6 p.m. with music, local vendors and the mobile recreation program. Movies begin a dusk.

June 18 – Hook, Meek Park
July 15 – Norm of the North, Hayward City Hall Plaza
July 30 – Minions, Lorenzo Theater
August 6 – Goosebumps, Rowell Ranch
August 20 – Hotel Transylvania 2, Meek Park
September 16 – Zootopia, Adobe Park in Castro Valley

Redwood city movie

Photo credit: Redwood City


Redwood City
Redwood City offers Movies on the Square, located right in the middle of town at the quaint Courthouse Square in front of City Hall. Movie nights here are super kid-friendly and well attended. Camp chairs are allowed at this venue. The 2016 lineup, which includes some vintage films along with newer hits, goes into September when we get some of our best summer weather. All movies are Thursdays at sundown. Check here for the full list. Top kid picks include:

June 23 – Minions
July 21 – Inside Out
July 28 – Raiders of the Lost Ark
August 11 – The Good Dinosaur

Dining: Downtown Redwood City has a number of restaurants a mere stone’s throw away so grab some take-out and head over. Just take note that there are a limited number of tables and chairs available on the Square. Right on Broadway you’ll find the kid-friendly Old Spaghetti Factory with pastas and salads served family style. A few blocks away try The Sandwich Spot, open from 10 a.m. – 12 a.m. and specializing in sandwiches and build-your-own salads.
In the park after dark santa clara

Photo: In the Park After Dark

South Bay

San Jose
Throughout the summer, the parks of San Jose come alive with In the Park After Dark Movie Night—a movie marathon sponsored by the Santa Clara County Parks.  At some locations food vendors will be available. There is a $6 parking fee to enter the parks. The summer schedule is:

June 24 – Avengers Age of Ultron, Ed Levin County Park
June 25 – Jurrasic World, Santa Teresa County Park
July 8 – Minions, Ed Levin County Park
July 9 – Minions, Hellyer County Park
July 15 – Open Season Scared Silly, Anderson Lake County Park
July 16 – Inside Out, Martial Cottle County Park
July 22 – Avengers Age of Ultron, Motorcycle County Park
August 5 – Ant Man, Ed Levin County Park
August 6 – Planes Fire and Rescue, Santa Teresa County Park
August 19 – Zootopia, Anderson Lake County Park
August 20 – Zootopia, Martial Cottle County Park
August 26 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Motorcycle County Park

Evergreen Village Square Music & Movie Nights (San Jose) 
This darling downtown plays host to three Friday music and movie nights this summer. Music starts at 6 p.m. and the movies begin after dark. Lineup is still TBD, so check back here for more info. Dates: June 24, July 22 and August 5.

From July through mid-August, Sunnyvale hosts outdoor movie nights every Friday at various parks throughout the city. This summer’s flicks are:

July 8 – Minions, Cuesta Park
July 15 – Kung Fu Panda 3, Sylvan Park
July 22 – Inside Out, Eagle Park
July 29 – Peanuts Movie, Stevenson Park
August 5 – The Good Dinosaur, Whisman Park 
August 12 – Zootopia, Rengstorff Park

Saratoga’s El Quito Park is once again hosting its summer movie series on the third Friday of the month in June, July and August. Event begins at 7:30 p.m. and the shows start at dusk. The series kicks off on June 17 with Minions.

Dining: Head to nearby El Paseo de Saratoga where there are many kid-friendly options including Pizza My Heart and Red Robin.

Santa Cruz
Enjoy free movies on the beach at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. Bring a blanket or low-backed chair, grab some funnel cake or a corn dog and settle in for a night the kids won’t forget. The summer line-up is:

June 22 – The Lost Boys
June 29 – The Sandlot
July 6 – Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
July 13 – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
July 20 – Labyrinth
July 27 – My Big Fat Greek Wedding
August 3 – The Wizard of Oz
August 10 – Men in Black
August 17 – The Goonies

larkspur movie night

Photo credit: Film Night in the Park by Olma M. via Yelp

Marin County

This area is basically the mecca of outdoor film nights, with tons of Friday and Saturday showings at different parks, as well as mid-week options at slightly earlier times. Some flicks run all the way into September, and nearly all are totally kid-centric.

Every Wednesday at 6 p.m., the Marin Country Mart in Larkspur presents Movies on the Green. Kids can sit on mini-directors chairs on the lawn while parents can sit back on blankets and picnic and chat. The schedule this year includes some classic films from your own childhood:

June 22 – Penguins
June 29 – Babe
July 6 – Over the Hedge
July 13 – Charlotte’s Web
July 20 – Toy Story
July 27 – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Dining: You don’t have to go far for a bevy of awesome choices, since this is right at the Mart. Try take out from BelcampoRustic Bakery, or El Harache Loco.

Fairfax and San Anselmo
On balmy Friday and Saturday nights, June through September, Film Night in the Park offers films at two different locations: Contrati Ball Field in Fairfax and San Anselmo Creek Park. Movies go on at sunset and you should plan to arrive about an hour early as there are fun drawings and other pre-show surprises. Low chairs are okay here, along with blankets. Movies are still TBD, so check back here for the full schedule and locations.

Dining: Movie snacks and drinks are for sale at the events, but for heartier fare you’ll want to stop by one of San Anselmo’s great restaurants for some take out, or pack a nice picnic dinner.

Tips and Tricks

  1. Bring a flashlight for walking out at the end of the night, especially if you’ll be carrying tired little ones through the park. Headlamps are super handy.
  2. Leave strollers and taller chairs at home; unless otherwise mentioned they probably aren’t allowed. Bring plenty of blankets and low-back chairs. Camping pads make it extra comfy.
  3. Check with the venue’s policy about dogs (some parks do not allow dogs).
  4. Put the kiddos in PJ’s before you get there – makes it easier to roll them into bed when you get home.
  5. Bring in the majority of your food/dinner to make it easy to settle in with the kids. If your venue offers food vendors, bring cash as some don’t take plastic.
  6. Make a donation. These are free events, but they do cost money to run. Even $1 helps make sure families can enjoy these evenings summer after summer.

What movie are you looking forward to this summer? Let us know in the comments below!

—Kate Loweth & Amber Guetebier