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What to Do if You’re Not Going to Burning Man

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Maybe you’re too cool for the gentrified, mainstream farce Burning Man has become. Maybe you were never cool enough to trek into the desert with nothing but a pair cheetah spandex and the desire to attend organized orgies. Or maybe you read about those bugs and don’t believe that vegan bug spray actually made them disappear. Whatever your reason, the result is the same: You’re not going to Burning Man this year. And if you’re a human being with feelings, you might be feeling just a tad left out. Fear not, there’s plenty of stuff to do here, which, under the right Instagram filter, might even look cool enough to make your burner friends jealous.


Experience Arts and Culture

Burning Man is known as an artistic mecca, but with our many awesome museums, SF isn’t no slouch when it comes to cool art. Unfortunately, museums here are usually packed, especially when they’re free. But on Tuesday Sept 1, when everyone is at the Playa or on their way, The de Young museum will be FREE and less packed then usual. And next Sunday, September 6th, while the crowds are otherwise occupied waiting for the man to burn, the Asian Art Museum will be FREE to everyone, and you’ll have lots of room to enjoy art that’s so good, they want to preserve it instead of set it on fire.

If you’re feeling like you need a chance to express your own creativity, consider heading over to the Hotel Utah Open Mic on Monday August 31st. It usually packs a big crowd, but with the whole city feeling a little quieter, this might be the ideal opportunity to share your tambourine skills with the world. (Or least whoever’s left in town.)

Depending on how well your open mic performance, you might be ready for some schadenfreude or just general laughter at the expense of your local stand up comics. Troubled Comedy at Amnesia is free and hilarious on Tuesday September 1st, starting at 6:30pm.



Embrace Life in Society

After a few days of busy activities in SF, you’ll probably be ready to take advantage of your non-burner status and take a shower. In fact, if at any point you’re starting to feel remorse about not being on the Playa, you should immediately jump into a (very short) hot shower. Then stand in front of your bathroom mirror admiring your glitter-free, dust free skin for as long as you want.

Of course, maybe you won’t need to shower because during Burning Man, you won’t have to walk places. You can drive your car wherever, whenever you want and be reasonably confident that you’ll find parking.

Not only that, but you are free to wear whatever non-costume outfit you want and do laundry. While your burner friends are fermenting in their own skin and synthetic feather boas, you can put on a clean pair of underwear and head over to the California Academy of Sciences for Fermented Nightlife on Thursday September 3rd. You’ll learn about everything that gets fermented (cheese, beer etc) except your own sweat.


Celebrate Community

If showering and parking your car legally on the street don’t excite you (we get it, SF is still kind of a hippie town), you can still get that yummy community vibe. On Sunday August 30, head to the free SF Olympians Festival in Golden Gate Park, which, if you choose to donate, is also a fundraiser for the EXIT Theatre. Or, get your dance on at the Elbo Room on Thursday September 3rd. Proceeds from the event will go the Riptide bar, which was recently damaged in a fire.

Also, remember that while sharing isn’t the most dominant capitalist value, it’s not prohibited. If you’re feeling anti-cash and pro-giving, your fellow San Franciscans will happily accept your food, water, wine, hugs and drugs.

Or, you can hold onto your own stash and finally get the motivation you need to clean out your room, purge what you don’t and donate everything you don’t need to charity. I know a guy who plans to do an 8-ball and scan his old photos from college, but if that’s not your thing, a) congratulations and b) you can get clean and get outdoors with your fellow human for the Stow Lake guided trail walk in Golden Gate Park on Saturday, Sept 5th.

empty gg bridge


Recreate the Magic on Your Own

If you’re really missing the Playa experience this year, remember that Burning Man isn’t a place, it’s a state of mind. You started your staycation on Sunday August 30 at 11am by channeling the spirit in your own spinal cord by attending free Kundalini Yoga in Dolores Park. And you can end it a week later with the same class to measure your progress.

Or, you can join one of the groups of awesome, legit burners who are making it happen right here in the city. Most of them are private (hence the whole “underground” thing, but if you ask around, you might get lucky.) Also remember that you don’t need anyone’s permission to set shit on fire. No, seriously. Anyone can have their own Ocean Beach bonfire without even getting a permit, as long you don’t have more than 30 people in attendance. And if someone tells you that fires are bad for the environment, remind them how much you reduced your carbon footprint by not going to Burning Man.

empty sf


Images of Burning Man courtesy of, Images of an ‘Empty San Francisco’ are from Ross Ching’s time-lapse video & photo series, which you can checkout here

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Rachel Balik - Low-Brow Luminary

Rachel Balik - Low-Brow Luminary

Rachel has explored a number of badly paying jobs over the years, including nanny, off-Broadway production assistant, philosophy grad student, journalist, teacher and assistant at a yoga studio. She is now in her best paying job as a tech marketer, but retains her broke cred by earning a fraction of what most 23-year-old male engineers do.

1 Comment

  1. Montyedits
    August 31, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    Enjoy the fact there are no blonde dreadlocks anywhere to be seen!!!