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Arts & Entertainment

Forget boring, exclusive APEC meetings. Here’s where the fun parties will be in San Francisco

Dozens of people stand around talking during a cocktail hour in a lowly lit lounge space with a view of San Francisco City Hall out the window lit up in purple light.
San Francisco City Hall is bathed in pink as San Francisco Symphony guests chat during intermission at Davies Symphony Hall on Sept. 5, 2018. | Source: Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle/Getty Images

Starting this weekend, San Francisco will be all about APEC for a week. 

The international gathering, formally known as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, is expected to bring 30,000 travelers into the city and grab all the media attention.

Throughout the week, international leaders and VIPs are expected to party at exclusive events at the Legion of Honor, Exploratorium, the Palace Hotel, Asian Art Museum and City Hall, and you’re probably out of luck on those. The 20 foreign governments and consulates, corporations and nonprofit organizations will also host parties for their selected invitees.

Dozens of people watch a dancer perform in the center of San Francisco's San Francisco City Hall with the interior space lowly lit in an auburn color. The event for an after party for HBO's "Game of Thrones" Season 5.
Guests attend the after party for HBO's "Game of Thrones" Season 5 at San Francisco City Hall on March 23, 2015. | Source: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO

But outside of the global leaders’ conferences and fancy receptions that most of the public are not invited to, there are plenty of other fun things happening in the city for both residents and visitors.

The official APEC website has put up a guide to parties and events to explore during the week, including concerts, sporting events, art exhibitions and—of course—places to eat.

For music fans, you have way too many choices: According to Chase Center, the prestigious sports and music venue on the city’s east side, the legendary R&B acts Ms. Lauryn Hill & the Fugees will perform on Nov. 17 as part of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 25th anniversary tour. Dozens of concerts and show events are also happening across the city, according to the APEC website.

One woman known as Ms. Lauryn Hill, wearing a large white dress and 2 men known as Pras Michel and Wyclef Jean, wearing bucket hats and casual clothing, collectively known as The Fugees sing and dance on stage while a band performs in the background.
Singers Pras Michel, left, Ms. Lauryn Hill, center, and Wyclef Jean, right, perform onstage with the Fugees at Arena in Los Angeles on Nov. 4. | Source: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors, who have many fans in Asia, will play at Chase Center for multiple nights, too.

In Chinatown, one of the city’s great historic neighborhoods, community leaders are circulating a long list of events for APEC travelers. This weekend, the Chinatown Night Market will kick off the celebration, followed by a Korean wine and art social event, night walking tours, dance parties, an art-filled block party and more.

On Thursday, former Entertainment Commissioner Steven Lee is hosting a tour of some of the neighborhood’s most famous watering holes, including Li Po, Bow Bow, Mr. Bing’s and others. That same night, the local bar and club Lion’s Den is hosting an APEC afterparty with international DJs, art vendors, tarot card readings and more.

For foodies, it's the right time to be in town. San Francisco Restaurant Week, a longtime local festival that showcases dozens of restaurants, will provide many special menus for APEC eaters. From Michelin-starred French cuisine to an affordable American brunch, San Francisco’s renowned food scene is on full display during APEC.

Supervisor Joel Engardio wants everyone to have fun: He’s hosting a bike ride event along the coast where all are welcome to enjoy California’s beautiful sunset and ocean view.

What exactly is APEC, and why is San Francisco hosting part of it this year? KQED journalist and APEC Host Committee Press Ambassador Priya David Clemens explains. | Video by Jesse Rogala

Han Li can be reached at