Over the last year I’ve given tips here and there for travelers heading to San Francisco. I finally realized I should write out the tour I’d take friends on if I was at home.
So if you have a few days to spend in the beautiful city by the bay definitely add some of these places to your list!
To start your San Francisco adventure I recommend beginning at the corner of Castro and Market for a cup of coffee and snack at Castro Coffee Company, my favorite. Then follow the instructions here to go for a nice urban hike up to Twin Peaks. Takes about 45 minutes and has amazing views of the bay area. After you’ve been impressed with the beauty of the city head on down and over to Ike’s for some sandwiches. Ike’s place has the best sandos in the city, my personal favorite is the super Mario bros- meatballs, mozzarella sticks and more in one amazing dutch crunch sub. Pick one of those up and enjoy your meal while people watching at Dolores Park. This park is full of characters . If you are looking for drugs you won’t even have to get up for mushrooms, weed cookies and even beer or pizza will come to you. Birite ice cream is across the street and mouth watering good. If it’s a weekday afternoon you may be lucky enough to get a cone without waiting in a line around the building. If you have a decent amount of time definitely make a day of Dolores park. I used to spend many a Sunday afternoons with a bottle of champagne, snacks and old friends while making new friends around us.
If you haven’t got too wasted at the park take the F train for a slow ride through the city or take the muni down to Powell. All the shopping you could want is down here as well as street performers and vendors. Tons of tourists and loud, not my favorite place but you can hop on the cable car here. Super touristy thing to do in SF but must be done. Now a trick to this is when you see the line wrapping around the block with people waiting for the cable car go one block up and there is another stop on the right side of the street. They leave room for people getting on at the stops so don’t worry you’ll get a spot.
The cable car will take you down to the piers and waterfront. If you’re still hungry a must have in SF is a bread bowl of clam chowder. There should be tons of places to get this and you won’t be disappointed. Once done with the piers I highly recommend renting a bike and riding over the Golden Gate Bridge if it’s sunny. Have some ice cream on the other side and enjoy the quaint little town of Sausalito. Once back in the city get an Irish coffee at Buena Vista, iconic San Francisco landmark and always fun to watch them make up 20 Irish coffees at a time.
Next up Little Italy! If you like Italian food this is the best place to be. My favorite restaurant here is Caffe Sport. Family owned for 50+ years, filled with artwork from floor to ceiling painted by the original owner and incredible food. They keep the menu limited with just one type of pasta small and focus on making just a few sauces really well. I’ve never had a bad thing to eat here. My second favorite is The Stinking Rose. Garlic, garlic and more garlic. If you like garlic you’ll be in heaven. So many amazing dishes guaranteed to keep the vampires away.
Once you’ve stuffed your belly full head back over to the Powell area and swing by The View on the 39th floor of the Marriott. As you can guess by the name this place has the best 360 views of the city. Plus a dark classy atmosphere with spendy but delicious cocktails. If you’re looking for some nightlife I’d recommend Karaoke at the mint, dancing at Double Dutch or any bar in the mission really. Cap it off with 2 am Papusas to satisfy drunk food cravings and you’re good to go.
Some things to note about SF:
- Summer is roughly August – November and sometimes January. Regular summer months leave the city with a blanket of fog. October generally gets the best weather with our Indian summer and thats when all of the street festivals happen. Don’t miss the (always free) Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival at Golden Gate Park.
- Never go out without a sweater. You can’t trust the city to stay warm in every area. Always have a hoodie close by.
- Don’t rent a car. You’ll never be able to park it and there’s no need anyway with the public transport, cabs, Lyft and Uber.
- Don’t walk around the city with your phone out texting. It will get taken out of your hand, actually happened to me.
- Nobody calls San Francisco Frisco or San Fran. It’s either “The City” or SF
The list of things to do is never ending so obviously I’ve missed a few things here. If you can spend more than a day or two in the area here are a few more recommendations:
- Water Bar SF- Amazing Views of the Bay Bridge and incredible Oysters. Go before 5:30 PM and get the daily featured oyster for only $1.05
- Playground - This has to be one of my favorite spots in San Francisco. Best to go with a group of 8 or more and rent a private Karaoke room. get a few carafes of Soju and a few dishes of Korean comfort food and you’re bound to have a great time. Make sure to book a room in advance and drink some water. Soju will get ju so drunk! (terrible joke but seriously, black out city)
- Nicks Crispy Tacos - Hands down the best Tacos in SF and super cool environment. Red walls, Chandeliers and a nice bar give it a kind of classy feel while you’re chowing down.
- La Taqueria – Best Burrito in San Francisco. 25th and Mission. Do it.
- Basil Thai - Delicious Thai and great service.
- Shangri-La Vegan - This restaurant is in Oakland and worth the trek so I had to add it. The menu is changed daily and very creative. I am not a fan of Vegan restaurants that just use Soy to make faux meat and this place stays away from that. You can count on delicious and fresh organic ingredients every time.
Around San Francisco:
- Oakland- This city gets a bad rep but really it is an awesome place to explore. Have a walk around Lake Merritt on a nice afternoon, have some food and drinks in Jack London Square or catch a show at the Fox Theatre.
- If you want to feel like a kid again head over to Vallejo for a day of roller coasters at Six Flags. You can even buy a pass that lets you skip the lines and ride twice so you won’t waste the day standing around!
- Hike Mission Peak- About 40 minutes from San Francisco this is a nice way to burn off some of that pasta from Little Italy. It is a 3 mile hike up and offers amazing views from the top.
- Muir Woods National Park- Just a few miles north of San Francisco you can spend the day marveling at the massive Redwoods that fill this park.
- Santa Cruz- About 90 minutes south of SF Santa Cruz offers plenty of activities to keep you entertained. Surfing, paddle boarding, biking and being a kid at the boardwalk are excellent ways to spend a nice day in this beach town.
- Wine Country- Of course you can’t go to the Bay Area and not go for some wine tasting. I’d recommend renting a bike and riding around to all of the vineyards. Exercise, wine repeat!