A. 18th Street- Start at Valencia and walk west to Dolores Park Stops: 1. Tartine Bakery (bread-makers paradise) 2. Pizzeria Delfina 3. Bi-Rite market. If you like ice cream, and there’s a line at stop 4, grab a pint here :) 4. Bi-Rite Creamery- grab an imaginatively flavored ice cream, and then: 5. Hang out in Dolores Park for some colorful people watching (assuming you’re not allergic to the smell of weed).
B. Valencia Street- From 14th (Zeitgeist is a divey bar with great beer options and a fantastic outdoor back beer garden area) To 25th (Arizmendi Bakery is a co-op I believe, and makes delicious pizza/baked goods) Along the way: *826 Valencia: A pirate shop. No joke. *Just two doors down: There’s an interesting garden supply/animal preservation/random collection of stuff place *Several good used book stores *Fantastic design stores (everything from clothing to jewelry to some really good furniture) *Tons of good clothing stores *Lots of vintage stuff *Endless great food *Taqueria Cancun- 19th and Mission- my favorite taqueria in the city
C. The Marina- Union From Gough west for many blocks (nearly to the Presidio), and Chestnut from (Steiner ish??) and then out to the Presidio
D. North Beach- so much great pizza, gelato, some cute stores. Columbus street starting from Broadway, going North. Also, Grant Ave North of Broadway. Grant have some of the smaller, more boutiquey shops. Columbus has more of the classics. Highlights: Gelateria Naia, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, Mama’s (amazing brunch place, with a line), Molinari Delicatessen (long-running Italian deli, only open for lunch), and any of the places on Columbus that have tables on the sidewalk, both people sitting on the same side looking out on the foot and car traffic bustling by. Also Rogue Brewery, and Trappist Ale House and Church & Key- all some pretty amazing beer bars (particularly if you like Belgians with Church Key and Trappist).
E. More “authentic” Mexican tour- go down 24th Street, from Mission out East to Potrero
F. Hike the Coastal Trail- Start at the GG Bridge in the Presidio, down to Sea Cliff (drop by China Beach), then back to nature with Lands End, culminating at the small cave by the abandoned Sutro Baths.
G. Hayes Valley- tons of small, boutiquey shops and art galleries. Also, Smitten ice cream (made with nitrogen, each serving made individually, some pretty creative flavors), along with the original Blue Bottle in a back alleyway, and Ritual Coffee. Centered around the park. There’s also a carnival-themed restaurant if that interests you.
H. Fancy mixed drinks on Geary- Bourbon and Branch, Rye, 620 Jones (or something like that- they’ve got an outdoor patio a bit removed from the bustle of the street). These are the types of places that go to farmers markets for their mixed drink ingredients, and will then charge you $12 for a delicious concoction you’ve probably never head of before. DO NOTE: Geary is in the heart of the Tenderloin, one of the dirtiest strips of SF. While on the street, expect to smell some things you don’t want to smell. It’s an interesting mix having that right outside while having some of the fanciest cocktails in the country inside. Feel free to just Uber or Lyft directly there if you’re put off by the dirtiness.
I. Bike ride through GG Park to Ocean Beach- there is so much random and cool stuff to see in GG Park- there’s a sculpture garden on the side of the De Young museum, the Japanese Tea Gardens, the other set of gardens, the Botanical Gardens, the Bison Paddock, Stow Lake (rent the paddleboats!), etc. Then you end up at Ocean Beach where there’s the Beach Chalet (the place by the windmills) for a drink or appetizer. Coming back, you can go through the Haight (Haight-Ashbury), for a ton of vintage clothes shopping. There’s also Toronado, quite possibly the best beer bar in the city (also rather divey), and Rosamunde Sausages next door, which you can bring into Toronado. Alternatively, you could finish by exploring the Inner Sunset (9th and Irving), which is right by UCSF. It’s a cheaper alternative to some other neighborhoods, but again, tons of good food and a little bit of cool local shopping (not clothes, more home goods and artisanal stores type things).
J. Bike ride over GG Bridge to Sausalito- a classic. Though I prefer the variant that goes to Tiburon- you get an additional 10 ish miles of beautiful riding, about 7 of which is on dedicated bike paths (only less than a mile where you’re riding on the side of a road, but the drivers there are really used to bikes).
K. Russian Hill- I like Hyde Street, centered around Union, and extending a few blocks in either direction. The Alice Marble tennis courts on top of the hill, at Hyde and Lombard, are among the most scenic tennis courts in the world. Highlights: Za’s Pizza (super low-key), Zarzuela (upscale and delicious Tapas), Bacchus wine bar (I think they only seat 12 total, and half of those are on couches), and Swensen’s Ice Cream (I hear they’re pretty popular in Asia, and I believe this is the original location- a long-standing classic). You can also walk up to the twisty part of Lombard street from here.
L. The Dogpatch- A newer, up and coming area. Some cool, trendy shops on 22nd Ave and 3rd Street, with my favorite climbing gym in the world right there as well.
M. The design district (Jackson Square I think it’s called)- only open during select hours, but a ton of galleries and furniture design places here, and some really nice places to eat (Kokkari Estiatorio is one of the best in the city at a not crazy price). This is Jackson Street, from Sansome going west a few blocks.
N. If you have a day free during the week, I’d strongly recommend grabbing a car and driving North. Muir Woods is a classic (huge redwood trees), if generally a bit crowded. If you want a hike, there are several up that way (Alamare Falls is up there if I recall), or just pull over on the side of the road by Muir Woods and hike the ridge trails out to the ocean. Muir Beach is a good secluded beach cove. But way more fun is driving up to Point Reyes (home of Cowgirl Creamery!), and then grabbing some oysters plucked fresh from the bay in Marshall (Hog Island). You can eat there, or grab a bag and then drive another mile north to where Highway 1 meets the water again, and park at the turnoff there, hike down a short but steep couple of feet to a beautiful picnic spot on a point overlooking the water. Petaluma is also a nice town if you’re up that way, and Mill Valley is another cute town buried in a redwood forest with tons of good food and shopping options. These are mostly locals-only spots.
O. Ferry Building (a good mix of locals and tourists with some pretty imaginative food vendors), walking north along the water and Embarcadero past the Exploratorium, the home of Tcho Chocolates, going near Jackson Square, Coit Tower, and eventually (if you choose) going past Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, and ideally finishing up by Ghirardelli Square, where you can then walk up to Russian Hill or the Marina afterwards.
Out of this list, I’d prioritize: 1. Valencia street, leading into the 18th street food tour, and people watching at Dolores Park (if you don’t mind the smell of pot). 2. Bike ride through GG Park, exploring at the end either the Inner Sunset or Haight. Or if you’d prefer a hike rather than a bike ride: hike along the Coastal Trail. 3. Drive north to get oysters in Marshall at Hog Island and explore around up there. 4. Ferry Building then walking tour of the Northeast part of the city. 5. Drinks on Geary.
Transportation: Many of my friends use Lyft Line or Uber Pool as their primary modes of transit in the city. These are the shared versions of those services, so they’ll pick you up and then also maybe another passenger or two who’s heading the same direction. Generally, these fares are cheap (~$7 ish), and I think that might be good for up to two people. It is slightly more expensive than taking a bus, but so much easier to navigate. If you’re not staying near the BART line, I’d also recommend using Lyft Line or Uber Pool to get from the airport to where you’re staying. Check it out online first, but last I heard they had fixed fares from SFO to the city, and they were comparable enough to a BART + bus fare that it’s worth considering if you’re not near a BART line. Or, you know, get bikes for the week :) Spinlister has bikes you can rent from another person so they tend to be pretty cheap.
I typed this up in a hurry without Internet access, so I’m sure some of my spellings and landmarks are a little bit off, but I think that sense of adventure will be fun (or you can just do a little bit of research to nail things down exactly).