The web is full of information on what to do in San Francisco if you are a tourist, but resources are a lot slimmer for locals. Whether you just moved here or are looking for something new outside of your normal routine, there are a whole lot of things to do and see in San Francisco that many locals take years to discover.
The Lower Haight is a mostly tourist-free area, filled with the sights, sounds and smells of counterculture San Francisco. The Mad Dog in the Fog is a favorite bar for reggae music listeners and soccer fans. Molotov's offers clients a variety of punk tunes and hours of people-watching. If you're hungry, stop by Rosamunde Sausage Grill and enjoy a duck and fig sausage.
Mad Dog in the Fog: 530 Haight Street San Francisco, CA 94117 (415) 626-7279
Molotov's 582 Haight Street San Francisco, CA 94117 (415) 558-8019
Rosamunde Sausage Grill: 545 Haight Street San Francisco, CA 94117 (415) 437-6851
Irving Street has two distinctive yet thoroughly intriguing areas for food, culture and shopping. Both spots are only one block south of Golden Gate Park, so when you are done shopping, grab some lunch and enjoy a picnic on a sunny grassy slope.
The area between 6th Avenue and 11th Avenue is full of art galleries, multicultural restaurants and boutique shops. A few highlights include the used clothing store Crossroads and the shawarma restaurant Yumma's Cafe.
If you continue down the street between 19th Avenue and 26th Avenue, you will find an Asian shopping area that's not bogged down with tourists like Chinatown. Check out the good Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants, Asian grocers, tapioca tea cafes and pastry shops. If you like Chinese food and culture but hate the fake feel of so-called Chinese attractions aimed at tourists, you're sure to appreciate this area. There are no "antique" stores filled with the same sculptures and dinnerware as every other store along the street. There are no Chinese junk stores hawking paper umbrellas and boxes that chirp like crickets. There are just authentic cafes, restaurants and supermarkets solely built to please the people who live in the area. Try a tapioca tea at the Irving Café & Dessert and some chow fun at the Toon Kee Restaurant.
Crossroads 630 Irving Street San Francisco, CA 94122 (415) 681-0100 crossroadstrading.com
Yumma's Café 721 Irving St. San Francisco, CA 94122 (415) 682-0762
Irving Café & Dessert 1919 Irving Street San Francisco, CA 94122 (415) 759-1081
Toon Kee Restaurant 2191 Irving Street San Francisco, CA 94122 (415) 731-9948
Land's End Trail
The Land's End Trail is located just beside the Sutro Baths. This is one of the most picturesque trails in all of San Francisco, filled with windswept cedars, wildflowers in every hue, cliffs constantly pummeled with crashing waves and a view of the Golden Gate Bridge unavailable anywhere else on the peninsula. Few locals even know about this breathtaking area, and you can actually applaud any tourists you see who have actually taken the time to learn about this out-of-the-way park.
Land's End Trail East end of Point Lobos Avenue San Francisco, CA 94121 sutrobaths.com
Everyone who lives in San Francisco is familiar with the Mission District. While of course it's fun to grab a burrito there and spend time in Dolores Park, Valencia Street offers a whole lot more than you might realize. The "pirate store" at 826 Valencia offers a collection of bizarre artifacts and knickknacks, and behind the scenes, it's actually a writing center created to spark the imaginations of kids and teens. If strange taxidermy and exotic plants are more up your alley, consider visiting Paxton Gate next door. If you are looking for some new duds, stop by Clothes Contact and try your luck at purchasing clothing by the pound. When you're ready to round out your day with a dinner and a movie, try combining the two by enjoying a romantic evening at Foreign Cinema. This restaurant/theater located just off of Valencia on Mission Street offers a classic movie screening and fine gourmet dishes.
826 Valencia 826 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 (415) 642-5905 826valencia.org
Paxton Gate 824 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 (415) 824-1872 paxtongate.com
Clothes Contact: 473 Valencia St. San Francisco, CA 94103 (415) 621-3212
Foreign Cinema: 2534 Mission St San Francisco, CA 94110 (415) 648-7600 www.foreigncinema.com/
Long before the Castro District was synonymous with gay culture in SF, Polk Street was the gay district in the city. As a result, this laid-back street still holds a lot of the character and quality from the olden days. There are great restaurants--be sure to stop by Swan's Oyster Depot--cute boutiques--Picnic is a chic choice--and a plethora of sex shops. The street gets more upscale as you travel north, so if you're looking for culture, art and cute shops, stick to the north of California Street.
If you are into exploring the dirty underbelly of San Francisco, stay south of Bush Street. Visit the Hemlock Tavern and have a drink on their outdoor patio while enjoying the sights and sounds of the seedy Tenderloin District. You're likely to see hookers scouting for johns and addicts looking frantically for a way to get their next score.
Swan's Oyster Depot 1517 Polk St. San Francisco, CA 94109 (415) 673-1101
Picnic 1808 Polk Street San Francisco CA 94109 (415) 346 6556 picnicsf.com
Hemlock Tavern 1131 Polk Street San Francisco, CA 94109 (415) 923-0923 hemlocktavern.com