The first place we take visitors from out of town is on a driving tour: starting at Ocean Beach, over through Golden Gate Park, up into the Presidio and down along the Marina for stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The night tour of Alcatraz is also not at all overrated, but if you’re staying with hosts, don’t subject them to the same tour they’ve likely taken a dozen times–unless, of course, you’re paying!
When we crave Thai food we always go to Bang San Thai, a hole-in-the-wall joint located in the heart of the city’s gritty underbelly, the Tenderloin.
To escape the throngs of beach goers in the city, we head to Gray Whale Cove State Beach, just south of Pacifica on Highway 1. (Be forewarned: clothing is optional!)
If we want to drink, we go to Bourbon & Branch, an old, unmarked speakeasy with an ornate interior that requires a reservation and password for admission (though you can give the code “books” and always be welcomed into the library bar sans advance booking).
For complete quiet, we can hide away at the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park.
If you come to our city, get your picture taken pinching the bridge (best place to do so is from the Marin Headlands). It’s sort of a tourist’s rite of passage.
If you have to order one thing off the menu from La Taqueria (the most popular Mexican joint in the city), it has to be the carne asada taco with guacamole and sour cream.
Miette is our one-stop shop for sugary goodness. Bonus: There are now three locations throughout the city.
Locals know to skip Fisherman’s Wharf and check out Sausalito instead.
When we’re feeling cash-strapped, we go thrifting at the Alameda Antiques Fair, a giant flea market with incredible finds held in the East Bay on the first Sunday of every month.
For a huge splurge we go to Quince, a fancy Italian eatery in Pac Heights.
Photo ops in our city include Golden Gate Bridge (duh) and the best vantage points are from along the Marina just past Chrissy Field, high up in the Marin Headlands on the other side of the Bay or down beside Fort Baker at Cavallo Point in Sausalito. From the top of Dolores Park on 20th Street, you’ll have the perfect shot of the Mission and downtown San Francisco. If you’re looking more for skyline views from above, the InterContinental Mark Hopkins’ Top of the Mark lounge offers many, as do the top story suites at the Fairmont across the street and Coit Tower up on Telegraph Hill.
If our city were a celebrity it’d be Angelina Jolie–a little bit dirty, a little bit naughty, it doesn’t give a flip what anybody else thinks. Not to mention, San Francisco’s totally the type of place that would wear a vial of its lover’s blood around its neck. We’re just sayin’.
The most random thing about our city is that Lombard is known as “the Crookedest Street in the World” when Vermont Street in the lowly Portola District has a much steeper gradient (but one less turn). Also, in 1901, the city banned burials–the only remaining graveyards are in the Presidio and the Mission–which is why San Francisco ‘burb Colma has more dead inhabitants than living. But hey, they had to do something with the bodies!
Our city has the most fashionable and, likewise, flamboyant men.
Our city has the most edgy women. (This doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with their choice–or lack thereof–in clothing!)
In our city, an active day outdoors involves tackling some sweet waves early morning at Rockaway Beach and/or a long run up the Dipsea Trail. All athletes should try that one on for size! If you’re looking for a less strenuous activity, head to Muir Woods and hike out through the redwoods to the Tourists Club, a German beer garden in the middle of the forest, for a couple of cold brews.
Our favorite jogging/walking route is the Coastal Trail, a three-mile stretch between Tennessee and Rodeo Beaches with some seriously steep inclines.
For a night of dancing, go to Mighty in SoMa. Or, for live music, check out Cafe du Nord (a more intimate venue) or Great American Music Hall (bigger and better known).
Crepes A Go Go in SoMa is the spot for late-night eats.
You can tell a lot about our city from taking a walk through the artsy Mission District.
You can tell if someone is from our city if they’re bundled up in a parka and boots in the height of summer. Tourists are glaringly obvious, as you can always spot them shivering on the bridge in July, wearing little more than flip-flops and shorts.
In the spring you should go whale-watching in Half Moon Bay.
In the summer you should bypass the endless traffic and drunk Napa Valley oenophiles and go wine tasting in Russian River or Anderson Valley instead. Also, drop by Stern Grove for its summer performing arts series (free of charge), which always promises a rousing good time.
In the fall you should rent a car, drive along the Marin coast then cut over into Calistoga and head south on Highway 29 to glimpse all the fabulous fall colors lingering among the vines.
In the winter you should enjoy the eternal sunshine and 70 degrees and laugh at your East Coast counterparts who are buried under four feet of snow! Or if you dig the powdery stuff, venture east to Tahoe for some killer ski runs.
A hidden gem in our city is Nook, the perfect cafe in which to waste the day, nosh on fresh, gourmet sandwiches and catch up on your correspondence (Internet is free, and outlets are many).
Don’t miss the San Francisco International Film Festival in April/May, the LGBT Parade in June, the Fillmore Street Jazz Festival in July, the Ghirardelli Festival in September.
Just outside our city, you can visit so many places–from Napa and Sonoma Counties to the more rugged, organic Mendocino Village. Less than two hours to the south, Monterey, Carmel-by-the Sea and Big Sur—the most beautiful part of the whole state of California, in our opinion–are scattered among one 10-mile span. Within biking distance just over the bridge, Sausalito is a quaint, can’t-miss seaside town.
The best way to see our city is by foot (and no skipping the hills either!). Then, you’ll really have a newfound appreciation for San Franciscans and our sturdy calves.
If our city were a pet, it would be a seal, because they’re loud in their protests and can withstand the tempestuous Pacific Ocean conditions. (Scott also had some additional inappropriate comments to make regarding the matter; Kristin prefers to keep this space family-friendly.)
If we didn’t live in a city, we’d live in Austin or Nashville. We dig the creative vibes that feed both cities. Or Portugal’s Algarve region–beach fanatics, we’ve always dreamed of having a summer home there.
The best book about our city is Seabiscuit, which starts in San Francisco in the early 1900’s and travels all over the state (and country), spanning the following three decades.
When we think about our city, the song that comes to mind is–isn’t it obvious?–Tony Bennett’s I Left My Heart in San Francisco. Though Jimmy Buffett’s Come Monday always makes us think of the city, too, as he wrote it about and en route to San Fran (and, not to mention, is Kristin’s mom’s ex-boyfriend…who knows, it very well might have been written about her!).
If you have kids, you won’t want to miss the California Academy of Sciences. A planetarium, aquarium, research lab and history museum all under one roof–it’s truly one of a kind.
More than 1,000 full-grown adults donning outrageous costumes and steering pint-sized tricycles racing down Lombard Street in the annual Bring Your Own Big Wheels event could only happen in our city.