The following is a post by Anis Salvesen, an avid traveler and San Francisco Tripping host.
San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in the world, and I feel so lucky to live here. Every time I host a visitor I realize how many amazing things there are to do in San Francisco and how many great corners it has to explore. I won’t even attempt to list them all, but I will share some of my favorites.
Places to Eat
San Francisco is a foodie heaven. It’s an eclectic melting pot of cultures, the epicenter of innovation and conveniently located near lots of fresh produce, straight from the farm to the table. Talk to anyone who lives here and they will readily go on and on about their favorite places to eat. Here are a few places you should check out if you’re exploring the city.
Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery
Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery is located in the iconic, must-visit neighborhood of The Haight. There’s always a crowd, but that’s because they have good beer and excellent food. They offer traditional American pub food like fish and chips but also more exotic options like goat cheese-filled dates wrapped in bacon. And they’re not just open for lunch and dinner; they also have a fun brunch including Scotch quail eggs and yummy French toast with roasted apples and bourbon whipped cream.
The seating is first come, first serve, so you can’t get there and have your table waiting. But you can just hang out at the bar until you see an open space. For dinner seating, be sure you add your name to the list on the chalk board.
Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery
1398 Haight Stret
San Francisco, CA 94117
Mon-Thurs – 11:00 a.m. to midnight ; Friday – 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.; Sat – 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. and Sun – 10 a.m. to midnight
The Slanted Door
The Slanted Door restaurant in the Ferry Building has a beautiful view of the Bay and the Bay Bridge and is very easily accessible by public transport. If you’re staying anywhere near the Union Square area and have nice comfy shoes, you can even walk there.
The cuisine is Asian fusion and prepared with locally sourced ingredients. I love the Crispy Imperial Rolls and the green papaya salad. It can get pretty crowded, so if you’re even a little bit hungry when you arrive, ordering an appetizer is a good idea. If you’re with a group, definitely go “family style” where you order a few dishes and then share. Try the Cellophane Noodles (dungeness crab, sesame and green onions) and the Shaking Beef (filet mignon that’s cubed and served with red onion, lime sauce and water cress).
I highly recommend reservations. If you can’t get reservations or are simply looking for a more casual option, try Out the Door. It’s the “little cousin” to the Slanted Door and is basically just a counter with a few stools but some of the same delicious dishes.
The Slanted Door
1 Ferry Bldg
San Francisco, CA 94111
Mon-Sat – Lunch 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Afternoon tea from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
and Dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. ; Sun – 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
No San Francisco trip is complete without sampling some of the delicious Mexican food. You can try heading to one of the more upscale places that serve Mexican cuisine, but I prefer taquerias. The Mission District, with its large Hispanic population is ground zero for taqueria goodness.
My favorite taqueria in the city – neigh the whole world – is La Taqueria. It definitely has a hole-in-the-wall atmosphere. There are no tablecloths, no cloth napkins, no servers and no individual menus – just incredibly delicious food.
Everything is good but my favorites dishes are these: flour tortilla quesadillas prepared on the grill (super greasy but super delicious), burritos (order them “con todo” and you’ll get the works – sour cream, guacamole, salsa, cheese) and of course tacos (order them “dorados” and you’ll get a crispy shell inside a soft tortilla outside). And to drink, if you’re not having a beer, try a fresh “agua,” which is just pureed fruit with water , ice and lots of sugar. I recommend the strawberry agua.
2889 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
Mon-Sat – 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Sun – 11 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Places to Visit
California Academy of Sciences
The California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park makes me feel like a kid again every time I visit. The building itself is famous for its “Living Roof” of 1.7 million native plants and was designed by the famous architect Renzo Piano. And it’s filled with all kinds of wonderful exhibits. My favorite is the Rainforests of the World Gallery with its giant glass dome where you get to walk through 4 different rainforest environments, including the Amazonian flooded forest with its 100,000 gallon tank of exotic tropical fish.
The Musée Mécanique is an antique penny arcade filled with over 200 arcade machines and coin-operated musical instruments, all restored to working condition. It’s like stepping back in time, imagining what it was like to be on holiday back in the 1930s and 40s.
It’s on Pier 45 in Fisherman’s Wharf, so you should definitely explore the entire area. A quick walk to Pier 39 will get you to the docks covered in sea lions. Their antics are surprisingly entertaining to watch and very popular with visitors.
The Golden Gate Bridge
There’s no getting around it. The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the must-visit spots in San Francisco. Pedestrian traffic on the bridge is split into two segments. On the side facing the city is the walking area for pedestrians. On the opposite side of the bridge is the area reserved for bicycles.
If you have any inclination for riding bicycles, definitely rent one from one of the many bike rental shops in neighborhoods like North Beach and in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. Then you can spend some time in the popular coastal town of Sausalito and take the ferry back to San Francisco’s Pier 41.
San Francisco Pride
San Francisco Pride is a two-day celebration held annually the last weekend in June. Its Pride parade is one of the most famous in the world and is held on the Sunday morning of Pride. The Rainbow Flag, now identified with the gay community around the world, was originally created for the San Francisco Pride Parade in 1978. The festival’s main stage is in the Civic Center Plaza next to City Hall, but some events leading up to the parade are held in the Castro.
Fleet Week is a tradition of U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Marine Corps where active military ships deployed around the world dock in a major U.S. city for a week. In San Francisco, it takes place every Columbus Day Weekend, during the second week of October. There are a number of events and activities, including tours of Coast Guard vessels, aircraft carriers and destroyers. Typically Fleet Week includes two days of aerial stunts performed by the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, known as the Blue Angels.
Outside Lands Music and Art Festival
The Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival is a music festival that takes place annually on the third and fourth weekends of August in Golden Gate Park. In addition to offering an amazing lineup of artists every single year, the festival celebrates art, food and wine. It also educates the public about all things eco-friendly and features solar powered stages, a bike valet parking program and a refillable water program. If you love outdoor concerts and are drawn to the eco-friendly community vibes, it’s a not-to-be-missed event.
If you love outdoor concerts, the summer is the best time to visit. But there’s something exciting going on in San Francisco year-round, so you really can’t go wrong.
Hope you get a chance to visit soon!
And don’t forget you can find great San Francisco vacation rentals from $25/night on Tripping.
What are your favorite things to do in San Francisco? Share in the comments!