San Francisco Guide

Welcome to San Francisco!

After living here for over two years, I have some recommendations to share. My Barcelona and San Diego guides continue to prove useful for many travelers, and I decided I should do the same with the city I’ve felt the most at home in.

I think there’s something special about one person’s full glimpse of a city. It’s more personal than when you aggregate the same information in Yelp or Tripadvisor. Those are more useful for travelers, as all the info is in one place and sorted by what you might like to do – but here it has that personal biased touch.

I divided this guide into Events, Neighborhoods, and Day Trips sections and hyperlinked whenever it made sense, though you should Google to get the full picture.

 Did I miss something awesome? Comment and I’ll update the guide. Many thanks to my Facebook friends who helped me fill in the blanks on these!

(last updated June 2017)

Events

SF’s event scene is a mix of Burning Man, hippie culture, and modern high tech.

Weekly and Monthly Meetups:

Mortified: People read their high school journals on stage and comedians mock them
Speechless: Improv powerpoint – give speeches on ridiculous slides you don’t know
Shipwrecked: Erotica fan fiction contests read by smooth voice, hilariously explicit
The Moth: Authentic storytelling Workshops, competitions, and performances
California Academy of Arts NightLife: Drinks and performers in the museum every Thursday
One Salon: Casual intellectual techie community with mingling, speakers, and improv games every Tuesday
Travel Massive: Local meetup chapter of international travel enthusiasts
The Glint: Mindful performances by artists in homes, like art, music, and poetry
GroupMuse: Classical musicians performing in homes
Odd Salon: Nonfiction talks on esoterica.
Nerd Nite: Nonfiction talks on science and stuff
You’re Going to Die : Music, poetry, and stories about death
Sound Meditation SF: Gongs, bowls, and sound baths in churches and everywhere
SF Chantey Sing: Sing chanteys on historic boats every first Saturday with free hot cider

Parties:

Escape the Routine: Offbeat parties in new locales with a young crowd
Bootie SF: monthly super drunk mashup party
Ecstatic Dance: Mindful dancing, lots of smiles and not much talking, weekly
Hood Slam: WWE but even more ridiculous and fake, in Oakland
Tourettes without Regrets: Utterly bizarre variety show with poetry, burlesque, carnies, etc, in Oakland
Church of 8 Wheels: Weekly roller disco in an old church
False Profit: Quirky intimate Burner style parties
HUSH Concerts: Silent Discos and more:

Yearly Quirky Events

Come Out and Play: September week long events of imaginative games in real life
— Journey to the End of the Night: Biggest COaP event, themed citywide zombie tag
Bring Your Own Big Wheel: Hundreds of costumed people ride childrens tricycles down a twisty street on Easter Sunday:
— Amen for Hunky Jesus: Drag queens masquerade as Mary and Jesus in GG park on Easter Sunday
Saturday Night Action Club: Monthly pub crawl / trivia night /scavenger hunt in summer
Handstand: App-empowered IRL adventures, like digital scavenger hunts or Mario Kart for runners

Music Festivals

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: Free Bluegrass festival in GG Park in October
Outside Lands: SF’s chilly Coachella in August, in GG Park
Ghost Ship: High octane Burner party during Halloween in a warehouse
Camp Grounded: Summer Camp for adults in Spring, no real names, work talk, clocks, etc allowedm in May
Ephemerisle: Seasteading decentralized party on the Stockton delta, like Burning Man on boats in July
Burning Man: You already know what this is, late August
Symbiosis Gathering: Mindful transformative festival on a lake in August
Lightning in a Bottle: Hippie esque campout festival in May
Bottle Rock: Music Festival in Wine Country in May
Northern Nights: Forest music festival in Mendocino County in July
Enchanted Forest: workshop heavy transformative festival in Mendocino County in June
How Weird: Urban hippie street festival in downtown SF in May
Folsom Street Fair: BDSM/LGBT/leather event in SOMA, explicit and absurd in September

Gay Events Bonus:

(Pride is always fun but I’ve never been to the others, I trust my informant 🙂
SF Pride, Castro Street Fair, Dore Alley, Mother, Vivvy’s Grand Opening, Tubesteak, Shenanigans, Midas, Cubcake, Polyglamorous, Hard French.

Venues:

Party/Clubs: 101 Folsom, Ruby Skye, DNA Lounge, Public Works, Folsom Street Foundry, The Armory (a literal Kink sex dungeon, they have tours too), The Independent, Rickshaw Stop, The Fillmore, Bill Graham, The Great Northern, Audio SF

Meetup/ Coworking Space Venues: Galvanize, Wework, Parisoma, AWS Lounge (free!), Rackspace Geekdom, Impact Hub, Noisebridge anarchist space, The Vault, The Laundry

Co-Living Spaces: The Center SF, 20 Mission, Embassy Network, Langton Labs, The Negev,

Event Resources:
SF Funcheap:  Fun and cheap events in SF
Broke Ass Stuart: Same as above, bit more edgy
Another Planet Entertainment: Music festival promoter

Neighborhoods

Downtown
— Food: Sushiritto, Eatsa, the Grove, Kearney street’s plentiful business lunch spots
— Fun: Exploratorium, the Ferry Building, Privately Owned Public Open Spaces, Yerba Buena Gardens
— Drink: Pagan Idol, Tonga Room, Marriott Sky Lounge

Tenderloin/Knob
— Food: Shalimar Indian food, the Flying Falafel
— Fun: Grace Cathedral general views,
— Drink: Jones, Tradition

SOMA
— Food: HRD, Kama O Deli (!!!), Tin Thai food, Umami Burger, Nama Sushi.
— Fun: South Park for quirky characters, AT&T baseball Stadium,
— Drink: 21st Amendment Brewery, the Endup late night club, Tempest, DNA Lounge, Audio, 11th street’s bars/clubs

The Mission
— Food: Gracias Madre, El Farolito on 24th and Alabama (only this location!), Pakwan, anything on Valencia
— Fun: Dolores Park on a sunny day for quintessential SF, Clarion Alley graffiti, Betabrand kooky clothes, Paxton’s Gate Eccentricities, 826 Valencia Pirate shop, Borderlands Bookstore, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
— Drink: El Techo, Southern Pacific Brewery, 16th street’s bars, Chapel, Zeitgeist, Beauty Bar, Bissap Baobab

Duboce Triangle/Castro/Noe Valley
— Food: Hot Cookie sexy bakery, Ike’s Sandwiches, Dinosaurs, overhyped brunch spots like Kitchen Story and Chow, Kasa Indian
— Fun: Duboce Park for dogwatching, Corona Heights Park for views, Seward Street Slides for fun, The Wishing Tree, Kite Hill
— Drink: Brewcade gaming bar, the gay bars off 18th and Castro, Lucky 13, Churchill, the Mint Karaoke

Haight Ashbury/ Lower Haight
— Food: Street Taco, the Grind Cafe, Indian Paradox, Love and Haight (cheap!) vegetarian sandwiches, Ploy II
— Fun: Piedmont Boutique, the Panhandle, Buena Vista Park, Kid Robot
— Drink: Club Deluxe, Magnolias Gastropub

Fillmore/Japantown
— Food: Benihanas, Dosa, Suzu Ramen (everything and the kitchen sink style ramen), Ramen yamadaya (Tokyo style ramen)
— Fun: the Ministry of Supply, that crazy Japanese mini mall by the pavilion, Aqua forest aquarium, Katsura garden bonsai store
— Drink: The Fillmore, San Francisco Athletic Club, Boom Boom Room

Divisadero Hayes Valley
— Food: Suppenkuche German gourmet, Souvla greek gyros, Little Chihuahua, Bean Bag Cafe, Smitten gourmet Ice Cream, Rosamunde Sausage Grill, The Mill bakery
— Fun: Hayes Park, Alamo Square Park for the Full House house, Gamescape + comics, the Painted Ladies
— Drink: Madrones, the Independant, the Page

North Beach/Chinatown
— Food: The Italian places on Colombus Street, Pantarei, Chubby Noodle, House of Nanking, Sam Wo’s, Naked Lunch
— Fun: City Lights bookstore, the Broadway nightlife strip, Coit Tower,
— Drink: Grant’s Avenue bars, Maritime Wine Tasting

From the Marina to Fisherman’s Wharf
— Food: Super Duper Burgers, the only In-n-Out in SF! The Crabhouse
— Fun: Crissy Field, House of Air Wave Organ, Fort Mason, Aquatic Park, Ghirardelli Square, Lyon Street Steps to Alta Vista Park, touristy stuff at Fisherman’s Wharf
— Drink: Interval Cafe futurist bar, the Tipsy Pig

Sunset/Richmond:
— Food: Beachside Cafe, Lou’s Cafe, Shabu Shabu, PPQ, Clancey’s sandwiches, Burma Superstar, Kingdom of Dumpling, Devil’s Teeth Bakery, The Pizza Spot, The Spot Soju Bar, Four Deuces, Kingdom of Thai Noodle Cafe, El Burrito Express, Old Mandarin, Riptide, Outerlands, Andytown, PPQ Pho.
— Fun: Ocean Beach firepits, the 24th Street Steps
— Drink: Outerlands, Yancy’s, Little Shamrock, Dirty Nelly’s, Social Kitchen
— Coffee: Trouble, AndyTown, Java Beach Cafe

Adventure Spots
— Twin Peaks, Mount Sutro, and Bernal Heights Hill have the best viewpoints in the city. Buena Vista and Alta Vista Parks too.
— Land’s End is a must see with Sutro Baths ruins, a gorgeous rock labyrinth, and the Legion of Honor museum
— the Presidio has a Disney museum, Andy Goldsworthy’s ephemeral wilderness art, and Baker Beach’ stellar bridge views
— Treasure Island has wineries, a weekly flea market, and many abandoned buildings
— The abandoned WW2 battery Godfrey to the west of GG bridge, another at Fort Funston, and another at Hawk Hill
— Golden Gate Park: Stow Lake, the Conservatory of Flowers, Hippie Hill, Academy of Sciences courtyard, the Buffalo paddock, the Japanese Tea Garden, Ocean Beach, Cliff House, Bison Paddock, Prayerbook Cross, Beach Chalet, Mt. Davidson, Louis’ Diner, De Young Museum, California Academy of Sciences

Day Trips:

There’s lots of day and weekend trip options in every direction.

East

— Oakland: Lake Merritt, Chapel of The Chimes
— Berkeley: Gourmet Ghetto ethnic food bonanza, Cesar Chavez park, Rose Garden, Inspiration Point at Tilden Park, Strawberry Canyon Trail, Berkeley Modern Museum, Berkeley Marina for sailing
— the East Bay Regional Park District parks
— Lake Tahoe: boating, hiking, skiing, nightlife, Vikingsholm
— Yosemite: Mono Lake, Bodie, Gold Country (Mariposa, Cool, Angels Camp)

South

— Palo Alto: Facebook/Google campuses, Stanford Dish Loop/Stanford Campus/Rodin Sculpture garden, Computer History Museum
— San Jose: The Tech Museum of Innovation, Hiller Aviation Museum
— Santa Cruz: the Boardwalk, Natural Bridges State Beach
Skyline Boulevard and the Green Peninsula
Pinnacles National Park: giant condors and stellar climbing rocks
— The 101 to SoCal: Big Sur National Park, Esalen, Nepenthe restaurant, Carmel By the Sea, Point Lobos, 17 mile drive in Pebble Beach

North

— Hot Springs: Sierra, Wilbur, Orr, Vichy and Harbin
— Russian River: Guerneville tube floats, assorted breweries
— Sonoma County: Bodega Head, Goat Rock Beach, Dillon Beach, Wild Flour Bread, quirky shopping in Sebastopol, Tibetan Gallery & Studio in Sebastopol, Armstrong Woods
— Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen, the Trinity Alps and Klamath River
— Mendocino Coast: Salt Point, Sea Ranch, Jug Handle, Jackson Demonstration Forest, Mendocino Village, Big River, Point Arena lighthouse, Fort Bragg (brewery, Skunk Train, 10-mile ride,…).
— Napa Wine Country for drinking and sun
— the Marin Headlands nature area: Point Reyes lighthouse, Mount Tamalpais, and Fairfax
— Stinson Beach/Bolinas for surfing, Hog Island Oysters