Did you have a great weekend? I hope so!
I was in San Francisco visiting my best friend Thursday and Friday and got back here on Saturday night just in time to wake up to a gorgeous 60 degree Sunday! (Although, I will admit, spring forward really threw me off this morning still being dark at 7am. 😬I feel all out of sorts now!)
Having been to San Francisco several times since I last updated my SF guide, I thought I’d do JUST that today. Here is my big updated list of all the things to do when in San Francisco!
5 Fun things to do in San Francisco:
1. Neighborhood Hop:
There are SO many amazing neighborhoods in San Francisco, and they’re all so different and fun to explore! Make a point to bounce around to at least a couple of them!
I particularly fell in love with Pacific Heights and the Marina. Everywhere you look, one house is more beautiful than the next. They have adorable shops, great restaurants, and the overall vibe of the neighborhoods are just adorable. Everything is so picturesque! Even if you have no agenda, just plan to spend a few hours here walking around. When in Pac Heights, make sure to stop into Freda Salvador––she’s the most amazing shoe designer and the store is tiny but gorgeous! I bought these mules!
My best friend Michal says her other favorite neighborhood is the Mission District–it has an eclectic hipster vibe with lots of street art. Some of the city’s hottest restaurants and retail pop-ups are here! I still have never made it there to explore but will get there one of these days!
A note on downtown:
I know many people are taken to SF for work, so they stay downtown because it makes the most sense location-wise for a conference, etc, but if you can avoid this, please do. Downtown (near the Tenderloin) is far and away the WORST part of the city. That’s like going to Chicago and judging your experience of the city solely by staying in the Loop. (Granted, the Loop is much better than Downtown SF 😂)
I just say this because I know many people who say they hate San Francisco, and it’s because they’ve never gotten out of the Financial District. That being said, it’s not a make or break thing. Neal and I always stay in this area because we’re usually there for his work, but just know that this is *not* the area you should spend time in and any local will tell you the same thing.
The Ferry Building at Sunset
See the Ferry Building:
I’ve spent quite a bit of time at the Ferry Building. During my fall trip, I went there during the day to hang out, and had lunch with my Lolë friends! I thought it was so cool, and their Oyster restaurant is famous–so I had to bring Neal back the following night! (More on that below!) They have a farmer’s market outside, tons of adorable shops, several restaurants, and an awesome array of local food vendors. (If you’re there in the morning, get a smoothie from the grocery market there–it’s in the back of the store! It was so delicious!)
2. Find a Farmer’s Market:
Speaking of farmer’s markets, the city is full of them! Maybe it’s because I live in a city that can only hold farmer’s markets from May through September, but something farmer’s markets puts me in my happy place. There are few things I love more than strolling through a farmer’s market with a fresh juice or a coffee. This website has a huge list of SF farmer’s markets that you can sort by the day, which is super helpful!
See Neal’s outfit post here
View from Alta Plaza Park
3. Take in all the scenery:
SF is such a walkable city. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I was just soaking up the beautiful weather and the change of scenery so much, one of my favorite parts of our trip was just walking. If I found a hill, I’d walk up it and turn around to find the coolest views of the city and of the bay! Like I said before, each house is cooler than the next. No two are alike–everything is just so charming.
I highly recommend a walk along the beach. Grab a coffee at Equator Coffee at Fort Mason and then walk toward the Golden Gate bridge! It’s so beautiful!!
Jane’s on Fillmore
Hog Island Oyster Co
4. Explore the local food scene:
A few of our favorite places we’ve tried while in SF:
A staple in SF, according to my local friends! A charming, bustling bistro that draws lot’s of locals and tourists alike. You have to get the crispy lemon chips and the waygu beef jerky to start. I had the burger and it was phenomenal.
An art-deco inspired 1930’s cocktail bar with a menu that stays true to the era. It feels like a trendy speakeasy and a hole in the wall all at the same time. Our bartender was awesome and the drinks were really unique!
A totally unassuming restaurant but hands-down the best Thai food we’ve ever had. We split the Larb salad and a stir fry special. Their portions are really big! They have a few locations but we went to the one on Larkin street.
An adorable breakfast or lunch spot. The upstairs is a good place to get some work done!
One of the most famous oyster bars in the city–it’s right on the water in the ferry building with a great view!
An old-school SF classic–unfussy with great food!
An amazing Mexican spot–if you’re looking for something trendy, this isn’t it, but if you’re trying to do SF on a budget or are traveling for work and staying near the Financial District, it’s pretty tough to beat.
Like I said, we were there because Neal was on a work trip and I just decided to tag along. We were exhausted and didn’t want to go far from the hotel, so we ended up here! It’s really low-key, cute, charming, homey, with friendly service, awesome margs and really delicious Mexican food! I love that they give you unlimited chips and salsa (3 different kinds of salsa!)
Was another taco spot that came highly recommended from readers!
A fun, adorable, happening place for cocktails in Pac Heights.
I love Palmers!! If you’re looking for an unassuming, old-school SF institution, head to Palmers. They have a beautiful bar and great food!
One of my favorite spots I’ve been for lunch. I believe they have a couple locations, but we went to the one in the Marina. Not just a cute coffee shop but amazing food as well! The tiny crowded tables are part of the charm. Grab one of the sidewalk tables for great people watching.
The best (but most expensive) salad you’ll ever eat. I went to Blue Barn twice when I was there this past weekend!! Plus, shockingly, they have wifi!! The Steiner location has a big back room with lots of space to sit!
If you’re in the mood for Chinese and you want something trendy, China Live Is so much fun and SO delicious!! A 20 min walk or super quick uber from FiDi if you’re staying downtown for work!
A great, casual and homey spot for pizza and Italian food!
A cute, unassuming gastropub down the street from A16! We stopped in for a beer before dinner at A16! The food looked great too!
AMAZING upscale Vietnamese restaurant in the Ferry Building. Highly recommend bar hopping around the Ferry Building before or after dinner here!
5. Post up in a cute coffee shop:
This spot gets first place for my favorite SF coffee shop so far for the cute vibe and great breakfast/lunch. They have wifi, but in the last few months have removed all of their outlets. 😑It’s really hard to find a place with outlets and wifi in SF, so at least they still have the former. 🤷🏻♀️Regardless, it’s still adorable and they have a few locations!
I went here twice during our last trip because of its proximity to our hotel. They have awesome breakfast sandwiches and the best part is that the owner’s dog, Pimp (a grey French bulldog!!!) often hangs out here! He is so friendly, he’ll jump right on your lap and sleep there while you work. I mean, does a better scenario exist?
I met my friend Leia here at their Pac Heights location. It’s adorable inside, they have great paninis, juices, smoothies, and of course–coffee, too. (They have since opened in Chicago as well!)
This place is SO cute and they have a couple locations I believe. It does get crowded though, so it’s a gamble if you’re wanting to get some work done.
SO many of you told me I had to go here for the toast! Again, they don’t have wifi, so I haven’t made it yet, but it’s definitely on my list!
My best friend Michal’s favorite coffee spot. It’s right by the water so you can grab a coffee and a pastry and walk through the marina along the water all the way to the bridge! Tiny, unassuming, but the coffee is so great and the people are so friendly!
Based in SF, you can find Blue Bottle all over the city! “An SF experience” as the locals will tell you. I had my first one at the Ferry Building and really liked it, but when I walked into another location to do some work, I discovered they don’t have wifi in any of their coffee shops, so then I kind of hated them. If we’re being honest. Only go here if you want the coffee and not the wifi!
Other reccos from local friends and readers:
Your turn! Do you have any reccos for fun things to do in San Francisco? Would love to hear them–leave a comment below and share the details!
Also, see more travel posts HERE.