One of my favorite spots to take visitors to Northern California is the City, a.k.a. San Francisco. While some people want to go back, most people have already seen the major tourist spots, such as Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street and rode a trolley. It is excellent that San Francisco is a city with thousands of layers to it, making it great to keep coming back to.
Here is my literary for a great day exploring another layer, of San Francisco while still being a little bit of a tourist.
A Visit to the Beach
Whether you are lucky with a sunny day or are being visited by Karl the Fog hanging off in the distance there is no excuse to miss the beach in San Francisco. One of my favorite spots is to head through the Presidio, a former Army post for Spain, the country California and then the U.S. It is worth the drive alone if you have the time it includes gorgeous woods you’d never expect to find in the City, a great history, and the Walt Disney Museum.
From the Presidio make it over to Crissy Fields. This is the beach area just Northeast of the Golden Gate Bridge, giving you a great view of the bridge, Marin, and Alcatraz. That is if there isn’t too much fog. Grab some lattes at Dynamo Donut + Coffee after you park and then stroll down the beach.
You will find tours on Segways, runners, bikers, on a nice day sailboats across the bay and tons of people lounging around and walking the beach. It is a great place to walk for a while or sit down and open a book. With a view of the bay, there is always something to watch.
If it’s a little windy on the water my favorite spot to stop and read (or people watch) is over at the Palace of the Arts. It’s tucked away from the bay, but you still get a little water next to the delightful pond. This structure was built for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915 and it does make you feel a little out of time.
Swing through the Marina
A short walk away from Crissy Fields or the Palace of the Arts is the Marina neighborhood of San Francisco. This area often gets a bad rap for being full of preppy frat boys, and while it might mean you want to avoid it on a Friday night, it doesn’t take away some of the great finds for both food and stores.
One great place to stop by is Tipsy Pig, a gastropub and bar that makes amazing cocktails. It is a perfect place for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Their outdoor patio is perfect on a nice San Francisco day for brunch or on a warm October evening. This is one of those places that you can truly and we enjoy both the food and the cocktails.
After a nice meal pop into Books Inc., a great independent bookstore. They do an exceptional job of carrying everything from bestsellers to hidden finds and even some great San Francisco classics. Like many independent bookstores, they are filled with employ recommendations which are both useful and entertaining. Worth popping in whether you need a new book or not.
Grab a Drink in Hayes Valley
This neighborhood is at the moment where I would move if I was living in San Francisco. Each time I explore the area I fall more and more in love with it. One of the last times, I was there even ran into a childhood friend!
The can’t miss place on a nice day in Hayes Valley is the Biergarten, an open air space of just shipping containers and large picnic tables that provide great food and even better beer. It is a blast to go with friends since they have large tables plus you order as you go. On a nice weekend day, you’ll find a line before they even open but it is worth it to enjoy the experience. If you have friends in San Francisco don’t be surprised if you run into them here.
If you aren’t a big beer fan there is a great wine shop with a shaded patio just around the corner. Arlequin Wine Merchant, connected with the Arlequin Café, has a great wine by the glass selection, an amazing wine by the bottle collection and a gorgeous shaded patio in the back. Grab a snack at the café and then wander over to the wine merchant where you can grab a bottle of their wide selection for just a $5 corkage fee and they have a fabulous selection under $15. Then enjoy the patio for as long as you’d like!
Afterward, you can walk the streets in Hayes Valley, exploring shops, picking through menus and people watching. You will find art galleries, cute boutiques, bakeries and bookstores all right around the block.
Have a bite in North Beach
You might better know the area as little Italy First and foremost, do not drive here. Especially on a weekend. It is impossible to find a parking spot and it will ruin your experience. I have finally convinced my boyfriend to stop trying and take a Uber since we’ve twice in the last year tried and ended up giving up and finding food elsewhere instead.
With that said you will find some of the most delicious meals in San Francisco over in North Beach and some of the best Italian in the U.S. You will find charming buildings, churches tucked on the squares, and tons of people wandering around and chatting.
I have yet to go wrong with the restaurants in North Beach, whether I found the restaurant from a friend’s recommendation, yelp reviews or just wandering around, you’ll find a scrumptious meal.
For an upscale meal stop in at Firenze By Night. From starting with a Caprese to finishing with a lemoncello, this meal will melt in your mouth. They also have the best gnocchi I’ve had outside of Italy. It is right on par with the meal I got around the corner from my apartment in Rome.
You’ve Seen One More Layer Of San Francisco
San Francisco is a city of many layers and since it is one of my favorite places I will explore a variety of them with you all. If you have a major city a few hours away or less if it’s not your backyard yet it should be.
For more information about San Francisco check out these great books on Amazon including 111 Places in San Francisco That You Must Not Miss, Lonely Planet San Francisco, and Fodor’s San Francisco.