Aug 16, 2012 11:36:36 PM
What to do in San Francisco: tips for every taste
If you’re going to San Francisco, there’s no need to wear a flower in your hair, but you do need to decide how to spend your time. San Francisco is diverse in every way, and the variety of options for a traveller can be a bit overwhelming. So what do you like to do? To help avoid being stumped in San Francisco, here is a list of activities for a broad range of interests:
If you like free shows…
- Stern Grove Festival: Free concerts on Sundays through the Summer in San Francisco’s natural tree-ringed amphitheater, from Afrobeat jazz to SF Opera.
- Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival: Emmylou Harris, Willy Nelson, Elvis Costello, Gillian Welch and other headliners play for free on three stages at Golden Gate Park.
- Shakespeare in the Park: Romeo, Juliet and company take over the Presidio to provide free outdoor performances.
- Amoeba Music’s free concerts: Rockers, DJs and hip-hop heroes give free concerts at the Bay Area’s best record store.
- Giants Baseball: Catch a glimpse of the action and join the party at the Embarcadero waterfront promenade behind left field.
If you like saloons…
- Comstock Saloon: Vintage Victorian watering hole with lantern lighting, strong drink and dainty bar bites.
- Elixir: Serving spur-shaking cocktails since the Gold Rush – only now they’re organic.
- Homestead: Front-parlor dive bar complete with stamped-tin ceiling, Boddington’s on tap and peanuts in the shell.
- Bloodhound: Antler chandeliers, cocktails in Mason jars and a murder of crows on the ceiling.
- Rickhouse: Bartenders in newsboy caps pour vicious punch bowls and whiskey straight from the barrel.
If you like local hangouts…
- Trouble Coffee: Soggy wet-suited surfers sit outside, but everyone else keeps warm inside at the scavenged-wood coffee bar.
- Cole Valley Cafe: Warm up when the fog rolls into Golden Gate Park at this upbeat, laid-back Haight coffeehouse.
- Cafe Flore: Glassed-in Castro corner venue that serves coffee with a side of local eye candy.
- Mission Dolores Park: Athletes, radical politicos, quasi-professional tanners, performance artists and toddlers: on sunny days, they all converge on this grassy hillside and queue up for ice cream at nearby Bi-Rite Creamery.
If you like offbeat shopping…
- 826 Valencia: Get your tricorne hats, oyster-openers, lard recipes, tall tales and other essential pirate supplies at this den of literary quirkiness, with all proceeds going to support youth writing and literary arts programs.
- Electric Works: Balls of fluff, Chinese Cultural Revolution–era toys, David Byrne’s diagrams explaining pop culture and fine-art prints of psychedelic cupcakes.
- Loved to Death: Morbid glamour, from genuine Victorian hair lockets to the taxidermy art wall.
- Hollow: Shelves laden with galvanized tin pails, driftwood candleholders, birdcages, Guinness cupcakes and tea – it’s Alice in Wonderland retail.
- Park Life: Cool-hunting made simple: skateboard decks sporting SF Victorian row houses, Russian prison tattoo books and backroom collage art installations.
If you like hidden alleyways…
- Balmy Alley: Hot topics and artistic talents have surfaced since the 1970s in this alley covered in art by SF muralistas.
- Spofford Alley: Revolutions were plotted and bootlegger gun battles waged here – but peace has brought Chinese orchestras and mah-jongg games here.
- Jack Kerouac Alley: This byway named after the Beat author is inscribed with his poetry, right on the road.
- Ross Alley: Ladies who entered this notorious alley once risked their reputations, but now the most colorful characters are on the alleyway murals.
- Macondray Lane: A shady, cottage-lined lane was the perfect setting for a mysterious landlady in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.
If you like getting naked (but not getting arrested)…
- Baker Beach: When the fog rolls into the clothing-optional north end of the beach, you’ll get goose bumps in the most unusual places.
- Pride Parade: A handful of rainbow glitter is all you need to get out there and show some pride.
- Bay to Breakers: Racers streak across town, some wearing nothing but shoes and fanny packs to stash sunscreen.
- Folsom Street Fair: As you’ll notice, it’s possible to get tattooed and pierced absolutely everywhere – but don’t stare unless you’re prepared to compare.
- Jane Warner Plaza: You’ve arrived in the Castro when you spot nudists casually chatting at bistro tables at the F-line streetcar turnaround.
If you like movie locations…
- Fort Point: Hitchcock was right: swirling noir-movie fog and giddy Golden Gate views make for a thrilling case of Vertigo.
- Nob Hill: What a ride – Steve McQueen’s muscle car goes flying over the summit in Bullit and somehow it lands in SoMa.
- Sutro Baths: San Francisco’s splendid, dandified ruin made a suitable setting for the May–December romance in Harold and Maude.
- Human Rights Campaign Action Center & Store: Harvey Milk’s camera shop in the movie Milk was the actual Castro location, now home to the GLBT civil rights organization.
- Bay Bridge: Oops – when Dustin Hoffman sets out for Berkeley in The Graduate, he heads across the Bay Bridge – the wrong way (the top deck looks better on film).
What? That’s not enough? For any other tips that you may need, our San Francisco City guide can definitely fill in the gaps.