If you’re going to San Francisco, you don’t actually need to wear flowers in your hair – that’s so 1967 (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENrmULWKbeM) – just come as you are, do your thing, and bliss out. Whether you’re a freak, geek, diva, or dandy, there’s a niche here with your name on it. At the local subculture hotspots we list below, you’ll find your scene and fresh inspiration waiting for you. You might not end up wearing flowers in San Francisco, but you could sport a pirate patch, or learn a whole new way to rock a sock.
If you like free shows...
- Stern Grove Festival (www.sterngrove.org): Free concerts on Sundays through the Summer in San Francisco’s natural tree-ringed amphitheater, from Rufus Wainwright to SF Opera.
- Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams, Social Distortion and other headliners play for free on five stages in Golden Gate Park.
- Shakespeare in the Park (www.sfshakes.org): Romeo, Juliet & company take over the Presidio at free outdoor performances.
- Amoeba Music’s free concerts: Rockers, DJs, singer-songwriters, and hip-hop heroes give free concerts at the Bay Area’s best record store.
- Giants Baseball (sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com): Catch a glimpse of the multi-World Series winners in 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 in this certified-green 1858 saloon.
- 15 Romolo: Hidden between XXX dives, this speakeasy serves superior bar bites and a vicious Suckerpunch (bourbon, bitters, coffee and Fernet).
- Homestead: Your classic Victorian front-parlor dive, complete with stamped-tin ceiling, Boddington’s on tap and peanuts in the shell.
- Rickhouse: Bartenders in newsboy caps serve whiskey straight from the barrel and dangerously tasty spiced rum punch bowls.
If you like local hangouts...
- Sharon Meadow: Drum circlers, glassblowers, girls’ soccer teams, lawn bowlers, and carousel-horse riders: there’s something for everyone at this sunny Golden Gate Park field off Haight Street.
- The Embarcadero: No matter whether you jog, skate or stroll it, this Bayfront promenade will stop you in your tracks with waterfront watering holes and attractions galore. Don’t miss Ferry Building farmers markets and the mysterious fog science exhibits outside the Exploratorium.
- Cafe Flore: Glassed-in Castro corner venue serving coffee with a side of local eye candy – ideal for Grindr meetups and 4-7pm weekday happy hours.
- Trouble Coffee: Soggy wet-suited surfers chill with coconut water in the shell outside on the driftwood bench, while beachcombers on a mission toss back espressos in handmade stoneware cups at the tiny indoor bar.
If you like offbeat shopping...
- 826 Valencia: Get your eye patches, lard recipes, tall tales, rope by the fathom and other essential pirate supplies at this den of literary inspiration – all proceeds go to support youth writing and literary arts programs.
- Adobe Books: Lose track of entire afternoons among piles of used San Francisco history books, sidewalk album art installations, self-published ‘zines and survival guides for artists, and backroom gallery openings featuring SF artists who show in museums elsewhere.
- Park Life: Cool-hunting made simple: skateboard decks sporting SF Victorian row houses, Russian prison tattoo books and sprawling collage art installations.
- Hollow: A curiosity-cabinet café lined with inkwells, robot tea strainers, wildflower seed bombs, Guinness cupcakes and DIY chai kits – it’s Alice in Wonderland retail.
- Loved to Death: Morbid glamour, from genuine Victorian hair lockets to the taxidermy art wall – no wonder this place has its own surreal reality TV show.
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 marathon mahjong games to the block.
- Jack Kerouac Alley: Dig this byway named after the Beat author where poetry is inscribed on the walls.
- 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: This shady, cottage-lined lane was the perfect setting for the mysterious landlady in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.
If you like being as naked as possible without 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 come out and show some pride, as a million people cheer for you along Market St.
- Bay to Breakers: Racers streak across town, some wearing nothing but shoes and fanny packs to stash sunscreen and cover unmentionables.
- Folsom Street Fair: As you’ll soon 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 guys wearing nothing but a strategically placed gold lamé sock, casually chatting at bistro tables next to the F-line streetcar turnaround.
If you like classic 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 Oscar-winning movie Milkwas 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. You should see it the right way – at night, when the mesmerizing Bay Lights installation shimmers all the way to Treasure Island.