San Francisco is high on most America bucket lists – from the famous Golden Gate to the winding chaos of Lombard Street, there’s plenty to see and do as a traveller exploring everything it has to offer.
But how do the locals enjoy “The City”?
Well Erin and her buddy Elisa were born and bred amongst the hustle and bustle of this Californian destination so I though I’d get their insider knowledge and share how to eat, drink and explore San Francisco like a local…
Golden Gate Bridge
Erin – “Let’s get the obvious one out of the way! The Golden Gate is a must see you can capture some of the most majestic photos of this iconic beast. You can rent a bike and ride across the bridge to see both views of the bridge as well as bike up to the Marin Headlands to snap a photo of the whole bridge and soak in the view. Walking across is also a popular option.”
Elisa – “There’s the House of Air beneath the Golden Gate Bridge in the Presidio. You can jump for an hour or two on Trampolines and then relax and enjoy some food outside with a wonderful view of the Golden Gate and the water.”
Elisa – “All of my activities revolve around food and walking.”
Erin – “True and I will say it – San Francisco has some of the best food in all of America! Voted number one for food and drinks. If you’re in the Richmond District try Shanghai House (across from Balboa Theater). It’s my favorite Chinese food- ever.”
Elisa – “The house made soy milk is a must at Shanghai House.”
Elisa – “If you are looking for the best Seafood try Swan’s Oyster Bar. You will come out of there feeling like you just had sex… it’s a weird feeling. But yes, orgasmic.”
Erin – “If you want authentic Mexican food you must go to La Palma Mexicatessen in the Mission District. Their handmade tortillas make me drool, plus they sell Latin groceries if you want to make your own food at home.”
Elisa – “Walking around North Beach is also amazing, go to Victoria’s to sample cookies and cakes then make your way over to Stella’s for some more treats, coffee, and an awesome view of old Italian establishments.”
Erin – “North Beach also has Tony’s Pizza Napoletan. Get there early or you’ll be waiting in a line that wraps around the block.”
Elisa – “You should definitely try La Mediterranee (“La Med”), which is Armenian and middle eastern food. The first was on Fillmore St. and it’s become so popular that more locations have opened (Castro, North Beach and Berkeley).
Drink Your Face Off Bars
Erin – “Zeitgeist is one of my favorite bars in San Francisco, located in the Mission District, it has a nice outdoor patio that makes you mingle with others. Well known worldwide, and has some of the best beer I have ever tasted.”
Elisa – “I usually am on Fillmore Street and love Palmer’s. It’s not cheap but if you want a jazzy 1920’s feel then you see should experience this place.”
Erin – “Polk Street has different theme bars close together. My personal favorite is McTeague’s Saloon. Don’t let the line out of the door fool you, it’s a must see and has a small dance floor if you want to boogie. Playland Bar is also a good one for dancing and the Moscow Mules are to die for.”
Elisa – “Pretty much any bar in the Mission District is good. Beauty Bar is small and quaint but they free pour their drinks and they give free manicures.”
Tone Up Your Legs Activities
Erin – “Hike your butt up Mount Davidson to capture a breathtaking view of the city as well as Twin Peaks. Both views are amazing and you get your daily work out in.”
Elisa – “Also head over to Golden Gate Park. There are plenty of places to see if you just wander through it. Must see’s are: Stowlake Boat house, California Academy of Sciences, and the Japanese Tea Gardens.”
Erin – “Another good hiking trail is the Lands End, where you can stumble across the Labyrinth that overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge.”
Elisa – “Seward Street Slide is a hidden gem. It’s a nice park to visit in the Castro and has grown up size slides. Make sure to wear long pants so it’s easier to launch yourself off and catch some air!”
Erin – “And on course you have to venture over to Lombard Street and tackle the twists and turns for some awesome photo opportunities”
Pricey But Worth It Tours
Erin – “If you’re not on a budget, I highly recommend the Vantigo City Tour. In about three hours you can knock out pretty much the whole city riding around in an old VW Van! The driver will quiz you on some interesting facts about the city and you earn chocolate if you get answers right!”
Elisa – “Fly Bay Area is a great company that takes you out in a Helicopter to see an aerial view of the city and Golden Gate Bridge. Pricey, but again worth it.”
Erin – “For a nice sunny, cheap day grab a pack of beer and head to Dolores Park in the Mission District. You can lie out in the sun and soak up a nice view of downtown. And make sure you keep an eye out for the Coconut man that sells fresh coconut with rum in it.”
Elisa – “Japantown is really fun for walking around and shopping for odd things you never knew you needed. Crazy Pika Pika photo booths are fun and silly and there’s Karaoke at night.”
Erin – “Try some Boba Tea and Sake while you’re in Japantown! Another good day drinking idea is sampling wine at the Ferry Terminal and wandering down Market Street awhile until you hit Union Square for some shopping.”
Well I’m sure that abundance of local knowledge will get you started on enjoying San Francisco like a local no matter what hostel or hotel in San Francisco you choose to base yourself from.
I really enjoyed my time exploring this iconic America city and the girls certainly did a solid job of showing me some spots many travellers don’t discover – so get them on your to do list and enjoy everything it has to offer!
Have you visited or lived in San Francisco?
Anything you’d add to the list?