Step away from Fisherman's Wharf...
San Francisco, California
Step away from Fisherman's Wharf... San Francisco Reviews
...and experience San Francisco like a local! Nov 01, 2004
After you've taken a trip to Alcatraz, waited in line to drive down Lombard, waited in line for a cable car, taken a picture of the Haight-Ashbury signs and battled crowds at Pier 39, you may be ready for a more authentic and modern San Francisco experience. Some things may be more out of the way, but I think in order to get a real feel for San Francisco, you need to wander away from Downtown and the bayside districts. Here are some suggestions to get you started...
For awhile, I never ventured into the Mission because I didn't know there was a reason to go there. But when I finally explored it, it was an enlightening experience. It's an area with a lot of character. I think the Mission embodies San Francisco's diversity and a newer kind of bohemian spirit. The bulk of the restaurants, shops and nightlife are on or around Valencia, Mission, 16th, and 24th Streets and easily accessible by BART. You can find great food from all over the globe here- Central American, Ethiopian, Middle Eastern, Spanish, Indian and more. If you're from the East Coast or Midwest and you've never had decent Mexican food, definitely try one of the numerous taquerias. There are murals all over the Mission and the Latin American influence on the area is apparent in the artwork. Check out Balmy Street between 24th and 25th Streets. The whole alley is decorated with murals on both sides. Dolores Park offers wonderful views of the city and a place to relax. A lot of colorful people congregate there so it's great place for people watching. Before or after, pop into the Dolores Park Cafe for a smoothie. The Mission is also where San Francisco's Carnaval is held annually on Memorial Day weekend.
The Presido is a former military post that is now a park. It's located in the northeastern corner of the city. Inside the Presidio are beautiful trees, trails, historic buildings, and a museum. Many people cross the bridge and look at the views from the Marin side, but on the San Francisco side, Chrissy Fields offers great views, Fort Point, and the Warming Hut where you can grab a hot drink to warm you up- it's always cold over there! Also, if you venture beyond Chrissy Fields and beyond the bridge, there are some really interesting and narrow trails along the cliffs above Baker Beach. Baker Beach is a clothes-optional beach and it tends be less crowded than some of the other beaches. It was the original site of Burning Man. On the edge of the Presido at the Marina side are the Palace of Fine Arts and the Exploratorium museum. The Exploratorium is a great place to bring kids or to bring out the kid in you. On your way to or from the Presidio, check out the Lyon Street Steps. The steps are flanked by the Presido and the oversized homes of Pacific Heights. There are nicely manicured gardens at the steps and views of the Marina and Alcatraz. Many residents use it at as a gym so try to stay out of the way of the ambitious people who jog up and down the steps.
Clement Street is in the Inner Richmond District and I'd definitely go there over Chinatown. At first glance, it's not as scenic but if you walk down the street you'll find some really interesting places. I love strolling along and checking out the Asian grocery stores. Here, you can find Asian foods you can't find in other places such as tropical fruits and vegetables, seasonings, snacks and a whole bunch of other things. There are various kinds of seafood and meats that are not always for the faint of heart. In addition to the grocery stores, there are some stores that sell interesting teapots, cheap cooking utensils, decorations and other housewares from Asia. There are excellent restaurants along this road and it's definitely a good place to go if you're in the mood for Asian food- Burmese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, etc.- you will find it all here. Green Apple Books is a great store for new and used books, music, and movies. It seems cluttered and unkempt when you first walk in, but after exploring, you'll find that they have a great collection of books. The staff seems to be interested and excited about the books they're selling and they have handwritten signs and descriptions for recommended books. The Outer Richmond is way out there and always seems to be foggy, but the parks and beaches there are great regardless of the weather. Check out China Beach, Lincoln Park (it also has the Palace of the Legion of Honor which always has interesting exhibits), Sutro Heights, and Ocean Beach.
Fillmore Street, above Geary is another area filled with boutiques and great restaurants. It tends to be upscale but it's generally not stuck up. Hydra is a great store to go to for unique and creative bath and body gifts. Some of their soaps are like works of art and they've created some that represent the different San Francisco districts. They have unique products like "bath tea" and I find that there products are pleasantly scented and not overpowering. Aumakua has great jewelry and other gifty type things that are both imported and made by local artists. There is a Crossroads on this street and like all of its stores, it offers a nice selection of quality "recycled" clothing. Fresca is a great Peruvian restuarant and which serves several kinds of ceviche. At the cross streets of Fillmore and Geary are two venues- the Fillmore and the Boom Boom Room. The Fillmore usually features mid-level artists of all genres and the Boom Boom Room is more blues and roots music oriented.
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