While the City by the Bay has matured since its counter cultural hey-day, this urban playground continues to titillate and inspire. Arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the U.S., San Francisco offers the best of both worlds—a relaxed California vibe and endless activities for bookworms, health nuts, style lovers, foodies and cultural mavens in every neighborhood.
San Francisco got its soul back with the recent opening of the SF Jazz Center – a 35,000-square-foot, 700-seat concert hall conceived as the first stand-alone building for jazz in the U.S. Nestled in the heart of the city's arts district, this hopping new venue boasts phenomenal acoustics, and there’s not a bad seat in the house.
Marked by the spiraling tower situated in the center of Golden Gate Park, this eclectic museum has been a part of the city for more than 100 years. The exhibits here reflect the diversity of the city around them, with emphasis on American art, international textile arts and art of the ancient Americas, Oceania and Africa. Wander through the surrounding public sculpture garden and make time to visit the observation deck at the top of the tower.
See a slice of the city's rich history through the eyes of artists who lived it. Every weekend Precita Eyes Mural Arts offers guided mural walks through Balmy Alley, which features more than 30 murals depicting scenes from human rights abuse in the Latino community to gentrification by the tech sector, each lead by muralists and local artists themselves.
With its creative spin on new American cuisine served informally on dim-sum style carts, State Bird continues to be one of the most sought after meals around. With accolades from James Beard and Michelin, to name a few, this local favorite has a short menu but an endless array of dishes that seem to come out of the kitchen spontaneously.
San Francisco is a gourmand's paradise, and there's no better way to experience all of its bounty in one place than the endless food trucks and farmers marketing that take over the Ferry Building every week. Sample fresh produce at the Green Market on Tuesday and Thursdays (10 am - 2 pm) and Saturdays (8 am – 2 pm) or come early on Saturday for the delicious food truck cuisine, like Roli Roti’s rotisserie chicken, Cap’n Mike’s Holy Smoke salmon sandwiches, burgers at 4505 Meats and Tartine's famous morning buns.
This cavernous, two-level beer hall appeals to brew lovers and anyone looking to grab a drink al fresco in this tree-lined space. With 8,500 square feet at its disposal, this brewery offers ample indoor and outdoor communal seating areas to enjoy its draft beers, which are brewed on-site, and fresh snacks that go well beyond typical bar fare.
Sunset drinks overlooking the city are just a ferry ride away at this bayside dining establishment. Escape the hustle and bustle of the city by winding down with a glass of Napa wine and a paper-thin slice of artisanal pizza, best enjoyed by the outdoor fire pit after a sporting game of bocce.
San Francisco's devotion to coffee culture is most evident at this local roaster. Largely responsible for starting the craft coffee movement across the country, Blue Bottle favors quality over quantity, with not a grande or frappe to be found in sight. Be prepared to get permanently hooked on this indulgent brew.
Get up early and head down to watch the sea lions bark and belly-flop around Pier 39 to beat the tourist rush. Catch a glimpse of the famous Alcatraz prison and grab an early breakfast while exploring all the various sights and shops along Fisherman's Wharf.
Not your traditional museum, this art and technology center is an interactive studio for endless experimentation and play. The center encourages kids to learn through creation not consumption, and provides hands-on experience for them to create their own claymation and produce their own movies, music, stories and art creations, many of which they can take home as a souvenir.
No trip to the city by the bay is complete without a visit to this sprawling, scenic park. To cover the most ground, you can rent bikes, scooters, skates and pedal surreys for up to six people. End your ride at Ocean Beach to watch the surfers tackle the Pacific swells.
This city has no shortage of hills to challenge your calves, but at least they reward your efforts at the top with beautiful views and the colorful murals inside Coit Tower. Catch the steps near Filbert and Montgomery Streets and be prepared for a steep climb up the east side of Telegraph Hill, where private gardens, charming cottages and wild parrots greet you along the way.
These protected parklands offer a view of rugged beauty just outside the city center and some of the Bay Area’s most popular hiking and cycling trails. As the trails wind through the headlands, they afford intimate views of the city, the sea and the Golden Gate Bridge, leading to secluded spots for your post-workout picnic.
Skip the gym and take advantage of the enormous expanse of green at the corner of Octavia and Bay with a pick-up volleyball game in the Great Meadow. The 237-year-old military post turned national park hosts bikers, joggers and volleyball games on idyllic weekends. Dogs welcome.
With more than 24 miles of routes and eight scenic overlooks and vistas, each trail offers glimpses of West Coast grandeur. History buffs will love the San Francisco National Cemetery, Presidio Chapel and views of Alcatraz while others can enjoy a stroll down Lover's Lane and wandering through groves of pine, cypress and a peaceful eucalyptus forest.
Explore the seaside ruins of what was once the world's largest indoor swimming pool establishment. Built in 1896 and designed by SF's late mayor Adolph Sutro, the baths have since been retired, but you can still explore the surrounding Sutro Heights Park public gardens, new Land's End Lookout visitor center and café and a hidden sea-cave tunnel. Just make sure it’s low tide.
While San Francisco has more than its fair share of beautiful parks, Dolores Park is a local favorite for a weekend picnic, lawn games and people-watching. The park is always filled with the sounds of drum circles, didgeridoos and an interesting array of wandering vendors peddling pizza, beer and vegan baked goods.
Formerly an Army airfield, this scenic bay-front property and promenade is now the premier destination for hiking, picnicking, playing at the beach and enjoying stunning sunsets. Often referred to as "the city's front yard," Crissy Field now features the Warming Hut, a charming spot to grab lunch before exploring the park's well-worn paths and enjoying spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
San Francisco has plenty of bohemian-style thrift stores, but Reliquary eschews your typical hippie wares for an expertly curated mix of vintage clothing, accessories, jewelry, housewares and under-the-radar designers like Ace & Jig, Fog Linen and Marisa Haskell.
The best kind of boutiques invite you to get lost, and you could spend hours browsing this shop of curiosities. From Japanese garden tools and antique jewelry to mounted insects and (ethically sourced) taxidermy, Paxton Gate offers all of the wonders of the natural world as portable gifts.
Why traipse all over town to shop when you can peruse through three boutiques in one? Aggregate Supply is the happy union of home decor supplier Acacia, natural skin care provider Heliotrope and sustainable clothiers Turk + Taylor, with some other local labels thrown in for the perfect mix of locally sourced goods.