From the Golden Gate Bridge towards the many fun and quirky districts that the stunning Californian city provides, there’s certainly no shortage of incredible things you can do for all budgets, interests and itineraries with regards to Bay area. Here’s an insider’s guide and native travel strategies for how to proceed in Bay area!
Editor’s note: If you’re thinking about seeing all the major Bay area attractions during your time in the city, then you may well consider purchasing the San Francisco City Pass. This all-in-one ticket features a 3-Day Cable Car and Muni Bus Passport, admission to the California Academy of Sciences, a Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure, plus much more! Check prices and availability here.
Why you have to visit San Francisco in your next California Trip
As the song goes, “I left my heart in San Francisco/High on the hill, it calls to me/To be where little cable cars climb halfway towards the stairs/The morning fog may chill the air, I do not care.” And how true it's! From San Francisco, for me, the hills and fog are just as iconic because the Golden Gate Bridge and also the cable cars.
I was raised within the city and whenever I visit, there are certain places I always go back to. I loved growing up in SF (you need to know prior to going that locals never say “San Fran”!) because it’s a location where uniqueness is married to old-fashioned charm, where Victorian homes stand next to rainbow flags and where each neighbourhood has its own quirky personality.
Just 7 miles by 7 miles, San Francisco may be considered small for a major metropolis – but the possibilities for fun are endless. As the city may be symbolic of the tech industry these days, locals understand how and where to find the enduring (and off-line) delights the city has to share. Here’s a quick guide so you too knows how you can to take pleasure from San Francisco, as being a local!
Enjoy the beach of Fort Funston
Fort Funston is one of the best places in Northern California for any beach walk. The beach is of sufficient length to really wander and the climb down (and back again!) and provides spectacular views from the Northern California coastline.
There isn’t much there to do besides feel the sand beneath your toes, inhale the fresh Pacific air and feel grateful to witness natural beauty, however, that just adds to the great thing about the place. So if you’re looking for a relaxing activity in Bay area, make sure to visit Fort Funston beach!
Shop on Valencia Street (and explore the Mission District)
One of the very most colourful neighbourhoods in the city is the Mission District, the place to find taquerias and galleries alike. While this is always a point of debate for local, the best place for Mexican meals are Taqueria Cancún (2288 Mission St & 3211 Mission St).
The Mission is also home to an indoor minigolf course, cinemas, bars and music venues. In particular, Valencia Street offers the best dining and shopping experiences in the city. I particularly love Valencia Street since i can find my favourite things, independent San Francisco bookshops, cafes, world cuisines, speciality stores like pirate supply and taxidermy shops and art.
Right from Valencia, you can find the Clarion Alley Mural Project, a series of ever-changing murals painted along a skinny alleyway, and we understand how Personally i think about murals. If all your feet hurt from walking around, take a break in Dolores Park watching the colourful people Bay area combined efforts to picnic, relax and play.
Stroll round the Fillmore District
The home of San Francisco's jazz scene before the 1970s, the Fillmore District is really a historic neighbourhood. While the jazz presence is not what it was once, the influence from the diverse communities that built the neighbourhood can nonetheless be felt.
Today, Fillmore Street is stuffed with fancy shops, good eateries and plenty of charm. I enjoy the lively walk down Fillmore, from California St. to Japantown, where you can find many restaurants and speciality stores.
Discover San Francisco Café Culture
You might not exactly know this, but SF includes a thriving café scene with stores and shops that cater to every budget and taste. From stores which roast the coffee beans themselves to co-working spaces, if you’re looking for more caffeine inspiration, make sure to check out this guide on how to locate the very best coffee in San Francisco.
Enjoy the best view of Bay area from Bernal Heights
Bernal Heights is my favourite neighbourhood, also it may or may not have something to do with the truth that it's also the neighbourhood I was raised in! Bernal can be found on the hill with a wonderful park towards the top. You are able to walk around the hill for 360-degree views of Bay area, and on a clear day, you can even spot the Golden Gate Bridge within the distance.
Take flight on the rope swing to feel as if you're soaring within the city, and then come down the hill while stopping to pet all of the dogs that gather to experience. Don't forget to keep your eyes open for that neighbourhood coyote who makes her home around the hill!
After exploring the park, you can walk down to Cortland Avenue, the main street of Bernal Heights. Cortland is where to stop for lunch or coffee and also to pick up a gift from one from the local shops.
Like Fort Funston, Land's End showcases the beauty of the Northern California Coastline. Walking Land's End from one end to the other gives moving views of the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay.
One of the greatest Bay area tips from the local would be to go at the start of the morning in order to be sure to avoid some of the popular times, this way you will have the trail to yourself and really feel like you're at land's end.
And if you wish to see the iconic Bay area sights listed here are my travel tips & recommendations:
The Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is among the most iconic bridges in the world. Carried out 1937, the color from the bridge, international orange, was chosen to complement natural surroundings. While walking over the bridge is on most of the “must-do” travel lists, I suggest seeing the bridge from the Presidio.
The Presidio is really a park on the former military post, established originally by New Spain in 1776 like a northern California foothold. In the Old Coast Guard Station, you can observe an amazing view of the bridge while keeping a sense of personal space away from the tourists.
The Ferry Building
Filled with amazing restaurants, the place to find an every week farmers market and still a functioning port, the Ferry Building remains a Bay area institution. I suggest going afternoon on a weekday, you'll avoid the lunch-rush but still have enough to wander the building.
Two of the very most historic neighbourhoods in Bay area are also just a short walk away from one another; North Beach and Chinatown. These two neighbourhoods will also be a few of the busiest in the city. Each neighbourhood includes a magical ability to transport you to feeling as if you’re inside a different place in the world, so leave plenty of time for eating and getting lost.