3 Days* in SAN FRANCISCO
San Francisco is like the unicorn of the American West Coast. Not because of the Castro neighborhood spewing rainbows on every street corner, but for its urban indulgences from culinary to cultural, stunning architecture and natural surrounding, vicinity to rambling Pacific shores, rolling wine country and the slopes of Lake Tahoe.
A sense of innovation and a renegade spirit are in the air and (listen up, ladies) supposedly an excess of single men on the ground.
Day 1* in San Francisco
Dark and smooth is how we like our brew and Four Barrel Coffee in the Mission hits the mark. Get your caffeine to go and mosey over to Tartine Bakery to line up for their otherworldly pastries, then schlepp your goodies the few blocks to Dolores Mission Park and make sure to choose a picnic spot far from the open-air urinals and with a sweeping view of the city.
Valencia Street, the Mission’s main artery has been stripped of its former rough, blue-collar spirit. Today’s yuppiefied version is lined with curated vintage stores (Wallflower), apothecary stores oozing of patchouli oils and quirky finds like the Pirate Supply Store or Paxton Gate.
Continue towards the vibrant Castor, Mecca of LGBT activism and one of America’s first gay enclaves. If you loved “Birdcage” as much as we did, you’ll feel right at home in this hood. Refreshingly unapologetic, it celebrates its fabulousness with rainbow cross walks, the “Hand Job” Nail Spa and the “Does Your Mother Know” erotica shop.
Head to the nearby Alamo Square Park for a view of The Painted Ladies, the ubiquitous row of colorful Victorian houses that will feel strangely familiar if you grew up watching “Full House”.
Asian-Americans currently make up ~33% of San Fran’s ethnic make-up and have enriched the city immeasurably. One especially pleasing influence can be found in the city’s slamming ethnic cuisine, so hop into an Uber to Good Luck Dim Sum. Delicious dumplings, grumpy Chinese ladies and hole-in-the-wall prices make this a winning choice for lunch.
Less adventurous? Try the nearby Presidio Social Club and earn yourself a boring sticker. And since you’re in the neighborhood, don’t miss the nearby Lucas Film offices where Master Yoda poses on top of a fountain and Darth Vader lurks around the lobby.
Final stop of the day: Russian Hill! Pop a Dramamine and take in winding iconic Lombard Street. Hyde Street, the neighborhood’s hub, is lined with charming boutiques, antique stores and restaurants. For dinner, head to highly rated Stone’s Throw for perfectly executed New American cuisine and local craft beers.
Day 2* in San Francisco
Despite so much to see within the city’s limits, I recommend a day to explore beyond and up the coast. Start early, rent a car or try the new Getaround service. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge for the first (or second or third) time is exhilarating, so make sure to really take it in.
The drive to the coast through Marin county will lead you to your first stop: Muir Beach. The rugged black sands and crisp salt air beg for airway-cleansing breaths while you soak up the beauty of of the moody NoCal coastline. And local surfers ‘hanging 10’.
You’ll find Stinson Beach a short drive north, home of my beloved Siren Canteen. Located in the dunes and overlooking the ocean this breezy spot is idyllic in the a casual Hamptons-esque way. Load up on some fish tacos and milk shakes while soaking in the gently breaking waves (make sure they’re open first).
Next pit stop along the coast is Bolinas, a hidden surfers’ haven. Rumor has it that locals used to turn around street signs to avoid tourists flooding their little paradise, but thanks to GPS that’s not much of a deterrent any longer. The appeal of Bolinas lies in its overall charm rather than specific sights, so go ahead and get lost for a bit.
If you’re a sucker for oysters, don’t let the additional 45 min up the coast to Hog Island Oysters Farm discourage you. A visit at Hog Island Oysters Farm is like finding a pearl in, well, an oyster. The “Hog Shack” and picnic area (10am-5pm) sells live, unshucked oysters and you do the rest - grill and tools are provided. The weekend spots book up to 4 months in advance, but Tuesday-Thursday no reservations are needed.
On your way back into SF, stop at Battery Spencer for a magic hour glamour shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. Then, prepare to drop a few $ for an exquisite meal at Al’s Place. Behind the blue façade you’ll fall in love with the wildly creative creations of chef/owner Aaron London. Pork Belly, galangal soda, turnip/peach-chi and roe… you can thank us (or Aaron London) later!
Day 3* in San Francisco
Power up with a creamy Cappuccino from Flywheel Coffee, and two rental wheels under your bum and take a ride into San Fran’s green lung, the Golden Gate Park.
Different paths lead past buffaloes, windmills and Japanese Tea Houses all the way to the ocean. If you have the stamina, pedal up the Great Hwy (it’s really just a road) to Sutro Baths.
Once an extravagant oceanfront bathhouse, its burned out ruins impart a sense of nostalgia and make for a memorable cycle destination.
Then, drop the wheels and stroll through Haight-Ashbury, the epicenter of ’67 Summer of Love, where the air smells of anarchy, pot and pee thanks partially to the many local vagabonds.
At Street Taco (1607 Haight Street) grab a bite of basic yet delicious Mexican street food before venturing on towards Chinatown.
The sweet scent from the Fortune Cookie Factory (56 Ross Alley, Chinatown) will draw you in to see how the aphorisms in sugar shells are made (stock up on their X-rated versions).
A few blocks away is City Lights, one of the last independent bookstores in the US. Rest your feet where Beatnik fixture Jack Kerouac did and browse their paperback selection. Then, round out your afternoon with an overpriced cocktail at The Top Of The Mark, where the 360° view justifies the price, especially during sunset.
Yummy Yummy in the Inner Sunset lives up to its moniker and serves outstanding Vietnamese treats in a no-frills little shoebox. If offal guru Chris Cosentino frequents a joint you know it’s likely to be Pho-nomenal (see what we did there?) -– try their salt and pepper squid and bun bo hue.
Rudyard Kipling once said San Francisco’s only flaw is how hard it is to leave. And we concur. Vibrant culture, unique architecture, delicious food and giant natural beauty will make you fall in love with SF.
- Red Door Café. Tasty brunch including sassy attitude, wooden dildos as table décor and a “Fuckamosa” to wash down the rather delicious “Park Your Wife and Taste My Salmon”. Leave your puritan roots at the door and enjoy!
- Al’s Place, innovative options for pescaterians and vegetarians
- The Perennial, serving “eco-friendly comfort food”
- Nopalito, wonderful Mexican coma y beba in the Inner Sunset neighborhood
- Fortune cookies, the X-rated ones are most fun
- A perfume from Eau De Yosh, a psychic who reads your auras and recommends a scent based on her reading. $60 for 45 min. Pacific Heights by appointment only: +1.415-626-5385
- Morso’s Coffee Chocolate treats for that nice, delicious caffeine kick and sweet fix, all in one
- Your phone, stocked with the Uber and Airbnb Apps
- Warm layers… this is not LA!
- Comfortable flat shoes… San Fran is a pedestrian city. It’d be rude not to!
- Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion (2011)
- Fog City Mavericks (documentary)
- Gus Van Sant’s Milk (2008)
- Anything Jack Kerouac (or any of the other beatniks), i.e. Dharma Bum or naturally On The Road
- The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth
- Dave Eggers’ A Heathbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius or The Circle