This post will serve as a glorious recap of the weekend I spent in and around San Francisco with family and friends two weeks ago- wining in Napa, dining at the best hole in the wall places, and exploring the streets.
California never fails to seduce me with its freshest of the fresh produce, beautiful vistas from neighborhood hikes, and city streets alive with energetic entrepreneurs. On a recent visit, I walked countless blocks through San Fran with a friend to make sure I saw all the sights.
We, in effect, ended up creating these little walking tours and day trips of San Francisco, and I wanted to share those San Francisco To Do List recommendations with you! Keep reading for the deets…
CHINATOWN TO EMBARCADERO MORNING WALKING TOUR
Chinatown: Walk through the gates on Grant Avenue and past the kitschy streets to Good Mong Kok Bakery on Stockton between Washington & Jackson. It’s the place to get a huge steamed BBQ pork bun (char siu bao), and is highly reviewed on Yelp. Chinatown really is a city within a city, so you have to stop in the little markets to find Asian candies and unique veggies. Head east on Jackson Street to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, tucked into an alleyway, and enjoy the warm, flattened fortune cookies fresh off the press.
North Beach: Getting back on Stockton Street, walk north through the Italian Quarter until you hit Columbus Avenue, and check out the cute cafes. Take a break in Washington Square Park (at the intersection of Columbus & Union) to soak up some sun and look up at Saints Peter and Paul Church. You can walk up the hill here to Coit Tower, a great place to see views of the city and fantastic depression-era murals just recently restored. It’s definitely a San Fran landmark. Continue on Columbus Ave through the North Beach neighborhood, stopping at Beacon Coffee & Pantry for amazing iced coffee to walk with, until you hit Taylor Street which will take you north to the Fisherman’s Wharf. Avoid the touristy shops and continue until you hit the Embarcadero.
The Embarcadero: Stroll along The Embarcadero path along the piers, heading southeast. This longer section of the walk will swing you around to the Ferry Building Marketplace, a foodie mecca- you can watch the pier numbers go down until you hit Pier 1. Stop inside to check out the artisan vendors, particularly Cowgirl Creamery, Heath Ceramics, the olive oil purveyors, and Humphry Slocombe ice cream. There are plenty of restaurants to enjoy at this point, but we continued on after some delicious samples of olive oil, macarons, and chocolate ganache. Bonus: bathroom break, and you can also catch the ferry to Sausalito (Marin) and sometimes see seals at the end of the piers. AT&T Park is about 30 minutes further along the Embarcadero if you want to see where the Giants play!
Financial District: Leaving the Ferry Building, head west on Sacramento Street until you reach Montgomery Street. Head north a half block and then go west onto Commercial Street and you’ll run into City View Restaurant, an elegant dim sum establishment. Don’t miss the Shanghai soup dumplings!
THE MISSION AFTERNOON WALKING TOUR
Mission District: Jump off the BART caddy corner from Taqueria El Farolito at 24th & Mission- and anticipate a long line and a crowded seating area. It’s all worth it for a super burrito with steak or chicken to fuel your day walking around. We happened upon Carnaval San Francisco, a festival and parade celebrating music and culture from Latin America and the Caribbean, which made it almost impossible to stroll the streets – but it did ensure that there were plenty of street food vendors, colorful outfits, and music. Meander your way west on 22nd street and stop off at Mission Picnic for a cold pressed watermelon juice or fresh lemonade, and continue strolling to Valencia Street headed north. There are great spots here to shop: Antelope for beautiful earrings and other accessories, Dog Eared Books for your favorite classic, Aldea Home for an eclectic collection of home gifts, and Pirate Supply Store for… quirky things, among other shops.
Dolores Park: By heading east on 19th, you’ll run smack dab into Dolores Park. Though as of right now part of it is under construction, there is still plenty of space to sun tan and read outside while taking a walk break. Even just laying in the grass, you’ll have plenty of people watching to keep you entertained. When you finally get antsy, and might I assume, hungry again?, continue north along the eastern edge of Dolores Park until you reach 18th Street and Bi-Rite Creamery. If the line is too long for a regular cone, do yourself a favor and continue east down 18th to their soft serve window (I am a huge soft serve fan anyway- and beware, a large is really large!). If instead you’re looking for a baked good, continue to try the bread pudding at Tartine Bakery & Cafe. At this point, you can easily walk to the 16th & Mission BART stop to head to another area of town, or take the quick detour to Rainbow Grocery Cooperative to stock up on supplies for a picnic dinner- they have an amazing variety of products for all dietary preferences, a huge bulk section (bulk pastas! bulk coconut oil!), and awesome cheeses.
DAY TRIPS OUTSIDE OF SAN FRAN
Day Trip into Napa: If you’re not renting a car, you can take the scenic bay route by traveling by ferry to the Napa transit system (The Vine). On your way into Napa, stop at the Oakville Grocery for a quick bite or some crackers to keep you satiated during your wine tastings. If you’re looking for ice cream, The Big Dipper was a highlight. Get into the valley early to beat the crowds and find a couple vineyards you want to spend some time bouncing in between, or go to the Culinary Institute of America for a cooking demonstration and a tour of the grounds.
Berkeley Highlights: By car, don’t miss Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar for their 5 grain porridge or egg toast to start your day. Acme Bread Company next door will entice you to grab a baguette or two (cash only). Head towards UC Berkeley’s campus and walk through the grounds, and grab a cup at Caffe Strada and bask outside in their outdoor seating area with a book. Berkeley Bowl is just a few minutes drive away to grab all the groceries you could ever need, and I loved their veggie selections, local produce, and tons of bulk items.
Did I miss anything? What neighborhoods should I explore on my next trip? Feel free to let me know in the comments some of your favorite San Fran spots so others can see!