There is, of course, much more to San Francisco than just eating, drinking and famed Fisherman’s Wharf. San Francisco is incredibly diverse with quaint neighborhoods fused together as pint-sized hamlets within the city. Each of these neighborhoods offer its own sights to see, flavors to taste and adventures to experience. The best means of access to everything each has to offer is to just put on a pair of walking shoes and get moving.
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is the perfect spot for a gorgeous daytime stroll surrounded by lush greenery. Head over to the DeYoung Museum at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, recently renovated by renowned architects Herzog & de Meuron. The museum’s geometric-organic facade is just as captivating as collections held within.
The oldest structure in this picturesque park is the Conservatory of Flowers. This glass masterpiece was constructed in England and dates to 1879. It is considered to be one of the most important examples of Victorian architecture among so many of that era’s examples in the Bay Area.
Right across the street is the brand new California Academy of Sciences, designed by Renzo Piano. This exhibit center once held the title of America’s Greenest Building, complete with a “living roof.” Make sure to stroll through the 4-story rainforest, a memorable walk.
Hayes Valley is bursting at the seams with adorable cafes, hip shops and more. Boutiques here feature an eclectic mix of independent designers and it is the perfect place to snap up modernist home accessories with that signature San Francisco flavor. Don’t miss Azalea at 411 Hayes Street for a great selection of trend-forward pieces you won’t find anywhere else. Gimme Shoes at 416 Hayes Street keeps San Francisco pedestrians hoofing it in style. Make like a local and grab a cup of micro-roasted Blue Bottle Coffee at 315 Linden Street before stopping into Miette Confiserie at 449 Octavia Street. At Miette Confiserie you can take a respite in this jewel box of a candy store, munching double-salt Dutch licorice, Earl Grey Dark Chocolate, and homespun cotton candy.
For a postcard-worthy promenade, head over to the Marina and stroll through Crissy Field. This area used to be part of the Presidio Army Base, but now is an open recreation area where joggers, dog walkers, kite-flyers and visitors can take in green lawns, sandy coastline, and native marshland against the beautiful backdrop of the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Feel free to bring a picnic lunch, but don’t forget a jacket, as it can get windy!
Japan Center is just a mile from Union Square. This is the heart of San Francisco’s Japantown, also the oldest Japanese community in the United States. Yes it is a mall, but like a special sushi roll it is packed full of surprises. You will delight in getting lost in this twisting, winding shopping center where it is nearly impossible to acquire an unlikable meal, whether it is a piping hot bowl of ramen soup or a spicy tuna roll that you seek.
Check out the Kinokuniya Bookstore, which carries many Japanese titles, as well as English books, graphic novels, and amazing imported fashion magazines. One can certainly lose track of time in their cooking section, dreaming of homemade tsukemono. Also pop into Townhouse Living for beautiful furniture, shoji screens and colorful paper lanterns, to take a little Zen back home with you.
If you find yourself in North Beach, a great way to work off that triple-scoop of gelato is to ascend famed Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower. The view from this iconic San Francisco landmark is one of the top views in the city and the murals which decorate the interior of the Tower, reminiscent of Diego Rivera’s style of social realism, are some of California’s best examples of Depression-era public art.