The Locals Love List

If you’re looking to do as many SF locals do, consider choosing from this list. From picnicking in Dolores Park to exploring secret gardens and ascending hidden stairways, here are some places and experiences locals love:

  1. Baker BeachBaker Beach doesn’t get the waves that Ocean Beach does, as it faces the Bay, but it does boast gorgeous views of Golden Gate Bridge. It tends to be less windy than Ocean Beach, meaning that it’s more of a “beachin’ it” beach, where you can lay and sunbath for hours on a sunny day. The northern part of the beach is nude-friendly, so no problem if you forgot your bathing suit at home! The homes in this area are incredible, definitely take a peek around the surrounding neighborhoods which are actually forbidden to tour buses.
  2. Lands End: An enchanted coastal hiking trail spanning a couple of miles. Hard to believe this is technically in the limits of SF, as it feels like you are no where close to a city. Brownie points if you find the labyrinth! Start or finish at Lands End Lookout, a gift shop and education center overlooking gorgeous Sutro Baths, the ruins of an old swimming pool.Double brownie points if you can find the tunnel down by the baths. Order a drink at the Cliff House or Louis Diner while you’re in the area. 
  3. Bernal Hill: Feel on top of the world when you behold the view from the top and swing on top of the world when you find the swing at the top. Popular among dog walkers and most recently, Instagrammers. Check out Bernal’s cute downtown area of shops and restaurants along Cortland Avenue.
  4. The Castro: The Castro is a community that wears its heart on its sleeve—take a minute to get acquainted with the Castro by taking a seat in Jane Warner Plaza. The epicenter for gay rights and pride, make sure to visit the GLBT Museum for some historical context. Check out the schedule for Castro Theater—if they’re hosting a sing-a-long, you’ll want to be there.
  5. The Women’s Building: A women-led non-profit arts and education community center covered head-to-toe with gorgeous and powerful murals. Want to check out more street art while in the neighborhood? Just walk around and look up! Two good starting points are Clarion Alley and Balmy Alley.
  6. Dolores Park: The living room of the city, you can observe any activity or find any character on a sunny weekend afternoon. Dolores Park serves what public plazas and piazzas serve in other countries, a public place where people meet and hang, vs. the places that are normally common in the United States to meet—restaurants, bars, and private homes.
  7. Stairways: Because of SF’s hilly nature, stairways are an awesome solution in navigating different neighborhoods.
    1. Filbert Street Steps: Find the flock of green parrots behind Coit Tower made famous in the documentary, “Parrots of Telegraph Hill.”
    2. 16th Ave. Tiled Steps: A lesser known urban hike with beautiful views of Golden Gate Park and the ocean. The beautifully designed stairs are the result of a cool community project.
  8. Flora Grubb Gardens: A magical indoor-outdoor garden and plant nursery in the Bayview Neighborhood. Sip some Ritual Coffee as you peruse the gardens or sit on a heated bench.
  9. Golden Gate Park: A mix of museums, gardens, and pagodas tuck into Golden Gate Park’s miles of scenic greenery. It’s a combination every San Franciscan enjoys. Don’t miss The Botanical Gardens, the bison paddock, and AIDS Memorial Grove. The Panhandle park (popular for BBQing) leading up to GGP, is home to one of the most popular biking and jogging paths.
  10. Haight Street: Although pronounced “hate,” this neighborhood has deep-rooted loving ideals. From vintage jewelry and clothing shops to far-out costumes, you can always find a new old look on the upper Haight streets, which comprise the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. A lot of important history has taken place here neighborhood—make sure to take the time to listen to it, including a stop at Amoeba Music. As you walk east along Haight, you’ll go down in elevation, crossing over Divisadero Street and entering the Lower Haight, home to dozens of intimate bars, hair salons, and small shops.
  11. Hayes Valley: From outdoor Biergartens to nitrogen infused ice cream shops, this neighborhood brings creative shops and killer restaurants to your doorstep.
  12. Farmers Markets: Bringing together neighbors outside to shop local, almost every single neighborhood has their own. You can only pick one? Check out California’s oldest one, Alemany Farmers’ Market, every Saturday morning. If you can’t make it to a farmers market, check out Rainbow Grocery (1745 Folsom St), an all-natural slice of SF life. Go to people watch and grab snacks for your travels in the bulk bins. Check out Alley Cat Guides’ list of Farmers Markets on the Events Page.
  13. The Inner RichmondAsian food hotspots, Russian bakeries, and brew-it-yourself beer. Spend hours leafing through books at Green Apple Books and ogling the aquatic creatures at 6th Avenue Aquarium.
  14. Seward Street SlidesChoose a piece of cardboard at the bottom of the slides, climb to the top, and enjoy the descent! But shhh!—be respectful of the neighbors!
  15. Beloved Theaters: The Sundance Kabuki Theater: A locally beloved movie theater that includes the option to sip on a cocktail while the film rolls. Castro Theater: A beautiful historic building with the personality of the Castro. Check out their calendar for sing-a-longs. Roxie Theater: The World’s 2nd longest continuously run theater, the Roxie and the Little Roxie play quite the eclectic collection of films.