San Francisco: 10 Things to Do Off the Beaten Path

San Francisco is a city of charm, color, and beautiful people. A lot of people refer to it as the New York City of the West Coast, but I have to disagree. It may be similar when it comes to the population and the rent prices, but there is so much more that factors into why San Francisco beats the Big Apple (in my opinion).

Don’t get me wrong, both cities are full of driven, hard-working people. But truthfully, San Francisco doesn’t revolve around money. The people that live there get that, and it sets the city apart.

San Francisco is a city of humble and welcoming people; when you meet them, they don’t want to know what you do for a living or how much money you make. They want to know your story: Where you came from, what your interests are, and if you want to go grab a beer / smoke a joint in the park sometime.

I love that about this city, and I think many people that live there can agree.


 

I’ve been to San Francisco 3 times now, and the first time I did what every other tourist would do; Walk the Golden Gate bridge, watch seals flop around Fisherman’s wharf, and of course take selfies in front of the Painted Sisters, AKA the houses from Full House (Spoiler Alert: Danny Tanner and little Michelle didn’t even shoot in one of those houses, so get over it).

This time around, I wanted to do things off the beaten path. I wanted to meet strangers, explore places that made me walk 5 miles uphill, try some of the best coffee, go out dancing with a 50 year old gay guy (to which I did), and see the city from different perspectives.

I did just that, and I want to share with you my favorite places. If you just want to look at the pictures down below, by all means. But if you do get the chance to visit San Francisco, the following are the spots you shouldn’t miss.

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Top of Vallejos Street / Russian Hill

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Shout out to my Mom for this epic compass that I now carry with me everywhere

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The Cliff House overlooking the Sutro Baths

10 Things to Do in San Francisco

1) Baker Beach – One of the best views of The Golden Gate bridge in my opinion. If you go far enough down the beach you might catch some people tanning topless. Also, the walk to get there takes you through a neighborhood of beautiful mansions that you just might think are all Mark Zuckerberg’s.

2) Top of Russian Hill (1000 block of Vallejo Street) – Everyone does not even pay attention to this small block. It gives you a breath-taking view when you get to the top and then you can walk down through a beautiful garden on the other side.

3) Mr Holmes Bakery – This place just opened a month ago and cannot be missed. Get one of their infamous CRUFFINS, and make sure you get there early, because they usually sell out by 10AM – Not kidding.

4) Muir Woods: Try your best to go there and not pull out your phone to take pictures. Just get lost in the surreal nature that is and appreciate the view.

5) Dolores Park: You can’t really go to San Francisco and not go to Dolores Park. It’s better than Golden Gate Park, and you might catch someone drinking a beer or smoking a joint that you can make friends with instantly.

6)  The Outer Sunset: Not many people make it here, because it’s so far out of the city. In my opinion this part of the city has the best places! It’s the beach-town area of SF, and it contains Lands End, the Cliff House, and eventually leads you to the Sutro Baths. My favorite little shop here was The General Store.

7) Noe Valley: All neighborhoods in SF are charming, but if you didn’t just eat a cheeseburger and have the energy to walk up and down hills, Noe Valley is alluring. This neighborhood has some of the most aesthetically-pleasing homes and awesome views looking down SF streets.

8) Corona Heights Peak: There are plenty of places to overlook the city, but I found this one was the least crowded with tourists. It’s worth the hike, trust me.

9) All of the independent coffee shops: San Francisco’s coffee industry is BREW-MING (see what I did there?). If you go to a Starbucks in this city, you should be absolutely ashamed of yourself. (Some of the best are: Front Coffee, Ritual, Sightglass and Fourbarrel)

10) Get lost. This city is a city of buildings AND nature. One minute you find yourself in the Financial District and the next minute you might find yourself on a hill that overlooks the entire landscape.

Don’t be that tourist, get out and explore everything.

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All photography by me, Jessica Smith.
Please feel free to email me if you have any questions on where these pictures were taken and for other things to do in San Francisco based on your interests! jezzicasmith1@gmail.com

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5 Comments

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  1. 1
    Elsa

    Hi, I have just found your blog and loved it. My name is Elsa, I live in Lisbon (similar bridge) and I will be visiting SF in 3 monthes.

    I love street art, is there any particular place in the city I should visit?

    If you evere come to Lisbon, feel free to write.

    Thanks

    Elsa

  2. 4
    Meghan

    Great rundown – thank you! Once quick note: the places you mentioned in the Outer Sunset are actually in the Outer Richmond (Sutro baths, Cliff House, Lands End, etc). The Outer Sunset is south of the park 🙂

  3. 5
    Laura

    Thank you! We only had one day to visit and explore San Francisco. I knew I didn’t want to run myself ragged trying to fit in all the typically recommended sites. I loved your advice. We checked out the view in the Cliff House area and made our way to Baker’s Beach. We took in some local coffee and pastry shops. And had the BEST time exploring one neighborhood (Hayes Valley) for hours. Thank you for the advice, “Don’t be a tourist.” I’d like to think I did my best. In the end, we took home lovely experiences and not just postcard photos.

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