Heading to San Francisco, San Fran, San Francisco Double Dutch Disco (shout-out Kimya Dawson), NorCal— or whatever you want to call it? Well, last March, I visited my best friend at her house in Mill Valley, and before I went, I was a bit of a newbie. I had only been to San Francisco two times before, so when she asked me what I wanted to do, I just stared at her blankly: I have no idea, you’re the one who lives here, not me!
If you’re in the same boat, I’m here to help you out. I’ve created a list of four San Francisco attractions that my friend and I did when I was visiting her family last spring— things that I want to recommend you do when you’re there.
So for starters, I guess I should start out with the tourist-y things. And no, I’m not talking about the Golden Gate Bridge— that’s a little too obvious. But then again, I guess so is my first recommendation:
-About: Fisherman’s Wharf is San Francisco’s most popular visitor destination, with restaurants, shopping, and places to stay. It is the center of the city’s historic fishing industry and the launching point for Bay cruises. Come to Fisherman’s Wharf to see the famous sea lions, or to visit Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
-My Take: Did you ever watch That’s So Raven? Well, it took place in SF and every time the show would resume from a commercial break, it would pan to a shot of Fisherman’s Wharf. And in The Princess Diaries, you know the scene where Julie Andrews— Queen Clarisse Renaldi— takes her granddaughter Mia Thermopolis— a very young, curly-haired Anne Hathaway— to that place with all the arcade games, and she cleans off the rubber man’s hand before battling him in an arm wrestle competition? Well, that takes place at Musee Mecanique in Fisherman’s Wharf. I think it’s a fun place to come be a tourist, so I recommend you ride a cable car, see if your arm is stronger than the man’s at Musee, and eat some chocolate from the Ghirardelli Square shop.
My second recommendation is a little tourist-y still, but a very different vibe than Fisherman’s Wharf:
The Haight, or Haight-Ashbury:
-About: In the ‘60s, Haight-Ashbury was the most famous intersection in the world, and in 1967— the Summer of Love— the Haight was the place to be if you were a hippie. It was the origin of the American subculture. Joan Didion even wrote about her experience here in the ‘60s in her collection of essays titled “Slouching Towards Bethlehem.”
-My Take: The Haight was the first place my friend brought me (well, after we lunched at Sushirrito). The strip is lined with tattoo parlors, vibrant graffiti, and great vintage shops, like Wasteland, with graphic tees and used clothing. I came on Friday, the 13th, so we wanted to get $13 tattoos. After going to a few of the shops, we realized their selections were limited to special Friday the 13th tats, which included knives and black cats. Do I really want a deck of cards with a 13 on it on my body forever? Probably not, so we left and wandered around.
Drive to Napa and go wine tasting:
-About: Napa is about 1.5 hours away from San Francisco, so if you’ve got a free afternoon, a designated driver, and a wine craving, then you should do it.
-My Take: Visit Alpha Omega. It was one of my favorite vineyards I went to when I was there. The wine is a bit pricy, but totally worth it— I’d argue that it is the best wine I’ve ever tasted. Plus, they offer an amazing view, surrounded by vineyards and mountains. Your server will even explain to you all the flavors in the wine, and how the wine was made in order to get these flavors. It’s a great experience overall.
Go to Berkeley and eat breakfast at the Saturn Café:
-About: About a 30-minute drive from San Francisco, the Saturn Café is a vegetarian spot in the UCBerkeley area, bringing customers healthy twists on American food, while focusing on sustainability (they fry their potatoes in trans-fat free oil that gets recycled into bio-diesel fuel) and using local, organic food.
-My Take: It is a fun diner in a college town, so the customers are young and hip. I recommend trying out their vegan milkshakes— I’m not a vegan, but the chocolate peanut butter kind is to die for, trust me! I also had the vegan spuds, which is a scramble made with tofu, potatoes, and veggies. Your belly and your taste buds will leave the Saturn Café satisfied.
Some other suggestions for your trip: visit SusieCakes or go to a beach, like Ocean Beach, where dogs are allowed to run around off-leash. If you have any other suggestions, comment below or let us know. We’d love to hear from you!
For more on San Francisco, read at ATR: