Most visitors to San Francisco head for the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and of course Alcatraz. Although the cool, alternative city has so much more to offer (and also plenty of great San Francisco hotels to stay in). From giant street slides to clubbing the night away in a museum here is my guide to the Top 10 cool things to do in San Francisco…
1. Be a bookworm at Borderlands Books
At first, you might ask yourself: why visit a city to read books? But Borderland Books is definitely worth a visit. The store is lined with wooden shelves from floor to ceiling and you can find the best of science fiction, horror and fantasy here (including many rare titles). The back area is a perfect space for lounging about and reading, but many visitors also plunk down on the carpets. Also look out for their two resident Sphynx cat mascots – Ash and Frost.
2. Explore crazy murals at Clarion Alley
San Francisco is full of interesting murals and graffiti but the bohemian area Clarion Alley offers some of the best examples. The street can be found between Mission and Valencia Streets and 17th and 18th Streets and it’s the site of Clarion Alley Mural Project (an artists’ collective formed in October 1992). It’s particularly interesting because the designs change frequently so you can visit again and again without seeing the same thing twice.
3. Stay at an art hotel
Located in the French Quarter, the Hotel des Arts presents the contemporary work of local arts. The Painted Rooms are designed and painted by emerging artists from around the world. While some are imaginative installations, others are edgy graffiti-inspired works for art. It also offers some very reasonable room rates.
4. Stop for breakfast at La Boulange
The much loved La Boulange Bakery & Café has several locations throughout the city. Once known as Bay Bread, it was started in 1996 by a French trained baker and it has quickly become San Francisco’s favorite French bakery. It has a cute atmosphere and excellent food, including delicious almond croissants. They also only serve organic coffee and espressos.
5. Savour some oysters
With its bay location, San Francisco is a great location to try oysters and other seafood. Don’t know where to start? Try Tomales Bay Oyster Company. It has a picnic area with BBQs right on the beach. If you prefer your oysters cooked, you can grill them right there.
6. Dance the night away at the California Academy of Sciences
During the day, the California Academy of Sciences – one of the largest museums of natural history in the world – is over-run by shouting school kids. Each Thursday night, the museum transforms into somewhat of a nightclub, including guest DJs (or live bands) and several bars. A unique night out which is great for meeting like-minded people.
7. Slide, slide, slide
To relive the child inside you, head to Eureka Valley’s Seward mini-park. Here you can find several giant street slides, which were designed with the adult in mind. That is, they are long, winding (and fun!) At the same time, you can enjoy beautiful gardens and stunning views. Locals’ advice: if you are racing against a friend, pick the right slide of the two that are parallel to one another – it’s faster!
8. Cruise with a lover
If you are in San Francisco with a special someone, why not take an evening dinner cruise? It’s very romantic. Before, stop at the Embarcadero area and admire the Cupid’s Arrow sculpture.
9. Check out the fish
From the outside, Sixth Avenue Aquarium and Flowers looks like just another normal florist. Behind the flowers, however, there is really a large aquarium shop. Here, you can find beautiful salt and fresh water fish. The stock changes all the time. Check it out at 425 Clement St.
10. Hike up (and then down)
San Francisco is a hilly city, but to get to the real mountains, you have to head a bit outside. On a sunny day, outdoor lovers can enjoy hidden hiking trails and paths on Mt. Tamalpais. For stunning bay views, in turn, head to Angel Island.
I hoped you liked my guide, if you’re still longing for more check out Tourist Link to find a local guide to take you around San Francisco.