While most San Francisco tourists are heading to Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the latest trendy restaurants, take the opportunity to veer off the busy path and explore some of the hidden highlights Bay Area residents know and love. The best way to experience this city is to experience it just like a local.
Tacos and Thrifting
With blocks of cool art murals, the Mission District (near Mission Street between 14th and Cesar Chavez streets) was once famous for the cheap rents that attracted artists and musicians. Now, it’s better known for its boho boutiques and authentic Mexican restaurants. For awesome tacos, try Don Pistos, La Torta Gorda, or Padrecito. As for shopping, don’t miss Paxton Gate for vintage taxidermy and other household oddities or Gravel & Gold for clothes and accessories.
Walk on Artwork
One amazing neighborhood collaboration resulting in a stunningly photogenic piece of art isn’t actually found in a museum. Head over to Golden Gate Heights at 16th Avenue and Moraga Street to find the 16th Avenue Stairs, which are covered with colorful mosaic tiles. Why climb with the masses to the top of Coit Tower when you could dance up 163 steps of artwork?
View Without the Work
You could spend a few hours walking over the Golden Gate Bridge with the rest of the crowd, but if your purpose is to enjoy the view, skip the hordes and head over to Crissy Field. Located between Marina Green and Fort Point on the northern side of the bridge, it offers the same breathtaking views along a much less crowded promenade.
Feel Like a Kid Again
If you find yourself at the top of a steep hill with an option to take an old flight of stairs or a race-worthy slide to the bottom, which would you choose? If your answer is the slide (of course!), head over to Bernal Heights around Winfield and Esmerelda Streets. Take a friend — and a thin towel to protect yourself from the heat of the metal — and hop on the 35-foot Bernal Slides for a fun race to the bottom. Loser buys burritos!
Smell the Roses
Behind the ball fields, carousel, and buffalo of Golden Gate Park is the peaceful Conservatory of Flowers. Hidden inside this famous building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, the rarest blossoms, colorful orchids, tall timber bamboo, and giant lilies make up a 2,000-plant collection. It’s an ideal spot to stop and smell the roses — literally.
Music of the Sea
Outdoors and free to the public, the Wave Organ is a musical work of wonder that’s best seen at high tide. Created by artists Peter Richards and George Gonzales, this stone masterpiece uses the Bay’s tides to bring music to the ears of visitors who know about this special spot. Find it in the marina near the Golden Gate Yacht Club.
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