With San Francisco having the reputation as being a foggy city, the Mission District is a sunny spot where the locals flock to catch a few rays. If unexpected windy and cool weather catches you by surprise — it happens around these parts — it’s a great place to hang out and beat the chill. It’s also where the locals play hooky, so don’t be surprised if you find loads of folks in Dolores Park any day of the week. Views of the city’s skyline, off-leash dog parks, and nearby picnic sites all add to a fun rep. And the park is right next door to Mission Dolores, a spot with rich history as the site of a Jewish cemetery and former haven for folks after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Mission Dolores Basilica
If you like things old, the Mission Dolores Basilica is both the oldest original mission still standing in California and the oldest building in San Francisco. It’s not easy to have a blast in San Francisco on a budget, but a lot of times, you can swing by churches and listen to music for free. At this particular church, there’s a Sunday organ series worth checking out from September to November and February through May.
Mission District Restaurants
Just steps from Mission Dolores Basilica is a happy foodie hunting ground. Mission District San Francisco eateries are some of the best around. Namu Gaji is a go-to for home cooked Asian eats, right on the corner of 18th Street and Dolores. It’s a family-run hot spot that dishes up a slew of Asian-inspired dishes — but with cool twists, like the Loco Moco burger, Japanese savory pancakes, and chicken ramen.
Top taquerias rule the Mission District food scene. In fact, La Taqueria on Mission Street won a James Beard America’s Classics award in 2017. So, you can’t really beat all the taquerias in the area, but you could always base your picks on your mood or just how hungry you are.
Spend some time checking out the colorful murals in Clarion Alley before heading over to Valencia Street. The stretch between 17th and 19th is packed with amazing eats, like lunch at Mau, street snacks at Curry Up Now, and macaroni and cheese at Mission Cheese.
Mission District Sweets
Right next door to Namu Gaji is the must-visit sweet spot Bi-Rite Creamery, scooping up awesome ice cream flavors like salted caramel, honey lavender, and basil — that’s right, basil. Another can’t-miss spot is Tartine Bakery. Pop in to sink your teeth into a savory scone, coconut crème tart, or a loaf of fresh-baked bread.
Time to treat yourself even more? You can always find something lip-smacking good at Dandelion Chocolate, a bean to bar chocolate maker that serves up choice creations like a cacao fruit smoothie. Another one-of-a-kind stop is Craftsman and Wolves, dishing up both sweet and savory treats like the “rebel within,” a muffin stuffed with a soft-boiled egg and a square donut. Craftsman and Wolves also sells jams and snacks, great gifts no matter the season or the reason.
Mission District Shopping
The Mission District is loaded with cool shops, like the art gallery at Creativity Explored. Step into Paxton Gate to find a world of funky home goods and nature- and science-themed goodies, like astronomy maps, claw candlesticks, and taxidermy. Need a little more retail therapy? Then make tracks to Therapy for local clothing, kitchen items, notebooks, stationary, jewelry, and one-of-a-kind gifts.
Valencia Street is your go-to for great retro and vintage clothing stores. Relic Vintage is a top retro fashion boutique for both men and women. A block away is Afterlife Boutique, chock-full of collectible concert T-shirts, plus other vintage fashion and bling.
Mission District Nightlife
One of the best things about sticking around the Mission District after the sun goes down is the nightlife, with awesome places to chow down and cool spots for live music. If you’re on a budget but still want to plug into a festive vibe, head to Esperpento for tapas and mingling. Some kickin’ clubs for live jams include The Chapel (set up in a former mortuary chapel), Elbo Room, and Amnesia, where you can groove to music from bluegrass to bossa nova and swing to soul.
Do you know of more ultra-cool places to shop, eat, and hear live music in the Mission District? Tag Dollar Car Rental on Instagram so we can check ‘em out!