I am by no means going to pretend like I know everything about San Francisco. I went there briefly while I was on a cross country road trip in my early 20’s, and Walter and I went over the summer for Comedy Central’s Clusterfest to see a bunch of comics. I’m not even going to get into food, because it’s just way too overwhelming. Suffice it to say that you basically can’t go wrong, but make sure that you bring a ton of money. Yes, you can go see the Painted Ladies and take a picture with the Full House house. I will also tell you to skip Alcatraz. We went and while the island itself is beautiful, it’s really just insanely sad and I don’t get the type of people who want to take pictures of themselves in jail cells. Like, genuinely. I cried on the tour. It almost ruined our whole day. Instead, here are some fun, happy things that we did there and really enjoyed!
I think I am going to start with Chinatown because it was my favorite place. Make sure to go to Tin How Temple! You aren’t allowed to actually take photos inside, but it’s an absolutely beautiful place of worship in the middle of the city. It’s in a super strange location, up flights of stairs in a very unassuming building, where you will inevitable feel like you are in the wrong place. You’re not!
Just walking around Chinatown is so beautiful and inspiring. Waverley Place has some of the most beautifully painted buildings in the area and is very Instagram friendly.
Check out Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. This factory and storefront is such a neat little place. It is so interesting to see how fortune cookies are made. You can also try a hot, fresh fortune cookie and I was blown away by how good it was.
After all of the walking you will do around Chinatown, drop into Li Po Lounge. Li Po claims to be the originator of the Mai Thai, but they just made ours with a mix. It’s a super fun little dive, though! We had a blast there.
The Ferry Building Marketplace is absolutely gorgeous. Filled with small vendors, you can grab a bite and go sit outside by the bay for a lovely view.
Letterform Archive is a collection of lettering, typography, and graphic design. SO up our alley. Unbelievable. They have special events here, and you can schedule a tour as well. Just overwhelmingly beautiful!
Tonga Room is a tiki bar inside of a hotel, and it is SO much fun! We had such a great time here. Not only are the drinks delicious, but the whole bar is centered around what used to be a pool. It has turned into the stage for their entertainment, which performs on the boat pictured above. For added dramatic effect, it RAINS INSIDE. Just over the pool, you don’t get wet. But how insane is that?! We had so much fun dancing and being goofy.
This place is so freaking cool, and genuinely confusing. Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze is located in the very touristy Pier 39, which is worth a look anyway. I don’t mind when things are really touristy, and we had a fun afternoon laughing at a haunted SF theatrical experience and singing karaoke in a gilded bar.
Find an It’s-It and eat one. They’re easy to find all over. They are an ice cream sandwich made with two oatmeal cookies and coated in dark chocolate. Trust me.
This arcade is filled with coin-operated games, machines, and photo booths. A really neat way to spend an afternoon, especially if you appreciate the way these things are constructed as much as I do!
Check out the San Francisco MoMA. They have a really beautiful collection in a very architecturally pleasing space. When we were there, we saw a Margritte exhibit and it was out of this world. They also have an enormous living wall outside, which is a gorgeous photo op and a nice break from the bustle of the city.
Speaking of needing a little greenery, Tree Fern Dell is absolutely gorgeous. These plants are actually from Australia, and they make you feel like you are a dinosaur in a prehistoric forest.
Check out the Museum of Illegal Images. It’s all just blotter paper, so it’s basically an LSD museum. The papers are so unique and beautiful, though!
This is exactly what it sounds like - a GIANT camera obscura. So neat!!
Check out Tenderloin National Forest - a green space curated by artists. It’s a nice little break in the alleyway from the city, and they often have art performances going on.
Paxton Gate is a store dedicated to all things natural. They have plants, taxidermy, gems, wooden toys, the list goes on and on. A really interesting place to take a souvenir home from!
So there you have it, my list of things to do in SF that will ensure that you have a great time. SF is a beautiful city and a cultural giant, but wear really comfortable shoes and whatever you do, don’t call it San Fran! LOL.