Off-The-Beaten Path List of San Francisco Must Do's

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san francisco

Looking to explore San Francisco, California? Here’s a fun list of what to do and see in this eclectic city:

Food & Drink

Savor A Burrito

According to Lee Abbamonte, the youngest American to visit every country in the world, the burrito was born in San Francisco and they still have the best in the world. Top recommendation: Pancho Villa.

7 Days Of Ice Cream In San Francisco

San Francisco also has a sweet tooth — seven days of it — according to Rease Kirchner of Indecisive Traveler. Personally, I’m digging the “Magnolia Stout Secret Breakfast” ice cream with cornflakes and bourbon. Quirky!

San Francisco Coffee Guide

Need a java boost? Arnette of Round The World Girl certainly found a slew of great coffee shops in San Francisco, from no frills cafes to fancier roasts to caffeine paired with sweets. The photography alone is a worth a peek.

san francisco

Photo courtesy of OmniBrain via freeimages.com.

Union Square Cocktail Tour

For a unique sip of San Fran, Carole Terwilliger Meyers of Weekend Adventures Update recommends a Union Square Cocktail Tour, which takes you back in time to the golden era of cocktails (the 1860s to 1920s). If you like it hot — and you all know I love spicy cocktails — try a “Pequito Picante” from the Burritt Room in the Mystic Hotel. Fun fact: Did you know that it was in San Francisco that women first began sitting next to men in a bar?

My San Francisco Food List

For your ultimate guide to what to eat in San Francisco, Anne Lowrey of Part Time Traveler has you covered with everything from the best bahn mi outside of Vietnam at Saigon Sandwich to amazing margaritas at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. Yum!

A Local Bite Of San Francisco

For those who love to eat local, San Francisco has some not-to-miss stops, documented thoroughly by Jan Ross of Wanderlust Wonder. Tip: For a guided experience, opt for an excursion with Local Tastes of the City Tours.

15 Things To Eat In San Francisco

How could something called “The Best Damn Cheeseburger” not be amazing? The food porn in this post will have you drooling all over your laptop.

san francisco

Photo courtesy of ettina82 via freeimages.com.

Local Dining Experiences Via Feastly

I’m a big fan of going local when I travel, which platforms like EatWith and Feastly are amazing for, as they allow you to have a themed meal in a local home. Some San Francisco options include Holistic Cleanse Cooking, a Spanish Sherry Feast and a Pasta-Making Class.

The Best Cheap Eats In San Francisco

Stuffed corn cakes for $2.50? Northern Thai Sausage for $8.95? Hanoi-style pho ga for $6.75? Deliciousness that doesn’t break the bank.

Offbeat

san francisco

San Francisco – Mission District Mural “Into This World”. Photo courtesy of David Ohmer via flickr.

Stay Away From The Tourist Zone

Anne Lowrey of Part-Time Traveler gives a slew of great recommendations for those looking to experience the offbeat side of San Fran. For one, stay out of the touristy areas like Union Square, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf and instead venture out to iconic neighborhoods such as The Mission, The Haight (home of the hippie movement) and the Castro (one of the nation’s first and most lively gay neighborhoods). According to Anne, there’s plenty to see and do in those areas that is uniquely San Francisco.

Visit The Pirate Store

Anne Lowrey also suggests visiting 826 Valencia, aka “The Pirate Store.” Here, you’ll find pirate-themed items and gifts in a place that is actually the storefront for a writing non-profit for children run by Dave Eggers. The building was zoned as commercial, so they constructed this creative shop that sells everything from books to peg legs. She also adds that the local favorite Smuggler’s Cove is another kitschy pirate spot with the city’s best cocktails and a collection of over 200 types of rum.

Explore The Street Art

According to Anne Lowrey, visitors should seek out the city’s street art, with one recommendation being Clarion Alley Mural Project between Mission and Valencia Streets and 17th and 18th Streets.  It artfully displays some of the contemporary social and cultural issues facing the city today.

san francisco

Burrito photo courtesy of Mr.TinDC via flickr.

 Hidden Things To Do In San Fransisco

Jason McDonald presents a nice list of offbeat things to do in San Fran, like 16th Avenue Tiled Steps, the Cartoon Art Museum and eating the impressive Gordo’s Burrito.

25 Things You Didn’t Know About San Francisco

Not really a travel guide, but a listicle of fun facts from Mental Floss. Did you know the fortune cookie was invented in San Francisco? Or that when Al Capone was held at Alcatraz he was in a band and played the banjo on Sundays?

Culture

Andrew Goldsworthy Art Installations At The Presidio

Carole Terwilliger Meyers of Weekend Adventures Update suggests art lovers peruse the three permanent collection at The Presidio by English artist Andrew Goldsworthy. What’s interesting about these pieces is the weave nature into the art, with two of the exhibits being in the beautiful outdoors.

Touring San Francisco (Great 1-Day Itinerary Provided)

Interested in seeing the best of the city? Jan Ross of Wanderlust Wonder tells of her time exploring San Fran, making stops at attractions like the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, the affluent Nob Hill neighborhood, Muir Woods wilderness area and Fisherman’s Wharf, a great spot to hear awesome street musicians.

Take A Victorian Home Walk

Mike and Luci of 1000 Places To Fight Before You Die thoroughly enjoyed their Victorian Home Walk excursion in San Francisco, exploring the beautiful architecture of the Pacific Heights area and celebrity mansions overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.

san francisco

The view from The Inn Above Tide hotel. Photo courtesy of Savoir There.

Adventure & Outdoors

Amazing Views

If Jaillan Yehia of Savoir There had to provide one tip to anyone spending time in the Bay Area, it would be “to take the Golden Gate Ferry (which has been voted the #1 ferry trip in the US) over to Sausalito and check out the panoramic view of the bustling city from this quaint village. From this vantage point you have all the sights of San Fran strung out across the bay like a chain of fairy lights in front of you – from downtown San Francisco’s skyscrapers, the Bay Bridge and the legendary island of Alcatraz to Berkeley and Oakland, with the endless view bookended by Belvedere at one edge and the Golden Gate, hidden by hills, at the other.”

Wildlife Activities For The San Francisco Bay Area

SFBayWildlife.info put together a great list of wildlife-related activities for visitors, from taking a guided walk at the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center to going on a whale watching excursion.

Outdoor Adventures: Hiking In San Francisco

The PlanetD fills us in on some awesome hikes near San Fran (hint: the Land’s End Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a must-see).

7 Best Waterfall Hikes Near San Francisco

The Bold Italic is one of the best blogs out there for those interested in San Fran (and who want to pee their pants from laughing so hard). Check out this post on awesome waterfall hikes. Other great outdoorsy guides you’ll find on their site include 10 Best SF Sledding Spots, Best Camping Within Two Hours Of San Francisco and Great SF Bike Spots.

Day Trips

Here are a few recommended day trips from Cassie Kifer.

Discovering Livermore Valley Wine Country

Oenophiles should consider taking a day trip to Livermore Valley Wine Country, about an hour from San Francisco. One great time to go is spring, when the valley hosts their annual Barrel Tasting Weekend, with winemakers showing off their latest creations. The region’s wine history dates back to the 1760s, and interestingly about 80% of the chardonnay grapes from in California can trace their roots back here.

san francisco

Photo courtesy of Daniel Neal via flickr.

Hunting Mushrooms on the California Coast (and Living to Tell the Tale)

Italy isn’t the only place one can forage for delicious edible mushrooms.

East Bay Beer Crawl

Oakland and its surrounds are home to a burgeoning craft beer scene worth exploring. Luckily, it’s a do-able day trip from San Fran.

A Marin County Cheese, Oyster & Beer Tour

Want some cheese and oysters with your beer? Marin is an easy day trip.

Have any San Francisco travel tips to add? Please share in the comments below.

Top photo credit: Photo courtesy of walker_M via FreeImages.com.

Jessica Festa
Jessica Festa is the editor of the travel sites Jessie on a Journey (http://jessieonajourney.com) and Epicure & Culture (http://epicureandculture.com). Along with blogging at We Blog The World, her byline has appeared in publications like Huffington Post, Gadling, Fodor's, Travel + Escape, Matador, Viator, The Culture-Ist and many others. After getting her BA/MA in Communication from the State University of New York at Albany, she realized she wasn't really to stop backpacking and made travel her full time job. Some of her most memorable experiences include studying abroad in Sydney, teaching English in Thailand, doing orphanage work in Ghana, hiking her way through South America and traveling solo through Europe. She has a passion for backpacking, adventure, hiking, wine and getting off the beaten path.
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