As I started the in-depth planning process for my latest trip to San Francisco, I found that my searches were vastly different to how I had done them on my first trip out years ago. Instead of searching for the top tourist spots, top things to do, best clubs/bars, etc – my search took a different turn.
I’d seen the Golden Gate bridge, smelled Fisherman’s Wharf and experienced the lovely Ferry Building. It was an exciting vacation the first time around, but going back a second time made me stop. I had gotten through the first layer of a multi-dimensional city, and I wanted more. I started looking at districts, parks, local hangouts, festivals and where to stay. I wanted to live like a local for a few days.
I’ve highlighted below some great experiences that were had on this trip, but this isn’t a list to copy and try and replicate. This is a personal experience of things I found and liked by looking outside of the tourist areas. If you go, I’d recommend finding a whole different set of activities and hidden places full of locals. There are tons of them and this is by no means the best/top/hotspot/go-to list. This is just what I found.
So here’s a few highlights of my second time around in San Francisco.
1) Instead of looking central for a hotel to stay, I found a great house to stay in around the Lower Pacific Heights area. Turning onto the street, I felt like I was coming home not away on a vacation. A beautifully lined street of houses, local coffee shops (b Patisserie), bars (San Francisco Athletic Club) and a great little pizza joint (Presidio Pizza Company) that was the best thing ever after a 17 hour flight from Singapore. This felt like home.
2) Our host suggested a long list of things her and her housemates liked to do in the area. First off was a walk around the Mission’s Dolores Park to enjoy some sunshine, people watch and snack on artisan finds from the Bi-Rite Market on 18th street. What more do you need on a sunny afternoon?
3) Exploring Haight & Ashbury was another colorful walk, taking in a crystal festival, an old record store, and even found a small meditation room in one of the free-spirited shops and gave that a go.
4) Took some time to explore the stomping ground of one of my favourite authors, Jack Kerouac of the Beat Generation. Vesuvio Cafe and City Lights Booksellers were just the place to rest my feet, take in the history and grab a drink while channeling the Beat era mentality. (I realise this is slightly touristy, but cut me a little slack)
5) The perfect end to any day, in my opinion, has to include a sunset. What better view than to watch it from the San Fran National Maritime Historical Park. As the sun set on a glorious day, we were gathered by locals and tourists alike who all stopped for 5 minutes to witness the beauty of the sunset.
Whether you’re visiting a city for the first time as a tourist or the twentieth time as a wannabe local, just take a moment to really take in what life is like in that place. Take in that experience, whatever it may be, whoever you are. And enjoy.