Ultimate Guide to SF: Things to do, Where to Stay, What to Eat

I get hit up all the time for SF* recommendations and things to do while visiting San Francisco and I LOVE sharing them because this city is the absolute best to explore.

*I learned quickly that people refer to San Francisco as “SF” or “the city” and NEVER “San Fran” or “Frisco”. It’s funny how most locals cringe at those two names. So, if you want to blend in and not stand out as an obvious tourist, jump on board.

I’ve kept an ongoing list of classic staples and local secrets since I moved here and let me tell you, the honeymoon phase is not over. I learn something new about this city all the time and love hearing other people’s favorites, so please share if you see something missing.

I did my best to organize them into a few helpful categories and tried keeping it to my favorites as to not overwhelm because the possibilities really are endless in this 7×7 radius. That’s right, San Francisco is 7 miles x 7 miles in total. We pack a big punch in a small space. Enjoy!

And I’d be remiss not to mention that while you’re here we should do a photo shoot together. Happy to join you on any of the above activities to catch you in action ;) Contact me to schedule it today! 

Classic SF:

Adventurous:

  • Check out one of the swings in the city. Sometimes they’re taken down thanks to the parks services and silly liability laws but if they’re not, they’re very fun and there are several locations to spot them.
  • Head over to Westin St. Francis and sneak onto their glass elevator
    • Make sure it’s the right one because they have multiple elevator banks
    • Ride up to floor 32 for epic views of the city
  • Kayak in the bay
  • Hike Mount Tam or even drive up and picnic on the mountainside
  • Find sunshine on a cloudy day at Stinson Beach. If you do, make sure to grab the best tacos at the lifeguard tower The Siren Canteen
  • Slide down the Seward Street Slides

Artsy:

Fancy:

  • Book a reservation to soak at the Japanese pools of Onsen
  • Book a reservation at Nob Hill Spa
  • Check out the views and grab a cocktail at The View

Depends on your timing:

  • Weekly
    • Cal Academy of Sciences or the Exploratorium on Thursdays
    • Go to Wine Works for wine tasting on a Sunday
    • Free Tuesday comedy at Pizza Hacker
    • Take a silent disco yoga class on Sat or Sunday with Outdoor Yoga SF
    • Free yoga at Grace Cathedral on Tuesdays
    • Ferry Building farmers market
  • Seasonal
    • Go to Off The Grid (Fridays at Fort Mason, Sundays in the Presidio)
    • Catch a Giants game at AT&T park
    • Treasure Island Flea Market
    • Movies in the park
    • Ice Skating at the ferry building
  • Festivals (Day Only)
    • Bay to Breakers
    • Check out Chinese New Year in China Town
    • Outside Lands
    • Hardly Strictly
    • Pride

Only here for the food? 

I have a wildly expansive, always evolving spreadsheet where you can sort by neighborhood, dining occasion, cuisine, etc. Get ready to be overwhelmed here. 

Or get the easy staples, light reading below:

Brunch:

  • Zazie. Known for their pancakes. Packed on the weekends.
  • Brenda’s Soul Food.
  • Elite Cafe.
  • Cafe Reveille.
  • Mr. Holmes Bakery.

Lunch:

  • Tartine Manufactory.
  • Palm House.
  • Le Marais.
  • Blue Barn. Very “Marina” of you.
  • Naked Lunch. Great fried chicken sandwich.

Dinner:

  • Foreign Cinema.
  • Flour + Water.
  • Sodini’s.
  • Flores.
  • Barcino.
  • China Live.

Drinks:

  • Cliffhouse. On the outskirts of the city but the views are beautiful and it’s historic
  • Black Cat. Great cocktails, better jazz.
  • Club Deluxe.
  • Southern Pacific Brewery.
  • Anina.
  • Biig.
  • The Riddler.
  • Leo’s Oyster Bar.
  • Loew’s Regency.

Working coffee shops:

  • Interval Long Now.
  • Saint Frank.
  • Le Marais.

Only here for the shopping?

  • Westfield mall and Union Square are your one stop shop locations
  • Ambience is my favorite SF local boutique with lots of brands
  • Walk down Valencia in the Mission for fun sights, cool shops and EVERLANE
  • Walk down Chesnut or Union in the Marina for fun boutiques and lots of shopping opps along with bars to keep you hydrated along the way

On my personal evolving bucket list:

Where to stay?

Unfortunately lots of the hotels are located in Union Square where you’ll find mainly other tourists and no local flavor, but there are a few hidden gems if you’re looking for something more unique including:

Want to get out of town while you’re visiting?

Guides coming out for these cities soon but hit me up privately if you can’t wait.

  • Sonoma/Napa
  • Big Sur
  • Point Reyes
  • Healdsburg
  • Oakland
  • Berkeley
  • Santa Cruz
  • Yosemite

Happy to join you on any of the above activities to catch you in action ;) Contact me to schedule it today! 

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