How to Tour San Francisco Like a Local

I went to San Francisco to visit my friend and Co-Founder of ModSpot, Tracy, in San Francisco this past February. The best part of the time there, was the fact that she is a foodie. And I mean, we never went to the same place twice, she always looked at reviews prior to eating and we would drive across the city just to try a new place. The food variety included Thai, South American, Burmese, Japanese, Mexican, Mongolian, and more. We actually attempted to never have the same type of food twice!

In between all of these awesome foods, we toured natural spaces like Golden Gate Park and hiked at Land’s End. We explored Pier 39 (I wanted to see those Sea Lions) and even visited art galleries.

So this is how to do San Fran like a local…

1. Check out the Districts

I loved the city with it’s mash up of so many unique districts like Mission and Castro (turns out Mission is Francisco’s oldest neighborhood and has some of the hottest restaurants and galleries). Not to mention how quick you can get to the California Coast and drive along the gorgeous road overlooking the ocean. Each of the districts have their own flair and even change from day to night.

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Tracy & I enjoying an art alley in Mission
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Tasty Thai Restaurant in Mission
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We even did a U-Turn so Tracy could show me this awesome collection of dolls in someone’s window in Castro
The crosswalks in the Castro district even have rainbows!
The crosswalks in the Castro district have rainbows!

2. Explore the Art & Museums

There is always something to do and something to explore. I wanted to experience San Francisco the way that locals experience it. But there were a few cliches I couldn’t pass up like seeing the Painted Ladies and the Full House (right when Fuller House was debuting on Netflix!).

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The Painted Ladies is this row of pretty painted houses

Of course, being in San Francisco there is bound to be fog and drizzle so what did we do? Try to search for fun things to do indoors. Like visit the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park (which is like the Central Park of San Fran).

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Tracy taking in the view from the museum tower

3. Enjoy Cultural Events

 With the great luck that I had, I was there in time for the Chinese New Year celebration and parade! I wanted to see the dragons, but I was blown away with the number and variety of dragons there. Want to know what’s going on when you’re there? Check here.

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Chinese New Year on Market Street

4. Eat, Eat & Eat

We followed up the awesome parade with some Mongolian Hot Pot at Little Sheep which we waited forever to get a table at but the wait was totally worth it.

We were given these cute pinwheels at the parade so of course they were part of our photo!
We were given these cute pinwheels at the parade, so of course they were part of our photo!

5. See the Golden Gate Bridge

As the days went on, we went to the Golden Gate Bridge (which is a lot longer to walk on than you would think) and we could see the skyline of the city and Alcatraz from the water. It gets a bit breezy on the bridge, but we were blessed with warmth and clear skies.

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A gorgeous panorama from the bridge

6. Go for a Hike

By this time after walking along the water and the bridge we were pretty hungry so we got some sushi, followed by some Vietnamese treats and coffee (whoa, is the coffee strong!). We had to fuel up for a hike at Land’s End where you can see the open ocean and hike back towards the Golden Gate Bridge.

Our tasty sushi before we went on a hike
Our tasty sushi before we went on a hike
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This path gives so many gorgeous views of the Bridge and water
There is nothing like nature to help you unwind and relax
There is nothing like nature to help you unwind and relax

Once finish with that hike, we kept driving and exploring the coast and beaches. We stopped by and saw some people having fires on the beach, but it was so windy sand was flying in our faces (so watch out for that!).12715343_10156503282530587_6731683998163481294_n

8. Explore the Coast

This trip would not have felt like I visited California if we had not driven and wandered along the coast. You can choose how long you want to drive but we headed to Half Moon Bay. It was gorgeous, we got tasty seafood for dinner and watched the sunset from a park.

After driving through a tunnel under the mountain we came out to this view
We got amazing fresh crab cakes and ate on the patio
We got amazing fresh crab cakes and ate on the patio at Sam’s Chowder House
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We got to enjoy the sun setting over the ocean, although clear skies at the horizon offer the most breathtaking views

9. Head to Pier 39 & the Marina

Honestly, I feel like the journey to get to the Pier and Fisherman’s Wharf was filled with so many things I wanted to see, or things to take photos of for my friends. You can drive down Lombard Street and then go see the old street cars, get fresh (and cheap) seafood, see the wild sea lions who took over the docks, and explore amazing local art.

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The zig zag Lombard Street is usually covered in blooms, but I was visiting in February, so I was a little early
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My mom really wanted me to take a ride on one of these, but it never was on my way, so I snapped a photo of one while heading to the Pier
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More crab cakes and calamari salad at the market on Fisherman’s Wharf
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We grabbed lattes on the pier and sat and watched the sea lions – so fun!
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There is so much creativity in San Francisco, this is a garage door of an art gallery and you can see fish painted on their sidewalk

10. Hang out by the water

Tracy and I grabbed takeout from a Greek Restaurant called Kobani Mediterranean Grill and headed to Crissy Field which includes a sandy beach where people chill out, play and kayak. You can even drive by all the yachts on your way there.

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Enjoying my last full day in San Francisco with Tracy at the beach

 Even though I got sick during my trip to San Fran, it was still amazing and I will definitely be returning. The friendliness of people, the healthy lifestyle (so many organic & raw options) and the invigorating quality from Silicon Valley are what make San Francisco a gem. Of course I missed so many more things you can do to explore and experience San Fran as a local but hey, that just leaves me more stuff to write about when I go back and visit Tracy again!

Let me know in the comments what types of things you like to experience ‘as a local’ when you’re in a new place.

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4 thoughts on “How to Tour San Francisco Like a Local

    1. Thanks so much Shauna.. I can feel your enthusiasm! Unfortunately we didn’t get to indulge in the crab sandwich. But that’s a good thing to try next time I am in San Francisco. You’re making my mouth water.

      Liked by 1 person

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