the official dripping with passion guide to san francisco, first edition

i love san francisco. so, so, so much. oh my goodenss, i love it so much. to me, it is the perfect city.

the past two years i have done a lot of exploring in the city by the bay, and roundabouts. creating this post has been a struggle – because i simple don’t know where to start, or where to end! so for now, here’s a pretty unorganized and very first draft-y overview of some of my favourite things in my city. more to come.

{all the links, except where noted, are to posts on this blog about my experience doing/seeing/eating these things – someday i’ll go through and add links to the websites of these places/restaurants/experiences}
{i’ve put food suggestions in italics!}


-spend a saturday morning at the ferry building farmers’ market. stuff yourself with samples. make sure you check out the stands in front of the building and around back. if you’re around at lunchtime, i suggest a burger at gott’s or a delicious dish from out the door. also, go upstairs right under the tower for a cool view of the hustle and bustle of the market. (the farmers’ market stands are also up on tuesday and thursday mornings.)
-explore chinatown: walk up grant street, down waverly street, and into ross alley – where you’ll find a fortune cookie factory!
-while you’re in chinatown, cut down to the corner of california and kearney and buy a cookie from the batter bakery kiosk, where i used to work! my faves are the sand angel and chocolate mint.
-bike across the golden gate bridge (details on this excursion at the bottom of this post)
-have a picnic at baker’s beach and enjoy fantastic views of the golden gate bridge. for a thinner crown and only slightly more distant view, pop out of the presidio into sea cliff and go to china beach.
-feel the electric metropolitan pulse of the city in the center: union square. the iconic hearts on each corner of the open square are fun for photo-ops. go in the st. francis drake hotel (it’s on the right side of the square if you are facing macy’s) and ride the glass elevators (just act like you own the place, heading straight to the back of the hotel, and enjoy the views going up and down a few times). 
-from union square, you can hop on a cable car to the top of nob hill. the cable cars are expensive ($5 one way), but they are the iconic san francisco experience, and i think everyone has to do it once. on top of nob hill sits grace cathedral. if you’ve been to europe, it will not be impressive. if you haven’t, it will be impressive.
-explore golden gate park. my favourite spots are the botanical gardens, de young tower (you don’t have to pay for the museum to go up in the tower – just turn right when you walk in and follow the signs), dahlia garden (to the right as you face the conservatory of flowers – blooming in the fall…i don’t think the conservatory itself is worth the entrance fee, but the dahlias outside will blow you away), japanese tea garden (free if you enter before 10am on monday, wednesday or friday). while you are in the park, stop at one of the little ice cream/hot dog/drink stands and get an it’s it ice cream sandwich, preferably mint flavor. trust me, you’ll love it.
-hang out at ocean beach, which is at the very west end of golden gate park. it’s not the most pristine beach in the world, but there are almost always surfers to watch and random musicians having jam sessions. at the very north of the beach is sutro baths, which is a fun spot to poke around and explore the coast. you can also hop on the coastal trail from sutro baths and walk along the shore towards the golden gate bridge.
-my favourite museums in the city are the sf moma (free the first tuesday of the month, and half-price on thursday evenings), the exploratorium (really fun, especially with kids) and the legion of honor (fantastic location and great special exhibitions).
-explore sf’s charming and unique neighborhoods: thrift shop along valencia street in the mission (make sure to pop by clarion alley to see the awesome street art, and fyi my favourite taqueria in the mission is pancho villa); stroll down fillmore street (great southern indian food at dosa at the bottom of the hill), union street (the cable cars run close to there, so might be worth a ride), and chestnut street (lots of good dinner restaurants, and pop by the palace of fine arts while you’re there); soak in the hippy vibe and enjoy the eclectic shops (my fave is the booksmith) along haight street.
-feel like you’ve escaped to italy in north beach: walk up columbus street, pick up pizza (my faves are tony’s and golden boy pizza), a canoli and gelato, an have a picnic in washington park! if you keep walking up columbus, you’ll eventually hit the famous “curviest road in the world” – lombard street. make sure you hike to the top for the great views down hills on either side.
-if you have $5 to spare, it’s fun to take in the views for the top of coit tower. there’s also lots of history about the city covered in the beautiful murals at the bottom of the tower.
-if you have a car, drive half-way across the bay bridge and check out the views from treasure island. you can see both bridges and the whole city.
-also if you have a car, drive up divisadero street to check out the incredible pacific heights mansions. divisadero is my favourite san francisco hill. there are some crests that really get the adrenaline pumping!
-pier 39, fisherman’s wharf and ghiradelli square are super touristy. i usually avoid this area, but i admit it can be fun to grab some sourdough bread, see the sealions, and snatch some chocolate samples.
-especially if you (like me) have seen dozens of episodes of “full house,” stop by to see the “painted ladies” victorian homes and sweeping views of the city from alamo square
-ride the vintage trollies down market street – they are from all over the world and cost half of what the cable cars cost. right off of market in the castro district is ike’s place sandwich shop. ike’s is, without contest, my #1 food recommendation in san francisco. get any kind you like (i’ve tried probably over a dozen), but make sure you get it with everything on it and on dutch crunch bread. oh man, i love those sandwiches. the ideal situation would be to call in an order, pick it up and take it for a picnic at dolores park (chock full of free spirits and special brownies), and afterwards pop by bi-rite creamery for the best ice cream of your life (you must have the ricanellas flavor, but try some others too!).
-twin peaks is a great place for incredible views of the city and the bay. however, it does get pretty touristy up there, and you can get just as spectacular of views from mount davidson or corona heights (those require a little tiny hike)

***city guides offers free walking tours of the city. i have done several of these and they are fantastic. click here for the schedule of tours and choose a couple that sound most interesting to you. these tours are a great way to see the city and learn a little about what you are seeing!!***
***always bring a sweater and an extra jacket! the best time to visit is in the fall. be warned - san francisco is very dreary, foggy and cold in the summer!***

if you are up for a quick day trip, there are so many awesome places to check out around the bay:

-marin headlands (just over the golden gate bridge)
-sausalito (first town north over the golden gate bridge)
-tiburon (~45 minutes from the city)
-stinson beach (~45 minutes from the city)
-muir woods (~45 minutes from the city)
-monterey/carmel (~an hour and a half from the city)
-stanford (~45 minutes from the city)
-oakland: the lds temple (includes an awesome visitors’ center and incredible views across the bay) and lake merritt (~3o minutes from the city)
-napa/sonoma (~an hour from the city)
-half moon bay and pacifica - be sure to stop at gorilla bbq on your way down highway one (~30 minutes from the city)
-point reyes (~an hour from the city)
-bodega bay and sonoma coast (~an hour and half from the city)
-big sur (~two and half hours from the city – more here)
-pescadero (~an hour and a half from the city)


there are often really neat events going on in the city. click here to see a constantly updated calendar of cheap or free events, and below is my list of my favourite san francisco parties/festivals/traditions:

-hardly, strictly bluegrass (october)
-critical mass (every last friday)
-dia de los muertos (october)
-fleet week (october)
-yoga at grace cathedral (every tuesday evening at 6:15)
-off the grid (food trucks and live music at fort mason in the marina every friday night – don’t miss happy dumplings)
-castro theater singalongs (check the theater’s schedule)
-valentine’s day pillow fight (february 14)


aaannnddd….since i have a love affair with saturday brunch, brunch recommendations get their own category in this guide:

plow (portero hill)
zazie (hayes valley)
mama’s (north beach)
dottie’s (tenderloin)
red door cafe (pacific heights)
batter bakery (russian hill)
ferry building (embarcadero)


biking the golden gate bridge - the world’s best bike route: (more here, here, and here)

-park at sports basement (610 old mason street) and rent bikes there. They are way cheaper than the touristy places and it's the perfect location for starting the ride!
-ride toward the bridge and follow signs (i think there is pretty good signage...hopefully). at some point you'll curve around and under the bridge to get on the left side (if it's a weekend - if it's a weekday I think pedestrians and bikers are on the same side -- follow signs).
-bike across the bridge - it's loud and kind of crazy and usually windy. stop at each of the towers to take it all in and have a rest!
-if you went across on the left side, you'll need to go under the bridge. there's some stairs down with a bike ramp. come up on the other side and enjoy the views from vista point!
-from there, bike out of the parking lot and directly away from the bridge. i think there is signage for sausalito. you'll go down a long steep hill. it's very fun. at some point you'll turn right. just follow signs/intuition to downtown sausalito. once you're biking along the water, you'll hit lots of shops and restaurants and a big fountain. behind the fountain is the ferry terminal. check the leaving times, lock up your bikes and explore the little town of sausalito! i like the burger place where they grill the burgers in the window right across from the fountain. it's fun to walk along and window shop and down the piers in the marina.
-take the ferry back - leave your bikes downstairs and get out on the deck to enjoy the views!
you can take a ferry to pier 39 (fisherman's wharf) or Pier 1 (ferry building). i suggest pier 1 unless you are short on time and especially if it is a Saturday.
-bike up the embarcadero (road along the water with all the piers). stop if you want at fisherman's wharf and see the sea lions and eat some sourdough bread. just keep biking straight along the water (at one point you'll have to go up a hill and through a park) and along the marina. keep going straight and you'll be back at sports basement!

let me know if you have any specific questions. sorry my directions aren't stellar - i know my way by heart!


phew! i feel like i’ve barely scratched the surface! second edition encompassing your feedback and questions forthcoming! :) also, click on “san francisco” (or “bay area” for stuff outside the city) under labels to see all the posts referenced in this post.

have i ever mentioned that i really, really love san francisco?


  1. This is AWESOME!!! Thanks Charity!

  2. Wow and this is only part 1?! amazing! This just confirms what I already knew...that you must be the best hostess around! I cannot wait to get back to San Fran...especially with all these fantastic tips!

  3. LOVE it! I visited SF a few years ago for a girls trip and would love to come back with my husband. It's such a cool city and I appreciate the time you spent compiling your guide since it featured at least a few cool things I missed the first time!

  4. it possible for someone to earn bff status after just one meeting? after this blog post, i think YES!!! thank you thank you thank you! (still looking forward to seeing you in fremont!)

  5. Thank you so much!! I do have a couple of questions. I too love Sf and my husband is taking me there for a honeymoon (after over 20 years of marriage!). I would like to have a picnic on the beach so if I pick up sandwiches at Ike's, which beach do you recommend? Also, do you have a favorite bagel place there? And what is the best inexpesive motel to stay in?

  6. Love it and I second pretty much everything on this list! SF is amazing <3

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