A Newcomer’s Guide to San Francisco

|April 23, 2019

Whether you’re thinking about moving to San Francisco, you’re unpacking moving boxes, or you’re already settled in, getting to know a new city can be intimidating—especially a huge, bustling city like San Francisco. Where do you go to eat? How do you meet new people? Which grocery store is the best? Where do you walk your dog?

Well, we’re here to answer all of those questions and more. And because we don’t want moving to San Francisco to be a frightening prospect for anyone, we also offer several more resources on our website, mcguire.com. There, you can find our Community Search which provides information on nearly every Bay Area community, several different property searches to find available homes, and even information on relocation and leasing in urban real estate.

But here, we’re answering the basics, including what to expect from the weather, how to get around, where to take your kids and the best ways to explore our parks and open spaces.

For even more newcomer tidbits, check out 15 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to San Francisco.

Click each category to jump ahead and learn about:

The Basics | Housing | Employment | Weather | Travel | Socialization | Groceries | Dining Out | Outdoor Recreation | Indoor Attractions | Fitness | Kid-friendly Activities | Dog-friendly Activities | Outside the City

The Basics

what you need to know about San Francisco

First things first, don’t call it San Fran. If you don’t want to say San Francisco, we recommend calling it SF or simply the city to sound like a local.

Now, let’s take a look at the numbers. San Francisco is one of the nation’s most densely populated cities. Though the population itself is estimated at just over 880,000, those residents fill an area that is just seven miles by seven miles. The highest percentage of that population is of working age—though the city boasts a varied population of families, kids and retirees, too—and they bring in a median household income of $96,265 and a per capita income of $59,508 which are much higher than the same statistics for the United States and California.

San Francisco is also one of The 15 US cities where it’s easiest to live without a car, The Best Bike Cities in America, The Most Dog-Friendly Cities in America in 2018, the Hottest Markets for Millennials, The 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2018, and the Best Cities for Job Seekers. For more on these specific rankings, keep reading!

And for more trivia and local insight, check out 15 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to San Francisco.


what you need to know about San Francisco

Navigating the housing market in San Francisco—whether renting or buying—can be intimidating. As one of the most popular places to work and to move in the country, the market and the high prices are driven by high demand. And on top of that, every neighborhood offers its own microclimate, character and attractions. To start your search, we recommend reading Which San Francisco Neighborhood is Right For You?

You can also find walkable neighborhoods in The 5 Most Desirable San Francisco Neighborhoods, Ranked by Their Walk Scores, luxurious communities in The 15 Most Prestigious Neighborhoods to Live in the Bay Area, and less expensive areas in 15 Up-and-Coming Neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area.

If you have more specific questions or you’re interested in buying a home, please contact us directly here. Our team has been working and living right here in the Bay Area since 1919. That’s an entire century of experience!


what you need to know about San Francisco

As we mentioned, San Francisco ranks high on lists of the most popular places to move, live and work. Realtor.com named it on their research, Hottest Markets for Millennials, and Indeed ranked it second in the Best Cities for Job Seekers with high scores in the Job Market Favorability Ranking, Work/Life Balance Ranking and Job Security and Advancement Ranking.

Although the city is popular as a tech-industry home base, the list of the largest employers in San Francisco includes Wells Fargo & Co., Salesforce, Sutter Health, Uber Technologies Inc. and Kaiser Permanente, which covers health, technology and banking. Other top industries further down on the list are education, food and even non-profit thanks to YMCA of San Francisco.

But if entrepreneurship is more your speed, San Francisco has long been a haven for startups. On this crowdSPRING ranking of the 10 Best Cities in the United States for Startups and Entrepreneurs, San Francisco ranks number one in early-stage funding deals and third in wage growth. If you need a place to work on your startup, check out The Top 10 Coworking Spaces in San Francisco to Get Work Done.


what you need to know about San Francisco

Year-round temperature averages in San Francisco don’t vary by much. You can usually count on the temperature being between 50 and 70 degrees from January through December. However, thanks to our beachfront locale, our foggy skies and our frequent rain, the air can often feel a bit chillier and every neighborhood in the city has its own microclimate. But despite the sometimes chilly temps, locals still love spending time on restaurant and brewery patios, lounging in the park, and walking dogs along the beach! Whether it’s sunny or rainy, you’ll always have something to do in San Francisco; just be sure to wear layers. And from November through April, you might want a raincoat, too.  


what you need to know about San Francisco

San Francisco ranks third on Business Insider’s The 15 US cities where it’s easiest to live without a car, and many locals thrive in our 49-square-mile city without one. Public transportation options include Muni, the oldest publicly operated transit system in the nation; BART which connects downtown San Francisco to the East Bay and the Peninsula; cable cars, which are great ways for residents to get between Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Chinatown, North Beach and the Financial District; and even Paratransit available for disabled and senior commuters. If you’re going to use public transit regularly, we suggest learning about the Clipper card system here.  

But San Francisco is also ranked second on Bicycling’s The Best Bike Cities in America and cycling is one of the most popular transportation choices in our commuter-friendly city—despite the hills. Check out The 10 Best Bike-friendly Neighborhoods in San Francisco for a rundown on some of our favorite destinations.

Other travel options include Caltrain, Uber and Lyft, the San Francisco Bay Ferry and the Golden Gate Ferry, and walking. With an overall Walk Score of 86 and more than 30 neighborhoods scoring 95 or higher, getting around on foot is a popular choice in SF!

For more things to do and ways to travel around the Bay Area, check out The 10 Best Commuter-Friendly Neighborhoods in San Francisco, The Best Things to Do and See in the Bay Area Near BART and The 5 Most Desirable San Francisco Neighborhoods, Ranked by Their Walk Scores.


what you need to know about San Francisco

Because San Francisco offers a niche community for (literally) every interest, it shouldn’t be quite as hard to meet people who like the same things you do. For example, you can go to live shows inside The Bay Area’s 7 Most Iconic Music Venues, you can join clubs through The 15 Best Independent Bookstores of San Francisco, and you can even meet people at the dog park, your neighborhood park or while hanging out at places like SoMa StrEat Food Park and Spark Social SF.

We’re also lucky to live in a city that hosts a huge number of events which are perfect places to meet people in your ‘hood. For example, check out Sunday Streets, which hosts events from March through October, the How Weird Street Faire in SoMa, the Castro Street Fair in the Castro, the Glen Park Festival in Glen Park, Taste of Potrero in Potrero, and Carnaval in the Mission District. To keep up with more events happening throughout the year, follow along on Discover Your View.


what you need to know about San Francisco

San Francisco offers a healthy mix of big name grocery stores and neighborhood shops. For example, you’ll find Foodsco, Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s and Safeway, but you’ll also find local favorites like Bi-Rite, Gus’s Community Market, Canyon Market, Falletti Foods and The Good Life Grocery.

The city also offers year-round farmers markets with fresh, seasonal produce, meats, and goods. Some of these year-round markets include CUESA’s Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market three days a week, Heart of the City Farmers’ Market every Sunday and Wednesday, the Alemany Farmers’ Market every Saturday, the Fort Mason Center Farmers’ Market every Sunday, and the Noe Valley Farmers’ Market every Saturday.

Dining Out

what you need to know about San Francisco

If you like food, you’ve chosen a good place to call home. San Francisco is famously a foodie city. Our chefs and restaurateurs have earned countless James Beard Foundation Awards and, as of 2019, there are more than 30 Michelin-starred restaurants just within the city—with 57 throughout the entire Bay Area!

At some point, you’ll need to eat some locally farmed oysters and locally caught Dungeness crab, so check out Where to Get the Best Oysters in San Francisco and Where to Eat Whole Dungeness Crab in the Bay Area.

For regular days, you can find a new favorite spot on The Best Lunch Spots in 33 San Francisco Neighborhoods or The 16 Essential Pizza Places in San Francisco. For late nights, peruse The 10 Best Late Night Eats Near Downtown San Francisco. And for meals with a little extra something, check out The 14 Best Brewpubs in San Francisco and The 15 Best Restaurants with the Best Views in San Francisco.

You can follow along on Discover Your View for even more recommendations throughout the Bay Area.

Outdoor Recreation

what you need to know about San Francisco

If you’re under the impression the big city can’t offer outdoor adventure and open space, we’re happy to tell you you’re wrong. According to data calculated by the Trust for Public Land, San Francisco is the first city in the nation in which every resident lives within a 10-minute walk of a park or open space. That means within the city, you can always find a place to get outdoors. Some of the largest destinations are Golden Gate National Park and The Presidio. For more information on the latter, check out Your Guide to Spending a Full Day in The Presidio, Mapped.

But just a few minutes outside the city, you’ll find some of the state’s and the country’s best open spaces. That long list includes Marin Headlands and Muir Woods National Monument in Marin County, Rancho Corral de Tierra in the Peninsula, and Redwood Regional Park and Mt. Diablo in East Bay. One quick look at Google Maps will show you just how much open space there is to explore around here.

Indoor Attractions

what you need to know about San Francisco

If you’re tired of the rain and want to head indoors, the city offers plenty of options, from the trendy Museum of Ice Cream to the historic de Young. Don’t worry, it’s not all museums, but if education is on your itinerary, check out The Ultimate Guide to San Francisco’s Most Impressive Art Museums for a quick peek into some of the city’s best.

Live music is another popular choice and our city hosts just about every artist and every genre. The Bay Area’s 7 Most Iconic Music Venues gives a quick look at The Fillmore, Great American Music Hall and The Warfield, but other options include SFJAZZ, The Regency Ballroom and The Masonic.  

For even more indoor ideas, check out 10 Indoor Date Ideas for Rainy Days in San Francisco and What to Do in San Francisco if You’ve Already Done Everything.


what you need to know about San Francisco

San Francisco offers just about every big name gym you can think of, including 24 Hour Fitness, Planet Fitness, Crunch Fitness and World Gym. But the city is also home to countless local gyms, regional chains, yoga and pilates studios, and more. For the highlights in every category, check out The Best Gyms in San Francisco. You can find more yoga studios listed in 13 Yoga Studios in the Bay Area You’ll Want to Try or track down gyms and studios that offer childcare in The 11 Best Gyms with Childcare in the Bay Area.

Kid-friendly Activities

what you need to know about San Francisco

Despite the hustle and bustle of the big city, San Francisco is a great place to raise kids. Not only do they get to enjoy all those parks we talked about, but they also get access to some of the best educational institutions and museums in the country. You can find both the educational and the fun activities in 24 Things to Do with Kids in San Francisco and The Top 11 Children’s Museums in the Bay Area. And don’t miss The 11 San Francisco Museums That Offer Free Admission Days!

Dog-friendly Activities

what you need to know about San Francisco

San Francisco is ranked every year on lists of the most dog-friendly places to live in the country. On WalletHub’s list, Most Pet-Friendly Cities, the city ranks number one in the Outdoor Pet-Friendliness rank, which measures dog parks, dog-friendly trails, park space, walk score and more. And San Francisco is ranked fourth overall on SmartAssest’s The Most Dog-Friendly Cities in America in 2018.

To make the most of this dog-friendly city, we created The Dog Owner’s Guide to San Francisco, which includes everything from local food stores and dog-friendly restaurants to dog parks and training services. For quick highlights, we recommend taking your dog to Ocean Beach then head to Park Chalet Coastal Beer Garden and hang out on the lawn.

Outside the City

what you need to know about San Francisco

One of the best things about living in San Francisco is the opportunity the city offers to explore the surrounding Bay Area. Silicon Valley and the beach getaways of the Peninsula are just a few minutes south; Oakland, Berkeley and the rest of the East Bay are just a quick trip over the Bay Bridge; the beauty of Marin County is within biking distance across the Golden Gate Bridge; and California’s wine country is practically in our backyard. In The Top 10 Day Trips from San Francisco, we got the chance to explore several of these areas.

For more ideas outside San Francisco, we recommend The 12 Most Beautiful Wineries in Sonoma County and The 20 Essential Farm-to-Table Restaurants in Sonoma County, Why You Should Spend a Day in Sausalito, Your Guide to Exploring Silicon Valley, California, Your Guide to Marin County, California, and 14 Charming Vacation Rentals Near San Francisco, From Wine Country to Big Sur for unforgettable vacations.

Have more questions?

The best way to learn about San Francisco is to chat with someone who lives here, and we’ve been in the city for a century. If you want to speak with one of our agents or someone on our team, please contact us directly here.

We also recommend following this blog, Discover Your View, and following our Instagram, @mcguire_re, for insight on things to do, local businesses and upcoming events.

Category Community Guides, Real Estate, San Francisco, San Francisco

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McGuire Real Estate

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