It seems the people who grow up in or live in super awesome cities can sometimes miss some of their hometown’s greatest attractions. Sure, you recommend a Mission burrito to everyone who visits, but when was the last time you ate one? Or better yet, have you ever explored the natural expanse of Point Reyes National Seashore?
In this guide, we rounded up the essential things for every San Francisco resident to do: whether you grew up here, you’ve been living here for years, or you just arrived.
And if you’ve already done everything on this list, check out What to Do in San Francisco if You’ve Already Done Everything.
One of the most popular markets in the city, the CUESA Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market pops up year-round on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Nearly 40,000 shoppers visit the market every week to shop goods from San Francisco’s best-known chefs, most famous farmers and most talented artisans. If you’re craving street food, come on Thursdays when an array of artisan street food vendors serve wood-fired pizza, grilled meats, sandwiches and tacos!
Referred to as San Francisco’s most beautiful museum, the Legion of Honor displays 4,000 years of ancient and European art in an unforgettable setting overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Designed in Beaux-arts style, the building was built to commemorate Californian soldiers who died in World War I and is a work of art on its own.
A weekly tradition through the spring, summer and fall, Presidio Picnic is a national park picnic featuring more than 30 local mobile food vendors all showcasing the Bay Area’s multicultural food scene. Curated by Off the Grid and complete with outdoor yoga classes and dance performances, it’s a wonderful way to spend time in the Presidio, get lunch and celebrate our community. For complete details, click here.
This beloved annual festival is an independent nonprofit presenting six months of admission-free performances that celebrate the culture and creativity of the Bay Area. The family-friendly, outdoor and ADA-accessible programming includes weekly kids’ shows, dance performances, live music, poetry readings and celebrations until the final event, the Halloween Hoopla at the end of October. To see the calendar, click here.
Located in one of the city’s most bustling and entertaining neighborhoods, this outdoor destination is a culinary carnival and urban playground. Their little block of SoMa features a rotating lineup of daily food trucks, craft beer and wine, carnival games, WiFi, TV screens, frequent themed events and heat lamps for cold nights. It’s family- and dog-friendly so feel free to bring everyone along!
Encompassing much of the western coastline in Marin County, Point Reyes National Seashore is a vast expanse of protected coastline offering rocky headlands and expansive sand beaches, open grasslands, brushy hillsides, and forested ridges. Two of the most popular things to do seasonally in the park are view elephant seals lounging on the beaches of Drakes Bay and watch as grey whales migrate past Point Reyes from December through May. For more things to do and places to explore, click here.
And for more outdoor destinations, check out The 12 Bay Area Parks and Open Spaces You Need to Explore.
7. Eat a Mission burrito.
Today, the Mission-style burrito has been popularized by chains like Chipotle (started by a line cook who spent the ‘80s in San Francisco), but you still need to get your hands on an original in the Mission District. This gargantuan burrito goes far past beans, rice and meat to include mouth-watering carnitas at El Farolito, fresh avocado at La Taqueria, roasted tomato salsa at Papalote, al pastor at Taqueria Cancún or the so-called original Mission burritos at Taqueria La Cumbre and El Faro. Basically, if you wander the streets of the Mission, you’ll find a burrito worth eating.
Waiting in line for great food is something every San Franciscan has to do at some point, and at the famous Swan Oyster Depot, the wait is worth it. The no-frills spot serves fresh lobsters, clams, oysters, crab, trout, salmon, octopus and more from the counter, and they’ve done so for more than 100 years! So, grab a spot in line then snag a seat at the 18-seat counter and enjoy one of the best meals in San Francisco.
A great excuse to see Chinatown—one of the oldest and most established Chinatowns in the country—the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is an icon of the neighborhood. Open since 1962, this little factory churns out fresh, handmade fortune cookies (up to 10,000 every day!) and offers a free tour, too. For details, click here.
Dandelion Chocolate is a bean-to-bar chocolate factory headquartered in the Mission. In the factory, the team roasts, cracks, sorts, winnows, grinds and tempers small batches of beans then molds and packages each bar by hand. In the cafe, shop and factory, you can watch chocolate makers at work, and we definitely recommend making time for the Bloom Chocolate Salon. This sit-down salon inside the 16th Street Factory serves breakfast and prix-fixe afternoon desserts like chocolate service, tea service and an ice cream tasting menu! For more details and online reservations, click here.
11. Ride to the top of Coit Tower.
Rising high above the city, Coit Tower is an iconic building in the San Francisco skyline. The slender white concrete column sits at the top of Telegraph Hill and rises 210 feet up. Originally built between 1932 and 1933, the structure has an elevator leading to the observation deck offering 360-degree views of the city. For more information on hours, pricing and history, click here.
Of all the speakeasies in the Bay Area, Bourbon & Branch is probably the most renowned—though it still somehow manages to maintain a sense of exclusivity. Inside the already covert bar, you can find even more hidden rooms with completely different drink lists. The Library and The Main Bar are the most accessible, but if you explore a bit further, you’ll find Russell’s Room, Wilson & Wilson, and The Ipswitch.
For more essential cocktail bars, check out The San Francisco Cocktail Bar Bucket List.
Oracle Park is the home of the San Francisco Giants and is located on the waterfront in the city’s most lively neighborhood. In addition to hosting Giants home games and serving some of the best food in baseball, the park offers daily behind-the-scenes tours (more info here) and hosts some of the city’s most exciting events, including San Francisco Giant Race, Opera at the Ballpark and public movie nights!
14. Ride the ferry to Sausalito.
The home of the stunning Marin Headlands, Sausalito has transitioned from wartime factory to artist enclave to tourist haven, but it’s always been one of the Bay Area’s most charming communities. Through the years, it has also been a natural and historic spectacle and is definitely worth a visit. For more information on the trip and what you can do when you arrive, check out Why You Should Spend a Day in Sausalito.
15. Spend the day in Oakland.
One of the Bay Area’s coolest communities, Oakland is worth its own blog post. That’s why we’ve written guides like The 13 Best Local Coffee Shops in Oakland, The Top 16 Oakland Happy Hours and Your Self-Guided Tour of Downtown Oakland, Mapped. If you live in the city, you definitely need to cross the Bay Bridge and spend some time in Oaktown.
Looking for more activities?
If you’ve already done everything on this list, check out What to Do in San Francisco if You’ve Already Done Everything.