San Francisco is arguably the most beautiful city in the USA. The city is situated right on the ocean, connected by iconic bridges to hilly landscapes nestled along a large bay. There are rocky beaches, Victorian houses, thick rolling blankets of fog and colourful cable cars running through the centre of town. Here there is a lot to love and explore but not all of it is obvious or easy to find. For the traveller who wants to experience some of the deeper magic and spirit of the city, I’ve compiled this list of some of San Francisco’s hidden gems.
Lounge in the Sunshine of Dolores Park
Situated next to the culturally vibrant Mission district, named after the nearby Mission Dolores, and the legendary Castro, Dolores Park is a highly popular and forever sunny green space graced with stunning views of the city. Dolores Park is an excellent spot for bringing along a picnic blanket to lounge along the 16 acres of lush lawns and people watch. You will witness the many bearded hipsters, yoga moms, hippies, and sports enthusiasts of San Francisco sunbathing or enjoying the six tennis courts, soccer field, basketball court, Dog Park, and playground. More often than not live performances and events are held in the park making it a choice location for an eventful weekend afternoon.
Photo credit: Eater SF
Sip Wine in The Hidden Vine
The Hidden Vine is a lovely underground, wine bar, with warm brick walls, generous cozy armchair seating, nice lighting, and over 800+ wines displayed behind a glass wall. The wooden beams, fireplace, and highly knowledgeable servers help to create an atmosphere of intimacy and sophistication. The Hidden Vine is literally hidden down a covert side street in the financial district. The bar is open late, usually has quite a buzzing ambiance, and serves unbeatable mushroom flatbread. This is a great date venue for wine connoisseurs or those who want to learn more about wine.
Photo credit: Eater SF
Eat well at Hawker Fare
As the name suggests, Hawker Fare styles itself like the Hawker stalls of Thailand but does it with much more pizzazz and consideration for different dietary concerns such as veganism or gluten-free than the traditional southeast Asian variety. The restaurant is themed in a vibrant, colorfully tiled two-leveled room that encourages you to linger longer and sip beautifully presented cocktails. Their food flavors are a complex and tasty fusion of Chinese, American, and Thai dishes. I recommend the satay beef short ribs with a side of Brussel sprouts—yes Brussel sprouts, trust me you’ve never had Brussel sprouts as good as these, and that’s one of my favorite additions to Christmas dinner.
Photo credit: thrillist
Take a tour of The Armory
The Armory Tour is an experience unlike any other you will have and somehow it seems totally appropriate for San Francisco. This is a fascinatingly unique and comprehensive tour of a porn studio. Kink.com paid 14.5 million dollars for this space that was originally built as an actual armory, but now is a huge facility of dungeons, period-piece rooms, torture chambers, and various other intriguing sets spread over multiple floors. The tour lasts for about 90 minutes and combines the studio tour with lots of interesting historical information making it really engaging.
Unwind on Crocker Galleria Roof Terrace
Through the Wells Fargo lobby at the corner of Montgomery and Post Streets in the financial district, you’ll find access to a locally loved roof garden complete with magnificent city views and tasty lunch options (the garden is only open during business hours). This is an oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle. If you have trouble locating the roof terrace just ask a steward in the Wells Fargo lobby and they’ll direct you. You can also bring your own lunch to enjoy here along with the trees, perfectly manicured shrubs, fountains, and potted plants that cover this quite large space. It’s a tranquil and serene location to unwind if you need a break from the hustle and bustle of town.
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