By Linda Lee, who was born and raised in San Francisco and loves its quirks, rooftop bars and inclusivity.Edited by Holly Stark
Home to a diverse population, dynamic restaurants, craft breweries and classy bars, San Francisco is a quirky city that blossoms when the sun sets. From the vibrant downtown area to cool hipster spots, discover the neighbourhoods where there is a seamless balance between the urban and the natural and immerse yourself in the best things to do in San Francisco at night. The best things to do in San Francisco at night are often the lesser known, and there are plenty of off the beaten path places to enjoy your evening. Anyone who visits can have a good time and you’ll see people from all walks of life enjoying San Francisco after dark. It’s a city welcome to all. Here’s your guide to what to do in San Francisco at night; which includes great late night San Francisco activities, some of the best bars in San Francisco, things to do in San francisco at night for free and the best romantic things to do in San Francisco at night for couples.
I don’t go out to party much, I much prefer heading to bars and restaurants in the Mission District with friends, it’s my home neighbourhood. One thing I love the most about San Francisco nightlife is the vast amount and variety of bars. There are rooftop bars, live music bars, unusual bars, minimalistic bars and cool rooftop restaurants in the downtown area - something for everyone. The Mission District epitomizes this for me and is home to old-school taquerias - it’s a neighbourhood known for its Latin culture - eclectic live-music clubs, delicious eateries and craft cocktail lounges. A popular weekend hangout for locals with skyline views and vibrant murals lining the streets is The Mission District - not to be missed when seeking what to do in San Francisco at night.
The Wild Hawk
One of my favourite things to do in San Francisco at night is to hang out at The Wild Hawk. Channeling a feminine spirit and inspired by Lola Montez, a San Francisco dancer in the 1800s who was apparently known around town as a “wild hawk”, the chic bar is intimate, chic and serves up some of the best drinks in town. Want spirits, beer, wine and a chance to experience some of the best nightlife in San Francisco? Check it out. Bar bites, snacks, charcuterie and crudo are also available at the space. If cocktails are your thing, head to El Techno, which is also located in the Mission District. In this exuberant, evolving neighborhood with Latino roots and a hipster vibe, this rooftop restaurant and bar is always busy, has great views, delicious Latin food and cocktail vibes - a great place to go for drinks and snacks or a late-night meal with friends.
Another great neighbourhood for exploring San Francisco nightlife is Hayes Valley; a cool, revitalized neighborhood with fancy boutique shops, music venues, dessert cafes, chill watering holes, yummy restaurants, a community garden and a pocket park with art installations. The area hosts outdoor movie nights - great if you’re seeking things to do in San Francisco at night for free or romantic things to do in San Francisco at night on a low budget. Hungry tummies can head to Suppenküche; a cool German restaurant in Hayes valley with a good selection of drinks and food. The menu changes once in a while and the pricing is a little above average but it’s worth it to check out if pretzels, schnitzels and pints of beer are your thing.
A local San Francisco secret, Fort Funston is a gorgeous natural area where sandy cliffs drop two hundred feet to a beautiful beach at the southernmost edge of San Francisco. As one of the wildest and lesser known of the San Francisco beaches, the views are gorgeous, especially during sunset. This is where I always come for sunset when I have friends visiting, or I know we’re going to get lucky with the weather - the weather near the beach is mostly foggy, so if you experience a clear sky and a magic sunset, lucky you. It’s still worth a visit though for the natural nighttime beauty, peace and quiet away from the hustle of busy San Francisco nightlife and chance to appreciate the organic, unrefined beauty of the city. Head down winding woodland paths to Ocean Beach and soak up the relaxing vibe of the area like a local for an unusual, off the beaten path San Francisco experience.
San Francisco is hard to distill into just one place or thing, and Smuggler’s Cove perfectly epitomises that for me. A super cool venue and hidden gem, Smuggler’s Cove is a San Francisco must-see pirate-Polynesian fantasy with over 550 rums, three floors, a waterfall and pond, a canon hanging from the ceiling, tropical kitsch decor, a tiny tiki bar and incredible cocktails. A must for anyone with a love for anything quirky, the spot is perfect for sipping a rum-heavy tropical fruit punch and enjoying the weird and wonderful of San Francisco’s nightlife. Head to Smuggler’s Cove for a night to remember.
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