places to check out in san francisco
May 10, 2012 7:24 AM   Subscribe

I am a 22 yr old guy traveling to San Francisco for the first time June 5th-9th. I want to get a good mix of tourist stuff to do, then check out a few places that necessarily wouldn't be on the top places to check out that are cool. Any suggestions would be awesome. Thanks!
posted by jsh07 to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (18 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I will be the first of many to want to tell you not to miss the Exploratorium. The setting alone is worth the trip, but the museum itself is fantastic.
posted by ubiquity at 7:26 AM on May 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

The Exploratorium for sure. Walking the trails around Land's End/Point Lobos is amazing. The cable car museum is pretty interesting (and free).
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:30 AM on May 10, 2012

The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco is one of the best collections of Asian art in the world. It is a huge, amazing museum - that almost noone ever visits.
posted by Flood at 7:34 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could check out a high end denim distributer, that's something you won't find in most US cities.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:52 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Walk along Valencia St. in the Mission District.

Paxton Gate and the Pirate Supply Store are right next to one another.

Plus some great food, and great ambiance.
posted by Danf at 8:00 AM on May 10, 2012

If you have some geek tendencies, check out Borderlands Books, which is a magical sci-fi/fantasy bookstore and one of my favorite places in the city.

You *must* hit the Ferry Building Farmer's Market on Tuesday or Thursday lunchtime for a true embarrassment of delicious-prepared-food riches. Try Wise & Sons on Tuesday for obscenely awesome reubens and pastrami sandwiches, or Hapa Ramen for the world's greatest noodles, or on Thursday check out 4505 Meats for a burger that will blow your mind. Seriously. You will up and move to San Francisco just for the Ferry Building Farmer's Market.
posted by eugenen at 8:03 AM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you're at all a coffee geek, the Blue Bottle Cafe in Mint Plaza near the Tenderloin is probably my favorite coffee shop in the entire world. GREAT stuff, single origins, blends etc and they have some really interesting apparatuses for brewing. Get some espresso with their house-made whipped cream - it sounds weird, but it's amazing.
posted by permiechickie at 8:33 AM on May 10, 2012

There's also a blue bottle in the ferry building and the top floor of the moma
posted by mulligan at 8:40 AM on May 10, 2012

Musee Mecanique!!

Also the California Academy of Science is great
posted by Cosine at 8:46 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Came here to suggest Point Lobos/Land's End trail (this will be the first "SF" thing I do when I move back there in June), the Ferry Building farmer's market and Musee Mecanique, but everyone else beat me to it!

I'll also put a punt in for walking the Barbary Coast trail. Takes you through a swath of downtown and a few neighborhoods (Union Square, Financial District, North Beach, Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf & Hyde Street Pier). Take your time, get a cup of coffee or tea or something a few times along the way.
posted by smirkette at 9:21 AM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ocean Beach is lovely, especially if you haven't been to the Pacific Ocean before. While you're there you can explore the ruins of the Sutro Baths. It's all free, but bring a jacket and comfy shoes.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 10:16 AM on May 10, 2012

Take a Clement St bus out to the Cliff House and check out the old Sutro Baths. That's really cool, plus now it's run by the National Park Service. While there, walk on the pier, there's a mechanical toy museum (Musee Mecanique) and a Camera Obscura. It's eerie and beautiful and I think the admission is about $1.

Take another bus up to Coit Tower. Go inside and see the WPA mural.

Golden Gate park has a ton of stuff. Steinhart Aquarium, the Natural History Museum, the Arboretum and the Japanese Tea Garden are all well worth doing.

Take the Ferry to Sausalito. That's fun.

Alcatraz, although seeming very touristy, is an awesome attraction, it's very compelling. Be sure to be fit and in shape, it's a steep climb up to the buildings, but a glorious view if you get a sunny day.

When in Chinatown, eat at Woey Loy Goey, at 699 Jackson Street. It's been there since God was a boy. Great rice plates at lunch, lots of food, very cheap. Chinatown closes up during the week at night, which I found very disconcerting. It's fun to walk around during the day, the markets, the shops and the newsstands.

If you must go to Gherardelli Square/Fisherman's Wharf, do a cursory run through, but go to the Cost Plus flagship store. It's spread out over a few buildings, but chock full of cool stuff.

Well Bummer, you're going too late for the Black and White ball, and too early for Pride.

Check out the CityPass, which includes a 7-Day bus pass, and 5 Attractions for $69.

Things to miss:

Pier 39
Fisherman's Wharf
Gherardelli Square (except for the getting an ice cream sunday or an Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista--is that even still open?)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:03 AM on May 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

Recently in the green
posted by -harlequin- at 11:33 AM on May 10, 2012

I miss the City a lot. Take the N-Judah Muni to the end of the line at Ocean Beach. Go to the Java Beach Cafe; perhaps Debbie will be behind the counter. They have a new sister restaurant down the block that I can't remember the name of.

Then go outside and walk across The Great Highway to Ocean Beach and walk to Cliff House, then head over to the Land's End trail. This will show you the west side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Blue Bottle coffee at the Ferry Building was the best cup I have ever had in my life.

Have a Mad Men martini and some tuna tartare at the Palace Hotel.

Of course you will want a Mission burrito. Try an al pastor from Taquería Cancún at 2288 Mission. There are lots of other places and no shortage of strongly felt views on the best Mission burrito source.

From the Ferry Building, take a walk to, but not beyond, Pier 39, where it starts to get super godawful tacky and commercial -- at Fisherman's Wharf.

Nthing the Ferry to Sausalito. It will be warmer in Sausalito, possibly a lot.

If you can rent a car, you should drive to Point Reyes.

The best part about Coit Tower is the murals!
posted by jgirl at 11:42 AM on May 10, 2012

Seconding the Exploratorium. The camera obscura at the Cliff House is $3 — it's okay, but definitely check out the surrounding area. If you're driving, you can go south on Rt. 1 for about an hour or two, and the coastal highway is just stunning (and fun to drive, if you're into windy mountain roads).

You could rent a bike and cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge. If you come by way of Fisherman's Wharf, you'll get to see some of the Presidio along the way to the bridge.

It is beautiful when not foggy. They are doing construction work on the bridge at the moment, so you're sharing a path with pedestrians and aggressive commuters going the other direction. But once you get to the other side it is beautiful and more peaceful, and you can bike some more or take the ferry back. Sausalito has an Indian cafe that is a nice, inexpensive lunch stop.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:27 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could go hunting for the Tamale Lady.
posted by lakeroon at 3:52 PM on May 10, 2012

A little surprising the castro didn't get a shout out. There are some really great restaurants on castro street, as well as the castro theater if you'd like to see a movie. The best gin gimlet I've ever had in my life was at Twin Peaks, which is a super mellow, awesome gay bar. For more exciting gay bars, try Q bar or The Mix.

Check out SF Fun Cheap, too, while you're out here - there might be some rad event.
posted by OrangeDrink at 9:51 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree: Alcatraz, with the audio tour in the voices of the people who lived the history, turned out to be fascinating. Sometimes, I guess, it's hard to get a ticket, but it's worth doing.

Seconding the Academy of Sciences (which also has a great cafe inside -- not the hot dog stand or the expensive restaurant downstairs, but the cafeteria-looking place) and the Exploratorium. You can spend all day at the Academy of Sciences, which is several attractions in one. That's why it costs so much.

Depending on where you live and what your interests are, Japantown may or may not be worth it. There are some very good restaurants (also some mediocre ones), a large Kinokuniya with art/design/travel/technology/etc. books and shirts and all kinds of other things in English and Japanese upstairs and manga/anime books/posters/shirts/etc. downstairs, a mostly import toy and figure store, a couple of music shops, etc. etc. It is essentially one large mall with some other stores across the way and then on another street behind it, plus a historical society which sometimes has displays. Don't go expecting much of a neighborhood, but if you'd like to buy and see some things which are usually available only on the internet, and get some good food, it's fun.

Finally, I can't tell where you're from, but if it's a place without a big food truck thing, you could see if there's an Off the Grid scheduled for when you'll be in town.

Have fun!
posted by wintersweet at 8:44 AM on May 11, 2012

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