Nighttime San Francisco for the introverted solo traveller
July 21, 2015 2:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to be stopping in SF for a few nights next week (Sunday-Thursday) en route from London to Portland, and realise I've no real idea of what to do with myself in the evenings (daytime is fine)...

When travelling with others I generally spend evenings bar hopping, eating, drinking some more etc. As quite an introverted and slightly anxious type, the idea of hanging out in bars on my own gives me The Fear, mainly due to difficulties with striking up conversations with strangers, even though I'm much more extroverted once I've got a couple of drinks in me and some wind in my sails.

So, where, if anywhere, could I go for a drink that's friendly and amenable to wallflowers like myself? And failing that, what's a solo person to do with themselves for four nights in SF that isn't all about the booze?
posted by influx to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (17 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
check your memail
posted by janey47 at 2:18 PM on July 21, 2015

To suggest the obvious solutions check out which is reasonably active in SF. Also arrange a mefite meetup - the local crowd is very friendly.

Things I often do when I'm in SF alone for work:

Take a drop in improv class with Leela:

Go eat at the shared table at NoPa:

Listen to some storytelling at fireside:

Learn some things at a Nerd Nite:
posted by Erberus at 2:28 PM on July 21, 2015

Go to City Lights bookstore -- maybe after some beer and coffee in an adjacent restaurant -- and think about the Beat Poets. The bookstore is open late, like 11 pm-ish, and is a pretty neat place, if you like politically progressive bookstores.
posted by salvia at 2:30 PM on July 21, 2015

Nightlife at the Cal Academy

Every Thursday night. Fun themes and they serve drinks (21+ only - no kids running around!). Admission is way cheaper than normal ($12) and you can wander around at your own pace.
posted by blueberrypuffin at 2:54 PM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Some likely-looking stuff here, although unfortunately I fly to Portland on the Thursday, otherwise Cal Academy would be high on the list.

primalux - I'm staying on Geary and Taylor just on the edge of the Tenderloin. There's certainly been times when I've found myself alone in US bars and ended up having a good time chatting/drinking with whoever was around (NYC lower west side), but also a horrible awkward evening feeling like a spare part (downtown Seattle), and unfortunately I'm not quite sure what sways it either way...
posted by influx at 3:37 PM on July 21, 2015

Honestly when I travel alone I mostly just give myself permission to go to bed really early if I want. Things start to feel awkward? I head back to my lodgings for reading or television or sleep! No fucks given by anyone. Also if you've just come from London you're going to be jet lagged enough that you're not going to want to stay up past 8PM anyway.
posted by mskyle at 3:49 PM on July 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

Monday night bluegrass at Amnesia on Valencia!
posted by wemayfreeze at 4:03 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I came in to recommend City Lights Books and I see salvia has beaten me to the punch. I hung out there solo for a couple of hours one evening and had a wonderful, peaceful time. If you like bookstores in general, it's safe to say you will love this one.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:10 PM on July 21, 2015

I also came in to recommend City Lights Books! And check out Vesuvio's across the alley from City Lights and Spec's across the street. They're great bars.

If the fog and onshore winds aren't killing it, I suggest taking the N Judah or L Taraval Muni trains or the 38 Geary, 5 Fulton, or 7 Noriega buses out to Ocean Beach, getting beer from a corner store, and watching the sunset. You can check current conditions at the beach on has lots of free & inexpensive events listed.
posted by mont the drifter at 4:40 PM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you take the N Judah, you could hang out at Java Beach Cafe, which is right where the train stops for the end of the line. Ocean Beach is across the street.
posted by jgirl at 4:42 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, you definitely could do far worse than taking the bus out to the beach!
posted by salvia at 6:14 PM on July 21, 2015

If you are at Geary and Taylor, you are very close to the Royale, which is very comfy, and has a calendar of live music and/or DJs.

You are also quite close to The Owl Tree, which is worth a visit for the funky owl-themed decor. (If you walk from Geary and Taylor to The Owl Tree, watch for the plaque commemorating Isadora Duncan's birthplace. I think it's at 501 Taylor.)

The Top of the Mark is very swanky, has a great view, and the Sunday seafood brunch is very good.

Is there anything playing at the Curran Theatre?

Unfortunately, Kayo Books is running on a limited schedule and is closed exactly the times you will be there, but you might be able to make an appointment to visit.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 6:34 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

There are lots of restaurants with communal tables in SF, and people are often happy to talk about food. Nopa, Maven, Olea, RickyBobby, and Starbelly are a few that come to mind.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:09 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding Vesuvio as a good bar for the solo, introverted traveller. Upstairs is especially good.
posted by ryanshepard at 4:08 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't know about you but when I go out I am absolutely not in the mood to talk to strangers. So ironically I prefer slightly crowded (but not so crowded I can't find a bar seat) places. In a crowd you're a bit more anonymous and people notice you less. For this reason I like hanging around 16 St BART. The 16st corridor there has enough bars and restaurants that you can find something you like, and everything is within 3-4 blocks.

In terms of things to do, the Roxie theater there always plays interesting movies. You could catch a concert at the Chapel or the Brick and Mortar. Amnesia and Revolution Cafe also have smaller blues/jazz shows on most nights. Tons of great cafes and coffee shops down Valencia St (I suggest Ritual Coffee). Bi-Rite has a cool market and they sell great ice cream and soft serve.
posted by rq at 11:07 AM on July 22, 2015

* Do the San Francisco City Guides North Beach by Night tour. Bonus: It's free!
* The Giants are playing Sunday through Wednesday. Sunday is the A's, so you'll probably overpay for tickets. Tickets for the Brewers the rest of the week should be available, however.
* Do the Alcatraz at Night Tour, though it won't be all that dark for most of it.
* Do a sunset Bay Cruise.
posted by cnc at 2:18 PM on July 22, 2015

Came in specifically to recommend the North Beach by Night tour for Sunday night, so seconding cnc!
posted by kristi at 9:42 AM on July 24, 2015

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