48 hours in San Francisco
April 25, 2016 2:12 PM   Subscribe

We've got 48 hours in San Francisco in mid May. It's not our first trip, but, it's been a while. What are your recommendations for fun/cultural things to do that aren't super touristy. How would you spend a weekend in S.F. with your wife and friends.

We are staying with friends in the Castro. They are recent transplants to the area, so, with your experience we can maybe show them a thing or two. Budget is "cheap"(understanding that cheap is a relative term in SF) to moderate.
posted by trbrts to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (24 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
If the weather is nice grabbing some brown-bagged drinks (not technically legal but EVERYONE does it) and sitting for a while in Dolores Park is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon. Its also super close to them in the Castro.

The Ferry Plaza farmers market is one of my happiest places on earth - even if you arent buying to cook the sheer volume and variety of produce always makes me feel good and reminds me of the thing that might one day drag me back to the west coast. excellent prepared food options as well including oysters from hog island, breads from acme, Primavera's chilequiles and Roli Rotis porchetta sandwiches.

Where are you visiting from and what kind of things interest you?
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 2:16 PM on April 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

Eat at Frances if you can get a table.
posted by rhizome at 2:21 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We live in Salt Lake City. We are interested in just about everything. Art, music, food, theatre, being outside, drinking... Last summer I found some great recommendations on old MeFi threads for a 48 hour visit to Chicago. We had a great time at a Neo Futurists show.
posted by trbrts at 2:23 PM on April 25, 2016

Catch a movie at the Castro theatre? Historic, beautiful theatre.
For something more offbeat, try oddball films.

Walk up the Vulcan steps?

Walk over to the Mission, grab a burrito at El Toro on 17th and Valencia then go eat it in Dolores Park. Grab an ice cream at Bi-Rite afterwards. My perfect meal.

SF is a great walking city. Follow old railway lines. Go pay homage to the Fire Hydrant that saved the Mission district.

posted by vacapinta at 2:30 PM on April 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

I like Poesia on 18th St, next to the Bear Starbucks. Spends, but yummy!

The Dashiell Hammett tour. That's got to be a thing.

Attend Celebration at Glide Memorial.

Have a Calistoga for me at The Midnight Sun!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:36 PM on April 25, 2016

If the weather is nice, get yourself a picnic at Bi-Rite Market (or a cheaper market) and go sit in Dolores Park. Then walk south down Mission and/or Valencia streets and explore The Mission.

Dim Sum (see previous SF threads for recommendations).

Rent Segways in Golden Gate Park from this guy (call to setup an appointment, he'll teach you to ride, then you can go on your own for a couple hours). Take them out to the Beach Chalet and grab a beer from the patio in the back; see the ocean. Lots of fun, and way less touristy than the organized Segway tours around the Wharf.
posted by zachlipton at 2:37 PM on April 25, 2016

Eat at Frances if you can get a table.

And if you can't, check Octavia (run by the same people as Frances).
posted by asterix at 3:08 PM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

The GLBT History Museum.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:31 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

If Frances and/or Octavia are a bit beyond your "cheap to moderate" threshold - and with entrees int he mid 20s to 30s they easily might not - there are still some interesting options although my top picks are more castro-adjacent than actually in the neighborhood (which, for whatever reason, has something of a reputation as a not-great place to eat).

Assuming you are fairly adventurous, and that SLC doesnt have abundant Burmese or South Indian options, I can suggest Burma Love on Valencia St and either Dosa or Udipi Palace just down the block. The former is obviously burmese, which is somewhere in between indian and chinese and thai (and the mixture of the three varies by dish with some leaning more one way than another). The later two options are both south indian, with Udipi being more traditional and more hole-in-the-wall where Dosa is trying to elevate things a bit and has more polish. Have eaten at and enjoyed both.

Also, ill put my vote in for El Castillito as the best burrito in/near the castro (and one of my faves city-wide) though i dont think you'd go wrong with vacapinta's suggestion of El Toro.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 3:37 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

You don't specify your dates, but if there's overlap, check out the SF International Arts Festival.

The MFA students at the American Conservatory theatre are performing Rocky Horror Picture show and something else. These are typically very talented folks who have a lot of fun and it's cheap! I think they're also doing Black Orpheus at the parks.
posted by jasper411 at 3:57 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Drive out to Fort Funston and watch the hang gliders. You can also walk around the area.
Down the road from that is Lake Merced; you can walk around the lake.
posted by gt2 at 5:14 PM on April 25, 2016

The new SFMOMA opens May 14.
posted by modofo at 5:52 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Stu Dudley's San Francisco

The Reddit AskSF FAQ and Archive

That should start you out.
posted by blob at 6:52 PM on April 25, 2016

Go to Craftsman and Wolves (early-ish) and have The Rebel Within. It's perfection.

Have a Calistoga for me at The Midnight Sun!

The Midnight Sun is a gay bar. Last time I was in the Castro, there was a line of gay guys waiting to get in, and for some reason, a group of straight couples inside. We could tell they were straight due to the fact the men were desperately holding onto their female partners so they wouldn't accidentally get sodomized.

If you and your wife go to a gay bar, please don't do this.
posted by roger ackroyd at 6:52 PM on April 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

Additionally, be aware that the Midnight Sun has a long history of being one of the more openly racist of a number of racist gay bars in the Castro (double carding people of color, etc.) You have many better options. And yeah, if you're straight, please be respectful tourists in our neighborhood.
posted by gingerbeer at 7:40 PM on April 25, 2016

Go to Chinatown.

Find the street with the big arch and all the tourist crap.

Go to the street one block over that runs parallel to the tourist crap street. The street with all the live seafood and weird produce stalls. You'll know it when you see it.

Walk down the street looking bewildered until an old man or woman beckons you toward their restaurant while insisting "You eat here."

Don't bother looking at the menu; just eat whatever they bring to your table.

posted by Jacqueline at 8:45 PM on April 25, 2016

While in Chinatown, if you wish to cook later, buy a couple live Dungeness crabs. Make sure they are active and fighting and that they have all their legs. Take them back to the place you're staying, steam them, and enjoy with butter, a lemon and a loaf of Acme bread (perhaps the levain) or Boudin sourdough if you stumbled into that elsewhere. Next to Chinatown is the cable car museum (totally free). Inside you'll find massive steampunk looking machinery and discover why cable cars skidding down hills smell like burning wood. in Chinatown is the Golden Gate Bakery. If they are open (they always seem to be on vacation) their egg tarts are well worth trying (double the price of other nearby options but twice as tasty in my estimation).
posted by mikhuang at 9:43 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Take a walk through the Presidio, find all the Andy Goldsworthy pieces, and grab a snack at Off the Grid if Sunday
posted by gillianr at 11:10 PM on April 25, 2016

I really miss Mymy for brunch (moderate) and The Italian Homemade Company for lunch (pretty cheap).

We were there for a Comedy Festival so that took up all our "Culture" time.
posted by getawaysticks at 8:26 AM on April 26, 2016

We had a similar chunk of time in SF and had a fun little adventure hunting down the Seward Street Slides.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:29 AM on April 26, 2016

A walk around the Mission could take up as much or as little time as you want. So many interesting little places to stop in.

I second Oddball Films. Show up early--you'll want to stake out the big couch for your group and spend some time wandering around the stacks of film. There are lots of great places nearby to have a drink afterward. Shotwell's is usually not too crowded.

If you'd rather have a more traditional moviegoing experience, the Castro Theatre is gorgeous. There's a real pipe organ and a guy who plays it before most shows. It's awesome.

You mentioned the Neofuturists--they have a company in San Francisco now too. It's the same basic format as what you saw in Chicago, but a little different tone. At least from what I've seen, the SF Neofuturists are a little more political.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:45 AM on April 26, 2016

There are a ton of great things to do in SF, but limiting choices to "non-touristy" makes recommendations tough, because almost everything cool is kind of touristy in a way.

San Francisco City Guides tours are free and informative, though you could clasify them as "touristy." The Chinatown tour was really enjoyable. The Contemporary Jewish Museum is in a beautiful building and is nice and small. Breakfast at Mama's - get there EARLY - it will be crowded, but not touristy, as such.

Having made a few recommendations, here's what we did with Mrs. CNC's mom in about two days, who had never been. I would probably classify all of this as touristy, but very enjoyable:
* Dinner at Zadin (Vietnamese) in the Castro. Since closed.
(Next morning)
* Walked over the Golden Gate Bridge
* Ocean Beach
* Conservatory of Flowers
* Lunch at Nopalito
* Twin Peaks
* California street cable car to Top of the Mark for a drink
* Walked to Ghirardelli Square
* Dinner at Piperade
* Stopped at Treasure Island to see the view on the way out of the city.
(Next day)
* Chinatown SF City Guide Tour
* Lombard Street

We added some stuff outside SF on other days, but that was the SF portion of the trip The biggest thing we missed in a busy couple days was probably the Ferry Building, due to lack of time. Note that we specifically did not take her to Fisherman's Wharf or Pier 39, because there's really nothing (except the seals) worth seeing down there.
posted by cnc at 10:42 AM on April 26, 2016

Best cookies in San Francisco are in the Castro.

And while I agree that Fisherman's Wharf is generally best avoided, the Musee Mecanique is enjoyed by all and even when the rest of Fisherman's Wharf is crowded, the musee is much less crowded.
posted by janey47 at 12:24 PM on April 26, 2016

@janey47 - Would agree that the Musee Mechanique is cool and worth seeing!
posted by cnc at 12:33 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

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