With eating and drinking our way through San Francisco being a top priority, we needed a way to burn off some of the calories we’d been consuming. In my opinion there is no better way to see a city than to simply walk it and luckily San Fran is a fantastic walking city. We spent three full days in San Francisco and walked 27 miles (thanks Fitbit!). Here are some of my favorite touristy highlights from our self-guided walking tour of San Francisco.
Ferry Building Marketplace
The Ferry Building Marketplace reminded me a lot of the French Market in Chicago. There are a great variety of local San Francisco shops showcasing small regional producers of everything from mushrooms to cheese, ice cream and more. Several restaurants at the Ferry building offer patio seating with a great backdrop of the bay. I of course honed in on the local cheese shop Cowgirl Creamery, and tried out a creamy truffle-infused cheese.
The Mission Neighborhood
Named for Mission Dolores founded in 1776, San Francisco’s oldest neighborhood has some of its hottest new restaurants and galleries, reminding me a bit of a mix of Pilsen, Logan Square and the West Loop in Chicago. We went to an amazing Argentinian restaurant one night called Lolinda where we feasted on shared plates of empanadas, ceviche, plantains, octopus and steak. In addition, we also tried La Taqueria declared to have America’s Best Burrito by ESPN’s FiveThirtyEightcom. We chose the winner, a riceless carnitas burrito filled to the brim with meat, beans, fresh tomato salsa, onions, cilantro, sour cream and cheese. Needless to say, it did not disappoint. Although the burrito was huge, it was so tasty Taste Tester #1 claimed he could have eaten another one by himself.
City Lights Bookstore
Inconspicuously nestled between bars, strip clubs and Italian restaurants in the North Beach neighborhood, City Lights Bookstore has been a literary meeting place since 1953. In 1955 owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti launched City Lights Publishers in order to feature the work of the Beat poets, who were having difficulty finding publishers for their unique style of thought and writing. Over the years, City Lights Pocket Poets Series introduced writers such as Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, and Jack Kerouac. Being a writer myself I loved being able to stand where these literary giants once stood. Plus I love the smell of a good old-fashioned bookstore!
If you’re a hippie at heart you won’t want to miss stopping by arguably the birthplace of America’s counter-culture, the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Although it’s still filled with many tie-dye filled head shops, it boasts several little hip cafes and restaurants. It’s pretty cool to be able to walk past the doors that Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Jimmy Hendrix and The Dead once lived behind.
Fisherman’s Wharf is basically San Francisco’s more interesting version of Chicago’s Navy Pier. It’s filled with touristy restaurants like Bubba Gump’s Shrimp and Hard Rock Café and you’ll need to be aware of dive-bombing seagulls if you’re eating outside. But it’s a worthwhile destination for little ones as for a small fee, you can board and tour old ships docked in the water. Or if you’re an animal lover like me, head to Pier 39 where a whole pod of sea lions are located. Pier 39 is about a full mile walk from Ghirardelli Square.