A cyber acquaintance from the east coast is coming to San Francisco, and while telling her some of the great things to do in San Francisco, I thought "hey, I should blog some of our favorites." So, here it is, in no particular order:
Ferry Building: they've renovated the old ferry building and put in all kinds of food shops. It reminds me of Paris. There are produce shops, oil shops, chocolate shops, wine shops, bread shops, cheese shops, restaurants, and cooking shops. And on certain days there is a huge farmer's market, which includes food from famous restaurants on Saturdays (maybe Sundays, too? I don't know.) Tuesdays and Thursdays there are also markets, but I think those don't go year-round and aren't as big. Oh, yeah--you can also catch a ferry to Sauselito there.
North Beach: home of City Lights Bookstore, where the beat poets hung out. Great neighborhood for wandering around in. Stop by Stella Bakery for some wonderful Italian pastry. This is the Italian district, and there are tons of Italian restaurants that we haven't been to. The one we have been to is Rose Pistola, which was wonderful, but *not* for when you're looking for cheap eats.
Telegraph Hill: we watched the movie The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, and loved it! When Paul's parents were here, we saw it with them and then went looking for the parrots. We had a great walk in the staircase neighborhoods of Telegraph Hill (don't know how the residents do it, having to take a long staircase to their homes instead of driving right up) and then we finally found them. Someone had told us "you'll hear them before you see them." Boy, that was true! They are very noisy! It was really cool to see them all.
Valencia St.: lots of great stuff on Valencia. Dog Eared Books, a used bookstore (some new stuff too), Herbivore, an all-vegan and all-delicious restaurant, 826 Valencia, otherwise known as "The Pirate Store" (in case you don't have a pirate supply store in your town), a cycle shop, lots of great restaurants including a very fresh taqueria called El Mariachi (I think). We just ate at Pauline's Pizza last week, and really enjoyed it. They use fresh-from-the-owner's-garden ingredients. We had a pizza with artichoke hearts and lemon puree! Where else can you get lemon puree on your pizza, I ask you?
24th St. in Noe Valley: lots of wonderful shops, including the Global Exchange store (all fair-trade stuff), The Ark--a toy store, a kids consignment shop, lots of clothing stores, a good cheese shop.
Irving and Ninth Ave. area: great restaurants in this area, our faves being Masala (Indian food) and Park Chow. The Archangel Bookstore is an Orthodox book and religious supply store on 9th, kind of a cool and quirky place to go.
Museum of Modern Art is fun.
Academy of Sciences is cool, but they're renovating their building and in temporary quarters right now, much smaller. Normally they have an aquarium and a planetarium, plus other cool science things.
Speaking of science...Exploratorium, of course. If you are a kid or just like to play around with stuff, you have to visit Exploratorium. Everything is hands-on.
On nice days, we like to go to the beach. Our favorites are China Beach and Crissy Field. We can take the streetcar to Ocean Beach at Taraval easily, so we do that sometimes. There is a nice beach on the bay right across from Ghirardelli Square, so if you want to be touristy and get beach time in, you can.
There is a cool little Cable Car museum that's fun to go to once, and it's free. You have to take the cable car there, of course.
A Clean Well Lighted Place For Books. That's the name of the business, and it says it all. :-)
Restaurants that don't fall under any other category:
Greens, a vegetarian upper-scale restaurant. Though we have gone there windblown from being on the beach all day....but our server did wonder about our appearance. ;-)
Fattoush: a Meditteranean restaurant on Church St. in Noe Valley.
Extreme Pizza: they deliver and they do soy cheese. Plus it's great pizza. A small chain--we first ate at an Extreme Pizza in Fresno.
Cafe Gratitude: for when you're in a quirky mood....it's a raw-food, vegan place. Everything on the menu starts with "I Am..." The pizzas are "I am Passionate" and "I am Magical." Gave me a start when the server put my smoothie in front of me and said "You are Beautiful...." until I figured out that the name of the smoothie was "I Am Beautiful!" It's pretty good food, all things considered.
Chow: I mentioned Park Chow--this is the original one. On Church St. near Market. I reviewed it here on July 24.
Mezes: A Greek restaurant that does only Mezedes (appetizers). Scrumptious!
Mozzarella di Bufala on West Portal: Italian food and Brazilian food. The pizza is wonderful, but we haven't eaten there lately because they don't have soy cheese....
Roti, also on West Portal--another great new Indian food restaurant.
We love using Muni to get around San Francisco. In some cases, it takes a lot less time and headache to take the train or bus, than to drive in a harried barely-moving traffic jam, circle round and round looking for a parking place, then pay big bucks for parking. Pick up a Muni map at lots of businesses, like Walgreens, and use it to map out your route, or go here to have the computer do it for you. Fares are, as of September 1, 2005, $1.50 for adults and 50 cents for under 18 and seniors.
Outside of San Francisco:
Coyote Point Museum. They have rescued animals that can't make it in the wild anymore, plus a great exhibit that shows the environmental impact that we're having on the earth and the ways we can go easier on it.
Point Reyes: Beautiful natural setting, north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge. Lots of hikes. We like the earthquake trail.
Pescadero State Beach: south of Half Moon Bay--probably takes us about 45 minutes to drive. A beach with lots of rocks that catch the wildlife in tidepools as the tide wanes. Last time we saw plenty of anemones, sea stars, an array of mollusks, and a sea lion played near the shore all afternoon.
Berkeley: yeah, you've heard all about weird Berkeley. Now go there and see how cool it is. :-) Chez Panisse is in Berkeley, Alice Waters' restaurant. Definitely worth a special-occasion visit. My own cooking has been highly influenced, indirectly, by Alice Waters' emphasis on fresh, local flavors.
Hmm....I'm almost done and I didn't even mention Fisherman's Wharf! Well, here I will. If you do go to that tourist trap, do watch for the Bush Man. He's a guy who sits very quietly behind a little branch, and watches for his next victim. When he or she gets right next to him (if the victim hasn't noticed the bush man) he jumps out at him/her and scares the pants off the poor victim! He holds out a cup for the amused observers to pay him for this great entertainment. (When we went there with my parents, I told my mom in advance about him. Then when we saw him I told her he was there. But she still was scared when he jumped out at her!)