San Francisco: Any advice?

In ten days, Alex, Toby and I will be taking a long-awaited trip to…San Francisco! We’re staying in Noe Valley and can’t wait to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, hang out with my sister, and ride these insane-looking cement slides. Alex also wants to walk around Berkeley and reminisce about his college days. We don’t know the city that well, though, so I’d love to ask: Do you have any recommendations of fun things to do? Restaurants? Shops? Day trips or hikes? We would LOVE to hear! Thank you so much for any tips. San Francisco is so amazing! xoxo

P.S. These sails look incredible.

  1. Go to Sol Food in San Rafael…BEST EVER. Also, Tartine Bakery is awesome and right around the corner is the BiRite Market and Creamery.

  2. omg I have just finished reading the 517 comments, I feel as I had just visited SF lol, I’m travelling is a few month so this post was SO helpful! So glad I found it (:

  3. a16 for dinner, Issa for Dinner, Tacolicious for insanely good margaritas, karas cupcakes for the little ones, Tadish grill for throwback dinner. Rose cafe’ has a good breakfast, zuni cafe,

  4. Anonymous says...

    I live near the city. Its the most amazing place. Restaurants-The Cliff House at sunset. Top of the Mark at the Mark Hopkins HOtel. Very classy for a date night,. Pier 39 is tourist fun and great Italian food in North Beach area. In Bezerkly (ha) go to the Claremont Hotel. Shopping,l SF Shopping Center has it all under one roof and a unbelievable food area that is very classy downstairs. Do not miss the Neimans Marcus or DSW for shoes. For sights, The Coit Tower, Golden Gate Park,The bridge of course and go to Sasalito for brunch. Take a drive through Marin for beauitful sites. In Goldern Gate Park go to the DeYoung Museum which is so amazing or our new Academy of Sciences which has a indoor rain forest and is fun for everyone. You have to go Ocean Beach area and take a drive. You can enter the park from there and continue on to the rest of the city. The Presido area is very fun and has everything from a Disney museum, fantasic views, and great restaurnts. Best trip to the city is one that is unplanned and takes you from a Cable car, to a ferry ride in the Bay, to North Beach for Italian and back to downtown for shopping. Have Fun!!

  5. i have not read all the comments so this may be repeats

    tartine! chocolate crossaint–double barreled chocolate
    Also-pre-order their country loaf a few days prior for pick up. I bring them home to chicago in my suitcase. they are that good. i think you order 4-5 days ahead

    a block away is a small grocery-bi-rite. they have a great korean sandwich that I take to go for a walk around the city

    At the ferry building-Resscheti (sp) chocolates! He makes me smile.

    same building at the oyster company they serve a grilled cheese that has about 5 different cowgirl creamery cheeses. i die for this

    take a drive down to Monterry and visit Pacific Grove. great little antique stores. beautiful quaint homes. my ex boyfriend that i secretly still adore lives there. I took a clipping of jade from there–it grows all over. take a few. (also grows in san fran). I planted it in Chicago and 9 months later it has grown like crazy! It is Amazing


  6. Anonymous says...

    Please…call it “SF” or “The Bay,” but never “San Fran” or “Frisco.”

    Hope you had fun!

  7. Oh I LOVE San Fran! Will be saving this post to my travel faves – thanks other commenters! Can’t wait to hear what you got up to. enjoy.

  8. says...

    HI WE GO TO s/f every year and are planing to relocate there soon.
    A great eating pkace in the Castro is 2223 on Market. Thats the name and the address.We actually went twice which is unheard of as there are so many places and so little time.
    Greens might have been good at one time but I think they are sliding by on hype now. We waited over a hour for a table and it was not worth it to us.
    Years ago we had bought their black bean vegitarian chili to go and then hike around the area. It was so good and still is. Audrey

  9. Anonymous says...

    things to do in Noe Valley, all walking distance. grab dinner at Contigo sit on the patio. Try to go on a Saturday, since they buy fresh from the farmers on those days at the ferry building. For a dinner at home grab a bag of fresh pasta/pesto/cheese/bread/antipasto from Pasta Gina it’s a small Italian deli on diamond street so delicious. A nice walk down church st. and stop in Omnivore Books. Boogaloos on Valencia is also good for breakfast. children’s playground on 24th and Douglass is nice and has a nice view of twin peaks.

    Ferry building it’s nice to get there early around 8 when the farmers are opening since it does become a tourist trap by 12, get breakfast at primavera best breakfast ever. Then
    stop by Boulettes Larder for some little treats. And acme bread for a baguette. Riding the F Market back up to the Castro is a nice change instead of the underground.

    If you are cooking at home too try to get to rainbow grocery it’s a non-member co-op. ( i don’t live in sf anymore, but drive two hours just to go there when I need to bulk up) and there is a whole foods in Noe too.

  10. Anonymous says...

    Ww were in SF last year and we discovered Flour + Water at 2401 Harrison St. Great Food and atmosphere, if you can get a seat! We went twice in 3 days.

  11. You have so many comments, I don’t know if you’ll get this. But Chez Papa is pefect french causal lunch that you can eat inside our out. in Potreo Hill

    Was there yesterday and I already miss it.


  12. Anonymous says...

    SeeSaw Cafe in Hayes Valley. It’s a very cute, hip cafe for parents and kids, complete with a little playroom and Four Barrel (local) coffee. Afterwards, it’s nice to walk around the neighborhood or go up to Alamo Square for the gorgeous views and children’s park.

  13. hey joanna, perhaps i’m too late to suggest a location as i see you’ve already got so many good places to visit. but what about checking out Odegard rugs? My boyfriend is a local artist in Halifax, NS and his painting was turned into a rug by local rug hookers and is currently hanging in the san fransisco showroom! i haven’t even seen it in person… here is the link to the san fran address:

    have a lovely trip!

  14. Anonymous says...

    I visit San Francisco every summer and there are definitely places I go to every time, and incase you’ve never visited any of these places I believe it’s a good idea to this time.
    1. Moscow & Tbilisi Bakery, 5540 Geary Blvd. (it’s between 19th Ave. & 20th Ave.). They have delicious piroshky, I get a meat filled one and a potato filled one. They have many other yummy treats as well.
    2. Tyler Florence recently opened a restaurant in the finance/business district. It’s called Wayfare Tavern and it is one of my personal favorite restaurants, I definitely recommend trying it out.
    3. It’s also always fun to drive to the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito or to drive along the coast.
    4. GOAT HILL PIZZA. My cousin lived in SF for a really long time and whenever we’d visit when I was younger we’d ALWAYS eat at this pizzeria. Their dough is sourdough which makes the pizzas extra delicious. To this day I cannot visit SF without getting a pizza from them. I believe they have two locations and the one I go to is 300 Connecticut St.

    There are so many things I still have yet to try and I am looking forward to my visit to SF this summer because I’m finally going to the bakery Tartine Bakery. There is also an ice cream shop that serves not-so-normal flavors, like proscuitto…

  15. Foreign Cinema for dinner/brunch. Great restaurant with an outdoor courtyard in the mission. There is a massive projector playing old movies in the evening. I’ve always enjoyed brunch but dinner can be quite romantic.

  16. Great city view.I will definitely go there.Thanks for sharing your advice.I have found your suggestion was very nice.

  17. oh hurray! are you on your way? if it is icky outside, you can take Toby to the indoor rec center in the Castro, on Collingwood. quite near where you are staying and it’s freeeeeeee.

    otherwise – wander, eat, enjoy!


  18. Liz says...

    One more great place in Berkeley, UC Botanical gardens. A must see!

  19. Liz says...

    One more great place in Berkeley, UC Botanical gardens. A must see!

  20. Liz says...

    Berkeley Visit

    Near or on UC campus:
    log cabin on campus – redwood cabin, try to get inside!
    t-rex on campus – life science building
    anthro museum
    berkeley art museum fridays – music and art special events
    pacific film archive – rare film showings
    campanile on campus – try to get inside!
    moe’s books – try not to spend the whole day here, it’s difficult!

    North Berkeley:
    indian rock – great view, large rocks
    cardboard slide across from rose garden
    live oak park berkeley art center – an odd location but last time I went there I saw amazing fiber art and ceramics!
    gregoire – french take out
    farmer’s market at shattuck and rose thursday evenings

    Solano Ave:
    the bone room – like paxton gate but smaller
    the pub – bar/tobacco shop that feels like you are at someones house. outside deck is a plus
    pegasus books – another great book store, not quite as good as moe’s

    ici – vanilla rose ice cream or earl grey (also at farmer’s market in north berkeley)
    tale of the yak – hard to explain, they have to buzz you in

    aquatic park – cool playground, frisbee golf, and waterskiing
    berkeley rep – amazing and unique performances
    gioia pizza – better than cheeseboard(sorry, its good too)

  21. I’m totally going to use this next time I’m in San Francisco.

    I haven’t read through all the suggestions, but did anyone mention the outer sunset neighborhood with General Store, Mollusk Surf Shop, and a walk along Ocean Beach?

  22. i can’t recommend much that hasn’t already been mentioned (which is a good sign, right?), but i have a couple of new suggestions:

    1. if you’re up to going to mill valley, and a bit of a hike, the tourist club ( is fantastic. it is only open to non-members on the weekends, so check out their calendar (and their short list of rules, i.e. no groups larger than 7). you hike down a paved path to this beautiful alpine-style lodge surrounded by the gorgeous muir woods. they sell beer and have piles of board games to play with. you can bring some cheese and bread and hang out on their big sunny deck. it’s awesome! oh, and bring cash–no credit cards in the woods ;).

    2. i also love jeremy’s department store ( if you’re up for some bargain shopping, it’s worth a stop and you there is a great park nearby (south park). you can grab lunch to go from one of the little cafes and eat in the tiny park and push toby in the toddler swing.

    3. if you do head to the ferry building farmer’s market, and stop by the primavera stand, get the chilaquiles–they’re AMAZING.

    hope you enjoy your trip!

  23. Just a few tidbits to add to your comprehensive list:

    If you have time for a drive to Napa, Coppola Winery has opened their pool to family visitors on the weekends

    Enjoy a picnic with arguably one of the best views of the city at the Randall Museum. The museum is great for kids with their live animal exhibit and outdoor space (my kids have been going since they were wee ones).

    If you have some grown up time available, we always enjoy a drink and a charcuterie platter at Spruce’s bar. That said, we have taken our kids to the bar area for a mouthwatering burger lunch.

    And, you can walk down to Julius Khan playground afterwards. Enter on Spruce and Jackson.

    Enjoy your stay!

  24. If you want possibly the best Indian food you’ve ever consumed, I *highly* recommend Shalimar at 532 Jones St. (btwn. O’Farrell & Geary). I had Indian food for the first time at Shalimar, and it’s kind of got a “hole in the wall” feel to it, but it’s so reasonably priced and the portions are overwhelming. You can also bring your own bottle of red wine, which would compliment the meal perfectly.

    I love San Francisco. Happy Travels :)

  25. I vacationed in San Francisco a few months ago. I have to say food wise the things that made the biggest impression on me were The Stinking Rose and the Saturday market. The Stinking Rose is a restaurant that is famous for having A LOT of garlic in their food, they do have options that have little or no garlic though. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was very intimate. Every Saturday there is a big market at the Ferry Building. There is so much to eat, look at, and just take in. There are sandwiches that will make your taste buds sing and a vegan doughnut shop that rivals any top pastry shop. you can go to the Ferry Building any other day as well, but Saturday is when there is the bog turn out.

    The California Science Academy was a must see. There is so much in there and kids will love it.

    The best part about San Francisco is just walking around and soaking everything in.

    I hope this helps. I love your blog.

  26. If you have a car you should take a drive down the coast 20 minutes to Pacifica – bowl a few frames at Seabowl, a fantastic bowling alley right on the beach, then hit up the bar/restaurant across the street – Nick’s Rockaway. They have a live band most nights playing amazing wedding-reception type music. I always take out of towners – they love it!

  27. I think you’re friends with Nora Singley, one of my dear friends from high school. We’re both SF natives and I came right back after college, so you should definitely ask her or feel free to contact me. We can give you the inside scoop.

  28. Go to Sol Food in San Rafael…BEST EVER. Also, Tartine Bakery is awesome and right around the corner is the BiRite Market and Creamery.

  29. herbivore is a really spot to eat!

  30. Head into Marin and go check out the adorable towns of Mill Valley and San Anselmo to do some walking and window shopping.You definitely MUST stop for lunch on the patio at Comforts in San Anselmo and have their amazing Oriental Chicken Salad. I have dreams about this salad its so good! A fave of Robin Wright Penn’s as well. :)
    Stinson Beach and a quick hike in Muir Woods are worth doing in Marin as well! On your way back to the city check out the Marin Headlands overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and the city.

  31. Anonymous says...

    I’ve got to say Thorough bread bakery on Church is amazing (better than tartine and much less crowded).

  32. Anonymous says...

    Go to Jeremys for clothes, Hayes valley/Fillmore street/Valencia for a stroll, Cotogna/ Marlow/SPQR/Francis for food, and def the ferry building and Dolores park, all fun. It’s my town and love it!

  33. Anonymous says...

    east bay (berkeley)– 4th street, lots of great shops, and good eats, chez panisse and the gourmet ghetto (cheeseboard, the juicebar collective, the original peets coffee, cha ya- really good vegan japanese food), the rose garden and a walk looking at all the beautiful homes in the berkeley hills. there are also many paths through out the hills, check out if you head into oakland, go to north oakland/ the temescal district. eat at pizzaiolo for breakfast or dinner, always crowded with lots of different kinds of people and beautiful outdoor seating. also get a chicken sandwich from bakesale bettys, right nest door, or drive deeper into oakland and get brunch (or dinner!) at camino, soo so so delicious! there are many little art galleries in oakland to check out, but one of the best is if you make it to oakland you should definitely check it out! also, tilden park and the little farm are great for children and beautiful too! also, the berkeley farmers markets are very nice and much calmer then the ferry buildings market on saturdays. they happen in various locations in berkeley on tuesday, thursday and saturday. college ave. in berkeley is also lovely, a lot like noe valley in sf, but walkable from uc berkeley campus.

    in sf–don’t forget japantown! of course tartine, and the mission (check out gravel and gold, and also there is another cha ya location here too). outer sunset it worth checking out. you can walk to the (foggy) beach, or have a meal at outerlands and check out the general store and trouble coffee.

    if you make it to marin county– mill valley is cute! inverness (stay at mankas) and point reyes station ( go to tomales bay foods to pick up some food for picnicing and watch cheese be made at cowgirl creamery). oh an oysters at hog island.

    have fun!!

  34. Jo, Toby would LOVE the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito. My son, Julian (almost 3) has loved it since he could walk! We have an annual pass. Best place for our small tots. It’s right across the Golden Gate. Then you can skip across the street and enjoy fabulous cocktails at Cavallo Point resort with the most amazing views of the bay, bridge and city. Have so much fun in our city!

  35. Ferry building (Tues or Sat farmer’s market).
    Blue bottle coffee (which is at the Ferry building too). My favorite is the New Orleans Iced coffee. I dream of it. It’s so good.

  36. Denisse D. says...

    Go to Tartine Bakery and Bi-Rite Creamery near Dolores Park! They are both delicious!! Tartine has these amaaaaazinng Morning Buns! Get there early because there is always a line! But it is worth the wait! Bi-Rite has awesome organic and delicious ice cream! Mitchell’s Ice Cream is also a must! That is the BEST ICE CREAM IN THE WORLD! It’s on 688 San Jose Ave. (Guerrero Street) at the corner of 29th Street! Hope you have fun and hope the weather is great too! I love your blog! I hope you have fun with your whole family!!

  37. How fun! Since you’re staying in Noe Valley, there’s a wonderful cheese shop (24th Street Cheese) on 24th St. and Sanchez. Check out the farmer’s market next door on Saturday morning and head over to the shop!

    I second everyone’s recommendation of Firefly. The food is delicious, and they have a prix fixe menu on weekday nights. In fact, the pastry chef at Firefly gets her cheese from 24th St. Cheese Co., and her desserts are out of this world!

  38. if you have the time I recommend a daytrip to Half Moon Bay. Head out on the 1 from SF to the coast/peninsula. Montara has a great coffee shop – Cafe Lucca. Just south, check out the Moss Beach Distillery {an old rum runners site during prohibition} and seals cove beach. Stop in El Granada for surfer’s beach and a great thrift store. And finally on to Half Moon Bay with the best ever sandwich shop {San Benito House, try the olive walnut}. If you have the time, drive 20 minutes south to Pescadaro for the most amazing cream of artichoke + chile soup and pie at Duartes. It’sa beautiful drive along HWY 1 and the pacific ocean. Well worth it all if you have the time! Enjoy SF!

  39. I just visited my brother in SF! He took me to Foreign Cinema for dinner and it was spectacular. It’s an old movie theater that has been completely gutted and refurbed. It’s lovely – there is outdoor dining, projections of old black and white movies, and the food is spectacular. And we’re both total foodies! And grabbing breakfast at Tartine is a must. Also if you’re looking for outdoor activities, try Marin County – great for biking, picnicking (great for views of the city), and walking.
    Have a fabulous time!

  40. tammytallsocks says...

    So many excellent suggestions already! I live in N.V., too – perfect for young kids.

    1) Glen Park Canyon – West end of Noe Valley 2) N.V. playground 24th & Douglas 3) Twin Peaks for the city view 4) Flora Grubb Nursery for inspiration 5) Clarion Alley between Valencia & Mission Sts. for the murals 6) GGP Botanical Garden – from N.V. take the J to the N – see Delores Park along the way 7) Omnivore Bookstore on Cesar Chavez St. 8) Lovejoy’s Team Room

    Have fun!

  41. Just remembered. Don”t forget to go to Gail’s Bakery in Soquel ( on the way to the Monterey Peninsula. Wonderful bakery plus great atmosphere and food. Famous for their princess cake, I still dream about that it so very pretty and a delight to savor. Have fun:)

  42. The most beautiful place is the Japanese Tea Gardens,wonderful,amazing and relaxing all at the same time. Take a day trip to Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula only about 75 miles from San Fran. You will not be disappointed. I lived there for many years and it is heaven on earth. The whales and the monarch butterflies love to go through there as well. Enjoy your trip as it is a magical place. Dress in layers as
    San Fran can be chilly at times:)

  43. Anonymous says...

    brunch at zazie in cole valley– the elderflower mimosa and the pierre noire poached eggs are incredible. after that walk down half a block for vintage shopping in the haight-ashbury, and then to golden gate park for some afternoon sunshine…

  44. Tartine of course!

  45. I love Noe Valley! I live right off 24th street, where you’ll likely be spending some time if you’re staying there. Definitely check out Bernie’s (coffee shop) and the Noe Valley Bakery (best pastries EVER). Have a fabulous time!

  46. My sis and I (both Cal alums…Go Bears!) are also having a Berkeley/SF adventure next week and we’ve been knee deep planning too :) Here’s some tips for when you’re around the Cal campus:

    When you’re in Bezerkeley, tour the Cal campus (it’s a long, but awesome walk, full of history). Go up the Campanile (aka Sather Tower). Tres cool.

    Ice Cream: Fenton’s (it’s even featured in the Pixar movie “Up”!). The Black and Tan Sundae is life changing.

    Breakfast: Yank Sing for dumplings in SF, Rick and Anne’s for perfect eggs benedict in Berkeley.

    Lunch: Cheeseboard! Or go across the street to the Cafe at Chez Panisse for some Alice Waters goodness. If you’re closer to campus, Intermezzo on Telegraph has the best, hugest salads with incredible poppy seed dressing. Raleigh’s next door serves great beers and is a standard Cal pub.

    For some natural beauty, check out Tilden Park, hike the Fire Trail by Tightwad hill behind the stadium for incredible Bay views, the Botanical Gardens, and Lawrence Hall of Science (great exhibits and an incredible panoramic view of the Bay).

    Have Fun and Go Bears!

  47. i love this little quirky thing:,_California%29
    (might want to check status on the days/hours open as i haven’t been there in a while)

    you can see the “lens” from the outside rotating…thus making it pretty fun to follow the lens and wave to the people inside. totally fun and goofy to split up and do this. the image is projected onto a huge disc in a dark room and i always feel like i’m watching film footage from the 70’s when in reality i’m looking at moving images of the people and the water just right outside.

  48. Oh my! I just spent two nights reading all these fantastic tips of SF restaurants et c. Make sure you write about your stay when you get back, ’cause my husband and I are bringing our 11-month baby to SF in July!

  49. A few suggestions for East Bay eats:
    – fried chicken sandwiches (and lemon ices) at Bakesale Betty and sorbet at Scream a few doors away (but be prepared for long lines!)
    – nice (but not fancy) dinner at Pizzaiolo or Camino. It’s interesting to see what Chez Panisse alums are doing now with California cuisine.
    – a taco truck tour in the Fruitvale section of Oakland. Tasty and different.

    There are so many great places to visit and eat. Have a great time!

  50. Anonymous says...

    Noe Valley farmers market on Saturday, shop at Sway or Ambiance on 24th, pick up the croissant bread pudding at La Boulange de Noe… and finish off the day with a stuffed pizza slice at Patxis. Noe Valley is an AMAZING neighborhood so much to explore there on its own. Love my neighborhood!

    The neighboring mission area: Don’t leave SF without trying Philz coffee. Oh and stop at BiRite market and order a nicoise sandwich. You will not be disappointed!!!! Oh and be sure to somehow squeeze in a burrito from El Farrolito on 24th & Mission… don’t listen to anyone else, this is the BEST taqueria in the city. =)

    Enjoy SF!

  51. Pizza Delfina in the Mission, Zachary’s in Oakland or Berkeley for the best deep dish west of the Mississippi, and PIKKAPIKKA in Japan Tow/ Pac Heights for the best photo booths ever!

  52. If you’re around on Friday night, the food trucks at Fort Mason are amazing! Sooo tasty!

    Definitely worth checking out.


  53. Kirsty says...

    We moved here from London, England a year ago & love the city.

    Here are my top/must do picks:

    7X7 magazine did an article on the 100 things you must try before you die in the city. Out of these i highly recommend Saigon Sandwich & Bob’s Donuts! Yum!


    Humphry Slocombe in the Mission is great – ice cream flavours like Peanut Butter Curry & Rosemary’s Baby (Vanilla, Pinenuts and Rosemary) mmm.

    Ferry Building:
    to get your cheese-fix at the Cowgirl Creamery & the French Patisserie Miette is very pretty. Macaroons!

    Big 4 up by Grace Cathedral & Huntingdon Park for people-watching and ‘Side Car’ or Cable Car Cocktails whilst an old man plays the piano in a tux. Wood Panelled walls and a bit of the old SF era. Love it.

    farm:table on Post St/Leavenworth for a cute coffee/breakfast experience. They sell Verve Coffee from Santa Cruz. Try the ‘Tendernob’.

    The view from Bernal Heights is lovely (can head here with your humphry slocombe icecream in one hand)

    Outerlands up by Ocean Beach is a gorgeous ‘castaway’ style beach cafe with style. they do great open faced sandwiches and carrot cake. Head here before you hit up ocean beach. (take the Muni N line here from the city. It stops on Judah, right by Outerlands cafe. Closed on Mons).

    MAMAs on Washington Square for French Toast Sampler brunch. My fave. Also closed on Mon. Open 8 – 3 ish i think. Be prepared to wait up to an hour it’s so yummy.

    Loving Cup on Polk St has GREAT organic frozen yogurt & rice pudding. You can mix and match your flavours to make your own combo. they have english toffee in the mix with oreos & peanut butter. mmm!

    I second Blue Bottle, but also love Contraband if you’re in the Nob Hill area. it’s fairly new.

    My fave Blue Bottle Cafe is the roof top terrace one in the SF MOMA. Def worth a trip up to the roof terrace if you end up heading to the gallery one day. especially if you get good weather. It’s a sun trap. Sculpture & Blue Bottle Coffee served in Heath Ceramic cups & lovely plants & landscaping. What a joy! Very baby friendly too! The SF MOMA is free every 1st Tues of the Month by the way :)

    Enjoy your trip!