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9 Things Only Locals Know About San Francisco

From great food to the best places to shop, local residents have the inside scoop.

By Melanie Vare on December 1, 2021

San Francisco CA
Courtesy of Pedro Javier Jimenez under a CC 4.0 license.

San Franciscans know there is waaaay more to the “City by the Bay” than Fisherman’s Wharf and cable cars. As locals of one of the most popular cities in the world, residents of San Francisco have a game plan for navigating neighborhoods, restaurants, farmers’ markets and the notorious fog.

1. Only Tourists Go to Fisherman’s Wharf

The only time locals find themselves at the Wharf is when their aunt and uncle from Arizona visit and want to “see San Francisco.” Pier 35 is known for tourists and mediocre restaurants. The “real” San Francisco takes place within a spectrum of fantastic micro neighborhoods.

2. Hipster Micro Neighborhoods

Lower Haight — artsy and eclectic. The Mission — SF’s most popular neighborhood thanks to the sunshine and bars. Dogpatch — think converted warehouses and lofts. Noe Valley — its trendy main shopping area draws a genuine community vibe.  Inner Sunset — just feels quintessential San Franciscan.

3. Shorts Weather = The Embarcadero or Dolores Park

When it’s finally warm out, everyone in San Francisco makes their way to the closest park. Folks in SOMA, Potrero and Downtown head to the Embarcadero and Hipsters from the Mission, everyone from the Castro and Noe Valley families hit Dolores. These are the days that make you pinch yourself that you live in this gorgeous city.

4. Farmers’ Market Snobbery

Locals believe above all else that San Francisco farmers’ markets are the best in the nation. Hands down. The Ferry Building Marketplace is the be-all and end-all. Between the awesome almond bark, tasty salted pig parts (Boccalone) and credit-card necessary cherries, this farmers’ market has it all. 19th St. is lesser known, but has phenomenal prepared foods — try the pretzel croissant!

5. Restaurants Cheat Sheet Required

You’ll need a highly sophisticated spreadsheet to keep up with all of the mouthwatering restaurants. Once you make your list, accept that you’ll never be able to keep up with all the restaurants on your ever-expanding list unless you plan to ever-expand.

6. Golden Gate Park 

Think Central Park with an earthquake simulator exhibit. Never get bored again thanks to an award-winning playground, a carousel, biking paths, music in the park, the Japanese Tea Garden, Conservancy of Flowers, California Academy of Sciences, de Young Museum and Asian Art Museum.

San Francisco CA
San Francisco / Courtesy of Pedro Javier Jimenez under a CC 4.0 license.

7. Off The Beaten Path … To The Golden Gate Bridge

Start off with a picnic in Chrissy Field and then hike under the Golden Gate Bridge (about a mile). Chrissy Field has stunning iconic views of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge.

8. San Fran’s Secret Slides

Two super steep random concrete slides exist in a random neighborhood in Eureka Valley. Seward Street Slides are an SF staple. You’ll need to BYOC (bring your own cardboard) to assist your ride, or scan the area for leftover scraps of various sliding materials.

9. Innovative Local Theater

EXIT Theater is home of the S.F. Fringe Festival and presents cutting-edge performances year-round. Monthly Radar Reading salons at the Main Public Library and the Eureka Valley Branch give audience members home-baked cookies for asking questions.

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