A guide to San Francisco : my favorite places

Hello everyone, I’ve been working hard on this post for you guys to share some of my favorite places in San Francisco to eat, drink, play, rest, sights see, learn, grow, and shop! I absolutely LOVE that there are so many things to do in this compact city. There are adventures waiting for you every single day, all you have to do is walk out the door. San Francisco has this amazing ambiance of mixing nature with a city (if you don’t mind walking over dog doo-doo once in a while), that you can easily forget what a large city it is.

I’ve rounded up 48 different places for you to explore – I could have easily added a few more, but I wanted to strictly only use photos I have taken. And just as a reminder, I also have two other posts that will be relevant if you’re looking for places to shop in San Francisco – Vintage/Thrift shopping in Haight-AshburyClothing shops map  in San Francisco

San Francisco has tons of food options for every type of diet, appetite, restriction, country, price point, and time of day. It can sometimes be difficult to even settle on once choice, and other times hard to make yourself a meal at home because there are so many places to eat out (plus, new places are popping up all the time). Here are just a few of my favorites.

Bar Crudo – You can get clam chowder anywhere, but Bar Crudo has the most scrumptious sea food chowder that has never disappointed. We bring all of our out of town guests here, and they always request to go back upon return. They have a killer happy hour menu. A must for seafood lovers.
Bar Crudo

Bi Rite – Officially a market, I don’t shop here for groceries because they’re a little out of my budget. I come here strictly for the ice cream. Oh the ice cream! There are two locations, both of which frequently have lines out the door to get a scoop of their special flavors. My personal favorite is their salted caramel flavor, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Bi Rite Divisadero

Bun mee – It’s hard for me to write about this place, because I’m not eating bread at the moment and can’t enjoy their sandwiches. But I’ll rave about them anyway. Lovely Vietnamese sandwich spot. Yes, there are cheaper sandwiches somewhere else, but some days I don’t feel like eating in a hole in the wall. Everything on the menu is delicious. The sweet potato fries and the Vietnamese coffee are worth the visit alone.

Craftsman and Wolves – What can I say about this place other than it is a culmination of food with detail. Everything has been created to be unique and delicious. I have found that they have the best hot chocolate I have tasted since I visited Madrid in 2009, I have to get it every time I’m in the neighborhood.
Hot Chocolate at Craftsman and Wolves

Gotts Roadside – I know some people say In N Out is pretty tough to beat for a burger, but Gott’s is neck to neck if you ask me. There are a few Bay Area locations for you to try. And I think they do what In N Out fails in – having a larger menu (that includes alcoholic beverages) without compromising what they’re known for, yummy burgers and shakes. The SF location is in the Ferry Building, so you’ll have a great time just wandering around in that place.
Gott's Roadside

Hog Island Oyster – Another Ferry Building staple, the Hog Island Oyster Company is a must for oysters. I still want to visit their main location in Tomales Bay where you can get your own oysters.
Hog Island Oyster

-Mission Beach Cafe – I’m kind of bummed this is the only picture I’ve taken of this place. I love eating here. The one thing I don’t love is that it consistently has the longest waiting time to eat breakfast every single day. You wanna try the best pancakes ever? Come here.
Mission Beach Cafe

Outerlands – For a bite by the beach, come to Outerlands. Food and service is always fantastic.

Chambers/Phoenix hotel – this bar/restaurant/hotel combination is pretty spectacular. The neighborhood is sketchy, but there is always some fun event going on. It almost reminds me of places I’ve been to in LA (Roosevelt hotel comes in mind) and when I lived in Vegas (our spots in Downtown where the locals go).

Phoenix Hotel

Clift – I consider The Clift that classy hotel bar. If you’re in the area, it’s a nice place to visit.
Clift hotel

The Independent – one of my favorite music venues. Always a good show happening, great place to discover new music. The venue isn’t overwhelmingly huge, so you’ll get a great view no matter where you are.
Os Mutantes at The Independent

Magnolia Brewery – They make their own beer, enough said.
Magnolia Brewery

Smugglers Cove – Don’t let the nondescript facade fool you, behind the tinted windows is this amazing three floor tiki bar. Each drink is hand crafted, you quickly forget you’re in San Francisco.
Smugglers Cove

Sight-see : go outside
San Francisco has the pleasure of having SO many things to do outdoors. On days that the weather is cooperating and with the right transportation, you can catch tons of things in just one weekend.

-Bay cruise – walk over to the wharf and buy yourself a ticket to get on a boat tour, especially if it is your first time in San Francisco. There are many options, if you want to go to Alcatraz, you most likely have to buy those tickets in advance. But honestly, any of the tours are nice (I don’t recommend taking one on a foggy day for obvious reasons). You can also take a ferry to across the bay, and catch it back later to return.
Alcatraz from boat view

Buena Vista Park – my underrated little park, which should actually just be called a forest. If you’re up for the hike, walk through it to get to the summit and see a beautiful view of the city.
Buena Vista park

-Corona Heights/Randall Museum – Just a short hike away from Buena Vista Park, you’ll easily get to Corona Heights and the Randall Museum. Where you’ll get another beautiful view of the city. Plus, the Randall Museum has lots of things for kids to see and do – on Saturday’s they have a petting zoo and open their model train city.
View from Corona Heights

-Ocean Beach – Just get to the beach already. It’s beautiful. Unless you surf, you probably wont get in the water. But beautiful nonetheless.
Ocean Beach

-Sutro Baths/Lands End – Land’s end is a nice lookout/hiking spot right by the ocean. Sutro Bath’s are the foundation remains of old bath houses that used to exist in San Francisco. One of the few places that looks beautiful in both the sun and gloom!
Land's End

Sutro Baths

Golden Gate Park
So I had to give Golden Gate Park its own little section. It is my hands down FAVORITE place in San Francisco and possibly ever. I’ve been all over and through it and still discover new things about it all the time. You could easily spend the whole day there and not be disappointed. Almost all of these are short distances from each other and easily walkable. Lots of people enjoy riding bikes through here, on some weekends they close down JFK drive to cars.

Botanical Gardens – the botanical gardens is our arboretum that has lots of plants from all over the world and also a small cluster of giant redwood trees! They also have a small library on site (how I’d LOVE to work there!)
Botanical Gardens

Buffalo Paddock – Not many people know that there is a patch of land for Buffalo in the park. You don’t get to touch them or anything like that. But it’s pretty majestic to see them there.
Buffalo in Golden Gate Park

Conservatory of Flowers – Sitting in the field by the Conservatory of Flowers is my happy place, I come by at least once a week with a book, just sit and people watch. Great place for a picnic too. The Conservatory itself is a beautiful greenhouse for exotic flowers and plants.
Conservatory of Flowers

-Dahlia/Rose gardens – Just a block from each other, you can head over to the Dahlia and Rose Gardens. I declare that the Rose Garden is the most glorious smelling place in all of San Francisco. When the gardens are in bloom, you really feel like you’re in heaven.
Golden Gate Park Rose Garden

Dahlia Garden Golden Gate Park

Japanese Tea Garden – A small but beautiful garden dedicated to the Japanese aesthetic. If you get there early enough, some of the days are free entrance. This place is zen in the park.
Japanese Tea Garden

-Museums – You can hit up two museums back to back if you like. The De Young fine art museum and the Academy of Sciences are right next to each other and are both wonderful.
De Young Museum

Stow Lake – This lake is a nice pit stop, I love going by here for my evening walks. You can walk over to its little island. If you’re up for it, you can rent a canoe or paddle boat to go around the lake.
Stow Lake

Windmills – There are two windmills in Golden Gate Park right by the beach. They used to actually function and pump water. The north windmill has a pretty tulip garden next to it.
Windmill at Golden Gate Park

Sight-see : the city
-Alamo Square – Does this even need explanation? Alamo Square has a vista of the famous painted ladies on one side. It really should only be a quick stop while doing other things, cause there isn’t much to do here. Go to Bi-Rite (see above) get a scoop of ice cream and enjoy it here on a nice day 🙂
Alamo Square

Defenestration – I had heard that they were going to remove this installation. I remember the first time I saw it and freaking out. It really looks like furniture is falling out of the window. They successfully made it look in motion as well! Also known as the furniture falling out of the building place.
Defenestration San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge – There are no words for the bridge either. You have to see it when you go to the city. Even living here and seeing it each time, evokes something wonderful. You can walk and bike over it if you want to. Cross over going north and check out the vista point. You will not be disappointed (see photo below).
Gold Gate Bridge

Japantown – coming here is a nice little break from all things stereotypical San Francisco. It’s just a tiny neighborhood, and really not that much to see compared to other neighborhoods. But it’s so nice here. Fantastic stores and food. They also have great festivals! Come during the Cherry Blossom season. You can also catch some people in their Cosplay best some weekends.

Palace of Fine Arts – while this picture below makes it look like a regular sized building, check out the tiny people at the bottom for scale. This massive building was erected for the worlds fair many decades ago and is still around. It is absolutely breathtaking and beautiful.
Palace of Fine Arts

Street fairs – Several times a year, main streets are shut down for street festival gatherings for specific seasons. Haight street, Fillmore street (from picture below), Folsom street, just to name a few.
Fillmore Jazz Fest

Main library on Market street – How could I not include a library in this roundup. The main library is an absolute must. They have events almost every day- I was able to catch Lois Lowry (photo below), one of my favorite authors giving a talk for free! Events are for all types of tastes and ages. There are five floors of materials to check out, and a sixth floor dedicated to San Francisco history which everyone should see!
Lois Lowry at San Francisco Public Library main

MOMA – The SF Museum of Modern Art is a beautiful home to amazing art, and is constantly rotating amazing exhibits. As I write this, it is currently closed for renovations and expansion. Scheduled to reopen in 2016 – BUT they continue to host events around the city instead.

Aldea Home – I’m sad this is the only picture of mine I could find of this place. Aldea home is a wonderfully curated home goods store. They have an amazing collection of scents to buy (obviously Tokyomilk is my favorite!) If you need to buy someone a gift, this is the place to check out.
Scents at Aldea Home

Amoeba – Ever since I got my record player to work again, I can’t stop visiting Amoeba. I don’t necessarily buy anything, if you’ve ever gone record digging, you know the hunt itself is the feeling you crave. Plus, they have free music events all the time. I just caught Deltron 3030 and Dan the Automator the other day!
Deltron 3030 and Dan the Automator at Amoeba SF

Booksmith – My other go-to gift store. The Booksmith always has great books to buy and give. They have the most adorable children’s section where I sometimes get things for my nieces and nephews. Besides books they have lots of stationary, calendars, tshirts and totes, magazines, zines, and other knick-knacks!
Books at Booksmith

Britex Fabrics – I can’t remember if they don’t let you take pictures in Britex or not, as to why this is the only picture I have of this place. Several floors of the most beautiful and exquisite fabrics! One floor dedicated to little odds and ends that you may need when sewing. If you’re into sewing or crafting, you definitely need to come here.
Britex Fabrics bag

Jeremy’s – So this fitting room picture doesn’t do the place any justice. I often cite that I many of my clothes here. This “department store” is a designer discount store. The range of designers are wide but you can often find the big, big names here too (think  Chanel, Valentino, etc) at a fraction of the original price (still expensive, but discounted). They have a separate floor for contemporary designers. Every weekend they have a deal going on. A handful of times during the year they have special sales, my personal favorite is the 80% additional off sales sale. Where I’ve been able to buy things for less than ten dollars after the sale. The prices are better than an outlet.
Shopping at Jeremy's

Marc by Marc Jacobs – The MJ store is constantly rotation their selection of things. The highlights definitely are the accessories!

Marc Jacobs store in Pac Heights

Nest – a cute and lovely curated home store. It has lots of sweet toys for kids and kids at heart.

-The Other Shop – All things vintage and antique. I love browsing here every so often to look for my dream coffee table. But they always have killer Mid-Century Modern things. ***UPDATE, as of late 2013, the Other Shop is closed, it caught fire and the store was destroyed 🙁 hoping they can get back on their feet soon!
The Other Shop Divisadero

Union Square – You want to go shopping and don’t have too much time as a tourist? Just come to Union Square, (almost) everything could possibly want that your little city back home doesn’t have.
Union Square San Francisco

Wasteland – One of my favorite shopping spots. It’s a resale store, but I find the quality to be much higher than some other places. The best vintage tshirt collection for sale. The prices are higher than most places, but I think the selection is pretty impeccable.
Wasteland on Haight

Still reading?! Glad you made it all the way through. It will be very hard to move away one day.

Second hand shopping in San Francisco – my favorite places to thrift in Haight Ashbury

One of my favorite shopping destinations in San Francisco is well away from the tourist favorite Union Square and it’s not new merchandise. Thrift shopping in the laid back Haight Ashbury neighborhood is definitely my favorite place to shop and just stroll around.

From what I have read and been told, the thrift and vintage scene is a shade of its former self – but if you make your way to San Francisco and are pining for some vintage (or some designer labels at a discount) back in your wardrobe, this is the place to go! That is not to say there is only vintage and thrift shopping in the area, there are tons of other stores and new ones are popping up once in a while. Nor that there isn’t vintage/thrifting to be done in other areas – just that these are my favorite at the moment!

All of these stores are on a short four block span of each other and you’re looking at a range of prices, but also a range of types of clothing. Some are strictly vintage, others will carry a mix of vintage, new, and gently used.

*UPDATE as of Feb. 2014 – Haight Ashbury vintage has closed, but merged with another vintage shop on Haight (same owner).
Haight Ashbury Vintage is at the iconic intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets, where the neighborhood hails its name from. I believe it used to be another vintage store a few years ago (Aardvark’s?). Being that this store is on a corner, it has bright windows to let you see all the merchandise clearly (compared to other stores that are wedged and have very limited window space from the store front). This may sound like a weird thing to observe and like, but when a store is quite dark, it’s very hard to even browse. I find the selection here to be very themed and a little flamboyant. If you’re looking for vintage that screams “VINTAGE,” this is your place.

Haight Ashbury Vintage on Haight, Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san francisco

Held Over is my personal favorite of all the stores right now. It does something that I really like – they specialize in collecting and organizing the same pieces together and in multiple choices. For example, they have a rack of just vintage striped sailor tops. They’re all a little different, some are blue stripes others are red, the sleeves will be slightly different, or the neck – but you can keep browsing until you find the exact one that suits you. And this kind of collecting is done for so many things – fur vests, denim jackets, cutoff shorts, etc! They have a great selection of vintage dresses from all eras. In fact, there are a few Downton Abbey looking dresses there now that I have my eye on for Spring. They also have a fantastically curated men’s section which includes lots of suit jackets and fedoras if you’re really into the Mad Men look.

Held Over on Haight, Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san francisco

Relic Vintage is a privately run and owned store, whose owner is a tried and true vintage lover. The store is perfectly curated by their team and not jam-packed with clothes like some of the other stores tend to be (which can be overwhelming and difficult to browse). Think of it as a boutique where the quality of the vintage can compare to even new clothes! They also have real fitting rooms, not just curtains, which in my book is a huge plus.

Relic Vintage on Haight, Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san francisco

Decades of Fashion is relatively new location, this storefront used to be another store, and I think DoF relocated here from somewhere else on the street. As the name of the store indicates, pieces are organized by Decades – 40’s, 50’s, 60’s etc. together. This store will also have some much older pieces, and you may find things in dry cleaning bags often because they’re delicate. I find this store to be geared more towards the tourists than to local shoppers, and the prices will reflect that. But a nice place for a local to browse once in a while.

Decades of Fashion Vintage on Haight, Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san francisco

La Rosa vintage is another vintage boutique where you will find more perfectly curated vintage clothing. I’ve often heard the name thrown around in interviews and seems to be a go-to spot for vintage loving celebrities. Why? Because they offer you (mostly) impeccable vintage items. If you’re looking for a beautiful vintage dress for a special occasion, I would say this may be your place to go. The prices may be a little higher than other stores, but the quality will reflect that.

La Rosa Vintage on Haight, Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san francisco

Static Vintage is that fun vintage store and always seems to be staffed by some cool laid back ladies! I feel like this is the place where you buy vintage to look on trend but not trying too hard to achieve that look. Say leopard coats are really cool right now, or denim jackets – you’ll surely find them here. They have a variety of things to chose from in spite of the store being on the smaller side compared to other stores on the street. Static is also known to carry vintage designer clothes and accessories in case you’re looking for some vintage designer pieces.

Static Vintage on Haight, Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san francisco

Now enter the resale stores, which are not exactly the same, and also entering their own realm (which will make more sense as I explain each store). I also think these stores are great places to take men shopping who normally don’t like to shop because there are so many different things to suit their tastes.

Buffalo Exchange was my first experience in the resale realm, and was my tried and true go-to shopping spot when I lived in Las Vegas. It’s definitely a place where you will find something if you have the budget for it! When I am ready to get rid of clothing, I always make sure to bring them here because they will buy clothes from you and give you the option for credit or cash. The selection is pretty wide – you’ll find a little bit of new on trend items that they curate across all their B.E. stores, and their resale items which ranges from high street, department store, no name brands, to a little bit of vintage. I like to think of it as a grown up version of a thrift store, minus the house stuff. The SF store doesn’t have one, but the Vegas store always had a solid rack of sale stuff that was 50% off and always worth browsing first (this store has the sale stuff mixed in).

Buffalo Exchange on Haight , Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san francisco

Crossroads, as their tagline in the signs states, specializes in new and “recycled.” You can sell your gently used clothes here too. You won’t really find vintage here, unless it’s very on trend and in great condition. Crossroads carries lots of trendy new pieces, but I think they offer some of the better prices on resale merchandise.

Crossroads on Haight, Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san franciscoe

Wasteland is an interesting mix of a store – they carry some new clothes, which I think of as music festival on trend (in comparison to the other stores’ on trend pieces which lean heavily to the girly side). They have quite a bit of vintage, but not as much as they used to. Looking for the perfect vintage tee? This is your place. They also have some of the best gently used designer clothes in the city, the prices can be high, but there are some good deals if you look often. What I really like is their selection of shoes – perfectly worn in boots to unique designer shoes, to even some brands that don’t normally sell in the US. Wasteland is also making a big footprint in the online world, and I think they’re trying to branch out with their new items online.

Wasteland on Haight, Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san francisco

Last but not least, my poor little confused Goodwill. This is not your typical thrift store. I think being on Haight street has gone to their heads. I come here once in a while to find odd pieces, but I find their prices to be way too high sometimes. It’s almost offensive that a charity store tries to sell clothes for more than some of the for-profit stores do. You’ll find your regular thrift store stuff here, but they also have lots of tie-dye for those looking for their Haight Ashbury souvenir. They actually have a lot of vintage clothes, but their prices generally do not reflect the quality that you see in the actual vintage stores. Their vintage merchandise is donated, so it’s often smelly, worn, damaged, and not in style. But you can find some hidden gems in there once in a while.

Goodwill on Haight, Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san francisco

I think of thrift shopping as “shopping for all seasons” because you can find anything for any occasion, style, and price point. And better yet, to have the ability to do all this on the same span of streets is amazing! Now I’m going to have to follow this post up with my favorite thrifting in the Mission neighborhood! Hope you liked this post and would love your insight on how you feel about second hand shopping, if you’ve visited any of these stores, or if I missed any (I’m pretty sure I missed one store but can’t figure out which one!).

PS. This post also corresponds with my Shopping Maps link in the header! Where I’ve gathered points of shopping interest together on a Google Map.