From my little desk in Los Angeles, I've compiled a list of places in SF that make my heart swell. I'm no expert when it comes to the City by the Bay - I can't tell you secrets only locals know. However, the city will forever feel most like home. As the holidays near, I'm looking forward to visiting some go-to spots (& perhaps new spots, too). Enjoy!
Look + See
Golden Gate Park - I can spend hours here. I realize that New York City has Central Park, which essentially feels like a world within the world of a city. But San Francisco, in all of its smallness, has bits that make it feel as though downtown is far, far away.
Sutro Baths - This location easily makes my top 3 of favorite places to stop by when in SF. It just feels a lot like magic to me, partly because of the view, and partly because it's where I set the stage for my first screenplay. Whether it's a foggy, summer day or cold and clear during the winter months, the view from the baths will not disappoint.
Mission Dolores Park - The view of the ocean is one thing, but this park paints a glorious picture of the city skyline. I believe that Mission Dolores is best mid-week when people linger on lunch breaks rather than congregate late into the afternoon. It's the perfect place for some sunbathing and picnicking.
SF MoMa - On a day that might be a bit too rainy (or even surprisingly too hot?), this place is top of the list for something to explore. I could spend hours on each floor. It truly feels never ending - in the best way. While I prefer some exhibits to others, I enjoy the whole of the museum and believe museums are always a great choice for an afternoon - for locals and visitors alike.
Bernal Heights - Again, another view that no price tag can live up to. You can see the tip of the Golden Gate to the top of the Bay Bridge. It's a little trek (depending on the day and what one might be wearing), but it's nothing too complicated. (Plus, that view!!) Once to the top, it's wonderful to find a spot to sit and soak in the city.
The Mission, North Beach and the Marina - I can't choose just one neighborhood. However, if I must narrow it down to three, these neighborhoods take the cake for places I prefer to visit most. I feel comfortable in these neighborhoods - comfortable enough to get a bit lost. I might never get over how small San Francisco really is, yet how full each neighborhood feels. Each one is very much its own character with its own story worth noting.
Eat + Enjoy
Scala's Bistro - I love this restaurant for its ambiance. Scala's has fed my family on a number of occasions, so it will always remind me of family and savory dinners.
Tartine - Eat anything here. The desserts are amazing; the lunch, amazing - plus, they serve the tastiest carrot on the side (random - but an appreciated quirk!). I love the prosciutto + provolone sandwich -- but I believe that one can't go wrong with any order from Tartine!
Wayfare Tavern - Unfortunately I've only eaten here once. My parents, on the other hand, swear by its menu and service. Located in the Financial District, it's a beautiful restaurant with dinners served to packed tables, under dim lights, with the echo of voices of well-fed folks all around. Try the bread (it is no ordinary bread!) before and with your meal, and then have the donuts for dessert!
Cafe Zoetrope - If you head up on Columbus from Wayfare Tavern, you can find this picture perfect cafe located right at the tip of the block where Kearny St. crosses Columbus Ave. I first came here because of the associated Coppola name. It's exterior is as lovely and old-timey as its interior - with walls filled to the brim with pictures, small tables crowded by chairs tucked into cozy corners...I had the best meatball sandwich here. It might be the attached name, but little cafes like this make me feel as if I'm in a movie.
Loló - Yet another place I know of thanks to my dad and his great taste in food. I've only eaten here once, but I've suggested it to people for when they're anywhere near the Mission District. After a morning of walking Bernal Heights + those hilly neighborhoods, this place served the perfect brunch. The atmosphere is lively and colorful, plus it's located near plenty of hole-in-the-wall shops - a perfect little location for afternoon exploring.
Shops + Stuff
Mill Mercantile - I've been dreaming of a pair of clogs or one of their cashmere sweaters for way too long now. It's a small shop - however, it has so much character. Any time I visit, I feel like I've walked into a cool girl's apartment. If I'm going to visit Mission Dolores Park, I'll usually take a long route and stop by this store just to look around and feel a bit of clothing and home decor inspiration.
Green Apple Books - Somewhere to stop at when near Golden Gate Park (or any other time because, well, books!), Green Apple has a great selection of books, though it's the vibe of the place that brings me happiness anytime I visit. I'm a fan of high shelves, crammed corners, cluttered tables, and that feeling only a locally owned business can give when I'm browsing through books.
City Light Books - If you take my advice and try the sandwich (or anything else for that matter) at Cafe Zoetrope, then do yourself a favor and walk the short distance to this book store. It's old, so it not only contains stories of others, but it has plenty of its own stories to tell. It's even more of a tight, cluttered space than Green Apple Books. Besides that, there are books there. And plenty of them. Need I say more?
Paxton Gate - So this isn't necessarily a shop like the aforementioned, but I absolutely love the entire aesthetic of the place. The first time I came across it, I couldn't believe how much there is to see within the store. Plants, dead flowers, odd books, (even some taxidermy...) and eeriness sprinkled throughout - it's the perfect shop to get lost in for a bit. Next time, I'm buying some dead flowers!
Coffee + Tea
The Mill - This is basically an Instagramer's dream (please forget I just said that). The first time I paid The Mill a visit, I did so because I've seen it on social media too many times to count. I tried a pastry but wasn't as impressed as I had hoped. However, I will say that I loved the coffee - it was strong and savory. If anything else, this place makes my list because I want to come back on a day when I am by myself with enough time to sit and write. It has great space and natural lighting, with just enough customers bustling around for one to get lost in a book or on a page.
Hollow - This is the tiniest coffee shop I've ever visited. Hollow is a lovely green box, with a wooden bench out front, and good coffee inside. I hope to catch this place at a quiet time so that I can enjoy sitting inside by the window, but it's great for stopping by just to see, or on one's way to Golden Gate Park.