Live & Love San Francisco Like a Local

By Anne Lowrey,

As a native of Northern California, San Francisco has always been in my backyard. Yet after traveling and having the freedom to live anywhere in the world, I find myself drawn more than ever to the City by the Bay. The truth is I’d have moved any distance to be in a city like “SF.” To me there is no place that offers the mix of culture, beauty, and lifestyle that San Francisco continues to exhibit. The city has something for everyone. It has one of the world’s best food scenes, a diverse mix of cultures, and seemingly endless activity options. Add in the Bay’s beautiful, natural backdrop and to me, it can’t be beat.
Here are my local tips to ensure you also leave your heart in San Francisco

What To See and Do

Many visitors know to visit Alcatraz, Lombard Street, Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. Go “local” and add the following to your itinerary…

San Francisco local guide

Photo by peternijenhuis CC BY 

1. Visit the Golden Gate Bridge 
Though you’ll see the iconic Golden Gate from various points in the city, it deserves its own visit. The best way to see it is to rent a car and head over to the Marin Headlands area for a picnic and sweeping views of the bridge and the city. It’s also fun to rent a bike and bike across!
San Francisco Like a Local

Photo by jag72 CC BY

2. Stroll through a variety of San Francisco neighborhoods
There are so many different pockets of the city to explore — from the hip Mission District, to the birthplace of hippie culture, Haight Ashbury. There’s the grand hills and architecture of Nob Hill and Pacific Heights, and The Castro, famous home of the LGBT community. There is Italian culture to be found in North Beach, or you can explore North America’s oldest Chinatown. Each neighborhood has its own flavor and flair, and it’s worth seeking out a taste of each of them.
San Francisco local guide

Photo by: Anne Lowrey

3. Visit local parks.
A few favorites include Golden Gate Park, which houses several excellent museums, Alamo Square, where the iconic Painted Ladies houses can be seen, and Dolores Park in The Mission, a favorite local spot to hang out and people watch.
San Francisco Like a Local

Alamo Square views at night. Photo by Thomas Hawk CCBY

4. Explore the food scene.
Along with its diverse neighborhoods comes a  variety of excellent dining options. San Francisco has more restaurants per capita than any other city in North America. A unique way to try many of them is to time your visit with the weekly “Off the Grid” gathering where food trucks from all over the city come together for San Franciscans to enjoy their tasty eats.
San Francisco Like a Local

BBQ Food Truck at Off The Grid San Francisco. Photo by deepthinking CCBY

Where to Sleep

By far the most iconic San Francisco hotel is The Westin St. Francis.

San Francisco Westin St. Francis living room grand luxury

Pick the Hotel Drisco in Pacific Heights for classic San Francisco Victorian elegance.

San Francisco Hotel Drisco window view City

Hotel Zetta is located in the SOMA district, close to downtown and ultra modern and hip.

San Francisco Hotel Zetta bedside nightstand profile

Where to Eat

There are almost too many options when it comes to dining, and it can be hard to go wrong. Here are a few that stand above the rest:
San Francisco Food Like a Local

Fancy Meal at Nopa San Francisco. Photo by adamjackson CC BY

1. Nopa: Many locals cite this New American restaurant as their favorite in the city serving rustic and organic cuisine.
San Francisco Food Like a Local

Cleanse your palate at Gary Danko. Photo by dancingwithwords CCBY 

2. Gary Danko:  A San Francisco institution and a great choice for fine dining or a special occasion.
San Francisco Sea Food Like a Local

The freshest oysters at the Swan Oyster Depot

3. Swan Oyster DepotAn affordable spot to try some fresh local seafood.

A Local’s Tips

San Francisco Like a Local

Street scene in San Francisco. Photo by buson CC BY

1. Wear layers and bring a jacket with you
San Francisco’s weather is known for its sudden changes, due in large part to the arrival and departure of its famous fog.
2. Don’t call it ‘Frisco
Locals will tell you to either call San Francisco by its full name, “SF” or “the city.” That’s it.

Streets of SF. Photo by petranovskaja CC BY

3. Walk
San Francisco is only 7×7 miles, and many if not all of its offerings are within walking distance. Allow yourself the time and pace to enjoy walking the streets and hills leisurely.
San Francisco Like a Local

Vibrant local views in San Francisco. Photo by anythreewords CC BY

4. Keep an open mind
San Francisco prides itself on its liberal, tolerant attitude. With endless options and varieties of nearly everything available, it is important that you remain open to trying new things and seeing other perspectives.
What’s your favorite thing about San Francisco?