How to Experience San Francisco the Right Way
“Anyone who doesn’t have a great time in San Francisco is pretty much dead to me” — Anthony Bourdain
Did you know there is a 140-year-old castle with underground caves hidden in San Francisco? Well, I sure as hell did not. I lived in San Francisco for four years without ever coming across the Albion Castle and I considered myself to be more “touristy” than most locals. Most of the residents are too busy. Everyone is on a commute. Always going somewhere. It is easy to forget where you are and take it for granted.
I passed Victorian houses painted like elaborate Easter Eggs and the magnificent Bay Bridge every morning on my way to work. Ten stops on the N Judah inbound runs through five different neighborhoods, each entirely unique from the others. Like you need a passport to travel from Haight Ashbury to the Financial District. In a pocket of 49 square miles, you could have Irish coffee at the Buena Vista, sip Chianti at Mario’s Bohemian, and finish off with a dirty martini at the Top of the Mark in a single day. Might I suggest grabbing a bite to eat? Stop by Tony’s in North Beach for award-winning pizzas, then hop on the cable car to chow down on mouth-watering dim-sum in Chinatown. This whole itinerary could be completed in under three hours if you wanted to. It is what Uber was born to do.
The rest of the day (if you aren’t plastered) your activity possibilities are seemingly endless. You could jump in a car and drive an hour out to Napa Valley for world-renowned wine tasting (no judgement) or take the ferry to the most infamous federal prison on an island. If that is not your thing, you can visit over 50 museums in the city ranging from a collection of 20th century arcade games at Musée Mécanique to the SFMOMA. Take a stroll in Golden Gate Park and behold rare and exotic efflorescence at the Conservatory of Flowers. Ride your bike across the bay on the iconic marvel that is the Golden Gate Bridge. Or, you could sit on a grassy hill in Mission Dolores Park while eating an edible you purchased from the Truffle Man. There is something for everyone.
The diversity of the city has made San Francisco one of the most desired cities to live nationwide, yet most locals never leave their own neighborhoods. For some, taking an Uber from the Marina to the Mission is too much of a trek. They frequent the same bars and the same restaurants. They walk to the same bus stop to get on the same train to go to the same building. Never once looking up from their phones. This is how I missed that there is a 140-year-old castle with underground caves in San Francisco.
San Francisco is a vibrant progressive city, sitting on top of a robust history. When you are always looking ahead, you can lose sight of the present. Dear San Francisco residents, you pay a hell of a lot of money to live in this city, please do not take it for granted. Take a different route home one day or try a new restaurant on the other side of town. Don’t let years go by not knowing the wonders that this cool, grey, city of love has to offer.
To get started, visit Atlas Obscura for a full list of Wonders. Happy exploring!