The Embarcadero, which runs along the city’s northwestern waterfront, is a fine place to get a feel for the San Francisco Bay. The road used to be the site of a freeway, but after it was demolished by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, it was transformed into a scenic thoroughfare that’s suited to explorations by foot, bicycle or even scooter. Stop at Oracle Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants; the Ferry Building, a gourmet marketplace; and Pier 39,
North Beach / Chinatown
These two neighborhoods, which meet at the intersection of Columbus and Broadway, both capture the magic of San Francisco’s past. Check out America’s oldest Chinatown with a wander down Grant Street, stopping to snap a picture of the Dragon’s Gate and to feast at local favorites such as Sam Wo or Z&Y Restaurant. In North Beach, the city’s Little Italy, you can find testaments to the Beat generation—including the Jack Kerouac haunts of Vesuvio Cafe and City Lights bookstore—or take in an epic view of the Bay from Coit Tower, atop Telegraph Hill.
This neighborhood became a symbol of liberation and activism for the LGTBQ community in the 1970s and ’80s, and it remains a welcoming place for all genders and orientations today. It’s also a bustling destination for food, drink and fun. Must-visits include the Twin Peaks Tavern, a longstanding watering hole that’s earned official historic landmark status from the city, and the Castro Theatre, an old-school movie palace with an iconic marquee and a live organ player that hosts everything from live music performances to classic movie screenings and sing-alongs.
The Summer of Love, San Francisco’s ’60s counterculture apotheosis, centered on Haight Street, and today you’ll still get plenty of flower child vibes in the neighborhood, along with rainbow-hued Victorian houses, record stores, and vintage shops. Check out local brewpub Magnolia and cocktail hotspot The Alembic before making your way to Golden Gate Park and the grassy knoll that is still known, fittingly, as Hippie Hill.
Historically the heart and soul of San Francisco’s Hispanic community, the Mission is a neighborhood of contrasts. From the trendy restaurants and bars on Valencia Street to family-run taquerias and grocery stores on Mission Street, this vibrant neighborhood feels like a microcosm of the city’s ever-evolving personality. Be sure to wander past the intricate murals of Clarion Alley and over to the sunny afternoon scene at Dolores Park—a perfect place to enjoy an ice cream cone from Bi-Rite.