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Best way to show San Francisco to a first time visitor?

My best friend is coming to visit in a few weeks and we're doing a road trip down the CA coast. 

We are going to be spending a few days in the Bay Area and I want to take her around San Francisco. What are cool things to do with a first time visitor? We want to avoid the touristy attractions, we're more "off the beaten path" kind of explorers :)

She loves music, hikes (nature), museums, views, awesome food, and all things quirky. Anything that will make her absolutely love the city and it's surrounding areas.


9 Answers

answered by
Griffin from San Carlos, California

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Bottom of the Hill (attraction)
  2. The Fillmore (restaurant)
  3. The Midway (attraction)
  4. The Independent (attraction)
  5. Marin Headlands (attraction)
  6. Baker Beach (attraction)
  7. Yummy Yummy (restaurant)
  8. San Wang Restaurant (restaurant)
  9. State Bird Provisions (restaurant)
  10. Taqueria Cancun (restaurant)
2 thanks

answered by
David from San Francisco

Check out the Marin Headlands.  It's not super touristy, but you get an amazing view of San Francisco, can hike amongst the ruins of an old military bunkers, and get a good overview of natural beauty north of San Francisco.  Take 101 North, cross the Golden Gate Bridge, take the 2nd exit (right after the visitor center exit), hang a left, and keep going uphill.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Marin Headlands (attraction)
  2. Golden Gate Bridge (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Yanush from San Francisco

16th Avenue Tiled Steps Project - combines city hiking + awesome views from the top - a 180+ degree of the Pacific ocean. 

Greenwich Steps - another cool place to hike in the city. The views are equally awesome and you get to see the other side of the city. 

Smitten Ice Cream - made-to-order ice-cream :) 

Ariake - locals sushi place - always fresh fish. You may find it a bit pricey but it's worth it once you taste their fish. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. 16th Avenue Tiled Steps Project (attraction)
  2. Greenwich Steps (attraction)
  3. Smitten Ice Cream (attraction)
  4. Ariake (restaurant)
1 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Laurie from Santa Monica

In any city, even my own, I love a good hop on, hop off bus. A friend and I did the one in SFO and had a blast.

1 thanks

answered by
Rie from New York City

Hey Valerie, I would def check out Angel Island State Park for an amazing hike. Off season the ferries don't run that often but it's worth the planning. Also, it may sound a bit odd but see if you can get a tour of the Excelsior Branch Library. My first trip to SF was on biz & I happened to meet a local who was so friendly & happened to be a docent at the library and gave me a tour, it was fascinating. So there's my 2 cents!

1 thanks

answered by
Krista from San Francisco

Hey Valerie,

This sounds like so much fun!

I'd start the day with a hike at Lands End (good views of the Golden Gate bridge without hoards of tourists) where you can also check out the Eagle Point Labyrinth . After, visit Ocean Beach and see the Sutro Baths . You have a choice of good food options nearby, so hit up Judahlicious for an acai bowl (you can take 'em to go, too!) or Java Beach Cafe .  Other cool sights in the area include Tile steps and Grand View Park .

After, you can visit Golden Gate Park or stroll along Haight StHaight-Ashbury is always cool to see, and not as touristy as one might imagine.

If you have time, venture to a walkable neighborhood. North BeachHayes ValleyMission District or Marina District are all good picks, and each offers something different:

Hope you gals have a great time!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lands End (attraction)
  2. Eagle Point Labyrinth (attraction)
  3. Ocean Beach (attraction)
  4. Sutro Baths (attraction)
  5. Judahlicious (attraction)
  6. Java Beach Cafe (attraction)
  7. Tile steps (attraction)
  8. Grand View Park (attraction)
  9. Golden Gate Park (attraction)
  10. Haight St (attraction)
  11. Haight-Ashbury (attraction)
  12. North Beach (neighborhood)
  13. Hayes Valley (neighborhood)
  14. Mission District (neighborhood)
  15. Marina District (attraction)
  16. City Lights Bookstore (attraction)
  17. Jack Kerouac Alley (attraction)
  18. Washington Square Park (attraction)
  19. Smitten Ice Cream (attraction)
  20. Dolores Park (attraction)
  21. Bi-Rite Creamery (restaurant)
  22. Valencia St (attraction)
  23. Craftsman and Wolves (restaurant)
  24. Papalote (restaurant)
  25. Crissy Field (attraction)
  26. Marina Green Park (attraction)
  27. Le Marais Bistro and Bakery (restaurant)
  28. SusieCakes (restaurant)
1 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Lila from Jupiter

The Inner Sunset District  is a good place to go if you want to avoid the touristy spots. It is a very cool neighborhood. I recommend eating at Peasant Pies there! And you will be right by Ocean Beach, which is gorgeous!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Peasant Pies (restaurant)
  2. Ocean Beach (attraction)
1 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Zafer from Amman, Jordan

Lands End (Hike)

Muir Woods (Hike) Lots of Redwoods here

Sausalito / Tiburon (Nice drive)

Bike on Golden Gate Bridge (touristy)

Napa / Sonoma: Plan to visit two wineries per day.

Mission district / Valencia street between 14th and 24th st.

Ferry Building for good food 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lands End (attraction)
  2. Muir Woods (attraction)
  3. Sausalito (city)
  4. Tiburon (city)
  5. Golden Gate Bridge (attraction)
  6. Napa (city)
  7. Sonoma (city)

answered by
Andy from Grand Island, Nebraska

Grab breakfast Saturday at the Ferry Terminal farmer's market. Try the Primavera Mexican food where they make the tortillas right before your eyes. Then take a ferry to Angel Island, hike to the top and take in the views of San Francisco, Berkeley, and Marin County.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Angel Island (attraction)
  2. San Francisco (city)
  3. Berkeley (attraction)
  4. Marin County (region)

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