I will be in SF in January and have 3 days to myself. I have been to SF before and did the hotel and tourist thing so now want to experience the city like a local. Any tips on what part of the city would be best to stay (airbnb), and then what are the non-touristy things to do?
I will be traveling alone (female in her late 30s).
Fun! For neighborhoods to stay in, Nob Hill is away from the tourists, yet still very central. SOMA is very cool, but they're will be a lot of people there during the weekdays because there are lots of tech companies there. Mission District is slightly sketchier (just be vigilant at night), but becoming way more popular and gentrified and could be fun. It's got plenty of local flavor.
Any day that it's nice, you should visit Dolores Park (weather's weird around here, so it could still be nice in December, who knows). Stop off at the Bi-Rite Market to grab some picnic goods, Bi-Rite Creamery to get some ice cream (prepare for a long line), Ike's Place to get a sandwich (prepare for a long line or order online ahead of time), or El Farolito for a quesadilla suiza (or taco or burrito, but the suiza is my favorite) and sit and relax and picnic! To really get a taste for local flavor, you should come here on a weekend afternoon.
While near the park, you should also explore the Mission. Tons of restaurants and shops. Walk on Mission, and Valencia between 16th and 24th St to see the most stores. Also walk on 16th and 24th St themselves. Tons of cool street art and good food.
For cool, not-so-touristy, but still very San Francisco landmarks, check out the Clarion Alley in the Mission District.
And Lands End for the labyrinth
If you like food trucks and food carts, every Friday, there's Off the Grid where the best food trucks all park during dinner time. And there's also SoMa StrEat Food Park which is a pod of food trucks open 7 days a week and also till late night.These spots are loved by locals and adventurous travelers alike and are worth while spots to explore.
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I would stay in the Marina District (around Lombard Street because it's centrally located). You can basically get around without a car.
Crissy Field, Palace of Fine Arts, Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point National Historic Site, Presidio, Lands End, Cliff House, Legion of Honor (Museum) and The Walt Disney Family Museum (surprisingly good museum if you're a fan, allow 3 hours).
Things to do:
1. Nature walk: hike Lands End from Crissy Field to the Cliff House
... and/or ...
Explore Cool City Streets (safe streets, great atmosphere, morning & night, not crazy touristy):
1. Chestnut Street (pubs, coffee houses, casual food, cute shops, young 30's crowd)
2. Union Street (window shopping, wine bars, lots of locals)
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I would suggest staying in Hayes Valley. It's in a pretty central part of the city, with many places being within a mile walk away. Also, it has a bunch of cute boutique stores and cafes.
Hey Cora, I actually wrote several blog posts about fun non-touristy things to do in San Francisco. Each one focuses on a different section of the city, and includes lots of great food and fun activities.
As for places to stay I think the Mission is the best. It has easy access to mass transit, and has probably the best selection of food in the city. You can usually find an Airbnb in the Mission for less than $100/day.
Let me know if you have any other questions!