10 Places to Check Out in San Francisco

10 Places to Check Out in San Francisco

On my most recent visit to SF, my wonderful friend Liz took me to so many cool places cause this is her home! It was a whirlwind of a visit, but we hit a BUNCH of places. That’s the way to travel, yeah? All adventure, little sleep 🙂

1. Twin Peaks

Climb (or drive) up to the highest point of the city to soak in the incredible views:

San Francisco Twin Peaks

2. Fort Point

I think the pics below make it pretty obvious why we made a stop at Fort Point.

Buuut besides having the infamous Golden Gate Bridge in the background, Fort Point is also a good place to explore because it was originally built for the protection of San Francisco Bay during the Civil War (!) AND was reused for WWII. As a result, we saw quite a few bunkers (? probably the wrong military term) around:

3. Japantown

Since it was New Year’s Day, practically everything in Japantown was closed. 🙁 However, one store was still open – Daiso! Now this store changed my life. It is a Japanese dollar store containing everything that I could possibly want or need. Socks, earmuffs, hat? Check. Cute stationery? Got em. Japanese snacks? Yes! I immediately looked up whether we have one in Dallas and hallelujah yes we do.

San Francisco Japantown

4. Jefferson Square Park

I really, really wanted to catch a sunset in California. While it may not be over the ocean, this dog park on a hill will do 😉

San Francisco California Sunset

San Francisco California Sunset

San Francisco California Sunset

San Francisco California Sunset

5. Union Square

This is the place to go for some retail therapy. But once again, since I came on New Year’s Day, many stores closed early. #fail

But you can still enjoy the gigantic Christmas tree (and Snoopy inflatable, not pictured) outside of Macy’s!

6. de Young Museum

This was another treasure that Liz took me to. You can climb up to the top of this art museum for another nice view of SF. Best of all, this museum is free, so we toured the art exhibitions as well.

San Francisco California

Outside is a cute, little sculpture garden.*

*don’t touch the sculptures…whoops

And all of this is inside Golden Gate Park, a place that I’d like to further explore should (or when) I return next time. It has plenty of gardens and nooks that I want to explore, Japanese Tea Garden, for example.

Golden State Park Fountain

Golden State Park
When Liz told me she thought these trees looked like the Whomping Willow, I couldn’t have agreed more.

7. Haight-Ashbury

Woohoo, hippie nation! I found how the neighborhood came to be so hippie-centric very interesting when reading up on it later: “The earlier bohemians of the beat movement had congregated around San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood from the late 1950s. Many who could not find accommodation there turned to the quaint, relatively cheap and underpopulated Haight-Ashbury.” (Source) And ever since then, modern American counterculture have been synonymous with San Francisco and the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.

Haight Ashbury San Francisco California

The street was filled with quirky little shops, and especially good for vintage shopping. There was one steampunk store that was quite interesting…I wish I got a picture of the elaborate costumes in there!

Haight Ashbury San Francisco California

Haight Ashbury San Francisco California
Ah, the legs! Didn’t quite know the significance of them at the time, but the internet taught me that this boutique has been fashioning costumes and outfits for dancers, stylists, theater folks, drag queens and local rockers for more than 30 years.

Since we were on such a time limit (as in you have a pay a fortune to park on the street), we completely forgot about the Painted Ladies! So I still haven’t seen them even though I’ve been to SF three times now. Whelp, there’s always next time…

8. Palace of Fine Arts

Come here to watch a show!

Palace of Fine Arts San Francisco California

And not just any show – Potted Potter:

Potted Potter

The premise of the play is that these 2 guys will tell the story of all 7 Harry Potter books in 90 minutes. And it actually helped our non-Harry-Potter-fan friend understand it better. Haha, what educational value!

Potted Potter

9. Coit Tower

Look, I also didn’t really know what was the big deal with Coit Tower either. So the Internet also told me:

“The simple fluted tower is named for Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a wealthy eccentric and patron of the city’s firefighters. Coit died in 1929, leaving a substantial bequest ‘for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city I have always loved.’The funds were used to build both the tower and a monument to Coit’s beloved volunteer firefighters, in nearby Washington Square.” (Source)

San Francisco Coit Tower

Well, visitors have to dish out some money if they want to go to the very top of the tower for city views. I was good, though, having already seen the city from Twin Peaks and the de Young Museum (see #1 and #6 above).

Watchu talkin’ about, I can see Bay Bridge from here!

San Francisco Coit Tower

10. Hayes Valley

Now the shops in this neighborhood were definitely different from the ones in Haight-Ashbury! They’re more high-end and hipster vs. eccentric and hippie. Fun to look at, but impossible to own, ha.

San Francisco Hayes Valley Temple

One of the focal points of the neighborhood is this Hayes Valley Temple. This temple has been in place since June 2015, but since 2005, David Best has been commissioned to collaborate with the San Francisco’s Hayes Valley community to create an interactive “Temple.” The one that’s currently in place was designed, engineered and weatherproofed for the temple to withstand one year. (Source)

San Francisco Hayes Valley Temple

I love this quote from the artist about the work:

“When we finish the temple and turn it over to the community, it is an empty building. They bring their mothers, they bring their brothers, they bring their best friends, their weddings and their celebrations to it. And then it becomes something. It has no life until the community brings that life to it.”

And so, my name is on here somewhere…can you find it?

San Francisco Hayes Valley Temple

Where are your favorite places to go in San Francisco? How about any cool, new finds?

Thanks for reading! And thanks, Liz, for being an awesome local tour guide and taking me to all these wonderful places!

  • grace

    I would love to visit San Francisco someday and this looks like a great list to refer to when I finally do! The Hayes Valley temple looks so beautiful.

    Grace | eat, write + explore x

  • One of my coworkers visited San Fran during Thanksgiving, and she told me about the Civil War bunker that was just at the Golden Gate Bridge. I seriously had no idea that it even existed, so that’s awesome that you got to see it too. The views of the Golden Gate Bridge from there are stunning. That sucks that most of the shops were closed when you visited Japantown, but at least you got your fill of Daiso!

  • I’m so glad to hear that there is a Daiso in Dallas! I will have to check it out. And the Hayes Valley temple looks pretty epic. I would love to visit San Francisco!

  • Awesome list! I’m visiting in June and I really only wanted to visit the redwoods at the Muir Woods but I’m definitely going to have to add some (or all?!?) of these to my list! 😛