I love San Fransico, even after living all over the rest of the country, I keep coming back. While the city has changed a lot in the past twenty years I’ve known it, it hasn’t lost its soul. It’s a small city but she packs a punch and while rather young by most standards, she has a rich and colorful history. That said, there’s absolutely no reason to be bored or eat bad food here.
Chinatown…. At night
“But we have a Chinatown in….” you might be thinking. No, not like this you don’t. First off, San Fran was a major landing point for a ton of not only Chinese immigrants but people from all over Asia. Second, after the 1906 earthquake, the city tried to pull a dick move and kick these people out. They decided to team up and fight the city to keep their homes and businesses the way they wanted, where they wanted em. Years later, tourism became a thing and Chinatown was a hit because most people had never seen anything like it before and this led to a lot of other Cities taking a hit and putting dragons on street signs and things like that. I’m not talking trash about other places, I’m just saying, ours has a vibe.
Yeah, it’s cool to check out during the day but, personally, I recommend going at night, especially if the fog is out. The neighborhood more or less shuts down but there’s a ton of red neon and paper lanterns and it looks like something out of a ’70s Kung Fu flick.
The Yoda Statue
Okay, I’m not even a Star Wars fan but Yoda is Yoda so when his statue popped up on my map one day while I was getting lost on my motorcycle, I had to stop and pay my respects. It’s in a really nice park, pretty easy to get to, there’s lots of parking and there’s no admission since it’s out in the open.
So why is this here? George Lucus is from the area and lives across the Bridge in Marine and, oddly enough, Star Wars was heavily influenced by the Bay Area. You can find it here at 1 Letterman Dr, San Francisco, CA 94129
This is by far one of the most bizarre places I’ve ever set foot in and is a true hidden treasure. It’s an Antique Arcade with stuff dating all the way back to the 1800s and all of the Machines are in working condition. Trust me, you can go spend hours in this place dropping quarters in here and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a spot like this anywhere else in the world. It’s easy to find on Pier 45 at the waterfront.
I love me some coffee and while Seattle might get the reputation of being the coffee capital of the country, they need to sit down and show some respect. We’ve got Folgers, Hill’s Bros, Petes, Philz and we’re also home to the very first Espresso shop on the West Coast. Not only that but it also helped shape the Beat Generation since guys like Ginsburg and Kerouac used to hang out there. Oh, and Coppala wrote the screenplay to “The Godfather” sitting in there. The other cool thing is that it’s directly across from Saint Francis (who the city is named after) Cathedral. 601 Vallejo St., San Francisco, CA 94133
This thing is iconic for a reason, it’s majestic no matter how you experience it, whether it’s from across the Bay at the Berkeley Marina or up close in person on foot. Personally, I like walking across it since it’s only about a mile and a half, the path is wide and you get some incredible views of not only the city but the entire Bay Area and get a feel for what it was like for people arriving by boat for the first time.
If you have a vehicle, go to the north side and take a left and follow the signs to Spencer Battery which is up in the cliffs. It’s an old Military base and you get to look down over everything. Trust me, it’s worth the short drive out of the city.
La Vaca Birria (the Old Discolandia records)
This spot used to be a record store but it was more than just a spot you went to buy music. For several decades this spot served as a community center for not just the locals but for those coming in from across the border as a gathering spot to talk about family, politics and the latest gossip. Sadly, it shut down a few years ago but the good news is, a killer taco shop opened up.
First off, they kept the old sign, it’s just too iconic to remove. Second, I’ve had Barria tacos all over the place and these are hands down the best I’ve ever eaten anywhere, not just in San Fran, but anywhere. 2962 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110
The Condor Club
Let’s face it, the City has a long-standing reputation for being extremely liberal and it should come as no surprise that we are home to the first Topless (and a few years later full nude) strip club. Carol Doda herself was a San Francisco legend and was also featured in Jack Nicholson’s directorial debut starring The Monkies. She was one the one who wanted to go topless, not the club owners, they were scared of getting shut down. She fought the city for her rights to do as she wanted with her own body and she won thus paving the way for clubs across the United States. Even if you don’t go in, you should check out the brass marker outside that confirms they were the first in the nation. 560 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133
Not only does this spot have a ton of history, it’s also one of the few spots in the city that has unrestricted 360 degree views. It was named after a Lilly Hitchcock Coit who was worth an entire article of her own. The tower is filled with a ton of art and you can either take a 90 year old elevator or, walk up 13 flights of stairs to get to the top, either way the view is worth it. 1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94133
Yeah, we have Bison in the City. Trust me, I was not expecting it the first time I saw em in Golden Gate Park and was a bit concerned about my mental health. The good news is that they are very much real and behind a fence. I love to tell people about this since a lot of folks can’t get out to Yellowstone and these creatures are way more majestic than what most people think. While you’re there, go check out the Dutch Windmills and the Japanese Garden.
No, I’m not being rude, I’m telling you that it’s one of the more interesting ways to see some cool new stuff and something I try to do it on a regular basis. The city isn’t big but it’s got a lot of little nooks and crannies and you never know what you might stubble upon around the next corner. Just because something doesn’t make it on a list doesn’t mean it’s not going to be worth checking out. But stay out of the Tenderloin….
The City is a city and yes, that means that we have more than a few people struggling with homelessness, mental health and addiction issues. I understand that it’s not fun to see or walk by but, I’m asking you to show them a bit of compassion and be grateful that you’re reading this and not on the street hungry or going through withdrawals okay?
As of right now, you should just avoid the Tenderloin but for the most part, the City is a lot safer than certain media types portray it to be. Every city on earth has an area like this and our city is actively addressing these issues and trying to find long term solutions to get these people the help that they need.
Finally, one last thing, tipping might not be part of the culture where you are from but sadly, most service workers depend on tips. If you had a great experience at a spot and want to be remembered the next time you come in, please, tip the staff 20%.