The off-beat guide to SF summer
San Francisco’s casual sophistication and always-pleasant climate has been known to worm its way into travelers’ hearts. We know you want to play it cool, so we’ve collected the off-beat gems of the SF Bay to let you blend with the locals, and get to know the private side of the city. Brace yourself, however, because the vibrant arts culture, the palate pleasers, and the abundance of natural beauty will surely spark a slow burn. Here are your keys to getting lowkey hung-up on SF summer.
Getting to Point Reyes is the perfect reason to meander up Highway 1. Beneath the serene shadows of the majestic redwoods at Muir Woods, even the most hardened Bay Area natives admit to being awed. But let’s not downplay the coast. Hop along the tide pools, indulge in wistful sea captain fantasies at the lighthouse, or take one of the many scenic hikes (Chimney Rock and the San Andreas Fault are fan favorites). There are even hike-in and boat-in campgrounds at the Point Reyes National Seashore (1 Bear Valley Rd, Point Reyes Station) for an adventurous overnight.
If you’re looking for a taste of the sea, get a bite at the Saltwater Oyster Depot (12781 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Inverness) or the stop by Hog Island Oyster Co. (20215 Shoreline Highway, Marshall), which lures city-dwellers north for certified sustainable — and certified delicious — oysters and seafood. Just remember that even in the summer, the Northern California coast is known for fog. So don’t be a hero: put your performance fleece to the test and pack your finest wool socks.
After three years of construction, the SFMOMA (151 3rd St, San Francisco) reopened on May 14 and you won’t want to miss the new look of the expanded museum. The Norwegian design firm Snøhetta was inspired by San Francisco’s water and fog, so visitors will see the eastern side of the building ripple and dance as the light shifts throughout the day. The SFMOMA has one of the most impressive collections of contemporary and modern postwar art in the country, and the extra space means a whopping 19 opening exhibits with highlights from Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, Barbara Hepworth, and Alexander Calder.
While you’re in the neighborhood, check out the always fresh, always relevant contemporary art right down the street at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (701 Mission St, San Francisco), and treat yourself to an excellent cream puff at Beard Papa (99 Yerba Buena Ln, San Francisco)
Few ice cream scenes are as heated as in the Bay Area. Everyone has a favorite spot and will hotly defend it to the death, but we’ll be generous and let you decide for yourself. There are the goofy, inspired flavors at Humphrey Slocomb (2790A Harrison St, San Francisco); the legendary salted caramel at Bi-Rite (3692 18th St, San Francisco), plus their whimsical soft-serve window just to the right of the endless line; the most classic, old-fashioned sundae you’ve ever witnessed — with the best fudge sauce known to woman — at Fenton’s (4226 Piedmont Ave, Oakland); Mitchell’s (688 San Jose Ave, San Francisco) 60-year-old recipe with tropical flavors inspired by the Philippines; or Smitten’s (432 Octavia St, San Francisco) seasonal, high-tech, liquid nitrogen-frozen treats.
You’ve heard that Oakland is hip, and listen, that’s not news, but the surest way to see Oakland lit — second only to a Dubs win — is to make your way to First Fridays, on the first Friday of the month. Starting at 5 pm the streets in Northgate/Koreatown close to traffic and the city is treated to an eclectic mix of food trucks, art, dancing and music performances. Oakland Art Murmur galleries invite everyone in to interact with the diverse art and performance in the city. The Oakland Museum of California (1000 Oak St, Oakland) throws a lively family-friendly party in the garden — complete with salsa lessons and foodie tastings — plus keeps its exhibits open late.
While the street party ends by 10 pm, there’s always more nightlife to live at venues like the New Parish (1743 San Pablo Ave, Oakland), Starline Social Club (645 W Grand Ave, Oakland), and the Uptown Nightclub (1928 Telegraph Ave, Oakland).
In 1896 the Sutro Baths (Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco) opened to the San Francisco public as an elaborate glass palace with a series of indoor bathing pools and carnival-like attractions. Now, what remains are a few weathered concrete stalls and a grid of pools and pipes, which make an unparalleled urban jungle gym. The park service has created a beautiful park around the ruins, which are being reclaimed by birds and plant life. Take some time to explore the cave, where you can watch the waves come in and listen to the reverberating roar as they meet the shoreline.
The cliffy beach location is stunning on its own — extra delightful from inside Louis’ Restaurant (902 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco) with a beer and french fries — and if you go out to explore the mysterious baths, don’t miss the equally as entrancing vistas at Point Lobos, just down the coast. For a bonus, listen to 99% Invisible’s podcast on the baths for all the answers you didn’t know you needed.
There is no shortage of amazing wine in the SF Bay, and while most people head to Napa for the iconic wine country experience, Dry Creek, just north of Healdsburg in Sonoma County, is known for its zinfandels. You’ll find fantastic smaller wineries, chic tasting rooms, and gorgeous vineyards that will make you feel miles from the crush of city life. Though if city life is what you’re about, Healdsburg is also home to the kind of refined art, boutiques, restaurants, and accommodations that please the wandering cosmopolitan. Check out Passalacqua (3805 Lambert Bridge Road, Healdsburg), Mazzoco (1400 Lytton Springs Road Healdsburg), A. Rafanelli (4685 West Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg), or, for an extravagant estate tour and tasting, Jordan Winery (1474 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg).
The long and storied legacy of Asian and Pacific-Islander people in the San Francisco Bay Area adds richness to local culture, and also to local cuisine. In the past (and let’s be real, still in some parts of the country), Asian fusion was a scary term that meant unbalanced flavors and strange sticky sauces. But in an area full of talented chefs cooking with local, seasonal ingredients in various culinary traditions, we would be remiss to not point you to some of the more creative spots where Asian flavors have been reworked in chic new ways.
In San Francisco, work up an appetite for the Hawaiian-inspired fare at Liholiho Yacht Club (871 Sutter St), Kin Khao’s (55 Cyril Magnin St) unique Thai dishes, the famed contemporary Vietnamese dishes at The Slanted Door (1 Vallejo, Ferry Building #3), and the impressively composed edible art at Benu (22 Hawthorne St). Across the bay, try the California-influenced classics at the Ramen Shop (5812 College Ave), Mexican- and Korean-inspired grub at Belly’s (1901 San Pablo Ave), and the Japanese-Southern style cooking and cocktails at Hopscotch (1915 San Pablo Ave) in Oakland.
It’s not summer until you’re outside on a blanket with your friends with an array of drinks/snacks, dancing to live music. Even if the fog is rolling in. The Stern Grove Festival is a free, outdoor San Francisco Sunday ritual that’s been running since 1938. The 2016 season starts up on June 19 with the dazzling Janelle Monáe, and later shows feature the likes of the New Pornographers, the SF Ballet, and The O’Jay’s.
This is not a secret. San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is over 1,000 acres, and obvious as it is, it’s the best setting for every activity that you could possibly dream of doing outdoors. The stoic bison, who have been gracefully chilling in the park since 1890, are a must-see. Then roll up your sleeves and hitch up your pants for archery, drunken kickball, practicing your fishing casts, lawn bowling, several holes of disc golf, or a good, hard sit. For more formally presented entertainment and education, the Conservatory of Flowers (100 John F Kennedy Dr), the California Academy of Sciences (55 Music Concourse Drive), and the De Young Museum (50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr) have you covered. Pack your tote and get out there!
In our super digital age, many people overlook the independent bookstore as a steward of style and taste. However, in San Francisco, reading books and browsing shelves not only has a long history, but is still enough in fashion that you’ll find well-curated literary havens all over town. Let the experts find you the perfect summer read or stop in for an event. Attend the raucous Shipwreck event at The Booksmith (1644 Haight St), revel the in the contemporary selections at Green Apple (506 Clement St), make your beat poet pilgrimage to City Lights Books (261 Columbus Ave), get your radical read on at Modern Times (2919 24th St) or pick up books in English and Spanish at Alley Cat Books (3036 24th St).