Where To People Watch And Soak Up Local Culture In San Francisco
The people of San Francisco are as diverse and unique as the city itself. If you're ready to rest your legs and soak up some of the local culture, head to any of these quintessentially San Francisco destinations to hang out with locals and people watch.
Union Square is one of the most famous public plazas in San Francisco. It's surrounded by some of the city's best shopping, theaters, and tourist attractions and is bordered by Geary, Powell, Post, and Stockton Streets.
Union Square also has a number of high end hotels, world class restaurants, as well as green space where visitors can hang out. Fashion lovers will appreciate the area's top rated shopping. Almost any brand you can think of has a store in the area.
Union Square, SF, California, 94104
The Redwood Park at the Transamerica Pyramid Center
The Redwood Park offers a peaceful setting with plenty of benches and striking redwood trees in the heart of the city. This is a quiet spot where you can enjoy lunch or simply rest your legs before continuing to explore the city. At the center of the park is a beautiful fountain.
600 Montgomery St, Financial District, San Francisco, CA, 94111
Chinatown is a must-see neighborhood for anyone visiting San Francisco. It's one of the most visited neighborhoods in the city and it offers a unique cultural experience, that is surprisingly authentic, particularly if you wander down Stockton Street, which is lined with local seafood and vegetable markets. For the more touristy stretch with souvenir shops, head to Grant Street. San Francisco's Chinatown has a long history, and it is home to the largest Chinese population outside of China.
For anyone interested in trying local Chinese food, there are a number of good restaurants. There are also many small shops with souvenirs and trinkets.
San Francisco, CA
Pier 39 is the most popular pier in Fisherman's Wharf. It's a touristy area with a number of shops and restaurants, but people also head to the pier to see San Francisco's famous sea lions. They hang out on the nearby docks and entertain the crowds. The pier is also lined with seafood vendors and a couple of tourist museums.
Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA
Alamo Square Park
This park is most notable as the place to view the famous "Painted Ladies," a series of Victorian and Edwardian homes that were made famous by the Tanner family, in the 1980's sitcom, "Full House". The park spreads out for 36 acres and it's a nice place to relax with a book, enjoy a picnic lunch, or let the kid's play on the playground.
Steiner St & Hayes Street, Alamo Square, San Francisco, CA, 94117
This historic building has been converted into a shopping area with great restaurants and local vendors who sell produce, cheese, and more. There's also a weekend farmer's market in the area that's fun to browse.
1 Ferry Building, Financial District and Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA, 94111
Yerba Buena Gardens
Located amid the hustle and bustle of the Financial District, this garden offers a nice retreat from the surrounding energy. There's a hedge maze, waterfalls, and grassy areas where you can relax in the sun. This is the perfect spot to enjoy a snack or take a break with a book. It's also conveniently located where you can rest your legs during a busy day of sightseeing.
750 Howard Street, SoMa, San Francisco, CA, 94103
Mission Dolores Park
This large park is a popular hangout with locals, who head here when the weather's nice to enjoy picnics, ballgames, and hanging out in the sun. The park has a full-sized basketball court, a bike polo court, a soccer field, and six tennis courts. There's also a large playground that's perfect for kids. The park is in a family-friendly area so parents and kids often spend their afternoons here.
Dolores St &, 19th St, Mission and the Castro, San Francisco, CA, 94114
St. Mary's Square
This public square, located in Chinatown, is often busy with locals from the surrounding neighborhood relaxing, playing games, exercising, and chatting. It's a nice spot to relax if you've been exploring the city for awhile, and it's very close to the shops and restaurants of Chinatown.
Quincy Street between Pine & California, Chinatown, San Francisco, California
Harvey Milk Plaza
Sitting at the corner of Market Street and Castro Street, this honorary plaza was named after Harvey Milk. In the 1970's, Milk was a gay activist who was later elected to the city Board of Supervisors. He was then tragically assassinated in his office at City Hall. The plaza has a MUNI station as well as a number of shops and restaurants, and is a common entry point to the Castro Neighborhood.
Market & Castro, Castro, San Francisco, California
Buena Vista Park
Buena Vista Park, in the famed Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, is the oldest park in the city. It's a bit of a climb to reach the park's peak, but from here you can enjoy views of the city, the University of San Francisco, and the surrounding hills that make up San Francisco's unique topography. The setting is a nice place to relax or enjoy a picnic.
Buena Vista & Haight Street, Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, CA, 94117
Golden Gate Park
The Golden Gate Park is a diverse outdoor space with museums, wildlife, gardens, and trails all within a peaceful setting. It is the third most visited park in the United States, and it's the perfect place to wander, walk, run, or relax. Inside the park you'll find world-class museums like de Young Museum, the unique Japanese Tea Garden, and the impressive San Francisco Botanical Garden. It's easy to pass hours here just soaking up the refreshing outdoor setting.
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA
Patricia’s Green is a small park with a grassy area in the Haye's Valley neighborhood. The park has become a lively setting with a couple of snack shops and a public art installation. During the summer months, there's a Burning Man wooden temple built here.
50 Oak St, Haye's Valley, San Francisco, CA, 94102
Washington Square Park
Head down the hill from Ina Coolbrith Park and you'll find the popular Washington Square Park. This standard rectangle park offers a nice grassy field that is located in the heart of North Beach, San Francisco's Italian district. The park is filled with benches and places to rest or read a good book. It's also a nice picnic area and you'll find plenty of locals hanging out and soaking up the sun (when it makes an appearance). During the summer months there are often movies playing on large screens that you can enjoy free of charge. Saints Peter and Paul Church sits at the edge of the park.
Filbert St & Stockton Street, North Beach, San Francisco, CA, 94133
Japantown in San Francisco is the oldest of the three remaining Japantowns in the United States. At the heart of the neighborhood is the Japan Center, which is a shopping area filled with restaurants, hotels, and a movie theater. Head here for some of the city's best sushi and ramen. The neighborhood also hosts a number of great festivals throughout the years including the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, Children's Day in May, and the August Nihonmachi Street Fair
San Francisco, CA
How much does it cost?
Prices for activities, things to do, and tours range from $5 to $842. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $95. A few of the best options are below.
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