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Spend a Day in San Francisco Like a Local

While renting a car and checking out iconic sights such as Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge are inherent parts of any San Francisco vacation, you should also dedicate a day to living like a true San Franciscan by jumping on a bike, pedaling through the hippest neighborhoods, shopping for local designs, and—most importantly—eating and drinking your way through the city.

View of downtown San Francisco. Photo © Lunamarina/Dreamstime
View of downtown San Francisco. Photo © Lunamarina/Dreamstime

Rent a bike for the day at CityRide in Hayes Valley. Consider one of the city cruisers, with a basket perfect for hauling purchases. On your way there, notice the grand office building on the corner of 10th and Market with the bluebird icon: Twitter headquarters.

Head down Valencia Street toward the Mission District for a two-stop breakfast: a lovingly brewed cup of third-wave coffee at Ritual Coffee Roasters, then, a few blocks north, a morning bun from Tartine Bakery.

Spend the morning browsing the eclectic shops on and near Valencia Street: Dema for locally designed women’s separates, Gravel & Gold for original gifts and accessories, and Good Vibrations for romance-inducing toys and erotica in a bright, friendly atmosphere.

An early lunch at trendy Mission Chinese is just the ticket. Start with Sichuan pickles and Mongolian long beans before moving on to bacon-rice cakes or lamb cheek noodle soup.

Pedal back to Hayes Valley to explore design goods at Propeller, fine wines at Arlequin Wine Merchant, and high-quality vintage clothing and antiques at Ver Unica. You’re likely to pass several pop-up shops and galleries along Hayes Street as well.

A vertical vintage theater sign reads Castro in neon letters.
San Francisco’s famous Castro Theatre. Photo © Fabien David, licensed Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives.

Heading south toward the Castro, stop in front of the iconic Castro Theatre for a snapshot of the famous marquee. Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the city’s most freewheeling neighborhood.

Take an afternoon breather in Dolores Park, where you can nap on the lawn, watch hula-hoopers and Frisbee enthusiasts, and enjoy the distant vista of the downtown skyline.

Mission Dolores Park in San Francisco.
> Mission Dolores Park in San Francisco. Photo © jejim/123rf.

Bike down Dolores Street to 16th Street, passing the lovely Mission Dolores on the corner, then turn right on 16th and grab a happy hour cocktail at Elixir.

At Flour + Water, order a memorable housemade pasta off the menu, or go for the tasting option and sample five seasonal pasta variations. Save room for dessert — Humphry Slocombe is only four blocks away, offering unique ice cream flavors, such as honey thyme, grapefruit tarragon, and candied chestnut.

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