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6 Unusual Things to Do in San Francisco Off the Beaten Path

San Francisco, often described as the most European-like city on the west coast, is lively, romantic, and unique. It would take you weeks to explore it thoroughly because there are so many things to do in San Francisco!

But once you’ve checked the unmistakable, yet touristy, spots, what else is there to do off the beaten path in San Francisco?

Here are six attractions to see a different San Francisco.

1. Stay fit with a city hike

San Francisco City Hikes

San Francisco is a great base for hiking lovers. Trails are not difficult to find, and you don’t need to travel far. For a city hike, head to The Presidio, an urban playground which was an Army base.

From here, you can choose the Golden Gate Promenade (4.3 miles long) which brings you right in front of the bridge or the Southwest Hills Trail (3.1 miles) that leads hikers through sand dunes, Baker Beach, and scenic viewpoints.

Join a local for a 4.5-Hour Bridge and Beach Walking Tour. This hike will bring you along the rugged coastline, the Golden Gate Bridge, the ruins of Sutro Baths, and Baker Beach, and some of the most exclusive neighborhoods in San Francisco. BOOK IT HERE

2. Explore the Latino side of San Francisco

Mission District, San Francisco

Photo: This Is America Foundation

The Mission District is a lively, vibrant, and highly populated area in eastern central San Francisco, but it’s not a touristy area. It’s the main Latino neighborhood in town,and the streets are filled with thrift stores, local shops, and taquerias and Mexican restaurants.

Locals say that Taqueria Farolito, not far from the Mission BART station, makes the best burritos in town, so don’t miss it.

If you love street art, then you’ll love walking through the District’s streets and buildings covered in amazing, bright-colored murals.

What’s better than combining artisanal eats with beautiful street art? Check out the San Francisco Flavors and Murals of the Mission Tour, where strawberry rhubarb pie, donuts, and al pastor tacos go hand in hand with the history of this culturally diverse neighborhood. BOOK IT HERE

3. Enjoy a beach with a view

GoldenGateBridge_BakerBeach_MC (1)

photo: Wikimedia

Wait, a real beach in San Francisco? And with spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin headlands?

Yes, it’s Baker Beach. At Golden Gate Bridge/Fort Point, find the pedestrian path that leads to the California Coastal Trail: Baker Beach is right below. If you pick a sunny day, bring a picnic basket and enjoy the view. Hiking is also one of the best solo travel experiences in San Francisco, and trust me, these views are worth it!

Note that the northernmost end of the beach is a nudist beach, so make sure you’re comfortable with that…or join the fun!

4. Visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory

Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory, San Francisco

photo: Flickr, Karlis Dambrans

Most people think that Fortune Cookies were imported from China, but they’re wrong!
Fortune Cookies were born in San Francisco’s Chinatown many years ago, and today it’s possible to visit one of the first factories, and see how cookies are made.

You might smell it, before even seeing it: the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory is tucked away in Chinatown’s Ross Alley, but a salivating aroma lingers all around the block.

Join the San Francisco Chinatown Culinary Walking Tour. You’ll eat Dim Sum, visit a Buddhist temple, visit Chinese markets and see how fortune cookies are made. BOOK IT HERE

5. Rediscover your inner child

Seward slides san francisco

photo: UpOut

In a corner of the Castro District, which is vibrant and interesting to visit in itself, lies the Seward mini park.
Children and adults will love to glide down the concrete – and pretty steep – slides that were built in 1973 for a sculpting competition; bring a cardboard with you.

6. Skip Sausalito, head to Tiburon

Tiburon

photo: Wikimedia

Sausalito in Marin County attracts tourists everyday, but head to Tiburon if you want to dodge the crowds. Tiburon is only a short ferry ride away from San Francisco, or you can arrive by bus or by bike (for tips on how to get to Tiburon check out Tiburon town website); nonetheless, the town retains a certain village feeling, and feels a world away from the chaos of the city.

The streets are lined with little cafès and restaurants, art galleries and independent boutiques: Tiburon is worth a visit. Also, don’t forget to see how to travel in San Francisco by Public Transportation!

Another great option: go on a Self-Guided Bike Tour to Sausalito and Tiburon. BOOK IT HERE

7. BONUS: Stay at a Quirky Hotel in San Francisco

It’s so much more fun to stay at a hotel that screams good vibes and strong character. San Francisco features quite a few choices for playful, hipster, or unusual hotels.

Want to feel like you just landed in Japan? Check out Hotel Kabuki and Kimpton Buchanan Hotel.

What about an ultra-cool, rock’n roll retro motor lodge that regularly hosts Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, and other superstars? Check out Phoenix Hotel.

One of my favorites. The Orchard Garden Hotel was voted as one of the best eco-friendly hotels in the USA, and the owners are very committed to sustainable practices. Check it out here.

Looking for something a bit more classic? Check out the best prices for San Francisco hotels here.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. This means I may earn a referral fee if you purchase through my link, at absolutely no extra cost to you. 

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Divya: Gone With A Whim

Friday 2nd of February 2018

I have been to SF half a dozen times and I discover that there are always more things to do :) I visited Baker's beach this time and I LOVED It. I didn't know about Tiburon, bucket listed for the next visit :) Great post!

Birthe (from Wandering the World)

Sunday 29th of January 2017

We were there just last year and visited the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory (bought the "dirty/funny" fortune cookies) and walked to Baker Beach (braved slippery stones for an awesome photo), they're both definitely worth a visit!

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