So you’re in San Francisco and what do you do? Golden Gate Bridge? Fisherman’s Wharf? Alcatraz? Of course! But we know that there’s a part of you that wants to see the real city, a part of you that yearns for the less touristy, more off the beaten track experiences that makes the city so unique. Well, you’re in luck, as I just so happen to have some tips for you…
1. Fleishhacker Pool Ruins
Okay why not hit the ground running with the incredible Fleishhacker Pool. It was once a gigantic saltwater pool, capable of hosting up to 10,000 people! Nowadays it’s actually defunct after having been destroyed by fire, and it is found beneath the parking lot of San Francisco Zoo. It’s a cool and eerie spot, perfect for anyone trying to get off the beaten track.
2. Off the Grid Friday Food Night
Fort Mason (part of the Marina district) shuts down every Friday night, as food trucks from all over the city collaborate to throw a delicious party, complete with music and brewery! Yummy food is represented from all over the world, and it’s a great way to experience local life in San Francisco without relying on the traditional chain restaurants.
3. Thursdays at the Academy of Sciences
Music? Check. Dance? Check. Film? Check. Art? Check. Affordable? Check. I could go on, believe me. Each Thursday evening the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park throws a celebration of the arts. It’s always a blast, and of course includes some tasty food and drink.
4. Secret Stairs
You probably already know that San Francisco is a city famous for its hills and high lookouts. Well rather than get a tram or taxi to these views, why not explore some of the hidden staircases and the quirky gardens that surround them? Among the most popular are the Filbert steps, but we can’t tell you where all the SECRET stairs are – now that would be cheating!
5. Musee Mecanique
This one falls into the “weird and wonderful” category! Musée Mécanique is the world’s largest private collection of mechanical entertainment. The hundreds of musical instruments, arcade machines and toys from yesteryear are fascinating and a little haunting. This is definitely not your typical cookie cutter museum!
Ever been in one of those situations where you’re out at a laundromat doing a load of dirty clothes, when you suddenly have a hankering for a delicious burger or a refreshing ice cream? I think we’ve all been there 😉 Luckily, now you don’t have to abandon your laundry, because at Brainwash you can do both simultaneously! And that’s not all! Of COURSE they host musical and comedy performances there also, because why not?!
7. Banned Toy Museum
Yes I know it’s another museum, but seriously this one is seriously unique. Any time a toy has been banned from the market from safety concerns or because they were offensive in some way, they have ended up in this quirky collection! Check it out for a mega dose of nostalgia.
8. Street Art
How could we not talk about the impressive street Art in San Francisco?! It’s largely prevalent in the Mission district, and so we strongly recommend going for a tour of the area and taking in the stunning murals.
9. Jack Early Park
I bet Jack Early Park is top of your to do list when visiting San Francisco right? Well in reality it’s probably not, but it should be close! This tiny little patch of heaven is the smallest park in the city. While its small stature means it flies below the radar of most travellers, luckily YOU are not most travellers! Go check it out.
10. The Views
There are so many incredible views in this city. Of course everyone loves the Golden Gate Bridge, and rightly so. But there are some other incredible high spots that will definitely capture the attention of your Instagram followers. Twin Peaks Summit, Bernal Heights Park, Cliff House… the list goes on and on.
To maximize your experience make sure you take a second to check out the awesome hostels in San Francisco!
Colin R. is a member of the Hostelworld Social & Content team, singer/guitarist of Empire Kings and fanatical sports nerd.