If the number of parks and gardens in San Francisco is anything to go by – more than 220 – it’s fair to say the locals know how to take things easy. Indeed, when the weekend rolls around, you’ll find them playing frisbee or picnicking in these open spaces, or perhaps basking in the sun if the weather is good.
You’ll also find them exploring the best of what the city has to offer, from hip neighbourhood bars and historic bookstores to small, independent art and music venues.
And they love their food. While San Francisco is home to some of the world’s most highly rated restaurants, for many locals, there’s nothing better than a grilled cheese sandwich from a humble food truck or some juicy organic fruit from a farmers’ market.
Here’s how you can enjoy the city like a local:
1. Eat at a food park
Food trucks are a dime a dozen in San Francisco, but why limit yourself to one when you can eat from several, and all in one place? SoMa StrEat Food Park is described as a culinary carnival, with rotating food trucks, carts and pop-up stalls serving everything from Asian to fusion and vegan, and even beer and wine. The park also has carnival games, free Wi-Fi and TV screens, so you’ll be entertained while you eat.
2. Hang out at a bookstore
Good bookstores are rare these days, but not in San Francisco. For instance, City Lights is a hot favourite. Founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, this independent bookstore-publisher specialises in American literature and progressive thought. Known as the country’s most daring publisher of independent literature in the 1950s, it was declared an official historic landmark in 2001.
3. Relax in an urban oasis
More than just a relaxing green space, Golden Gate Park is home to several attractions and monuments, such as the Conservatory of Flowers, Japanese Tea Garden (the oldest of its kind in America), Dutch windmills and Sharon Art Studio, the city’s largest public art centre. The 4.1 sq km park also features playgrounds, carousels and a bison paddock. Here, you can have a picnic by the lake, hike a trail, play golf or even enjoy a concert at the Music Concourse.
4. Sip craft cocktails
The award-winning Trick Dog Bar is well known for its themed cocktail menus. The current menu is designed around America’s 2016 Presidential Election, featuring drinks with catchy and provocative names like I Am Not A Crook, Acid & Amnesty and Drill Baby Drill. This trendy hangout, located in a converted warehouse, also serves tasty bar bites.
5. Shop at a co-op
Rainbow Grocery in the hip Mission District has been serving locals for 41 years. A worker-owned cooperative, this independent store offers a wide selection of organic and locally sourced produce, cheese, herbs and spices, bath and body products, homeware, beer, wine and spirits. It’s also a resource for the community to exchange information about the sustainability of the food they eat.
6. View art in a bar
Madrone Art Bar challenges the way the public appreciates art. Here is where you can browse artworks, watch a dance performance, listen to a poetry recital or admire sculptures and photographs, all while nursing a potent cocktail or a glass of wine from the bar. In the evenings, the venue hosts local DJs and live music performers, who play everything from jazz and funk to reggae, ’80s hits, Brazilian forro and even Hawaiian tunes.
7. Check out a farmers’ market
San Franciscans love their farmers’ markets. Where else can you get fresh local produce and sample artisanal products? The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, located at the Ferry Building, is considered one of the best in the city. Besides fruits, vegetables, flowers, meat and dairy products, you can pick up olive oil, jam and syrups, baked goods, doughnuts, coffee and lots more. The market attracts nearly 40,000 shoppers every week and is a favourite among famous chefs and farmers. The market takes place on Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, year-round, rain or shine.
8. Watch an art-house film
Opened in 1909, Roxie Theater is the oldest, continuously running cinema in America. The beloved venue, located in the Mission District, screens classic and new art-house movies, hosts indie film festivals and organises special sessions for curators, entertainers and educators to interact with their audiences.
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.