- Taste some of the best food trucks in San Francisco
- Taste salted caramel ice cream from Bi-Rite Creamery
- Enjoy a picnic in the sun in Dolores Park
- Rooftop views of San Francisco at night
- Dance your ass off to African beats
Check out the other Andy’s Days of Fun here.
Here is a plan I made for a friend of mine a little while back. It is for a Saturday spent exploring the Mission/Castro districts. It features outdoor parks, great local foods, amazing views, cool bars, and fun dance parties.
It is an ambitious plan to say the least, and it calls for a lot of energy and a healthy appetite. But if you can handle it, you will have an awesome experience to drunkenly tell your friends about.
- Brunch at SoMa StrEat Food Park
- Street murals in Clarion Alley
- Ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery
- Craft beers at Cervecería de MateVeza
- People watching in Dolores Park
- Walk through The Castro
- Fresh baked goods at Hot Cookie
- Dinner on 16th street
- Window shopping on Valencia
- Live music and margaritas at Latin American Club
- Cocktails and a rooftop view at El Techo de Lolinda
- African dance party at Little Baobab
- After hours bacon wrapped hotdogs
- Duration: 30-45 mins
- Cost: $10-15
Assuming you were probably out late on Friday night, we’ll start the day with a brunch at SoMa StrEat Food Park. This is where some of the best food trucks in SF assemble each day to feed the hungry. You’ll see the sign below as you approach the park.
The lineup at the park changes daily, so suggestions are pointless. But with over a dozen trucks each day, you’ll find something to suit your palette and your dietary restrictions. Don’t forget to get a drink or a beer at the beverage truck in the corner.
Make sure to walk all the way around to check out all the options. You definitely don’t want to leave here with food truck FOMO.
2. Walk down 16th street to Clarion Alley
- Duration: ~15 mins
- Cost: $0
Now that your belly is full, let’s go for an after lunch walk to aid your digestion. A famous Chinese proverb says: “A little stroll after you dine, will help you live to 99”. Thanks to Matt for the rhyming translation.
You’ll eventually pass by the 16th street BART station plaza. This is not the usual walking tour stop, but it definitely is a key landmark in the Mission. Here you will see an eclectic mix of Mission residents. Most are commuters trying to get to their next destination, and the others are people who have no better place to be. Don’t worry, they are mostly harmless. If you’re wondering about that lingering odor, it’s probably a mix of dried urine and McDonald’s french fries.
- Duration: 10-20 mins
- Cost: $0
A couple of blocks away from the BART station is Clarion Alley. It is home to the Clarion Alley Mural Project, started in 1992 by 6 artists living in North Mission. It was inspired by Balmy Alley, another street in the Mission known for its murals.
If you’re lucky you might see an artist working on a new mural.
- Duration: 5-25 mins
- Cost: $3-6
From Clarion Alley walk down 18th street and you’ll get to Bi-Rite Creamery. Bi-Rite is the most popular ice cream in the city if not also the best. You can spot it by the line that literally wraps around the corner on nice days.
Protip: If you’re part of a group and don’t mind each other’s cooties, skip the line and buy a pint straight from the counter.
- Duration: 5-10 mins
- Cost: $8-13
Wait wait wait! Before you go to Dolores Park, make sure you grab a couple of craft brews to sip on. The best place for that is Cervecería de MateVeza on the other corner of the park at Church and 18th.
Their signature beer is the Verba Mate IPA. It’s like taking a vacation to South American in your mouth!
Protip: If you like the bar and want to hangout for a while, they have a collection of games available, including Cards Against Humanity.
- Duration: 1-2 hours
- Cost: $0
Dolores Park is one of my favorite spots in the city. Not only is it a great place to chill out, have a picnic, and people watch, you can also drink and smoke like it’s your own backyard! Not to mention it also has some of the best views of downtown SF.
Check out the view of downtown from the upper corner of the park at 20th and Church.
Protip: If you forgot to bring food and beverages, there are vendors walking around selling them, albeit at a markup. Just make sure you don’t mistakenly ingest “magic” brownies instead of regular brownies.
7. Walk through The Castro
- Duration: 15-20 mins
- Cost: $0
After you’ve relaxed enough, walk on down 18th street towards the Castro district. Browse the variety of shops, cafes, and restaurants along the way. If you need a caffeine fix, stop by Philz Coffee or Samovar Tea Lounge for a hot beverage. You’ll know you’re on Castro street when you see the rainbow flags.
Check out what’s showing at the Castro Theater, some of the shows can be really fun, and not too expensive. The shows here range from film screenings, to story telling competitions, to Disney movie sing-a-longs.
Towards the end of Castro street near Market street is the Castro pride flag pole with a giant rainbow flag.
Protip: The flag is a great way to orient yourself when looking at the city from one of the many hill tops.
8. Fresh baked goods at Hot Cookie (Yelp)
- Duration: 5-10 mins
- Cost: $3-5
If you have a sweet tooth, stop by Hot Cookie for some fresh baked goods or just to check out the very Castro style decor.
Check out the pictures of the happy customers! It must be very hot wherever they are…
9. Dinner on 16th street
- Duration: 30-60 mins
- Cost: $6-20
16th street is one of the best streets in the Mission for food tripping. You can find almost any popular cuisine you can think of. Some of my favorites are:
- Dinosaurs: Banh mi
- Sushi Time: Japanese. The sashimi here is excellent
- Kitchen Story: Asian fusion. Try the Millionaire bacon.
- Mozzeria: Italian. The waitstaff here are all deaf or mute
- Deja Vu Pizza & Pasta: Freshly made pizza and calzones
- Pakwan: Indian/Pakistani. BYOB
- Truly Mediterranean: I always get the Falafel with eggplant
- Pancho Villa Taqueria: Great salsa bar
Of course, those are just a few of the many great options you have.
10. Window shopping on Valencia
- Duration: 20-30 mins
- Cost: $0
After you’ve refueled, continue to walk down Valencia street to see the galleries, shops, and hipster bars. Around dinner time is when the Mission comes to life. You’ll see people from all walks of life mingling and mixing.
Make sure to stop by Good Vibrations. They have an assortment of gadgets that vibrate and can be used to give great massages.
I would also stop by Paxton Gate for a look around. I don’t really know how to describe this store. It is full of strange curiosities and stuffed animals.
11. Live music and margaritas at Latin American Club (Yelp)
- Duration: 30-45 mins
- Cost: $8-12
What’s a night in the Mission without some live music and strong drinks? The Latin American Club is a great place to go to begin the nightlife portion of your day.
This place is known for their strong margaritas. So drink carefully because the night is just beginning.
El Techo de Lolinda is one of my favorite rooftop bars in the city. It is actually the rooftop of Lolinda, which is an Argentinian steakhouse.
It’ll probably be pretty busy here, so instead of waiting for a table, just order a cocktail from the waitress and walk around to enjoy the view.
Now that you’re well liquored up, it’s time to go dancing at Little Baobab, a Senegalese restaurant turned night club on Saturday nights.
There will be a DJ spinning African dance music, and you might even catch a show by some of the performers. Don’t be afraid to join in and dance your butt off!
14. After hours bacon wrapped hot dogs (Yelp)
Finally, to wrap up the night, pick up a bacon wrapped hot dog at the bacon dog cart. That’s one of the true Mission experiences you won’t find anywhere else. If you can’t find this cart don’t worry, there are plenty of carts located throughout the Mission on Saturday night.
And with that, we end a pretty epic day of touring the Mission and the Castro. You have tasted some of the best flavors and seen some of the most interesting parts of the city. However, we have barely scratched the surface of what the amazing city of San Francisco has to offer.
Again, here’s the map of all the attractions, restaurants, and bars mentioned in this post: Map
If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other Andy’s Days of Fun here.
What did you think of this tour? What did I miss? What would you have done differently? Please share it in the comments. I’d love to hear what you have to say.