San Francisco is a big, beautiful and urban city. Everyone’s heard of its most visited places, but for those who seek for unconventional destinations, there are many hidden and secret gems left to explore. Some of them are even in the heart of the city and easy to find. If you are in the mood for something new, make sure to check out these best-kept secrets of San Francisco as seen on Quora.
1 – Alamere FallsIf you want to escape the urban city and take a long hike in the Bay Area, check out this 50-foot high waterfall that flows directly into the ocean. It takes About 1.5 hour drive from the city to reach the Bolinas Coast Trail, but it can be reached from several different trailheads. Once you start this hike, you will go along a 300-foot cliff overlooking the water and a covered forest. Finally, when you get down to the beach you will have the wonderful experience of standing next to this natural wonder. It is even more impressive to see it in the winter months when there has been a lot of rain.
2 – Moraga St & 16th Avenue StairsAt Moraga St & 16th Avenue, you can see a delightful mosaic-tiled stairs. Inspired by the famous stairs in Rio De Janeiro, these stairs were sponsored by more than 200 neighbors. As you climb the 163 mosaic steps, on each one you can see handmade animal, bird, and fish mosaic tiles. It is a great way to show that when people get together they can make a big difference, and in this case, a piece of art. If you climb all the stairs, you can see the Sunset District and the Grandview Park.
3 – Flora Grubb GardensThis place is a green oasis housed in the 8,000-square-foot barn-wood structure. It has indoor and outdoor space and a coffee shop, so you can grab something to drink and wander around these beautifully designed gardens. You can walk around for hours and even arrange plants at the DIY bar. They offer all sort of design, floral and horticultural services. The store itself changes every day, so it’s never the same twice. You can see many unique things here, like the vertical gardens that you can also purchase from their web shop.
4 – Bi Rite CreameryBi Rite Creamery makes ice-cream, soft serve and baked goods, everything made by hand. They are using organic ingredients and recyclable materials that don’t create any waste. That is why they are Certified San Francisco Green Business. Flavors are very unique, like Salted Caramel, Honey Lavender and Balsamic Strawberry. They also have vegan flavors, like the most popular Coconut Strawberry. They also make pies, cakes, puddings, pastries, granola, and bread. You can see a video on their latest book called Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones: 90 Recipes for Making Your Own Ice Cream and Frozen Treats.
5 – Cable Car MuseumCable Car is San Francisco’s trademark method of transportation. If you want to learn more about cable cars you should come to a free Cable Car Museum at the corner of Mason St. and Washington St. Now where the museum stands it used to be a cable car barn and a powerhouse. The entire system was built more than 120 years ago, and in the museum you can see various mechanical devices like tools, grips, track, and brake mechanisms. On display are also detailed models and a large historic collection of photographs.
6 – Tartine AfterhoursTartine Afterhours is a collaboration between Tartine Bakery in San Francisco and Samin Nosrat, a chef, a writer and a teacher. About once a month, she would come to Tartine Bakery where they would push all the tables together and serve a delicious dinner. Different musicians would make the mood even better, not to forget the famous Tartine bread, always served with dinner. What is special about this event is that if you want to attend it, you fill out a form and wait to be chosen. Yes, it is a sort of a lottery! They pick out different random people for each of the three-course family-style dinner.
7 – Diego Rivera Mural at the Stock Exchange TowerYou may know Diego Rivera as Frida Kahlo’s husband. Or if you like art and have some basic knowledge of art, you may know him as a renowned artist, quite controversial in his time. This mural, called “Allegory of California” was his first mural painted outside of Mexico. It is located on the wall and the ceiling of the grand stairwell, in what used to be the Pacific Stock Exchange Club, now called the City Club. The central figure represents California, in one hand looking for hidden treasures of the Earth, and in other holding the treasures that grow on it. Usually closed to the public, this place offers reservation-only tours once a month, limited to the first 25 people. If you want to be the one to see it in person, make sure to visit this page.
8 – LSD Museum- Institute of Illegal ImagesUsually referred to as the LSD Museum, the Institute of Illegal Images is located in a white two-story house on 20th Street. It is a gallery of individual acid samples that Mark McCloud has been collecting since the 60s. There are approximately 350 pieces of framed psychedelic art. There are also hundreds of antique books, old Victorian apothecary bottles, toolboxes, surgical instruments… Many artists that have passed through the house, leaving all sort of things to his legacy, from framed art to literature. Mark welcomes his guests and tells a lot of stories about the LSD movement and San Francisco’s subculture.
9 – Camera ObscuraNorth of Ocean Beach and near the Cliff House stands a huge camera obscura. For its significance, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It is positioned so it has a great view on waves crashing the rocks. The light enters through a hood in the roof and goes through a lens that projects the image in the room. Visitors can stay inside with a 360 degree view, because the hood rotates and makes it possible. The small building can hold about a half-dozen people and the best time to visit this place is at sunset.
10 – Free Gold Watch ArcadeTucked away on 1767 Waller, this place began as a silk screen print shop. When they started thinking the space is not used very well, they first began adding pinball machines. At first, just a few of them, but as time passed this place slowly turned into a host for many other arcade games like Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Space Invaders… They organize championships in different games now, and the space can hold around a 100 people. With around 50 vintage games this place became a perfect spot to hang out and socialize.
11 – Red Poppy Art HouseOn the corner of Folsom Street in the Mission District there is a room that connects both traditional and contemporary art forms. This small and cozy place offers great music, art performances, exhibitions and workshops. Some claim it is the best place in town to hear some of the greatest jazz from all around the world. With so many talented people involved in this process, this place has a strong impact on social issues in the community. You can join the team and become a volunteer, submit your art, or participate in many other ways.
12 – Heirloom CaféHeirloom Café is located in the rustic Victorian corner building at 21st and Folsom streets. With its open kitchen, old wines, wood floors and homey vintage wallpapers, it gives you a feeling like you are sitting in someone’s dining room. In the wine cellar they have around 3,600-bottles, both American and European. The special thing about this place is that you can order the off-the-menu burger, just ask your waiter if they have it available. In this special burger, you get triple-cream Epoisse cheese and caramelized onions on an English muffin. And if you order a three-course menu you will get two glasses of wine that goes with the meal.
13 – Clarion AlleyBetween Mission and Valencia Streets and 17th and 18th Streets is a small street known for its murals. The walls were first covered in 1992 by the Clarion Alley Mural Project, an organization of volunteer artists. In the past 2 decades over 700 murals were created here by many talented artists. Here you can see different inspirations and styles, and powerful messages like “Capitalism is over if you want it” and “It is much easier to destroy than it is to create”. A lot of inspiration comes from social, economic, and environmental justice.
14 – Lands End TrailThis path is leading to the Golden Gate Bridge and is popular with bikers and hikers. It is a great way to escape the urban city and enjoy the quiet woods and the coastline. You can see over 250 species of birds along the way, like chickadees, Brandt’s cormorants, brown pelicans, and a variety of sparrows. There are several nice spots to stop for a picnic or for a rest. Also, you can stumble upon a hidden labyrinth at Eagle’s Point, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. It was destroyed but vandals recently, but very soon will be rebuilt again.
15 – La TrappeLa Trappe is a Belgian restaurant and bar in North Beach, in one of the neighborhood’s tucked-in street corners. It is a type of place you would go to with friends, to try all kinds of beer. You should take some time to go through the extensive beer menu, and examine what’s available. It will probably be hard for you just to pronounce some of the names because you will find mostly Belgian beer. You will enjoy your time in this cozy lower-level bar, with bricks on the walls, rustic archways, and an intimate atmosphere.
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