Despite their distinctly urban vibe, San Francisco’s neighborhoods have access to some of the most beautiful coastal scenery that Northern California offers. Below are ten of the best ways for residents or visitors to enjoy the great outdoors near San Francisco.
See the skyline from Bernal Heights Hill
A stop in Bernal Heights
is a must for any visit to San Francisco. The popular neighborhood is known for picturesque sidewalks, local artisanal shops, and spectacular views.
From the top of Bernal Heights Park
, you can really take in the city. The summit provides a rare 360-degree panoramic view within a peaceful setting. Spot major landmarks, from the Twin Peaks and Golden Gate Bridge to the San Bruno Mountain and downtown San Francisco. The park is particularly great for bird watching, as the area is a natural refuge for wildlife. Bernal Heights Park also hosts a great movie night at the Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema
. The neighborhood cinema shows free screenings of independent films from diverse local directors.
Shop at the Alemany Farmers’ Market
Image courtesy of the Alemany Farmers’ Market Facebook
The Alemany Farmers’ Market
, which is also located in the Bernal Heights neighborhood, is one of the most popular markets in San Francisco. The abundance of organic, locally grown fruits and vegetables sold at low prices mean it's a great way to stock up on healthy produce and support local farmers.
The market’s operating hours run from 6:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., but most goods are sold out by 1:30 p.m. Don’t sleep in if you want to mark off all the items on your shopping list. Enjoy an outdoor shopping experience where the locals go.
Visit the Presidio
Image courtesy of Presidio Visitor Center
Located just north of the immaculate Presidio Heights neighborhood
, the Presidio is not to be missed. Formerly the oldest Army post in the U.S., the Presidio is a well-preserved piece of American history.
Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area
, the Presidio’s grounds are home to an abundance of fascinating attractions, such as the San Francisco National Cemetery, Crissy Field, the Walt Disney Family Museum
, and the Presidio Golf Course. The redbrick military buildings have been meticulously converted into vibrant restaurants, hotels, and attractions.
Explore the Presidio’s recreational area by walking, running, or biking through its trails. Stop to admire the views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean.
Stroll down Lombard Street
The Russian Hill
neighborhood is home to the famously crooked Lombard Street
. World-famous for its zigzagging downhill turns, this one-block street attracts visitors from around the world.
Although over 2 million cars drive down the eight-turned street each year, the best way to experience Lombard Street is to walk. To enter the street by foot, start at the top of the hill at Russian Hill’s Lombard and Hyde Streets.
From there, take in the beauty of the red brick road, the lush, vibrant flowers and landscaping, and the surrounding mansions. The scenic street is ideal for a photo from the bottom or with the background of the city views from the top.
Once you’ve completed your walk down Lombard Street, venture through Russian Hill for the Diego Rivera fresco
. You can also visit the Cable Car Museum or the Vallejo Street Crest Historic District. Ride the Powell/Hyde cable cars to North Beach
and Fisherman’s Wharf
for an entire day of attractions.
Walk Lover’s Lane and Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line
Image courtesy of Lover’s Lane Trail
Looking for a peaceful refuge from the bustle of the city? Lover’s Lane
at the Presidio offers a relaxing environment to explore nature along an enchanting trail.
Established in the 18th century, this footpath is the oldest in Presidio. The trail was once used as a shortcut by Spanish soldiers and missionaries to get from the Presidio’s Main Post to Mission Dolores. Today, the path is a favorite of runners, birdwatchers, and lovers (of history, nature, and art.)
While you explore Lover’s Lane, keep an eye out for Wood Line
, an art installation by Andy Goldsworthy. Located in the eucalyptus forest at the east end of the trail, the sculpture is composed of tree trunks laid end-to-end in a zigzagging pattern.
Admire the historic houses of Duboce Triangle
Image courtesy of Airbnb
Bordered by the vibrant neighborhoods of Lower Haight, The Castro, and Inner Mission, San Francisco’s Duboce Triangle
is a hot spot for street culture, charming cafés and storefronts, and gorgeous Victorian homes.
Take a leisurely walk along Duboce Triangle’s Noe and Sanchez Streets to view a collection of colorful historic homes. The best routes follow Noe Street between 15th and Duboce and Sanchez Street between 14th and Duboce.
Have a picnic at Golden Gate Park
Image courtesy of National Park Service
Golden Gate Park
is an epicenter for activity within the city. The sprawling park offers over 1,000 acres of meadows, trails, gardens, and a lake—as well as the San Francisco Botanical Garden
, California Academy of Sciences, the de Young Fine Arts Museum, and Japanese Tea Garden. Make a day of it by renting a bike and packing a picnic.
Don’t miss the NoPa
neighborhood, a small gem of an area with parkland that leads straight into Golden Gate Park. Experience NoPa’s specialty grocery stores, coffee shops, and entertainment.
Experience the Wave Organ
Image courtesy of Exporatorium.edu
Considered one of San Francisco’s most eclectic public art installations, the Wave Organ
is a wave-activated sound sculpture built onto a jetty in the San Francisco Bay.
Developed by artist Peter Richards and installed by sculptor and master stonemason George Gonzalez in 1986, the San Francisco Wave Organ is the first of only three known wave organs in the entire world — the two others are located in Croatia and England.
As the tide ebbs and flows, the water moves in and out of the tubes and creates melodic sounds that visitors can enjoy as they take in views of the Golden Gate Bridge
and Alcatraz Island
from the jetty’s tiny secret beach. The organ is most active and sounds best at high tide.
Located in the Marina District, the Wave Organ is close to the charming neighborhood of Cow Hollow
, where visitors and residents can enjoy boutique stores, local restaurants, and bars.
Explore the Conservatory of Flowers
Image courtesy of Garden Design
San Francisco’s Conservatory of Flowers
was established in 1879, and the “living museum” has offered visitors a look at rare, exotic plants and tropical flowers ever since. The Conservatory grounds provide the perfect place to spend a sunny day, surrounded by beautiful gardens and captivating Victorian architecture. Visitors who venture inside will experience the museum’s lush galleries of plants and flowers within the oldest public wood and glass conservatory in North America.
The Conservatory of Flowers is located in Golden Gate Park just south of the Inner Richmond
neighborhood, where other attractions and a variety of restaurants can be found. This residential district is home to some best dim sum restaurants in the city, as well as the Columbarium
and the Neck of the Woods
Snap a photo at the Lyon Street Steps
Image courtesy of Urban Hiker SF
The view from the Lyon Street Steps
is a favorite of locals and tourists. The beautifully manicured stairs include 332 steps and provide a rewarding view from the top. You can see both the Palace of Fine Arts Dome
and San Francisco Bay. Compared to other attractions in the city, the Lyon Street Steps are less crowded and make an ideal location for a photo opt.
Ready to experience the abundance of San Francisco’s neighborhoods
firsthand? As a lifelong San Francisco resident with more than 15 years in the real estate industry, Dylan Hunter
’s dedication and experience as a Bay Area realtor will make your search for the perfect San Francisco property easy and enjoyable.