San Francisco Neighborhoods: Mission, Haight, Castro, Chinatown, and Beyond!

The map of our one-day San Francisco neighborhood adventure.

Our last day in the Bay Area was dedicated entirely to San Francisco. We didn’t have much of a plan going into the city, which explains why the map of our movements throughout the day (above) doesn’t make much sense.

We could have saved a bit of bus fare and walking had we done a better job of preparing in advance, but too much planning would have stripped the sense of adventure from the day.

Despite backtracking and extra time spent on buses, it was really nice being able to do whatever we wanted on a whim.

Grid of San Francisco NeighborhoodsSan Francisco Neighborhood Map © Ingrid Taylar

Like most major cities, San Francisco is a collection of diverse neighborhoods, each with their distinct character (and characters that inhabit them).

We spent the day getting to know a few.

 

The Mission District

Red Cafe in the Mission District, San Francisco

Our morning began with a breakfast of chilaquiles and fresh squeezed orange juice at Red Cafe in the Mission District. This place is damn good, relatively cheap, and located in the heart of the hip, Latino-infused ‘hood.

Chilaquiles from Red Cafe

Chilaquiles, typically eaten at breakfast or brunch, is a scrambled egg dish with tomatoes, peppers and crunchy pieces of lightly fried corn tortillas. At Red Cafe they serve their chilaquiles with salsa, salsa verde and sour cream. So delicious!

Cafe La Boheme, Mission District

After breakfast, we wandered in and out of shops, taking pictures and admiring the vibrant colors of the Mission.

Fox News Graffiti, Mission District

Sidewalk Art, Mission District

Cool Painted Building in the Mission

Mission District Mural

 

Alamo Square

San Francisco's Painted Ladies, From Alamo Square Park

After the Mission, we hopped on a the 22 bus to Alamo Square Park to get a shot of the famous Painted Ladies.

The views of the city from the park are majestic, but we didn’t stick around too long after getting “the postcard shot.”

 

Haight-Ashbury

Colorful Haight-Ashbury Homes Colorful Haight-Ashbury Doorways

VW Van in the Haight Car For Sale in the Haight

It was our first time in San Francisco, so you can’t blame us for wanting to do all the “touristy” things.

After consulting the smartphone, we realized it was just a short walk from Alamo Square Park to the famous Haight-Ashbury district.

Victorian Homes in the Haight

Victorian Homes in the Haight, Details

We marveled at all the colorful Victorian & Edwardian homes along the way. Can you believe these houses? We felt like we were in a pastel fairy tale.

Corner of Haight & Ashbury Street Sign

The main drag of the neighborhood (Haight St. from Central Ave. to Stanyan) was everything we expected it to be — head shops, hippie beggars, lots of colors — and nothing like we expected it to be — gentrified, full of tourists — at the same time.

The Cannabis Company, in Haight-Ashbury

Happy High Herbs, Haight-Ashbury

Summer of Love Mural on Burger Urge, Haight-Ashbury

We saw some kids out on the street with signs that said “Not Bum” asking for change. (A philosophical question: If you’re “not bum,” but you’re on the corner asking for spare change from passerby in the middle of a weekday afternoon, then what are you?)

And despite this, and the constant wafts of patchouli in the springtime air, we decided that Haight-Ashbury is one of the most unique places we’d seen in San Francisco so far.

Although the “Summer of Love” and the hippy movement of the late ’60s has now been commodified and exported like any other product, there’s still something about the place that makes you question the structure of our society… while still being the type of place you could bring your mom to when she visits.

Weird, indeed.

Pipe Dreams, San Francisco's Oldest Smoke Shop, in Haight-Ashbury  Inflatable legs sticking out a window in Haight-Ashbury

 

Golden Gate Park

Brown bagging it in Golden Gate Park

We were already feeling quite worn out from our morning of walking everywhere, so we decided to brown bag it in Golden Gate Park for a little while and enjoy the lovely weather.

Unbeknownst to us, we happened upon the part of the park known as Hippie Hill, with its never-ending drum circle and smelly dudes trying to sell nuggets — not the chicken kind — to parkgoers.

Drinking beer at Hippie Hill, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

After a few tall boys of Tecate and all that fresh air, we decided lunch was in order. The brief sampling of oysters at the Ferry Building a few days prior had us hankering for more.

So we Yelped a good oyster bar, and hopped on another bus back towards where we came from.

 

The Castro

Anchor Oyster Bar Interior, Castro District, San Francisco

Whiteboard at Anchor Oyster Bar, San Francisco

The Anchor Oyster Bar is about the size of the average San Franciscan studio apartment — which means it’s basically a hallway. But it’s decked out with a gleaming white marble bar and a few stainless steel tables, surrounded by subway tile and a mirrored archway that peaks into the kitchen (you’ll have to walk through it to get to the bathroom).

It all feels very clean and classic.

Slurping oysters at Anchor Oyster Bar

The waitress misunderstood our order and brought us about 1/4 the amount of oysters we asked for. I think she was pretty surprised when we corrected her. And then pretty surprised again when we demolished the entire tray in minutes.

Rainbow flag in San Francisco's Castro District The Sausage Factory, in the Castro District

A little info for the uninitiated: The Castro is basically ground zero of the LGBT community and is one of the first and largest gay neighborhoods in the country.

Hand Job Nails & Spa

The quirkiness and humor of this neighborhood is endearing.

Does Your Mother Know, Castro, San Francisco

Castro District Streetcar, San Francisco

Look! A real live San Francisco streetcar!

 

Dolores Park

Lounging at Dolores Park

After lunch, we walked back over to the Mission for some dessert: ice cream from Bi-Rite Creamery, which we enjoyed from the green grass of Dolores Park.

Bi-Rite Creamery Double Scoop Church Tower in the Mission

With the sun beginning to descend, we figured it was a good time to head north for our first quality view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

So we hopped on another bus and headed towards Crissy Field.

 

The Marina District

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the San Francisco Marina

Marina District, San Francisco

Houses Along Marina Boulevard, San Francisco

After wondering aloud about the average prices of the Euro-style homes that line Marina Boulevard, we passed out on the sandy beach at Crissy Field Picnic Area, fully worn out from the day of wandering.

View of Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Field

View of Marin County from Crissy Field

Upon waking, we decided to head for our last neighborhood of the day, Chinatown, which we had vowed to see before leaving.

That meant another hike to catch another bus…

 

Chinatown

R&G Lounge, Chinatown, San Francisco

We ended our night with dinner at R & G Lounge. The restaurant was very crowded, so we agreed to share a table in a small banquet room with two other couples and a Frenchman and Englishman in town on business. It was nice getting a chance to talk to some locals about the city and the Bay Area in general. (One of the wives had to mention that she was a fifth-generation Californian and that we shouldn’t even consider living in Oakland because tourists get shot there coming out of their hotels. Ha!)

San Francisco's Chinatown

Bank of America, Chinatown Chinatown Building

Chinatown is so unlike any place we’ve ever been before. It feels like it’s own little country inside the city. In fact, our dinner companions told us that the residents and business owners of Chinatown don’t have to comply with some of the San Francisco laws, especially around Chinese New Year, when the neighborhood’s skies are filled with fireworks.

Much like the Haight, we agreed that this Asian enclave was uniquely San Franciscan.

Chinatown Signs  Chinatown Lanterns, Peking Bazaar

After dinner, we caught the BART back to our apartment in Oakland for one last night in the Bay Area before catching our flight home to Detroit early the following morning.

Out of our three days in Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco, our time spent in “the city” is the most fondly remembered. But despite that, we were both overwhelmed with the amount of things there are to see and do in the Bay Area as a whole — three days would never do it justice.

That just makes the prospect of living there for at least two years all the more exciting.

 

1 Comment

  1. I loved your pictures and descriptions of your time in my favorite US city! I lived there as a kid and spent part of the 1967 Summer of Love there (now you can tell how old I am!) It was wonderful to see how it’s changed and how it’s still the same – made me feel like hopping on a plane and experiencing it anew. Many thanks to the two of you, and yes, it’s a romantic city to share, isn’t it?

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *