Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 October 2020

My home town: a local's guide to San Francisco, California

Student Sophia Vahanvaty is full of love for her foggy but fabulous US city

View of Yosemite Valley with Merced River in foreground. Getty Images
View of Yosemite Valley with Merced River in foreground. Getty Images

San Francisco is a charming place with a bit of an identity crisis. The rising dominance of Silicon Valley tech companies has both complemented and endangered the irreverent, inclusive, hippyish vibe it has long been proud of. Today, both influences can be felt by those visiting this stunning coastal Californian city.

My must-do activity

Walk through the Mission district and enjoy the murals that adorn the streets (Clarion Alley is a highlight). The Mission district is known for its Latino roots and good weather even when the SF fog seems inescapable. There, you can find myriad murals depicting the history of San Francisco’s activism, labour rights movements and multicultural pride. End your walk overlooking the city in Dolores Park, and enjoy a Mission-style burrito, distinctive for their

large size and abundance of ingredients, including meat, rice, beans, cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and veggies. For those who are not in the mood for a meal, try Tartine Bakery, also in the Mission district. I recommend the morning bun, if it hasn’t run out yet. Another option is Bi-Rite Creamery: the more eccentric the ice cream flavour here, the better. It’s worth the queue.

People walk by a mural dedicated to the musician Carlos Santana in the Mission District of San Francisco, California on December 23, 2017. San Francisco is a major travel destination with over 24 million visitors a year, frequenting famous landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz Island. (Photo by Ronen Tivony) (Photo by Ronen Tivony/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
People walk by a mural dedicated to the musician Carlos Santana in the Mission District of San Francisco, California. Getty

Another of my favourite eats

For those travelling in a group who can never agree on a place to eat, Off the Grid is perfect for you. This travelling collection of food trucks assembles in various locations around the city and offer many delicious options in pleasant outdoor areas. Bring a sweatshirt, though, because San Francisco gets chilly in the evenings year-round. Check online to see where Off the Grid will be during your visit.

My childhood favourite

If you’re travelling with youngsters, the Exploratorium is a must-see attraction. Located on a pier in the San Francisco Bay, this hands-on science and technology museum with 650 exhibits to play with and learn from will enthral children and teens, even those who dislike science class. Tickets range from $20-$30 (Dh73-110), but the price is well worth it for the several hours that will fly by in the museum. As you leave, make sure to take a walk down the Embarcadero, the bayside promenade that houses piers full of shops and restaurants.

The great outdoors

If you don’t have the time or transport to leave the city, Golden Gate Park is a sanctuary within San Francisco. Home to an abundance of green space, picnickers, buffalo, gardens and museums, it’s a delightful place to spend a sunny afternoon. Only 45 minutes north of San Francisco is Muir Woods, a redwood forest renowned for its towering sequoias. Named after wilderness preservation advocate John Muir, this national monument’s serenity and grandeur is stunning. For those with several days and a hunger for some more serious hiking or backpacking (or glamping, for that matter), you can’t miss Yosemite. This national park is a 3.5-hour drive from San Francisco and draws visitors from all over the world to marvel at its waterfalls, impressive granite faces and beautiful valleys and meadows.

Updated: February 29, 2020 05:04 PM

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