San Francisco for New Residents and Travelers
Unique, Beautiful, and Green
There are so many things to love about San Francisco. A beautiful city that attracts millions of visitors each year, San Francisco not only takes the cake for its beautiful views and timeless tourist favorites, but offers a variety of fun and interesting things to do and see, and a way of life which truly honors diversity, individuality, and the green movement.
From the different flavors of each neighborhood, to the international mix of its people and visitors, it's no wonder that great ideas often find manifestation here. The San Francisco community is open and ready to embrace a fun idea from everyday folk, and having a special bent toward green companies and the LGBT community, everyone is sure to feel at home here. Full of gems, San Francisco enjoys its own independent and diverse culture that the natives love and new residents will want to explore.
So Let's Get Going!
First off, a word about getting around. Since parking is a pain in San Francisco, it's likely you'll want to use public transit. Public transportation in San Francisco is easy to use and can get you pretty much everywhere you need to be. Buy a Muni pass at either the Powell St. BART station (above Hallidie Plaza, where the cable car turn-around is) or at local stores like Walgreens or CVS. The Muni pass is being transitioned to the Clipper card, which is like a more permanent Muni pass that you put money on each month. If you use the public transit regularly, the monthly pass is the way to go. If you'll also use BART within the city, it'll cost $10 more, but in the end could save you a lot of money. By the way, BART stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit. The Muni pass covers buses, munirail, F trains (they look like cable cars and run along Market to Fisherman's Wharf via the Embarcadero) and cable cars.
Now, if you are just visiting San Francisco, you can buy a week pass or day passes ~ just check at the Muni office at Hallidie Plaza to get more details on those. They're definitely cheaper than continually paying each time if you plan using the public transit to get around. Unless you're only planning a couple of bus or muni trips, in that case, make sure you keep your transfer both as a receipt (because cops will periodically check who has paid and who hasn't on the bus) and to use again within the time-frame outlined on the transfer.
In addition to taking public transit, make sure to spend time on foot. Every neighborhood has its own flavor, shops, and hide-a-ways that you can only find by getting in there with the locals. And keep your camera with you ~ especially when you reach the summit of one of the many San Franciscan hills you'll be hiking up. We're known for being a gorgeous city and our secret is the great views of the bay, bridges, and cityscape that can be seen from the many high spots around town. Along with the great pics you'll get, your new muscular calves will be thanking you.
First, Some Helpful Resources
If you are new to the city, it behooves you to become acquainted with craigslist, an online resource which is extremely popular and manically used here in SF. You'll find work, a date, an apartment, a hobby, a study buddy, talk with residents, find free things, give things away, sell things, ~ you get the picture, it's endless. Craigslist is so popular in San Francisco that a little independent movie was even made about it! That's another thing San Franciscans like to do ~ have fun and make independent movies.
Along with craigslist, another popular site with San Franciscans is yelp. With yelp, you can get the true low-down on local restaurants, events, stores, and practitioners of all kinds (I found my orthodontist through yelp.) Yelp is full of personal reviews, so bad business practices soon stand out glaringly, and you'll be able to compare prices on what's out there. Join the fun and start posting your own reviews as you get to know the city.
SF is Fond of Co-ops
Speaking of independent movies, San Francisco is home to an independent filmmaking co-op called Scary Cow. If you have any kind of itch to break into filmmaking, grab your camera and run to join this group. There is a monthly fee (which can be off-set if you refer others into the group as I am doing at the link above) and working as a co-op, everyone has a chance to get their little movie made, and with the help of other like-minded enthusiasts. Scary Cow members are friendly and helpful, taking part in each other's films in a variety of capacities to gain experience and offer their expertise. Get to know them and they'll often even loan you their equipment at no charge to help you out. At the end of four months you show up at the Castro Theatre with your new film and all the other mooing members and everyone watches the 10 minute movies created during that round.
If co-ops are your thing (and they should be!), you'll want to check out Rainbow the city's popular vegetarian co-op. Owned by its workers, you'll be able to find obscure and interesting foods and items that most mainstream grocery stores won't touch, like organic henna powder in a variety of colors, biodegradable feminine products, natural toothpastes, and so on. There are bulk bins of whole organic grains, teas, and spices, which will save you money while expanding your palate. Rainbow offers so much it's fun to just browse around and see what else you might find. Call and schedule your own educational tour if you want to get more in-depth. Their website is full of resources for the green-minded, and includes their thorough nutritional library. Rainbow also has a great bulletin board stuffed with posters and fliers from the community.
One of the links you'll see on Rainbow's website is for Peoples Fuel Cooperative, San Francisco's co-op for biodesiel. Biodesiel is a clean-burning fuel that you can use if you have a diesel car, van, or truck. One of the greenest cities in the nation, San Francisco's buses in the Muni system also run on biodesiel.
Another Handy Resource...
If you'd rather not do the grocery shopping yourself, send a Rabbit to do it. Popular in Boston and San Francisco, at Taskrabbit you post a task on the website for a fellow qualified San Franciscan "Runner" to bid on. You get your laundry done without even breaking a sweat (or worrying about parking) and you help a local make some extra money. What's neat about Taskrabbit is you now have a way to get all the chores you find dull or complicated out of the way with very little effort on your part. Rabbits frequently assemble iKea furniture, drive the children to school, clean the house, and make Costco and Whole Foods runs. The tasks can be anything, from picking up your in-laws at the airport, writing or graphic design work, to hanging up pictures or art. It's only limited by your imagination. .. and um, funds.
If you're ready for some entertainment, and you've missed the free Public Display of Musical Affection* in Union Square, don't worry, you're in the right place. San Francisco has a healthy music, movie, and theatre community and plenty of independent and local venues to choose from. Whether it's Bazaar cafe on California St. in the Inner Richmond where you'll find local musicians playing original music most nights, The Fillmore or The Independent to see your favorite artists, or one of the many indie theatres in the city, San Francisco has a lot to keep you entertained. By the way, the smaller independent movie houses and theatres need support, go and show some love!
For some free entertainment, check out the music in the Grove offered every summer at Stern Grove in the Sunset. You can find a schedule online and attend the event that suits your mood. Bring a blanket, wine, and a loved one, and relax in the shade of the beautiful grove.
For free outdoor evening movies, there's Dolores Park, near the Castro. Check online to find the latest information. Bring your own blanket, food, and friends, and dress warmly. It's a great communal experience. Make sure to clean up after your group when it's time to go home.
*I am the dancer in the red tank top.
Another great thing about San Francisco is the variety of museums which offer free days for residents and free days on certain days of the month, typically the first Tuesday or Wednesday. The days can vary depending on the museum, so just do a little research online and call ahead to check. You can even get free days to museums based on your San Francisco zip code (you might have to provide proof of residence) ~ anyway you look at it, a good way to learn something and save a chunk of money!
Speaking of learning something, one thing that's fun for those of you learning French ~ free French in Union Square on Fridays at lunch. Go check it out, grab a conversation partner, and practice your French!
There's also free Lindy in the Park on Sundays around 11 am. Head to the beautiful Golden Gate Park, check out the local bison (yes, we have bison in our park), and then meet up with other dance enthusiasts at the bridge next to the De Young museum. Free dance lessons and afterwards, free fun dancing with others! One of the best things about living in San Francisco is finding all the free spirits.
If you have children, you'll have to take them to the Seward Street Slides, and bring your own cardboard to handle the otherwise rough ride down. A fun and popular first date site also.
Enjoy the Scenery
San Francisco is home to some beautiful beaches. Ocean Beach is wide and sprawling, and can be found at the end of Golden Gate Park where the land hits the ocean. Baker Beach is a lot of locals' favorite. It's smaller, beautiful, and includes a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Speaking of the bridge, biking it is something you should try at least once in your life. Pick a beautiful, sunny day, but be prepared for some wind. You can spend the day in Sausalito and enjoy art galleries and then take the ferry back to the city. If you end up staying late, and it seems like the bridge is closed ~ don't worry. It's closed to pedestrians but if you have your bike with you, press the button (like a doorbell) to alert the attendants (who are at the other end) at the closed gate, and they'll open it for you. Do not bike in the car lanes! It's very dangerous as there are big gaps that can cause a really nasty accident for you if your bike tires should fall in.
Another great walk is along Land's End, a part of San Francisco with beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the ocean. Like biking the bridge, you'll want to pick a nice day if you want to see the bridge clearly ~ although it's also fun to check it out when half of it is hidden under a cloud of fog. You can hike Land's End from the residential side and wind around to The Palace of the Legion of Honor, a beautiful museum with equally beautiful paintings inside.
Call it Home
San Francisco has so much to offer tourists and residents alike. It's no wonder so many visit once and then decide to make it home. Spend some time getting to know this hilly city and it's charm and beauty are sure to grow on you!
San Francisco Gems
There'd be bison in them thar woods
Sundays, 11am-2pm, free dance lessons
The world-famous Castro Theatre
Get your veg groove on
Speak French and Dance Spontaneously
A popular venue for musicians
Another popular venue for musicians
Free, live music in the Grove
Home to the very popular Dolores Park Movie Night as well as the occasional live show
Live music from local musicians
One of the most beautiful hikes in the city