Yes, San Francisco is changing, but don’t panic. The touristy classics aren’t going anywhere. You can still watch the fog swallow up the Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Field for years to come.
Visitors will notice the Bay Area is in flux. They’ll see a city struggling with growing pains, a booming food scene and the last years of some classic local institutions.
Neighborhoods are shifting, fast
An influx of tech money and a shortage of housing are largely driving San Francisco’s current upheaval. Rents are skyrocketing, pushing out longtime residents and businesses. Some of the city’s character is packing up and leaving with them.
Nowhere is the change more visible than in the Mission. Local groups are trying to preserve the small businesses, street art and Latino culture, but wealthy developers are knocking.
Walk down Valencia Street, now filled with hip new restaurants, boutiques and cafes. Wander up 24th Street and drop in on old classics such as St. Francis Fountain, El Farolito, Brava Theater Center, Galería de la Raza and GG Tukuy Indigenous Arts & Crafts.
A great way to see the housing bubble firsthand is to download the Trulia app and drop in on open houses. If you’ve ever wondered what a million-dollar fixer-upper looks like, here’s your chance.
The farmers markets are epic
The tourist favorite is the thrice-weekly farmers market at the Ferry Building. But the granddaddy of San Francisco farmers markets is more popular with locals and chefs: The Alemany Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday and is overflowing with beautiful Northern California produce.
At the edge of the city in a giant lot covered in murals, the market is the oldest in San Francisco. Start with authentic Mexican street food for breakfast at the El Huarache Loco stand, then walk the aisles of fruits, vegetables, flowers and nuts.
There are Asian specialties such as balut (fertilized duck egg) and sinqua (luffa), and a stand just for sprouts. Don’t miss Tomatero Organic Farm’s piles of kale.
Dropping in on smaller local markets scattered across town is also a great way to explore different neighborhoods.
There’s an app for everything, even if there shouldn’t be
Silicon Valley start-ups like to use San Francisco as a testing ground. Sometimes it’s a first step to global domination, like Uber, but many die quietly and never make it out of a couple of major cities.
The upside is that you can sample a number of ridiculous, awesome or useful services while in town.
Get insider food tips with Chefs Feed and the Infatuation. Take a guided audio walking tour from Detour. If you need a break, use Breather to book a quiet space for 30 or more minutes or Doze to take a nap in a pod.
For delivery, get a full organic meal from Sprig, a kit to cook your own dinner from Plated or anything else with UberRush. Sweet tooth? Doughbies is a site just for on-demand cookie delivery. Really.
Don’t even try to hail a cab. Download a ride-hailing app such as Uber, Lyft or Flywheel.
You can eat your way through the Bay Area
San Francisco is just one piece in the Bay Area puzzle. Venture outside the city limits, and bring your appetite.
Take the train to Old Oakland and check out the brick buildings and modern fare filling Swan’s Market, such as Japanese spot AS B-Dama and the Caribbean Miss Ollie’s.
South of San Francisco is foggy Daly City, well-known by its snobby city neighbors for having all the good big-box stores and two Targets basically across the street from each other. But it also has amazing Filipino food, such as unassuming Tselogs, or Phusion, home of the leche flan shake.
If you insist on eating fast food, at least go somewhere with a killer view. The random wood Taco Bell perched on Pacifica’s Linda Mar Beach is popular with surfers and even has outdoor showers.
Techie lunches are pretty great
A number of oddball eating options have popped up to feed the tech employees who populate downtown’s SoMA district.
One of the more ridiculous recent additions is Eatsa, a futuristic quinoa-only restaurant that replaces cashiers with iPads. You order one of the vegetarian quinoa bowls on an iPad, then shuffle over to a wall of cubbies and wait for one to flash your name.
Wait in line for a Sushirrito, an unholy but tasty mashup of sushi and burrito. Try one of the multiple dedicated grilled cheese spots. Wash it down with your preferred hipster pour-over coffee or a cold beer from the 21st Amendment Brewery.
SoMA StrEat Food Park is a permanent outdoor dining space with a rotating cast of food trucks, picnic tables, free WiFi and a covered eating area with space heaters.
The views remain breathtaking
From up high, the city looks mostly the same. Twin Peaks is the most popular lookout, but plenty of other hills offer sweeping views.
Stand on the southwest corner of Dolores Park to take in the sea of interesting people. Watch sailboats in the bay from Alta Vista Park.
The best way to earn a sunrise or sunset is walking up secret stairs. Hike up mosaic-covered stairs toward Grand View Park in the Inner Sunset, take the lush Vulcan Steps above the Castro or snake up any of the narrow stairways that dot Bernal Hill and be reminded why everyone flocks here in the first place.