San Francisco, is famous for many things, I’m sure you’ve heard of the Golden Gate Bridge, Ghiradelli Chocolates, and the infamous Alcatraz to name a few, but there is so much more to the City by the Bay. During my 8 years living in the Bay Area, I found time to see some of the more touristy attractions mentioned above, but spent very little time exploring beneath the surface of San Francisco’s many unique neighborhoods.
I suppose I thought I’d spend more time there later, and instead spent my free time exploring father afield. If you read this blog, you’ll know that I’m doing my best not to make that same mistake here in our new home, Los Angeles.
The good news is that I visit the Bay Area often, it’s just a six hour drive up Interstate 5, and during our most recent visit we were on a mission to see more of the City. We chose to explore the vibrant Mission District (pun intended), where we discovered delicious food, a fabulous park, and amazing street art! So in other words, my perfect day!
The Mission District
The Mission District, or The Mission, is located in east central San Francisco, and is borederd by SOMA, Potrero Hill, The Castro, Noe Valley and Bernal Heights. Due to it’s location the Mission is insulated from San Francisco’s famous fog, which means it’s often warmer and sunnier than other neighborhoods.
Our first stop upon arrival was Tartine Bakery & Cafe, which is known for it’s mouth watering breads and pastries. The line is usually around the block, but luck was in our favor and we walked right in!
I had a tough time deciding, as I wanted one of everything, but ultimately went with something on the smaller side, a Mexican wedding cookie, while Elliot got an eclair! Located on the corner of Guerro and 18th, Tartine doesn’t have a sign, so look out for the long line and you’ll know you’ve arrived.
Mission Dolores Park
Sweeping views of the city, large grassy areas, and a fabulous playground are just some of what you can expect while visiting Mission Dolores Park. There is also a large off leash area for those dog lovers out there.
The kids enjoyed the Park’s playground, while I followed them around taking photos of the gorgeous city views. As we were leaving we met, Chris, the Paint a Record guy, and decided this would be a fun activitity. Chris gets the records from yard sales and thrift shops, and sets up at the Park most afternoons and weekends. The acrylic paint dried within minutes and wallah, the perfect Father’s Day present!
There’s no time like the present, and after all that park play an ice cream seemed like a great idea! Lunch? Isn’t ice cream lunch? Another San Francisco institution, the Bi-Rite Creamery is a popular place, so we joined the line and patiently waited our turn.
Peach season is upon us, so the Peach Cobbler flavor seemed like a perfect choice, and with large chunks of fresh baked cobbler and peaches throughout, it did not disappoint! Bi-Rite Creamery is just up and across the street from Tartine on 18th Street.
The Mission is famous for it’s wall murals, some of which were painted in the 1970s, and reflect the neighborhood’s Latino culture and traditions.
More recently other types of street art have entered the mix and there are litteraly hundreds of murals throughout the neighborhood.
Don’t worry, I won’t be posting hundred’s of photos, only a few. You’ll have to visit the neighborhood yourselves if you want to see more!
Clarion Alley, off of 18th between Mission and Valenica, is the home of the Clarion Alley Mural Project, which was started in 1992 by Mission residents. The murals here were predominately political in nature, some quite extreme in their views.
19th & Mission
My favorite street art discovery of the day was this Mini Heros mural painted in 2009 by three indivduals known as KEB, WAND and BUTR. Miraculously it’s still in existence! What could be better than street art and superheros?!
Across the street from the Mini Heros you’ll find an amazing tribute to Carlos Santana painted by local artist Mel Waters.
Walk a little further up 19th and you’ll come to San Carlos Street, which is also the home of a giant honeybear painted by local artist, and a favorite of mine, Fnnch.
Wandering along Mission Street we went as far as Lilac Alley, located half a block from the 24th Street Bart Station. The Alley is 2 blocks long between Mission and Capp Streets, and is lined on both sides with vibrant murals.
Knowing the kids might be hungry at the end of the mission, we decided to end our day with an early dinner. We chose Straw, a carnival themed restaurant with unique comfort foods, and decor. Straw is located on Octavia Street in Hayes Valley, a short drive from The Mission and another super fun SF neighborhood worth exploring.
After having cookies for breakfast and ice cream for lunch it made sense to chose the Ringmaster, a burger sandwiched between two glazed doughbnuts for dinner. The idea was fun, but I think I’ll stick with a more tradational bun in the future! We finished up with cotton candy for dessert! Yum!
Tips & advice should you choose to go on your own Mission:
- I’ve pinpointed some of the places we visited, but keep in mind there isn’t really any right way to explore The Mission.
- San Francisco can be a tough park, but using the parking app Pay by phone, enables you to manage everything directly from your phone eliminating the need to keep running back to feed the meter.
- Walking along Mission Street you’ll find shops, restaurants and markets selling everything from luggage and fidget spinners to t-shirts and fruit. Keep your eyes open, you never know what you might discover.
- Interested in finding more of San Francisco’s street art? Check out SF Mural Arts a webiste showcasing the city’s vibrant art scene complete with artist and locations.
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