Top 10 San Francisco Hidden Gems

Even for life long Bay Area-nites, San Francisco can always find a way to jumpstart your curiosity. Every city-dweller has their favorite getaway, but what if you’re hungry for something new and serendipitous in your favorite city by the bay?

To shake up your trip or daily routine, here are the top 10 hidden gems you can find in San Francisco:

 

343 Sansome Roof Garden

sansome roof tower

Sansome Roof Tower

Deep in the concrete jungle that is the Financial District, there is a hidden oasis where you least expect it. On the 15th floor of 343 Sansome Street, you will discover a hidden garden, freely open to the public. With verdant trees, intoxicating lilies, and plenty of seats, this is a perfect place to grab a sandwich and take a tranquil breather.

 

Workshop Cafe

workshop cafe

Workshop Cafe

If you’re looking for a perfect place to get things done, without paying astronomical prices for using a coffee shop’s wifi, the Workshop Cafe is your salvation. The cafe not only makes the best cappuccino in San Francisco, but it also provides a wallet- friendly way to find fast wifi at $2 an hour. Whether you are a visiting business owner or a local creative, this is a great place to work in silence.

 

Boba guys

boba guys

Boba Guys

If you’re a fan of milk tea, Boba Guys will be sure to top Starbucks as your latest necessary luxury. This cult business has grown exponentially since its founding in 2011. Although there are several locations, the tucked away store near Union Square is a local favorite. Featuring a wide variety of specialty drinks from matcha to jasmine to horchata, the extensive menu allows you to choose the perfect drink to suit your palette.

 

Flora Grubb Gardens

flora grub gardens

Flora Grub Gardens

To channel your inner botanist, the Flora Grubb Gardens can teach you the best ways to make your plants prosper. Segregating the plants based on sun exposure, you will be fascinated by how the arrangements are placed. From discovering a family of succulents in an antiquated Corvette to dangling sweet peas floating above your head, this is an exquisite place for everyone.

 

Wave Organ

wave organ

Wave Organ

Sprinkled along the San Francisco bay, The Wave Organ is a living musical instrument which is played by the ocean. Crafted from carved granite and marble, the subtle music created here must be heard to be believed. Come here at high tide to experience the finest music.

 

Seward Street Slides

seward street slide

Seward Street Slide

When you’re greeted with signs stating “No adults unless accompanied by a child,” you know that you’re in for a fun ride. Surrounded by Seward Park, all you need is a bit of cardboard to slide down to the bottom and feel like a kid for the day.

 

Lover’s Lane Trail and Wood Line: Presidio National Park

lovers lane

Lovers Lane

For a taste of the great outdoors, Lover’s Lane is one of the most underrated hiking spots in San Francisco. With fragrant eucalyptus trees flanking the trail, follow the trail of trees all the way to the top for a refreshing walk. Like the name suggests, this is a lovely spot for active couples and families alike.

16th Avenue Tiled Steps

16th avenue tile steps

16th Avenue Tile Steps

If you’re looking for a beautiful yet functional work of art, The Tiled Steps on 16th avenue are definitely a feast for the eyes. Evoking images of the ebb and flow of the ocean, the mosaic stairway leads you to extensive views of San Francisco’s Sunset district. For the best view, climb to the top at twilight.

 


Alison Koenig is a writer crafting nonfiction about technology and traveling. After traveling extensively with long stints in Italy and Sweden, she now lives in Northern California to nurture her career aspirations and adventurous lifestyle.

 

 

 

Seattle or San Francisco: Rain, Fog, or Shine

It was a sunny July day when I left Seattle for San Francisco. Two days later I was shivering on the beach wearing every item of clothing I had with me watching muted fireworks explosions through the fog on the 4th of July. Fun fact: it’s not always sunny in California, and Seattle isn’t constantly rainy. Having lived in both San Francisco and Seattle, I’ve got tips on the best sights and activities no matter the weather.

San Francisco, Golden or Gloomy

San Francisco on a sunny day is glorious, but if sun’s what you’re after, visit in spring or fall, not summer. Summer in San Francisco is typically cold and foggy, and an excellent time to make day trips to Napa or Sonoma which aren’t affected by the coastal gloom and happen to be full of excellent wine.

If you are in the city on an overcast day, this can be an excellent time to take advantage of San Francisco’s great museums, especially the lesser-known Walt Disney Family Museum or the iconic Cable Car Museum.

Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco

A stop at The Buena Vista for an Irish Coffee (where this caffeinated cocktail was perfected) is another excellent way to warm up, and it’s conveniently located between Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf, two tourist meccas you’re likely to visit no matter the weather.

If you know enough to visit in the spring or fall for a sunny trip, you probably already know about the tourist highlights: Golden Gate Park, a walk across the bridge by the same name, Dolores Park, Ocean Beach, Sutro Baths, etc. Here are a few unique experiences best enjoyed on a sunny day:

Angel Island is a short ferry ride into the bay and offers incredible sweeping views of the city. Rent bikes for a pleasant and not too challenging ride around the island which is virtually devoid of cars.

Coit Tower also offers beautiful vistas of the water and the city and is located near iconic crooked Lombard Street for checking things off your tourist bucket list. The monument offers great views even from its base, which is free to visit, or for a small fee you can take an elevator to the top for a true change in perspective.

Seattle, Damp or Dry

Summer is the season to visit Seattle. Full disclosure, there may be a slight drizzle some mornings, but most days are warm and dry.

Spending time on the water in Seattle is the ideal way to celebrate the sun. There are myriad boat tours to be had on Lake Union, beach days and bonfires on the Puget Sound – Golden Gardens is a local favorite – or laid-back relaxing in an oversize floatie on Green Lake. Stand Up Paddleboards are readily available to rent at any of these locations as well.

green lake seattle

Green Lake – Seattle

 

Other lesser-known outdoor adventures include the Olympic Sculpture Park, which is downtown just past all of the tourist-focused waterfront and Seattle’s small but lovely Woodland Park Zoo, which feels like a botanical garden with animals tucked away in the foliage.

Given the good chance of rain most of the year, having an indoor backup plan is wise. MoPop, the Museum of Pop Culture has exhibits focused on Seattle’s music scene, all things sci-fi, and an excellent array of rotating exhibits.

My favorite place to take visitors is the Future of Flight Boeing Factory Tour, which is just north of the city. It’s truly incredible to visit the warehouses that are the size of small cities and watch airplanes come together before your very eyes.

No  matter which left coast city you visit in any type of weather, you’re sure to have a good time enjoying either of these lovely cities full of culture, natural beauty and unique experiences. Enjoy!


 

Christina is a So Cal native who now calls Seattle home. She loves to explore cities on foot, eat all the things, dance, and shop. When she’s not doing any of those things, you’ll find her on the couch, snuggling her French Bulldogs and knitting.