Bay Lights Blog

Experience San Francisco Like a Local

by Anna Harutyunyan

Most locals don't hit San Francisco's touristy spots unless they're entertaining out-of-town guests. There's just too much to do! While Alcatraz, the San Francisco Zoo, and cable car rides are among the top tourist attractions for The City by the Bay you can experience San Francisco from the perspective of a local with a few of these insider secrets: 

Related Blog: Top 5 Activities on the Water in San Francisco

Wear The Right Clothes

Hooded sweatshirts outsell clam chowder bread bowls on any given day on Fisherman's Wharf. Visitors don't quite realize how many microclimates exist in San Francisco, and how quickly a hot summer day can turn into a foggy or windy afternoon.

San Francisco locals layer their clothing so they can pile on the warmth or peel off the layers as they venture about the city. They also walk pretty much anywhere, so wear comfortable shoes to fit in.

Visit San Francisco's Favorite Bookstores

Make City Lights Booksellers & Publishers your North Beach destination. The heart of the Beat Generation, City Lights published some of San Francisco's favorite poets and authors, including founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

"In 1956, City Lights published Allen Ginsberg's seminal poem "Howl" and became the lightning rod for a new generation of untamed poets." —

Touted as a "Literary Landmark", City Lights was a hangout for Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and other icons in modern literature.

Explore Chrissy Field

With spectacular views of the Golden Gate, lapping water from the bay, and wide open spaces to let your dogs run or your kite fly, Chrissy Field is best visited at sunset on a weekday. On weekends, the crowds can be a bit overwhelming, as locals and tourists alike descend for events, sunshine, and picnics.

Chrissy Field is close to the historic Presidio, the upscale Marina District, and within walking distance to Fisherman's Wharf.

Catch a Giants Game

Everyone loves a baseball game, even if they can't stand sports. The gorgeous, relatively new but nostalgically designed AT&T Park sits on the edge of the bay, within walking distance of the trendy SOMA (South of Market) neighborhood and the heart of San Francisco's business district.

Grab some garlic fries and some local brews, and don't forget your sunscreen; the San Francisco Giants' home stadium is protected from winds and usually untouched by The City's iconic fog.

Explore the West Side

West of Van Ness, take Geary Boulevard straight over to Ocean Beach for miles of gorgeous shoreline. Dine with a sunset view at Cliff House Restaurant, after a visit to the ruins of Sutro Baths.

Other Richmond District destinations include the Neptune Society's San Francisco Columbarium, a beautiful Victorian-era rotunda with personalized niches celebrating the lives of present and future "residents." Historian and caretaker Emmitt Watson loves to share stories of the Columbariums history, and rumors of hauntings. If you ask him about the District's historical removal of its cemeteries in the early 1900s, he might offer personal anecdotes about local backyard finds.

On nearby Clement Street, use Green Apple Used Books as the anchor point for a neighborhood known for its fusion of Irish, Asian, and Russian culture. Chinatown's for tourists; Clement Street is for people who want divine noodle soups, Irish pubs, and Eastern European restaurants.

Get Out on the Water

Most San Franciscans will take any opportunity they can to go for a sail on the bay. There's no better way to experience the city lights than from onboard a boat.

Everyone's heard of Alcatraz, but how about Angel Island and its history as an immigration processing station? It's also a favorite anchorage for Bay Area sailors, with sandy beaches for family picnics and wooded slopes for a peaceful retreat from city life.

Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito tumbles down the hillside to a waterfront dotted with restaurants, colorful houseboats, and nautical museums. Look closely; as the tide goes out, a statue inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's original The Little Mermaid fairy tale appears near the rocky shore.

Even locals can't rely on the generosity of friends to enjoy a tour of San Francisco's famous bay. That's why Bay Lights Charters is the premier choice for private sailing charters for parties of up to 49 passengers.

Postcards can give you a look at all of San Francisco's touristy landmarks, and ferries can get you from Point A to Point B, but to get the insider's view, you need to get off the beaten path... or aboard one of our historically-inspired sailboats.

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