Mission Dolores Playground - with a 1.5 million dollar price tag you'd expect this place to rock and it does. Your kids won't be disappointed. And that's coming from a playground snob.
California Academy of Sciences - it just plain rocks.
San Francisco Zoo - the kids part of the zoo is really nice. The rest of the zoo is nice too but this is always where we begin. The other plus is that it's not so big that you can't cover it all in a couple/few hours.
Beach - Listen up: If you come to San Francisco DO NOT expect what you typically think of as California weather. Chances are likely that it will be foggy and windy and chilly for a decent part of your stay. The water? It's freaking cold. And the undertow will mercilessly sweep you out to sea. But it's beautiful. Especially if you can manage to go up or down the coast.
Golden Gate Park - Maybe once I spend some time in Central Park I'll have a different opinion but at this point in time I think Golden Gate Park, including the panhandle, is hands down the nicest city park that exists in the world today. Go deep, friends. You won't be disappointed.
COFFEE and TREATS:
Coffee Bar - Good coffee is everywhere here. Blue Bottle seems to reign high and Philz has a local monopoly but Coffee Bar is my personal favorite. You can get one of the best cups in the city here. Plus, they carry the next thing...
Dynamo Donuts - There is nothing like this anywhere else. Nothing. Deep in the heart of the mission you can find the greatest donut ever made.
Goody Goodie - The best chocolate chip cookies. The Best. But my favorite here is this big, super thin lacey chocolate wafer with black olives. Mmmmm! Mastery of the salty sweet.
Bi-Rite - Isn't it world-famous now? For good reason. Plus, it's right on the corner from the Mission Dolores playground so it makes a perfect date with your favorite little person.
Ice Cream Bar - In Cole Valley. They have good ice cream but the real knock-your-socks-off feature is the soda jerk in the back. Dang, this is old school done up right. Phosphates, floats and things I haven't even tried yet...
Magnolia - Great home brew. Don't forget to order up some Devils on Horseback while you're there.
Alembic - Magnolia's little sister down the street serves up any kind of whiskey you could possibly want. It's also where I fell in love with bone marrow.
The Ramp - On a warm day it reminds me of being in the Gulf in FL. A local place to meet and have good conversation. Neither the food or the alcohol is anything to write home about but somehow I ALWAYS have a great time here.
Club Deluxe - Nightly jazz and they make a great hot toddy.
The Buena Vista - You can't come to SF and not go here for an Irish Coffee. I don't care if you don't like coffee or don't like whiskey. You will like this. I promise. For kicks, take the trolley from Union Square to get here.
Toronado - If you're a beer connoisseur then this is the place for you. Especially if you like Belgian brews - they have everything. BONUS: the sausage place next door is awesome. Has there ever been a better pair in the world than sausage and beer? I didn't think so.
Amoeba Music - Where music is concerned you can find anything here. And if you're into vinyl then hold on tight because this place will blow your mind.
Rainbow Grocery - a local employee owned co-op dedicated to organic, local, sustainable food. When I saw the bulk section here I nearly fell to my knees and wept great big happy, thankful tears.
Flax - If you are an artist and this place doesn't have what you are looking for I will pay you ten bucks.
Ambiance - My favorite clothing store hands down. Now with 4 locations in the city and deals for locals I can't stay away. The women here are the nicest in town too. If you tell them you need an orange sparkly party top they will bring you everything in the store. This is good because the selection is vast.
Loved to Death - Macabre. I can't stop going in there.
Cookin' - It's on Divisadero near the Haight intersection. Doesn't look like much from the outside but the first time I stepped in it was as if the clouds parted, angels sang and God himself confirmed that I had found heaven on earth. Some of the kitchen stuff is new but a lot of is is from estate sales. You can find a pyrex lid for the casserole from your grandmas kitchen. You can find cast iron skillets of all shapes and sizes. It's amazing. I could get lost in there for hours. HOURS.
Nopalito - Get ready to have your definition of Mexican food totally shaken all around.
Aziza - Moroccan. Amazing Moroccan. And the cocktails are outstanding.
Hog Island Oysters (or Anchor Oyster Bar) - A staple and for me a site of many great dates both with my husband and a small group of girlfriends. Duh. Yes, get them raw and get them with champagne. Otherwise you're only cheating yourself. Anchor Oyster on Castro between 18th and 20th is a decent alternative.
Zazie - Best brunch in town. The line supports this too. Come on a weekday and come early. Maybe there is something better in town but I've had so many great times here that it still ranks as my favorite even after 6 years.
Cafe Gratitude (or Source) - For real, stop whining and try it. Think of it as an adventure since most people won't and don't cook this way at home. The worst that could happen is that your learn how raw vegan food could make you so damn happy. Source is a great alternative if you just can't do raw. At source they have a vegan Twinkie that will make you wonder how and why people still eat the other food-like substance that will survive the nuclear holocaust along with the roaches.
Habit - I have seen Carrie for 5 years now. I love her. This is one special lady. I want to move her to New York with me or fly back to SF when I need to take care of business.Lavande - See John in Cole Valley for a pedicure. The price is right and he does a better job than anyone else.
Alemany Farmers Market - Yeah, the farmers market at the Ferry Building is pretty stunning to see but Alemany was the first farmers market in the state and is still where the locals go to do their shopping.
CSA - there must be a hundred of these in our geographical area of CA alone. I always wanted to participate and then when we did I found it to be one of the very best things we've done since moving to CA. The fact that local organic food is so hard to come by in New York is a shock to me. I mean it. A total shock. I had no idea how lucky I was.
Cole Hardware - The nicest people. And they know what they're talking about. And in that tiny store they have everything.
Library - With X branches and the ability to go online to reserve books from any one of them I am shocked when I can't get a book I want. Shocked. They have everything.
And because it happens to fit this week: