I've been to San Francisco quite a few times so I've been lucky to see places that aren't crazy tourist traps that I'd like to share with you. As a pre-amble I must mention that I don't ever have a budget when travelling, or, more accurately, my budget is usually quite high so a few of the places I'm going to be talking about are on the pricier side of life. I also don't actually stay in the city as my friend lives in Santa Clara so part of my trip always involves transit into the actual city. I'll be grouping places to visit based on location and I'll include addresses so that you can google maps the directions if you wish to visit them.
A Bit About the Airport
SFO, the San Francisco international airport is an average little airport that seems to run along the same lines as most airports: function over style and a general lack of windows. I've never has any problems there and have always found my gate with no trouble. My favourite part is on the concourse level where the exit corridor has a revolving exhibit. I've caught chinese vases, tiffany products, lac, and Asian building exhibits on my travels. It's worth a quick look as you will invariably pass by the exhibit on your way out to the pick-up are or to the BART. For anyone who doesn't know, SFO has a direct connection to the city via the Bay Area Rapid Transit system which is a very affordable and fast alternative to a taxi. If you are going down into the South Bay area you can also connect to the Caltrain line via the BART train.
Though the Caltrain line to San Fancisco is straight and passes the same stops be aware that some of the trains are express trains and will only stop at a select few stations along the line. A one-way ticket is valid for four hours so you can always get off of an express train and transfer onto a full service train if you make a mistake or if you want to save some time.
A Delicious Stop in the Dogpatch
The first area I want to talk about is the Dogpatch because I'm very excited about a place I found there.
On the corner of 22nd and 3rd street is a fantastic and delicious place called Smokestack. It's a combination of the Magnolia Brewing Company and a smokehouse for preparing meat (in house as I've been told). The meat is sold by weight and you can also choose from a great selection of hot or cold sides (I recommend the chipotle pork and beans). They also sell all their food to go so you can take your food home with you. The food is delicious but the greatest lure, for me at least, is the wide selection of on-tap beer that is all brewed by the Magnolia Brewery. There are twenty beers on tap at the bar and you can also purchase three of them at the same time as your food on the other side of the restaurant. The prices are average and two people can eat very well for $20.
Located right beside The Smokestack is a small ice-cream parlour. It merits a mention not only for it's homemade fudge but also for the interesting flavours of its ice-cream. I had Earl Gray Tea ice-cream which was oh so good while my boyfriend went with a mix of Sweet Cream and Chicory Coffee. The prices were a bit on the more expensive side but the ice-cream and fudge were worth it. The parlour also sells different nut brittle that you can take home but I didn't get any so I can't comment on the taste there.
Triple Aught Designs
Triple Aught Designs is somewhat of a Mecca for those who like high-end outdoor gear. They have everything from knives to backpacks to rugged dress shirts. Their products are attractive, well made, long wearing and made in a goodly valiety of sizes. They are pricey but remember that you are paying for quality here. The Dogpatch location is large, airy and well stocked. I believe that they also hold classes there. The staff are polite and knowledgeable without being overbearing. They also have a second location in Hayes Valley that is smaller and holds less stock, though they can order things in for you or call to hold items between stores.
TAD caters mostly to men, though they have a small women's line consisting of some t-shirts and sweaters. I own the Artemis hoodie and it is one of my favouriet pieces of clothing.
I love the San Francisco japan town. I go there every time I'm in the city and I have a set routine for the stores I visit. There are many stores that I haven't gone into yet, though I hope to get around to them. I highly recommend stopping off at the Japantown Mall to look around to to grab a quick bite from the food vendors inside.
Daiso is a famous Japanese 100 yen store. After the exchange rate the prices in San Francisco were $1.50. Daiso sells what most dollar stores sell, from tablecloths to baby wipes to cleaning products, but my favorite section is the stationary section which has tons of cute notebooks, pens, binders, etc. The Japanese live of cute things is present here in all its forms. The quality is also pretty decent and many products are made specifically for Daiso. Do take care, though, as you may end up spending more than you anticipated, especially once you see the wall of Japanese candy. I have never left without spending a good $50 or more in there.
This is a big Japanese bookstore that is located in the Kinokuniya mall. It's a good place to go to get books and magazines in Japanese and they also have lots of Anime and Manga related items. The best things bout this store is that they stock Japanese fashion magazines including alternative fashion at very reasonable prices.
And so it is with this fabulous temple to girlhood that I end the section on Japantown. BtSSB is a company that designs clothes for the alternative fashion called Lolita and is one of the best known and respected brands in that circle. It's a delightful store with great service. No photos are allowed inside (as far as I can tell its for copyright issues) but you can find official images on their site. This store will only be interesting to followers of alternative fashion but if you are intrigued and you like ruffles then go take a look. You might find something you like.
A caveat: brand name Lolita runs to small sizes and is also VERY expensive as its it couture with many hand-sewn pieces and sometimes over 100 different design elements on a garment.
This small park is just down the street from the Hayes Valley Triple Aught Designs store. It's a nice place to sit and relax with restaurants, cafes, and bars around it. Beside the park are some outdoor food and drink stands.
Ritual Coffee Roasters
Ritual Coffee Roasters is a fun little hipster place which serves very goof pour-over coffee. If you like trying new coffee then I recommend stopping by. The servers were very nice and answered all our, granted a bit silly, questions. They also have tea for those who have had enough caffeine.
Across from Ritual Roasters is a very expensive (in my opinion) juice stand. It's also very hipstery but the juices were delicious. I had the Deep Green and my bf stole a good quarter of it. They serve their juice in reusable glass bottles and you can return the bottle, rinsed out, for a $2 deposit refund.
These are just a few of the many interesting places in San Francisco. It's a walkable city and both the Dogpatch and Hayes Valley neighborhoods have great shops and places to eat or drink. If you are in the city definitely check them out.