Until just a few weeks ago, I had only stepped foot in San Francisco a total of two times. Living on campus for the first time as a sophomore, I’m overwhelmed with all there is to do in the city. Since then, I have explored the city through trips during Second Year Welcome Week and outings with friends. Based on my experiences so far, here are some places I recommend visiting for other students new to the city.
Golden Gate Park. Though an obvious one, Golden Gate Park is close to campus with many free attractions. My favorite spot is near the dahlias by the Conservatory of Flowers. Fellow sophomore, accounting and Japanese studies major Kayla Dailey, recommends the SkyStar Observation Wheel. Though it was foggy the day Dailey rode the wheel, she was still impressed by the views. General admission for the wheel is $18.
Haight Street. While the city is filled with countless shops and restaurants, Haight Street is another spot that is close to campus. The historically significant street runs through the heart of the Haight-Ashbury District, a focal point of the counterculture movement in the 1960s. Though there are numerous tourist shops that capitalize on “Summer of Love” nostalgia, there are a variety of spots to browse including local book shops, thrift stores, and plant nurseries. Some stores are limiting capacity due to COVID-19, but the few minutes outside are worth the wait.
Japantown. Japantown is a neighborhood where many generations of Japanese immigrants settled and remains an important part of the city’s history. It is also one of only three remaining Japantowns in the United States. The many restaurants and stores invite visitors to immerse themselves in Japanese culture. Enjoy delicious cuisine such as authentic ramen and Mochi-flavored desserts. Once you have eaten to your heart’s content, stroll around the mall where you can find an abundance of boutiques and bookstores.
SFMOMA. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art displays many exhibits and pieces all considered modern or contemporary art. Those between the ages of 19-24 pay a ticket price of $19, but anyone 18 and under is free. You can also plan your visit on a free admission day.
Land’s End. A lookout point overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, Land’s End is located three miles west of campus and features various hiking trails and scenic views. Its location in the great outdoors aligns with COVID-19 precautions. Go at sunrise or sunset for a breathtaking start or end to your day.
Bernal Heights Summit. This outing is recommended by Corrina Smith, a San Francisco native. Bernal Heights Park is a lesser-known alternative for great panoramic views of the city. “It’s one of the tallest hills and has views of all of SF,” Smith said.
In general, there are a few things students should remember when exploring the city for the first time. Travel in groups if you can. Not only is it safer, but it can also make you feel less intimidated if you get lost. Currently, San Francisco requires proof of vaccination for restaurants and some other indoor activities, so always carry your card with you, whether it be in the digital or physical format. Take advantage of being a student and search for places that offer a student discount, especially museums.
Finally, new students shouldn’t be afraid to either visit common tourist destinations or try random places they find on Yelp or Google. Those unheard of and less popular spots might just end up being your new favorite find in the city.