Visiting a city is always more fun when locals share personal recommendations about what to see, do and eat.
This time around, I put together a list based on suggestions from my Instagram followers and it made my stay in San Francisco the best one yet. If you’re visiting the city by the bay, these are the five things I enjoyed the most. I hope these suggestions help you have a wonderful stay, too!
1. Have a drink at the Tonga Room
When I asked folks on Instagram what I should do, The Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar was by far the most recommended. And now, I can totally see why — after visiting, I’m convinced it’s one of the most magnificent hidden gems in the city.
First off, the tiki bar is hidden away in the basement of the Fairmont Hotel, a very classic, high end hotel full of marble surfaces. There are literally no signs and that’s what makes this adventure even more fun — you take an elevator down to the basement, walk down a nondescript hallway and then, quite dramatically, THERE YOU ARE. The place even has a live band that plays soft rock classics from the 60s and 70s on a boat that moves out towards seated patrons in the middle of a body of water, formerly the hotel’s pool. The whole experience is heavy on kitsch, completely over the top and yes, drinking out of a coconut is highly encouraged.
2. Buy flowers and magazines at Birch SF
On my day off, I was walking through the very boutique-heavy Hayes Valley when I spotted an odd yet perfect hybrid of a shop at Birch SF. With pitch black walls full of one-of-a-kind floral arrangements and hard to find magazines, I was in heaven.
I asked owner Torryne Choate about the mix of offerings and she said she was passionate about flowers and magazines so she decided to open a place specializing in both. It’s as simple as that — and I admire anyone who follows their dream! Stop in this shop just for a jolt of pure visual inspiration — the still lifes she’s curated are off the hook.
3. Pick out treats at Miette
Decorated in pastel hues and featuring a wall of glass candy jars, Miette is a sweets shop straight out of childhood dreams. Voted one of the top ten pastry shops in the world by Conde Nast, it’s easy to see why — there’s a massive selection of imported candies that are difficult to find anywhere else including chocolate bars wrapped in wallpaper-inspired prints from Vietnam.
Whatever your taste is, there’s a little something for everyone. Take a video tour of the shop right here.
4. Eat Artisanal Toast at The Mill
Over the last year, I’d been reading articles about the artisanal toast trend and it seemed like a bit of a joke. $4.00 for a slice of toast? Really?! When I found myself staying down the road from The Mill, the epicenter of the trend, it was time to give in and find out what all the fuss was about.
Bright and early on a Saturday morning, I ordered a slice and dear lord. It was so good that I went back the next two mornings before leaving town. My top pick? Whole wheat sesame poppy bread with butter and homemade peach jam. Talk about comfort food! The process of getting the toast just right is very specific — there’s even a sign at the front counter telling you it’s going to take 6 minutes. Options change regularly but I promise, they’re all good.
5. Explore pottery and gifts at Heath Ceramics
Handmade in California since 1948, Heath Ceramics is legendary. Its San Francisco outpost has a tile factory and you can buy a selection of its pieces on-site.
What I loved about this location is that it’s also stocked with a ton of other beautiful American-made brands. From cookbooks to chocolates to kitchen gadgets, it’s the perfect place to shop for a housewarming gift for that special someone. Visiting Heath is a great reminder that quality never goes out of style.
Even with all the changes it’s currently undergoing, San Francisco is still loaded with charming, independent businesses and I hope these suggestions make your trip even more fun. Enjoy!