One of my best friends recently moved to San Francisco from Atlanta with his husband. Del had some holiday time off from AIT, so we decided to spend a few days over New Years with them. Both of us had been to San Francisco before. For me, this would be my fourth trip and for Del, this would be his second.
The trip was a nice mix of catching up with our friends, exploring the city, and celebrating the New Year. One thing I really enjoyed about this trip was our discovery of some off-the-beaten path places, giving us more of a local’s experience than a tourist’s. We found lovely and inexpensive places to eat and interesting and beautiful places to see. The weather was glorious the whole time even if the temperature dropped a bit at night.
Because I’ve been to San Francisco so many times, I’ve already seen most of the city’s main tourist attractions. However, I have yet to visit Alcatraz. Somehow I can never remember to book far enough in advance to get tickets.
On a Mission for Burritos
We arrived at the San Francisco airport in mid-morning on a Saturday, did a little shopping and went to the Mission District to find some of the famous Mission burritos. We decided on a place with high on-line reviews called Taqueria Cancun located on Mission Avenue. The restaurant gets pretty crowded and seating is somewhat limited. A nice British tourist let us join her while she finished her meal. Once we started eating our lunch, it was easy to understand the reason for the crowds. The gigantic burritos are absolutely delicious. Even the tortilla tasted divine. Try a burrito molhado or mission style for the complete experience.
After filling up on burritos, we walked a few blocks west to Mission Dolores Park. This favorite gay hangout (the Castro is located on the other side of the park) has served as a filming location for the HBO series Looking. Curbed even has a list of other filming locations from the series. Some people refer to Dolores Park as San Francisco’s answer for not really having a beach. Any sunny weekend day, you’ll find lots of people lounging on the grass, enjoying the weather and taking in the spectacular view of the downtown skyline. You’re bound to run into some interesting people on any visit to the park!
Museum of the Legion of Honor
During our first full day in the city, we decided to go to the Museum of the Legion of Honor. I first became intrigued with this place after reading about it in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. Maupin sets a climactic scene of the first book of his series on the cliffs that overlook the bay near the museum. The courtyard in front of the museum hosts “The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin. The museum’s impressive collection also features works by El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet and many others.
Chinese Food in Outer Richmond
After leaving the museum, we were hungry for Chinese food. It was a little bit later in the afternoon on a Saturday and we noticed that a lot of the restaurants close for a few hours and don’t reopen until dinner. However, we found a small Chinese restaurant on Balboa Street in Outer Richmond called Village House, which had excellent food at reasonable prices. The four of us each ordered a dish and shared: beef chow fun, Beijing bean sauce noodles, salted pepper pork chop and pan fried pork bun. The restaurant was certainly an excellent find and worth a stop if you are visiting the Legion of Honor or the nearby Cliff House.
The following day, we decided to take in some views of the Golden Gate Bridge. On our last visit to San Francisco, Del never got to see the bridge because it was shrouded in fog. The beautiful, clear day on this visit would offer him a much better chance. After crossing the bridge to the Marin County side and entering the park, we parked our car near a closed ranger station (due to the government shutdown). From there, we walked along a eucalyptus-shaded trail down to Rodeo Beach. The beach is situated at the southwestern tip of Marin County and faces west, so unfortunately it doesn’t offer a view of the bridge. Nevertheless, the beach provides an environment of both wildness and tranquility. We spent some time climbing through the large boulders on the southern end of the beach, watching the waves crash ashore. The tide was high and occasionally the waves would surge beyond their usual limits and surprise us. Because it faces west, the beach would be a fantastic place to admire the sunset.
Marin Headlands View
To take in a view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the mountain above, we drove up a winding road and eventually queued up with other cars heading towards the same place. Ultimately, we reached an overlook point. The parking lot gods smiled on us and we managed to secure a spot right in front of the viewpoint. We stopped to take some photos and then drove on to another viewpoint that had an even closer view of the bridge as well as a grassy area that led down the hill. This area is very crowded with tourists, but offers stunning views of the bridge and the city skyline. From there, we had a leisurely lunch in Sausalito before driving back to the apartment. While crossing the bridge back into the city, we could see the last sunset of 2018 disappearing into the Pacific Ocean.
New Year’s Eve/Day
For our New Years Eve festivities we attended Bearracuda at the Folsom Street Foundry. We were able to see a number of people we have met in San Francisco before as well as make some new friends. After that party concluded, we took a little break and then headed right to the It’s A New Day + Breakfast of Champions Block Party, a party running from 4am to 4 pm, featuring dozens of deep house DJs, acrobatic performances and an eclectic, diverse crowd. I think if I attend this party again, I’m going to try and dress in something much more fabulous. Nevertheless, all kinds were there, from investment banker bros in button downs to people in outrageous costumes. Some people said the vibe was similar to Burning Man.
On my first trip to San Francisco, the Twin Peaks were one of my favorite points of interest. After arriving in the city in the evening, I drove up there and was struck by the beauty of the city. I ended up stopping back there with an organized tour during the daytime and was happy to take more photos of the area. On this visit, Jeremy was able to drive Del and I up there before dropping us off at the airport. I’m glad we were able to take in one last gorgeous view of the city before heading home. We were able to make a brief lunch stop in the Castro, which lies down at the bottom of the peaks just before leaving.
San Francisco has changed quite a lot since my last visit, but it remains ever beautiful, strange and extraordinary.
Have you spent New Years in San Francisco? What was your experience like?