An Artist's Guide to San Francisco with Ana Teresa Fernández

San Francisco resident artist Ana Teresa Fernández takes us on a tour of her favorite places in the city
San Francisco resident artist Ana Teresa Fernández takes us on a tour of her favorite places in the city | © Ana Teresa Fernández
Photo of Alicia Miller
10 September 2021

Follow this contemporary Mexican creative as she steers the way to her adopted city’s best taco joints, dive bars and go-to galleries.

San Francisco’s links to the creative community run deep. After all, this free-spirited California city sparked the Sixties counterculture movement, transforming everything from art to music and fashion. Today, that rich creative heritage lives on in the likes of performance artist and Mexican-born painter, Ana Teresa Fernández, who now lives in the City by the Bay, where recent projects have included an installation on the city’s Ocean Beach, illustrating issues around climate change. Here, she gives us her insider tips on San Fran’s best surf spots, rockstar hotels and cool creative hangouts.

De Young Museum

Building, Museum, Park
Map View
M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, California, USA
© PhotoBliss / Alamy Stock Photo
“Hands down, my favorite museum in San Francisco is the de Young. It’s in the Golden Gate Park, a greenscape that feels like it’s from the dinosaur era: parts of the building are bordered by monumental ferns and trees. One of its highlights is a nine-story tower with a glass room providing a 360-degree view of the city; you can even go up for free. On the way, you’ll see incredible, metal woven suspended sculptures by artist Ruth Asawa. Head there on a weekday, and it won’t be too crowded.”

Hook Fish

Restaurant, Mexican, $$$
Map View
“I am a surfer, and I live in the Outer Sunset neighborhood, right in front of Ocean Beach. Seafood restaurant Hook Fish is the best Coastal ‘Mexifornian’ place you can find. The poke burritos will blow your taste buds. The owners are surfers, neighbors and sea lovers who are truly eco-friendly and incredibly mindful individuals. They have two locations – the other’s in Mill Valley, just north of San Francisco – and both were crafted and created by some of the most talented designers and carpenters the city has.”

Catharine Clark Gallery

Art Gallery
Map View
“Catharine Clark Gallery represents some of the best contemporary art in the city, so there’s always a great exhibition worth visiting. My art is available to view here. But I also have some public pieces sprinkled throughout the city. DREAM, my version of the Hollywood sign, stretches 70ft (21m) across and 15ft (4.5m) high on the east side of Bernal Heights Hill: it glitters, water-like, from thousands of reflective disks suspended on its surface. Or visit my mural, spelling ‘WHY’ in bright neon orange – three stories high – Downtown, on 5th and Market.”

The Homestead

Bar, American
Map View
“Looking for a cool place to drink in San Francisco? Go to the Homestead if you want to run into a varied mix of the local-maker crowd; designers, plumbers, carpenters and techies all come here. The floor is covered in peanut shells, the ceilings are silver, and the beautiful old bar has a quote by Dylan Thomas: ‘Rage against the dying of the light.’ They have a really good whiskey selection, too, if you like that.”

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  • Sutro Baths

    Building, Ruins, Swimming Pool
    Map View
    Ruins of the Sutro baths along the Pacific Oceans at Lands End in San Francisco, California, USA.
    © Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo
    “Sutro Baths is one of my favorite outdoor locations. It used to be a natural Olympic training pool on the edge of Ocean Beach, nestled below the cliffs. Now it exists only as remains, stone traces that feel reminiscent of a shoreline acropolis. I love going on runs up to the entry of the Presidio. These pools have beautiful reflections of the surroundings, while three massive rocks – shooting up from the sea – buffer against crashing waves. Go up the cliff, and you’ll get a glimpse of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.”

    Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

    Art Gallery, Museum, Theater, Theatre
    Map View
    Center for the Arts in Yerba Buena Gardens,San Francisco,California,USA
    © Richard Cummins / Alamy Stock Photo
    “Try catch a performance at Yerba Buena Center by San Francisco-based Lines Ballet. Don’t be mistaken by the title ‘ballet’: it’s very contemporary. They only perform at certain times of year, and I have never missed them. Every time I go, I invite someone who has never seen them before to experience it. I once took a Hawaiian pro big-wave surfer to see them, and he was blown away. He’d never seen anything like it.”

    Creativity Explored

    Art Gallery
    Map View
    The stunning MaestraPeace mural on the exterior of The Women's Building in the Mission District of San Francisco, California.
    © Felix Choo / Alamy Stock Photo
    “Located in the LatinX quarters of the Mission district, people tend to walk past this art space because from the outside it’s quite nondescript. However, go through the door and it’s like the closet which leads to Narnia. There are giant sculptures suspended across the high wooden beams, and drawings and paintings covering every surface. Creativity Explored is an art space for artists with developmental disabilities, and they are some of the most talented, avant-garde creatives I have seen. Their work is not bound by ego or awareness, but has a rawness and boldness you wish every artist could tap into.”

    Phoenix Hotel

    Boutique Hotel
    4.1/5 (975 Reviews)
    Courtesy of Phoenix Hotel /
    From $206 per night per room
    “As for hotels? Try the Phoenix to feel like a rockstar. The bar is super hip, trendy and has a VIP rock ‘n’ roll vibe. You feel Mick Jagger might walk in at any moment. Funnily enough, I did bump into Neil Young at an art event by the outdoor pool there several years back. That indoor/outdoor swim club is one of SF’s best kept secrets, and great for a daytime cocktail.”
    More info

    San Francisco Proper

    Boutique Hotel, Hotel
    4.4/5 (533 Reviews)
    San Francisco Proper
    Courtesy of San Francisco Proper /
    From $275 per night per room
    “The San Francisco Proper hotel is unique in the sense that it doesn’t rely too heavily on nostalgia, but instead it is quite bold and intersects eras and styles like Brutalism and Art Deco, all while making it comfortable. The Proper is nothing like its name, you go there to have groundbreaking conversations and get inspired. Which suits me: at the end of the day, I want a comfortable place to sink into a good conversation while being inspired by my surroundings to change the world.”
    More info
    These recommendations were updated on September 10, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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