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Golden Gate Bridge © Arup Malakar/Flickr
Golden Gate Bridge © Arup Malakar/Flickr
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How To Spend 5 Non-Touristy Days In The Bay Area

Picture of Josh Bahns
Updated: 9 February 2017
If you’re on this page, chances are you are one of the lucky ones who gets to spend some time in the Bay Area. Whether you’re walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, or driving down the Pacific Coast Highway, you’re in for one heck of a treat.

First off, let’s cover the hotel situation. Phoenix Hotel is a boutique joint that holds a weekly pool party on Sundays. If you want to stay trendy, but still get your touristy fix, stay in the Hotel Zephyr. It’s a perfect hotel for someone looking to explore San Francisco. It has a bunch of games in the lobby, and it’s a nice spot to spend a rainy morning. If you’re feeling swanky, check out the Ritz-Carlton near Nob Hill. You’ll feel like Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries, eating gourmet peanut butter and jelly, and peering down at the city of San Francisco.

Phoenix Hotel, 601 Eddy St, San Francisco CA, USA, +1 415 776 1380

Hotel Zephyr, 250 Beach St, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 617 6565

The Ritz-Carlton, 600 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 296 7465

Now that we named a few places to stay, let’s set a loose agenda for your five days in this extraordinary area of Northern California.

Day One

Depending on your level of energy, there are a number of things you could do on your first day. Let’s start with some breakfast. If it’s a weekday, stop by The Kitchen Story in the Castro. It’s a delicious place to grab breakfast or even lunch. The pork belly huevos rancheros is a meal that every person should experience at least once.

After this, head west to the the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. This is a great spot to get rid of your jet lag. Lay out a blanket, and relax amongst the beautiful flowers. You can choose to go in the Conservatory itself, or you can just chill on the heavenly layers of grass. Around you will be adorable dogs and strikingly colorful flowers. Not a bad afternoon. Stop by Pizza Delfina in Pacific Heights for some dinner and enjoy some of the city’s best pizza. It has authentic Italian pies and other delectable treats.

The Kitchen Story, 3499 16th St, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 525 4905

Conservatory of Flowers, 100 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 831 2090

Pizza Delfina, 2406 California St, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 440 1189

Conservatory of Flowers © Gardens & Flowers/Flickr
Conservatory of Flowers | © Gardens & Flowers/Flickr

Day Two

Spend another day in San Francisco. Go grab some breakfast at Zazie in Cole Valley. It’s a French-inspired brunch spot that is world renowned. The cash and tip are included in the price, so don’t worry about that 15-20 percent calculation.

After this go shopping in Hayes Valley: it’s filled with boutique shops and dog stores. It’s perfect for grabbing a souvenir for your neighbor or even your puppy, and there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat. Then make a stop at the nearby Mint Karaoke Lounge on Market, and sing your heart out. Or just watch other people drink and sing. Either way you’ll have a nice night in San Francisco.

Zazie, 941 Cole St, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 564 5332

The Mint Karaoke Lounge, 1942 Market St, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 626 4726

Day Three

Let’s get out of the city; there’s so much more to the Bay Area. Take a drive to Muir Woods, it’s not too far across the Golden Gate Bridge in adjoining Marin County. Muir Woods is home to some of the most stunning redwoods in California. Park your car, and unplug from the bustling city of San Francisco. There are plenty of trails to walk; for more details, check out ‘An Adventure Through Muir Woods & Muir Beach‘.

Muir Woods © Jumilla/Flickr
Muir Woods | © Jumilla/Flickr

After Muir Woods, check out its little brother, Muir Beach. It’s a sweet little spot that usually has very few people. If you want a change of Muir scenery, continue up Highway 1 a little further and go to Stinson Beach.

It’s been a long day outside of San Francisco, and you may be suffering from withdrawals. Mosey back into town, and stop at The Buena Vista Café for a late dinner. It’s an Irish Pub that serves simple yet delicious dishes. Order the Irish coffee, and a pick out one of their comforting dishes. You won’t be disappointed with this cozy little gem in the heart of San Francisco.

Muir Woods National Monument, 1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA, USA, +1 415 388 2595

The Buena Vista Café, 2765 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 474 5044

Day Four

Depending on if you’re up for a little more driving, head down to Monterey Bay. It’s a beautiful area, filled with sailboats, shops, and little beaches at which to eat your lunch. Walk through the well-loved Monterey Bay Aquarium, and check out the massive amount of wildlife. The jellyfish room will end up hypnotizing you, and the hammerhead sharks might even shock you with their sharp movement. This aquarium is like none other, and it won’t disappoint. If the aquarium isn’t your thing, just enjoy the beaches. There are many spots to enjoy the view of the Pacific Ocean.

If you’re feeling a change of scenery, head over to Carmel-by-the-Sea. This is like a more premium Monterey Bay, and you don’t want to miss it. It has small, secluded white-sand beaches with very few people. Take the famous drive down Highway 1 to Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, and enjoy an undisturbed and stunning view of the California coast. After this, you can check out the Rocky Point Restaurant, which is not only a great spot to grab a California burger, but it’s a great spot to get married apparently. If the Bay Area has you feeling romantic and spontaneous, be sure to check it out.

Monterey Bay Aquarium, 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA, USA, +1 831 648 4800

Rocky Point Restaurant, 36700 CA-1, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA, USA, +1 831 624-2933

Bixby Bridge © Jeff Keacher/Flickr
Bixby Bridge | © Jeff Keacher:Flickr

Day Five

It’s your fifth and final day in the Bay Area, let’s make it count! Take this time to really enjoy the city of San Francisco. There is no other place like it. First, head over to Alamo Square and enjoy the little slice of Victorian heaven. It’ll also make you feel like Bob Saget or even Uncle Joey in the sitcom, Full House. The beautiful homes, chilling breeze, and soft grass makes this place a pleasurable spot to enjoy the city.

After this, head out to Lou’s Cafe in the Richmond District and grab a sandwich. It’s hard to describe this place, because there are few of its caliber. Their sandwiches are of great quality, and they make them speedily, too. Try and get there earlier around 10am if you want to avoid a long line.

The last days of vacation are always hard, because you start to run short on ideas of what to do. That shouldn’t be a problem in the Bay Area, because there’s always something interesting to check out. Go walk through the world-famous Exploratorium, and be mesmerized by some science. This is a perfect spot for a rainy day, so you can get out of the hotel room, but avoid getting soaked.

It’s your last night in the city, and you have got to see the sunset (fog permitting, of course). Head over to the upscale market Mollie Stones in Laurel Heights and grab some snacks, because you’re going to Baker Beach. With the Golden Gate on your right, and the sun setting on the Pacific Ocean in front of you, there is no better spot to wrap up your Bay Area vacation.

Lou’s Café, 5017 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 379 4429

Exploratorium, Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 528 4444

Mollie Stone’s Markets, 2435 California St, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 567 4902

The Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach © Damian Gadal/Flickr
The Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach | © Damian Gadal/Flickr