5 Nightlife Musts in San Francisco
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San Francisco is known for a number of icons: the Golden Gate Bridge, the sea lions at Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the “Painted Ladies,” to name a few. But once you’ve seen those attractions during the day, what is there to do at night?
As the sun sets, the city transforms from techie hub to nightlife destination. San Francisco may be a popular spot for wealthy investors, but money doesn’t control the nightlife quality here. In fact, you may find that the flashiest clubs tend to boast less-than-ideal experiences, whereas unassuming spots are often packed to the brim. Compared to other popular party cities (like New York), San Francisco seems much more down to earth. In fact, some of my best nights have happened at private events and house parties.
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There’s a pervasive sense of humanity in San Francisco. Class and ethnicity don’t seem to define you here — your personality does.
The nightlife of the City By the Bay can be tricky to navigate, both for visitors and those just moving to town, but there is no end to the fun for those who know where to go. Here are five nightlife musts for this energetic, friendly city:
1. Go bar hopping on Fillmore Street.
The Marina District and Fillmore Street are musts, especially during Fleet Week. Whereas bars in the Financial District are more upscale and cater toward businesspeople, Fillmore Street is where 20- and 30-somethings gather to party.
One of my go-to spots in the Marina is Eastside West Restaurant & Bar, which features the quaint size of many San Francisco bars, but still has great service and a good vibe. Others to check out include The Brixton, Marengo, and The Mauna Loa Club (a cash-only bar where you can play pool, Pop-A-Shot, and foosball). Another popular thoroughfare to bar hop on is Polk Street — visit Harper & Rye or Bullitt.
2. Get your burrito fix and mingle with hipsters in the Mission District.
It’s a must, not only for the burritos and gluten-free beer (not to mention gluten-free tables, chairs and sidewalks), but also for the experience. Don’t use the word “hipster” in the district, though — you’ll risk sideways glances all night from people with sharp ears who take that word to heart. But do try the carnitas at Lolo.
3. Channel your inner St. Nick at SantaCon.
An annual tradition in San Francisco, the SantaCon bar crawl takes place around the second Saturday of December. Most participants wear full Santa Claus outfits, so be ready to break out your holiday best. Although there is an official route for the bar crawl, I recommend bar hopping at your own pace to beat the crowds. The event finishes at Washington Square if you want to skip to the end.
4. Expand your horizons in East Bay.
Although San Francisco is a standalone city, the surrounding cities in the broader Bay Area are what make it so great. I love going out in East Bay, especially Oakland. There are a number of unique hole-in-the-wall spots. If you get the chance, explore Cal Berkeley, and follow the college students around. Many of the sports bars, like Pappy’s Grill & Sports Bar, are excellent places to watch the Cal games on TV.
5. Bring out your nerdy side at California Academy of Sciences’ Nightlife special.
The California Academy of Sciences has a nightlife special every Thursday night from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. The event — strictly for 21-year-olds and up — allows you to explore everything the Cal Academy has to offer without children running around. Tickets can go fast, so it’s best to buy them in advance. Also, Cal Academy Nightlife puts on dance lessons, so if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to salsa dance, you can become an expert (like me)!
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Remember to stick to your personal style and be yourself when heading out for an evening in San Francisco. It’s all part of this city’s commitment to embrace individuality.
No matter where you are on the walk of life, there is something in SF for you. From countless, unusual street fairs to restaurants that will let you bring your pets, there is no end to the fascinating, unique experiences that await you. So get out there and explore!
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