Lately, it seems that the San Francisco news headlines have been negative, of the city homelessness crisis and a lot of publicity to remind elections to the area astronomical cost of living and deterioration fire seasons.
But San Francisco remains San Francisco. The fog still comes in from the Pacific Ocean to cover the jumbled hills of the city, the sunset still blazes crimson behind the Golden Gate Bridge, and the smell of salt and eucalyptus still comes the moment you see the San Francisco International Airport. Always a city for outdoor enthusiasts, pandemic restrictions led to the near-universal embrace of indoor-outdoor urban living. And at its core, the spirit of the city, an intoxicating brew of creativity, progressiveness and experimentation, remains unbreakable.
San Francisco’s pandemic recovery has been slower than other major metropolitan areas in the United States; according to data from the San Francisco Travel Association, the 2022 forecast estimates 80 percent of 2019 visitor volume. While the Downtown and Union Square neighborhoods remain quieter than prepandemic times, the city’s unique neighborhoods, from the Mission to Russian Hill and the Outer Sunset, vibrant with crowded restaurants and bars, and many boast new parks and personal events. San Francisco no longer imposes a mask mandate, but some companies will require or request masks; masks are recommended but not required on MUNI and BART, the city’s public transportation systems. Many indoor events, including concerts and theater productions, require a vaccination certificate to enter.
New parks and slow streets
San Francisco’s wealth of greenery has increased thanks to a trio of new parks, including the Presidio Tunnel Tops, 14 acres of new national park that opened this month on the city’s north shore. The park offers panoramic views of the bay and was designed by the same group behind New York’s High Line. It hosts a varying range of food trucks, art installations and performances. For more views, check out Francisco Park in the city’s Russian Hill neighborhood, which opened in April on the site of San Francisco’s first reservoir. In the southeastern neighborhood of Mission Bay, largely protected from the city’s frequent westerlies, Crane Cove Park has become a warm, sunny destination for stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking and lounging since opening in 2020.
In addition to new parks, San Francisco has become more walkable and bikeable with the pandemic-driven development of the slow streets program, which restricts or prohibits car traffic on city streets. Destination worthy include: the great highwaywhich runs along Ocean Beach on the city’s western shore (currently closed to vehicular traffic on weekends and often windy days) and JFK Promenade in Golden Gate Parkthat can be made permanently car-free in November. The mile-long stretch of JFK takes you past destinations such as the Conservatory of Flowers and the rose gardenplus the skating placewhere you often rocking roller discotheque.
A return to personal music events
Golden Gate Park is also host to a number of major personal events this year, including: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, a free, three-day music festival held from September 30 to October 2. This year’s lineup will feature Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Buddy Miller, with more artists to be announced next week. The Outside Lands Music Festival takes place August 5-7 with artists such as Green Day, Post Malone and Lil Uzi Vert (day tickets from $195; three-day tickets from $409). Find even more music in the Sunset District at the Stern Grove Festival, now in its 85th year. The series of free weekly concerts, taking place Sunday through August 14, features acts ranging from the San Francisco Symphony to Phil Lesh.
The Portola Music Festival (one-day tickets from $200, two-day passes from $400), a new music festival coming to San Francisco from the team behind Coachella, takes place September 24-25 at Pier 80, and will showcase electronic acts including Flume, James Blake, The Avalanches and MIA
A new destination for contemporary art
With the opening in October, the Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco aims to provide a fresh approach to the ways contemporary art should be showcased and shared. Bound by the core principles of equality and accessibility, ICASF have free entry and plan to showcase local artists and artists of color in an environment that is welcome to all. Opening program includes a solo exhibition by Jeffrey Gibsona Choctaw-Cherokee painter and sculptor, a group show curated by Tahirah Rasheed and Autumn Breon, Oakland-based members of the collective See Black Womxnand work by the local artists Liz Hernandez and Ryan Whelan.
Food and drink
San Francisco’s restaurants have suffered from pandemic constraints, as well as high operating costs and high living costs that are limiting the workforce. Many storefronts remain empty and a number of old businesses have closed, including: Alitosan Italian seafood restaurant that has held court in Fisherman’s Wharf for 97 years, and the Cliff House, an iconic destination along the jagged coastline above the Pacific Ocean (a new restaurant may open there by the end of the year).
While undoubtedly challenging, the past two years have had a silver lining: outdoor eating and drinking has popped up everywhere from established restaurants such as no to brand new places like casesa modern Irish bar in the Mission that opened in January 2020. Originally the bar was meant to be a cozy indoor-only affair, but instead it now serves great cocktails (starting at $12) on one of the best patios in town, complete with a semi-private outdoor area. , live music, DJs and colorful murals by Irish rock musicians, including Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries and Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy.
While marquee openings are still an important part of the city’s food fabric, recent ones include the opulent Palm Court Restaurant in the new RH Gallery and a new one Ghirardelli chocolate experience store – one of the most exciting development centers for low-key projects from high-end chefs. In the mission Corey Lee of Benu opened with three Michelin stars San Ho Won, a korean barbecue place with classic dishes and riffs on tradition, such as a black pudding pancake and kimchi pozole (appetizers from $16, barbecue from $26). Matthew Kirk, a Lazy Bear sous chef, opened automaticallya day and night destination in the Western Addition for pastries, breakfast sandwiches, and burgers (sandwiches from $9 to $16).
Natural wine is nothing new in San Francisco, but low intervention bottles—small batches, often funky wines made with organic ingredients, native yeast, and usually little to no sulfites—dominate new restaurants and bars. Shuggie’sa pop art explosion with a vibrant list of bottles from the West Coast and beyond, featuring two-dollar wine shots and a “trash can pizza” made from recycled food waste (wines from $15 for a glass or $51 for a bottle; pizzas from $19) . Palm City Wines opened in the Outer Sunset in Spring 2020 as a natural wine bottle and deli takeaway; now it also serves small plates, wines by the glass, Northern California beers and ? forearm sized hoagies (appetizers from $8, sandwiches from $19). Up the ante is bar part time at the Mission, a natural wine disco with a rotating roster of DJs and wine producers.
Where to stay
1 hotel opened in San Francisco in June on the Embarcadero near the Ferry Building. The eye-catching space features reclaimed wood and native greenery, recyclable key cards and pendants in the 186 rooms and 14 suites (starting at $500 per night), plus a rooftop spa, chef’s garden, and beehives. Terrene, the hotel’s restaurant, offers a farm-to-table inspired menu and a wide selection of mezcal and tequila.
LUMA, which also opened in June, is the first hotel development in the Mission Bay neighborhood. With 299 rooms (starting at $329 per night) and a rooftop lounge opening later this summer, the hotel is close to Oracle Park and the Chase Center. And on June 30, the long-standing Sir Francis Drake Hotel in Union Square reopened as Beacon Grand with 418 renovated rooms (starting at $249 per night), a lobby bar and a 2023 redesign of the famous top-floor bar, the Starlite Room.