We just spent five days in San Francisco and unintentionally also walked a few half marathons, literally. I'd been to San Francisco prior to this trip, but my memory conveniently forgot just how steep a majority of the streets were.
We mostly explored the city on foot, which is one of my favorite ways to see different neighborhoods and nooks. It’s great to incorporate movement into daily activities since it’s easy to become sedentary while traveling.
If you’re planning to travel to San Francisco, a few must-have items to include in your bag are:
- hair ties
- tennis shoes
- a raincoat
- a lightweight sweater
The wind helped me quickly learn that doing my hair was a complete waste of time. The first day I wore sandals, but every day after I switched to actual shoes.
Sandals + walking down steeply angled streets = regret.
A raincoat really helps to block the wind if you decide to walk on the path near the water toward the Golden Gate Bridge. It gets very windy and pretty chilly down there. I also carried a sweater with me everywhere I went because the weather fluctuates so much.
Despite the usual rainy and gloomy weather that San Francisco has, it was quite warm and sunny while we were there. We did bring sunscreen with us, but of course, forgot to apply it in time on the day that we needed it most. We paid for that mistake big time.
With this San Francisco travel guide, it’s easiest to break it down by neighborhood. There were plenty of areas that we wanted to get to, but there was only so much we could see in the allotted time we had there.
So, below you’ll find places I recommend and the places we are looking forward to visiting the next time we are in San Francisco.
All the places I'm recommending are especially great for dairy-free eaters.
Pacific Heights Neighborhood
Pacific Heights is filled with luxurious mansions and insanely beautiful homes. It’s great to walk through the neighborhood just for the homes alone. Fillmore Street runs through the Pacific Heights neighborhood and has plenty of shops and restaurants to offer. Here were our favorite Fillmore Street places.
JANE OF FILLMORE
Jane is great for smoothies, sandwiches, lattes, salads, breakfast. There’s truly something here for everyone and I’ve never been disappointed with anything I’ve had.
SALT & STRAW
Salt and Straw is one of my favorite ice cream shops. They’re an artisan ice cream shop with a handful of vegan ice cream flavors on top of the sorbets. They value quality ingredients, and most of their flavors are very unique. I highly recommend swinging by here!
SAJE NATURAL WELLNESS
I’d only ever seen Saje products online previously, but it’s such a beautiful store with a very modern and minimal aesthetic. They sell essential oils and diffusers, as well as other holistic home and body care items.
The store smells amazing because they have their diffusers going all day. The staff is very welcoming and they encourage you to try their samples without being salesy.
CREDO CLEAN BEAUTY
A great beauty store with plenty of options for non-toxic skincare and makeup. They carry several different brands with different price points.
MOLLIE STONE'S MARKET
This isn’t technically on Fillmore Street, but it’s very close by. This is a great organic market with a lot of local produce and products.
Marina District Neighborhood
The Marina District has such a fun, beachy vibe to it. Chestnut Street runs through the Marina District and is filled with a plethora of local restaurants and cute shops. It's located in a flat part of town which is perfect for when you’re sick of walking at a 45-degree angle.
We came here for a couple of margaritas, chips, and guac, and to play a game (cribbage). The margaritas were great, and the guacamole was good, but it’s pretty hard to mess that one up, so I can’t really speak for the food.
Blackwood is a Thai-American fusion restaurant. We stumbled upon Blackwood one day when we were starving after walking several miles, and I'm so happy we did.
The food was a-m-a-z-i-n-g! We were a little skeptical at first when looking at the menu because they offer American breakfast options, as well as burgers, and also Thai cuisine.
We went the Thai food route and it was incredible. My husband got the Thai fried rice with chicken and I had a Thai rice plate with chicken, veggies, and a ginger and green onion sauce that came with a side salad. I also ordered a spiced almond lavender latte (dairy-free).
I highly recommend dining here, and I already can’t wait to come back.
Fort Mason Center Farmer's Market
This market is every Sunday, and all the produce was amazing! The produce alone made me want to live in California. We didn’t have enough time or the need to buy any, but nearly every vendor has samples out to taste before you buy (or in our case, browse).
I did buy a dairy-free mint chocolate ice cream sandwich. Well, that’s what the wrapper said, but it was actually just mint ice cream inside of a ginger cookie and since I’m a huge ginger fan, I loved it!
This ice cream sandwich was from a local San Francisco company called Green Girl Bakeshop.
When in Chinatown, you must go to the fortune cookie shop and see how fortune cookies are made. It’s a touristy thing to do and there’s a bit of a line, but I recommend it anyway.
The fortune cookies are so fresh and a nice little treat. While in Chinatown, we also stopped into a market to get a couple of mangos, which were so flavorful and juicy. We then went to a dive bar called The Saloon, which had amazing people watching and a live band.
Japantown is much smaller than Chinatown, but we found an incredible kitchen store called Sanko Kitchen Essentials. It was filled with the most beautiful, minimally designed ceramics, knives, and other kitchen items.
We ended up buying two beautiful pairs of authentic wooden chopsticks that are already very well-loved and used often.
Fisherman’s Wharf/North Beach/Embarcadero
This whole area is very touristy and is where you’ll catch the ferry to go to one of the nearby islands. Most of the shops in this area aren’t worth stopping into. Ghirardelli Square is probably worth checking out if you're traveling with non-dairy-free people. It’s the original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop located in Fisherman’s Wharf.
Although the ferry building ended up being very far from where we thought we were going, it was worth the walk in the blazing hot sun.
I really didn’t have any expectations, but the ferry building is essentially an indoor market filled with beautiful shops, restaurants, and eateries. We went to Hog Island Oyster Co. and got a dozen local oysters and old bay fries. There’s a long line, but it goes quickly, and it’s worth the wait!
After Hog Island Oyster Co., we bopped into this cute organic market that’s on the other side of Hog Island and picked up some chocolate and fruit to take to an afternoon with friends.
We took the ferry to Sausalito and I can’t say enough good things about it. We sat on the top of the ferry and made sure we were on the side facing the Golden Gate Bridge for the views. I recommend tying your hair back instead of wearing a hat because it’s so windy that it’ll likely blow away (as we witnessed on the way back).
The ferry takes about 45 minutes one way, and we went in the morning so that we’d have plenty of time to explore the cute town of Sausalito.
There’s a cluster of shops and restaurants in the heart of town, but if you walk further north, the restaurants are more spaced out and there aren't as many people around.
We went to a great restaurant called Seafood Peddler and shared mussels and fish and chips (I asked to make sure they were dairy-free) and my husband got the clam chowder. Everything was delicious and our server had the best sense of humor!
The vibe in Oakland is so different from that in San Francisco. They’re each great in their own way, but I really enjoyed Oakland. It had a more homey feel to it. We went to see some old friends of my husband’s, and once we left their home we explored the area a bit.
It was Sunday night, so it wasn’t super lively, but we walked from the neighborhood of Rockridge to Shafter and then went to a super cute place called Roses’ Taproom to meet up with another friend for a drink.
The aesthetic at Roses is amazing and the beer was delicious. We got olives to snack on and they were THE BEST olives I’ve ever had - they were Castelvetrano (my favorite) marinated with a citrus rind and sprinkled with Aleppo pepper (a mild Turkish pepper on top).
You could really taste the citrus, but it wasn’t overpowering and everything was very well balanced. I haven’t stopped thinking about those olives since we had them and I can’t wait to recreate them at home. My stomach is growling just thinking about it.
For Our Next Trip to San Francisco
We didn’t make it here, but we heard that they have amazing gelato and plenty of dairy-free options. This is definitely on the list for when we go back!
We had already reached our walking quota for the trip, and I was saving this for the last day, but we didn’t make it.
Bi-rite Market has a creamery (with plenty of vegan/dairy-free options), a cafe, and a grocery shop. They prioritize high-quality, organic foods, and support local companies and farmers.
Ace Wasabi Rock-n-Roll Sushi
We’re huge sushi lovers, and this sushi joint has an amazing happy hour. Immediately following happy hour is bingo. (Call me an old lady, but I also happen to love bingo.)
We spent a little too much time enjoying our margaritas at Tacolicious and thought that we’d show up about the time happy hour was starting, but it was packed and we weren’t willing to wait nearly an hour.
A bar and restaurant located in Sausalito right on the water serving pizzas, salads, and sandwiches with a fire pit and a bocce court. We were really in the mood for seafood, so we opted for Seafood Peddler instead.