From the food, shopping, bars, parks, history, art, and even (weirdly) the weather – we loved the Mission District in San Francisco.
Named for Mission Dolores, the oldest building in San Francisco, the Mission has historically been home to many Central American and Mexican families. The Mission still retains its feisty Latin flare – in bright murals, corner fruit vendors, taquerias, and colorful traditional goods lining bustling streets. But the Mission has also attracted the young alternative crowd – students, artists, activists and hippies – which means you’re just as likely to stumble upon a well curated vintage store, funky coffee shop or dive bar.
Dolores Park is where you can really get a glimpse of this cultural juxtaposition. On sunny days this park is full of all kinds of people – playing, walking their dogs, and relaxing in the grass. We met an artist who drew huge crowds by blowing massive soap bubbles. Dolores Park also has a fantastic view of San Francisco’s skyline. From the top of the hill, you can see that the Mission District is actually located in a valley insulted from the bay’s fog and wind, which explains why it’s always a little warmer here than in other parts of the city (San Francisco has micro-climates. Who knew?).
The Mission is often called the cultural heart of San Francisco. This neighborhood was a hotbed for social and cultural awakening in the 1960s and ‘70s, and this is still apparent today in the vast number of art institutions, studios, galleries, theaters and public art projects that are located here. Clarion Alley and Balmy Alley are must see destinations for mural art lovers – both streets are completely lined in these massive, vibrant, and ever-evolving works of art.
The Mission is home to some of the best shops in the city. We perused a beautiful collection of clothing and jewelry at BellJar, rifled through records at Aquarius, witnessed the coolest of the cool bikes and cycling accessories at Mission Bicycle, and touched everything on the tabletops at Little Paper Planes Shop. One of our favorites boutiques was Gravel & Gold, an expertly curated store with a classic California aesthetic where you can find vintage knick knacks and furniture, locally made items, hand printed fabrics, and covetable jewelry.
Neighborhood bars and restaurants are as diverse as the culture in these parts. In fact, we were so tempted by all of the places we saw that we cancelled a fancy dinner reservation in a different part of the city. We wound up going to one of the neighborhoods many Mexican spots, Taqueria Cancún, where we got authentic and delicious burritos for just a few dollars. After dinner we found a belgian style pub called the Monk’s Kettle where we enjoyed a few delicious beers. You can read his review of the Monk’s Kettle here.