It's possible to tire of visiting the multiple and congested tourists attractions in San Francisco, and as summer nears, such places will only grow more infested, thereby restricting the opportunity for travelers to observe and mingle with local residents. Luckily, it's easy to escape to one of many lively neighborhoods in San Francisco not located anywhere close to the downtown circus. One such neighborhood is the Mission district.
Commonly known for it's vibrant Latin culture, the Mission is replete with wonderful restaurants, cafes, bookstores, murals, and a solid nightlife scene.
This is probably the most interesting picture of Mission district you'll see; in the aftermath of 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, like much of the city at that moment, the district burns:
But now that it's all fix up (for the most part), on a practical level, you can find anything you need in the Mission at a bargain. Head shops, clothing, second-hand, and electronics stores comprise much of Mission St. south of the 16th St. BART Station (Valencia St, which parallels Mission, is equally popular and has just as much to offer in every category). On my last trip to the Mission, I went in for a cell phone charger, (which I found for $5) and came out with a turtle (also $5).
More commonly, people visit for the restaurants and bars. Some of the city's most highly-rated and affordable restaurants are located in the Mission (if you're after some delicious and authentic Mexican food, go there). On that note, straddling the Mission district is Rainbow Grocery, the city's favorite organic food coop. Also, the Alemany farmer's market, held every Saturday, is one of the best in the Bay Area.
Not sure why all the good pictures are over half a century old in this blog, but here it is in 1953 (suprisingly, it looks much the same as below; perhaps less sepia):
Now, if there's one place in San Francisco where you're bound to make new resident friends, it's in the Mission. Bars, and to a lesser extent, dance clubs are scattered all over the place and are very reasonably priced. In the majority of venues you'll find good people and decent music and will be able to hold a smooth conversation with your friends. Another bonus to partying in the Mission is that plenty of Mexican restaurants stay open late after bars close. A night out there is well worth the $15 you'd spend on a cab back to the hostel (before 1am, public transit is advisable).
Medjool has a rooftop bar. Good view, mind the yuppies and overpriced beer:
The Mission is famous for it's murals. A healthy visitor could spend the good half of a day walking around the neighborhood checking-out galaxies of beautiful paintings brushed on the walls of tucked away alleys.
If you get tired of walking, it won't be too long before you stumble across a nice cafe or bookstore to sit down and rest in. Take advantage of it, because you may be hard pressed to find a seat upon returning downtown.
The above pictures are from these websites:
Mission burning in 1906 - http://www.wired.com/images/article/full/2008/04/sanfrancisco_earthquake_630px.jpg
Alemany Farmers Market in 1953 - http://sfpl.lib.ca.us/librarylocations/sfhistory/sfphoto.htm
Medjool rooftop yuppies: http://grassroutestravel.com/blog/?tag=stay-up-late
Mural 1 - http://www.epodunk.com/cgi-bin/genInfo.php?locIndex=280488
Mural 2 - http://www.nostramerica.com/mission.html