Every few weeks we ask one of our clued-up local contributors a bunch of questions about their city, from fun facts and practicalities to what to see and what to skip. This time around we quizzed Camille about San Francisco, aka “Fog City”, on the US west coast. If you’re hungry for insider insights into other destinations, you can keep an eye out for new Through the Eyes of a Local posts here, or follow us on Facebook for updates.
When is the best time to visit SF? In April because you avoid the tourist crowds of summer and have the best weather possible: it’s sunny, it’s warm and there’s not too much fog! Fall (from September to November) is also a very good time to visit, with fewer tourists and beautiful fall colours. If you plan on doing outdoors activities, however, it begins to get chilly and rainy in late October.
What are three things every visitor should see or experience?
1. Have a picnic in Dolores Park on a Sunday.
2. Visit Clarion Alley and discover the various murals of the Mission District.
3. Enjoy a sunset at Lands End.
What’s your favourite hidden gem? Macondray Lane. You’ll feel a world away walking along this peaceful and lush cobblestone lane. It’s a true haven in the heart of the city, with flower gardens and fruit trees, a little zen fountain and lazy cats resting in the sun. It embodies the fictitious Barbary Lane in the TV series Tales of the City, which was based on Armistead Maupin’s novels of the same name.
Photo credit: Camille Doue
What are the biggest tourist traps? The biggest tourist traps in my city are Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39.
Where can I enjoy amazing views? The best place for amazing views is Corona Heights Park.
What’s the best way to spend a sunny day in SF? On a sunny day, I love to eat lunch at one of the city’s secret rooftop gardens in the Financial District.
What do you like to do when the weather is bad? When the weather is bad, I head to Four Barrels for a cup of great coffee.
What’s a fun way to impress someone in SF? I take them to the Moraga Steps. The mosaicked steps are incredibly beautiful and meaningful, and the views from the top are breathtaking.
I want to try authentic local cuisine. Where should I go and what should I order? You should go to Super Duper and order their mini burgers and garlic fries.
What should I take home as a souvenir? Take home a batch of fresh fortune cookies from the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in Chinatown. Fortune cookies were invented right here in SF and first served by a Japanese immigrant in Golden Gate Park’s Japanese Tea Garden at the end of the 19th century.
If you really like food, you can bring back other typical local products such as Napa and Sonoma wines, coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee and Ghirardelli chocolates. You can also buy many local cheeses and olive oils in the Ferry Building Marketplace.
Photo credit: David Yu
What’s the best way to get around? On foot, definitely.
How can you tell if someone is from SF? You know someone’s from my city if they don’t find it weird when they see a person walking naked in the streets.
What is SF famous for? My city has the most amazing views EVER. I don’t think any other city can compete. SF also has a reputation for being eccentric. Self-expression is pushed to the limits and people are really creative, there’s no doubt about that!
If I want to get out of the city for a day, where should I go? If you want to escape SF for a day, Point Reyes is a great place for a day trip.
What’s your favourite breakfast/brunch spot? Olea – I like the cosy and sleek atmosphere of this place, and the food, made from local products, is delicious.
Where should I go for a tasty budget meal? Head to Ike’s Place for a sandwich.
I’m vegetarian/vegan – help! Cha-Ya is a local favourite.
Where should I go for a classy night out? Eat at Lolo’s (a hipster Mexican restaurant) or Beretta (a classic Italian restaurant) and then head to Hawker Fare for some drinks. Valencia Street in the Mission District is definitely one of the best places to go out.
Photo credit: Lolo’s
What’s the event of the year in SF? The #1 event in my city is the Bay to Breakers run!
What do you recommend for culture buffs? Don’t miss the de Young Museum or the soon-to-reopen SFMOMA.
What about history lovers? You must visit the Beat Museum and learn all about the Jack Kerouac and his friends.
Can you suggest some places for families with kids? If you have kids, visit the Aquarium of the Bay and, even though it’s touristic, watch the sea lions on Pier 39.
Photo credit: Camille Doue
Is there anything else you think visitors should know? You should always wear layers in my city – you never know when Karl (the fog) is going to show up and chill you to the bones. Also, you should never call San Francisco “Frisco”. The San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen published a book in 1953 called Don’t Call it Frisco. Since then, the “Frisco” nickname has been largely debated. Today, many San Franciscans still loathe the nickname, so you’re better off not using it to avoid any drama!
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