This is by no means a comprehensive list. It’s merely a starter, if you’re based in Japantown like we were during our New Year’s trip to San Francisco. I’ve got more recommendations in a previous post.
I also recommend driving to Sonoma in a rental car if you’re into wineries. Lots of fun and only about a half-hour drive from SF.
At the heart of Japantown, this mall complex is a wonderland of Japanese eateries and shops. It has anime and Japanese-language bookstores and, my personal favorite, Daiso, a general store that has everything you didn’t know you wanted. It’s a very neat, clean and bright dollar store where I bought a couple pairs of comfortable walking socks and an adorable all-purpose bowl (for coffee, snacks, cereal, etc.) decorated with a pig’s face. We even bought refrigerated teas and snacks and a toy for our dog there. The line at the counter tends to be long, but it’s efficient.
Fillmore St. is just a couple blocks over from Japantown. If you walk north on Fillmore, you’ll be rewarded by a stunning vista of the bay on a clear day. When you reach the waterfront, you can go east toward Fisherman’s Wharf or west toward the Golden Gate Bridge. When walking back down Fillmore on your return, the hills are excellent for an impromptu cardio workout. Or, just take an Uber back to your hotel.
Located on the eastern end of Golden Gate Park, the SF Botanical Garden is a lovely place to wander through for a reasonable admission fee. There are both native and foreign species of plants throughout the garden, plus places to sit and relax, contemplate and/or play.
At the western edge of Golden Gate Park lies Ocean Beach. After lunch in Outer Sunset, we entered the park and took a trail to the water’s edge. It’s amazing to see civilization butting up against the ocean. Just cross the highway, and you can walk along the concrete boardwalk or stroll on the sand. You can marvel at the trees by the highway that are permanently windswept, and take in the 360 views atop a sand dune on the beach.
A note on the quality of light as you walk through Golden Gate Park: It’s a beautiful, dappled, painterly effect. The sunlight is likely hitting small particles of moisture in the air, creating a surreal atmosphere, like walking through an Impressionist painting. Very cool.