Adventure

10 Hidden Spots In San Francisco You Need To Know About

Who doesn’t love a good travel secret or hidden gem?

Who doesn’t love a good travel secret or hidden gem? San Francisco is a city of incredible moments and, while many are on show, a good number are still tucked away, hidden from view.

When the Embarcadero and Haight-Ashbury become a little too swamped, consider these awesome, road-less-travelled experiences instead. They offer some of the best little-known action you’ll find in San Francisco.

#1 A secret hot tub

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Image: Charlie Nguyen / Flickr

Hot tub, you say? A secret hot tub? Potentially the most exciting hidden San Fran experience boils down (literally) to a mythic jacuzzi located just outside town in the university nook of Berkeley.

Known only as the Berkeley Essex Hot Tub, rumour has it that it’s located past a few redwoods in a residential yard, and that you need a seven-digit code to get in. Allegedly, 30,000 nude people have soaked themselves here since 1975, though no talking is allowed in this bubbly speakeasy.

The only catch is that you have to find it (it’ll be well worth the effort if you manage to). 


#2 Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, San Francisco

Image: Karlis Dambrans / Flickr

Did you know the common Chinese fortune cookie was first created in San Francisco? The city’s bustling Chinatown is a mainstream stop-off these days, but its lesser-known fortune cookie factory on Ross Alley is a must.

Relish in the artistic intricacies of these timeless and wise after-dinner treats. Admission is free every day, and photos are welcome in exchange for a US$0.50 donation.


#3 Muir Woods

When you’re keen to swap the city buzz for the replenishing hum of wilderness and nature, head for Muir Woods. Located a half hour drive from the Fort Point side of the Golden Gate Bridge, this extensive parkland features a glorious expanse of towering old growth redwoods, a National Monument of monumental organic proportions offering a day of guaranteed invigoration and soulful replenishment.


#4 The Mission District

The Mission District, San Francisco

Image: Emile Lombard / Flickr

While North Beach, Embarcadero, Alcatraz and Haight-Ashbury might hog the tourist limelight, there are more colourful climes in The Mission, the city’s vibrant, multicultural hood with a distinct Spanish and Latin influence. Though gentrification has seen the neighbourhood’s demographic change in recent years, the eclectic vibe remains.

A curious fusion of taquerias, mariachis and dollar stores dot the district’s main streets, with an eclectic variety of galleries, vegan eateries, as well as the area’s iconic street art and alternative stores.


#5 The Outer Sunset

The Outer Sunset, San Francisco

Image: Grant Montgomery / Flickr

Flanking Ocean Beach from Golden Gate Park in the north to the zoo in the south, the Outer Sunset has traditionally been overlooked by tourists due to its isolated location, away from the action and history of the city centre. However, this extensive gridded neighbourhood is well worth the (rather effortless) MUNI or bus ride out west.

The 5.6km stretch of Ocean Beach remains a major drawcard on a sunny day, and the district also offers a range of unique, lesser known boutiques, restaurants, bars and top-notch local cafes.


#6 Tiburon

A common route typically lands San Fran day-trippers over the Golden Gate to the quaint historical town of Sausalito. But, for those keen on breaking away from the tried and true, a 20-minute ride further along Richardson Bay takes you to equally quaint, gorgeous and no less historical town of Tiburon.

No wheels? Ride the ferry from the city’s Pier 431/2 and soak up the beautiful restaurants, boutiques and incredible sights from the other side of the bay in style. 


#7 Seward Street Slides

Hidden off Market Street by the western edge of Dolores Heights, you’ll be lucky to spot Seward Mini Park, a children’s playground revered by locals for its two large downhill slides.

BYO cardboard to slip down, and you’re in for some seriously awesome old-fashioned fun (adults must be accompanied by a child).


#8 House Of Air

Head to 926 Old Mason Street to relish in endless fun at the House of Air, San Francisco’s premier indoor trampoline Adrenaline Park. To up the ante, Trampoline dodge ball, aerial training, and fitness classes are all on the menu.


#9 16th Avenue Tiled Steps

16th Street tiled steps, San Francisco

Image: Ed Bierman / Flickr

Located in the Inner Sunset neighbourhood of Golden Gate Heights, the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps are a community-driven art initiative featuring 163 steps, each adorned with beautifully crafted mosaic motifs.

The best part, if not the steps themselves, is the incredible panoramic look out point at the top of Grandview Park.


#10 Baker Beach

Surrounded by both ocean and bay, there’s no shortage of sparkling waterside experiences in San Francisco, all with stunning vistas to match. While most head for the Presidio or Coit Tower for an impressive lookout point, one of the best angles to view the the glorious Golden Gate Bridge can be found on the city’s Pacific edge, along Baker Beach.

Part of the beach is a nude beach but, clothed or not, this sandy golden sandy stretch – which was also the original location for Burning Man Festival – makes for a swell day out by the whitewash and mist.


(Lead image: Ragnar Vorel)