Thinking about a move to San Francisco? This Bay Area city is one of the best places to live on the West Coast, and is home to Silicon Valley tech startups, one of the largest LGBTQ communities in the U.S., and iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Painted Ladies. Here are 16 things to know about living in San Francisco!
Live in the Vibrant Bay Area
While San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S., that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to live here! The median household income in San Francisco is 59% higher than the U.S. average, making it possible to cover the city’s high cost of living. You can also find more affordable neighborhoods in San Francisco—like Bernal Heights and Outer Sunset—as the city and housing market continue to grow. Plus, California residents benefit from a state income tax 59% below the national average. So while costs in the City by the Bay may seem daunting, know that it’s possible to live in San Francisco without pinching every penny!
Find Job Opportunities in Silicon Valley
Looking for a job in San Francisco? San Francisco’s status as the best city for tech jobs in the Golden State—with an unemployment rate running under both the California and national rate—makes SF a top-tier place for employment. Silicon Valley is the United States’ top startup ecosystem with 40,000 startups, making it the perfect place for networking opportunities and STEM jobs for recent graduates. As a whole, California has 1.86 million tech workers, the highest figure in the country. The Bay Area, and San Francisco specifically, is headquarters of Silicon Valley companies like Lyft, Salesforce, Twitter, and Visa.
Pursue Higher Education at San Francisco Universities
The Bay Area is home to top-rated schools only a short drive from SF, including UC Berkeley—known for its research opportunities and its award-winning engineering program—and a variety of tech schools that feed into Silicon Valley startups. There are also plenty of colleges in San Francisco itself. Attend the University of San Francisco, private Jesuit school offering more than 230 programs for undergraduate and graduate students, with strong business and finance programs. Enroll at the University of California San Francisco, which is dedicated to the health sciences and has been recognized as one of the best medical schools in the U.S. Expand your horizons with a wide range of degree options in liberal arts, business, education, film, creative writing, social sciences, and more at San Francisco State University. Cultivate creativity through a variety of artistic subjects like acting, animation, and advertising at the Academy of Art University. Find affordable and accessible education at a community college offering 50 academic programs and more than 100 occupational programs for students of all ages and backgrounds, City College of San Francisco. Or explore your passions at one of the best music schools in the U.S., the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
It’s Called “Fog City” for a Reason
With a rainy winter season, dry summers, and an average temperature between 60 and 70 degrees, the City by the Bay has a mild, coastal climate with a few weather phenomena. In addition to semi-frequent earthquakes, Northern California wildfires pose a problem for San Francisco residents during the dry summer season. But SF has another unique weather occurrence—which helped spawn one of the city’s many nicknames: Fog City. During summers in particular, when the hot inland air meets the cool ocean air, San Francisco’s coast and bay get blanketed by a thick fog that can hang around for a day or two, causing the city to feel cooler than usual and sometimes delaying flights. The fog is so well-known it was named Karl the Fog by locals, and even has its own hilarious Twitter account.
Get Around with San Francisco’s Public Transit
While living in San Francisco, you’ll have a plethora of public transportation options for commuting, traveling, or simply getting from point A to B within city limits! Top off your Clipper Card to use the Muni bus system, San Francisco Bay Ferry, or Bay Area Rapid Transit, otherwise known as the BART train. Board a classic San Francisco cable car for a unique Golden City experience. Check to see if your workplace is part of the Commuter Shuttle Program to make your journey to work that much easier. If you don’t want to wait around for the bus, the city-approved car share program is also a great way to get around quickly while living in San Francisco. If you’re a travel enthusiast, take off from the San Francisco International Airport. And perhaps best of all, SF offers residents incredible walkability and ample bike lanes and bike trails throughout the City by the Bay.
Visit Iconic San Francisco Attractions
There are tons of things to do in San Francisco, including visiting several well-known landmarks! Head over to Alamo Square to admire the colorful Victorian rowhouses known as the Painted Ladies. Visit PIER 39 for shopping, dining, live music, and to see the sunbathing sea lions in Fisherman’s Wharf. Tour the mysterious Alcatraz Island, where notorious gangster Al Capone was once imprisoned. Check out Lombard Street, the famous Russian Hill neighborhood street with steep, hairpin turns. Find your next favorite read at City Lights independent bookstore, a literary landmark that also regularly publishes poetry collections. And be sure to visit the Golden Gate Bridge, a quintessential part of the San Francisco skyline that stretches 1.7 miles across the Golden Gate strait.
Venture Outdoors in the City by the Bay
San Francisco’s mild climate makes it a hotspot for outdoor recreation in California. Contribute to the community garden, play 18 holes at the Gleneagles Golf Course, or spend a summer day at the pool in McLaren Park. Take your dog to a dog run or play on the athletic fields and courts at Mission Dolores Park. Walk through the Japanese Tea Garden, Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden, or Botanical Garden in the popular Golden Gate Park. Explore the Presidio—the massive park located at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge—with beaches, hiking and biking trails, and picnic spots. Hike up one of the highest elevations in San Francisco for postcard views at the Twin Peaks, where you can also seek out the endangered Mission Blue Butterfly! Find your way through the Lands End Heart (previously a labyrinth) and explore the shipwrecks exposed at low tide on Mile Rock Beach. Take in the views of the Marin Headlands and Golden Gate Bridge as you fish, fly kites, or picnic on Baker Beach. Experience 19 distinct ecosystems with thousands of plant and animal species in Golden Gate National Recreation Area. And don’t forget the gigantic redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument, just across the Golden Gate Bridge!
See the Nation’s Oldest, Largest Japantown
One of only three Japantowns in the U.S., Japantown San Francisco is by far the largest and the oldest. Located in the Western Addition neighborhood, this six-block community is home to several shops, restaurants, Japanese cultural events, and the Japantown Peace Plaza, which features the beautiful Peace Pagoda. Find everything from clothing, jewelry, and decor to manga and Japanese snack foods at the Japan Center Malls. Try the Hinodeya House Ramen at Hinodeya Ramen Bar. Sample the Mentai Cream Sauce Udon at Udon Mugizo. Have your pick of sashimi, nigiri, and more at An Japanese Restaurant. And don’t forget to check out some of J-Town’s events, like the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival and Nihonmachi Street Fair.
Walk through San Francisco Chinatown
Considered one of the largest and best Chinatowns in the U.S., Chinatown in San Francisco is a can’t-miss destination where diversity is celebrated through annual festivals, unique architecture, and delicious food. This San Francisco neighborhood is one of the most walkable areas in the city, and home to some of the best restaurants in the Bay Area, including Sam Wo Restaurant and Mister Jiu’s. Start at the Chinatown Gate, also known as Dragon’s Gate, and take a walking tour of Chinatown in San Francisco. Support the local community and the arts at Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco. Attend the Miss Chinatown U.S.A Pageant or purchase fresh flowers, candies, and more at the Chinese New Year Festival & Parade. Or follow the sweet smells of handmade fortune cookies in a variety of flavors—like strawberry and green tea—down to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.
Experience the World’s Gay Mecca
San Francisco is one of the top LGBTQ-friendly cities in the U.S., thanks to its large population of LGBTQ residents and storied history in the fight for LGBTQ rights. The city was the backdrop for the election of California’s first openly gay official, Harvey Milk, as well as the first issuing of a same-sex marriage license in the United States. Milk’s residence and photography shop, Castro Camera, is a San Francisco landmark for modern LGBTQ rights. San Francisco also has strong housing, public accommodations, and employment protections for the LGBTQ community through non-discrimination laws. The Pink Triangle Park and Memorial honors the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people who were persecuted during the Nazi regime, and the Rainbow Walk features plaques in the sidewalk memorializing LGBTQ figureheads. And with San Francisco Pride—one of the world’s biggest pride parades—and the ever-vibrant Castro District, it’s no wonder San Francisco has been nicknamed “the world’s gay Mecca.”
Explore San Francisco Arts & Sciences
There are plenty of San Francisco museums and theatres for education and art enthusiasts alike! Stroll around the beautiful Palace of Fine Arts campus in the Marina District before catching a concert or ballet in its theatre. Explore collections of art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the de Young Museum. Check out rotating art exhibits, purchase works from local artists, or attend Art Bash at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Buy tickets to a touring Broadway show, world premiers of off-Broadway shows, and various musicians and comedians at the Orpheum Theatre. See touring plays and operas at the former vaudeville house, The Golden Gate Theatre. Head down to Pier 15 to learn about science in the Sun Painting, Shadow Box, and Echo Tube exhibits at a public learning laboratory in San Francisco, Exploratorium. Admire the rare and endangered plants or book your next event at the Conservatory of Flowers. Or get hands-on science enrichment for kids with field trips, after-school programs, summer programs, and more at Mission Science Workshop.
Find Family-Friendly Activities in San Francisco
Looking for great things to do with your family in San Francisco? The City by the Bay offers plenty of fun for families of all ages! See giraffes, penguins, otters, and more at the San Francisco Zoo, with exhibits like Hearst Grizzly Gulch and Lipman Family Lemur Forest. Learn the process of animated movie-making and the history of the man who founded Disney at the Walt Disney Family Museum. Ride the carousel and sign the kids up for hands-on activities in the Animation Studio or Making Music Studio at the Children’s Creativity Museum. Discover a variety of Northern California aquatic life at the Discover the Bay exhibit, or walk the tunnels in the Under the Bay gallery at the Aquarium of the Bay. Sign the kids up for art classes at Sharon Art Studio and play on what is thought to be the first playground in the country at Koret Children’s Quarter. Feel the rush of flying over popular San Francisco attractions, take on the escape rooms, or play around with VR on PIER 39 at The Flyer – San Francisco. Take a trip to Musée Mécanique to view collections of coin-operated mechanical musical instruments and antique arcade artifacts, and play with over 300 machines in working condition. Or participate in free community activities during Sunday Streets SF, an event where the city shuts down six miles’ worth of streets in historic neighborhoods to support local businesses!
Cheer On SF’s Professional Sports Teams
The Golden City has several professional sports teams, so sports fans have plenty of options for entertainment! Make your way to Oracle Park in South Beach to watch a San Francisco Giants (MLB) game. Head to Chase Stadium to see the Golden State Warriors (NBA) tear up the court. Support the first gay and inclusive rugby club on the West Coast, the San Francisco Fog, who play at Crocker Amazon Fields. Buy tickets to a San Francisco 49ers (NFL) game in Levi’s Stadium. Take a short trip to Oakland and see the Oakland Athletics (MLB) play at RingCentral Coliseum. For some professional soccer, hop on a train to check out the San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) at Paypal Park. Or if you’re a hockey fan, travel to San Jose for a San Jose Sharks (NHL) match in the SAP Center.
Dine in a Foodie City
If you’re looking for one of the best cities for food, San Francisco is the place for you! Head to a cozy bistro for al fresco brunch and delicious Pain de Mie French Toast and Croque Monsieur at Zazie. Or head over to Surisan in North Beach for a Korean take on brunch, including dishes like Bulgogi Bap, Boosted Jook, and Kimchi Fried Rice. Satisfy your meat cravings with Smokey Garlic Pulled Pork, Black Pepper Baby Back Ribs, or Char-Roasted Tri Tip at Buckhorn Grill. Order German favorites like Leberkase, Gemischter Salat, and Currywurst mit Pommes at Suppenkuche in Hayes Valley. Try some classic seafood in San Francisco like Shrimp & Chips, Baja Fish Tacos, and Fried Calamari at The Codmother Fish & Chips in Fisherman’s Wharf. Dig into a plate of Spicy Shrimp and Grits, Chicken + Waffle, or Dr. Pepper Braised Short Ribs at Cajun restaurant, The Front Porch. Or savor locally-sourced ingredients in dishes like Totopos con Chile or Tostada de Ceviche Rojo at organic Mexican kitchen, Nopalito.
Get to Know the Local Brews
Interested in seeking out some of the best breweries in San Francisco? Taste why Anchor Brewing has been in business since 1896, with flavors like the Liberty Ale or the Tropical Hazy IPA. Sample a Cloud Cover Hazy IPA or Dominga Mimosa Sour paired with a gastropub menu at Magnolia Brewing. Order a Cologne Style Kolsch or an Apricot Wheat at Seven Stills—or try one of their craft beer-distilled whiskeys! Visit San Francisco Brewing Co. for a glass of the Polk Street Pale Ale, Alcatraz Amber Ale, or LA Mission Mexican Lager. Pick up a home-brewing kit to try your hand at creating your own beers, or grab a beer made from local ingredients at Barebottle Brew Co. Sample the Nectar of Life Kolsch or the Saazy & I Know It Bohemian Pilsner in the dog-friendly open space at Black Hammer Brewing. Sip on the Animal Tropical IPA or Westfalia Nuremberg Inspired Red Ale at Fort Point Beer Co.‘s Embarcadero taproom in the restored Ferry Building.
Experience San Francisco Nightlife
Whether you’re in the mood for dancing or finding the hottest speakeasies in town, San Francisco offers tons of nightlife fun! Head over to a sports bar in SoMa to find more than 40 rotating beers on tap and some of the biggest games of the year on TV at BuzzWorks. Try the Golden Gate Gimlet, Jack-Hatton, or Union Square Mudslide cocktail at an inspired San Francisco bar, Sam’s Cable Car Lounge. Look for the iconic neon sign and sample drinks from guest bartenders at 500 Club. Take a trip downstairs and dance to hip-hop and top 40 hits in the Main Room, or get down to House and EDM in the Bonaparte Room, at Hawthorn San Francisco. Enjoy craft drinks, plush couches, and Battle of the Decades events at intimate clubbing spot Monroe. Pick out a cigar from the humidor and settle in for some whiskey at The Occidental Cigar Club in the Financial District. Make your way to Union Square to find the hidden Benjamin Cooper cocktail bar, offering handcrafted drinks and fresh oysters. Or if you’re looking for the best drag shows in San Francisco, show up early to get drinks and good seats at OASIS in SoMa!
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