Off Beat San Francisco | The Marina District Itinerary
Looking for something a little less touristy to do in San Francisco?
I lived in San Francisco for almost three months before flying to Bali, Indonesia (where I am now). I got to know the city and discovered few ways you could spend the day exploring San Francisco without feeling like you’re getting a cookie cutter tourist experience.
I’ve got a few days planned out for you, but let’s take it slow and start with the Marina district. It’s close to attractions like Fisherman’s Wharf, so it should be easy to add this itinerary to your trip even if you’re staying in that area.
Lunch at In-N-Out Burger
Let’s make this a leisurely day and start with lunch. I headed to Fisherman’s Wharf for In-N-Out Burger.
I know, I know. I literally just said we were getting away from the tourist attractions. But I’m on a ketogenic diet right now and I knew a Double-Double protein style would make it easy to stick to the diet. Plus they’re yummy and affordable, and In-N-Out is a California institution (albeit a Southern California one).
If you like fast food burgers and shakes and you’re watching your budget, In-N-Out is a fine place to start. But, if you want something a little more “local” feeling (and I don’t blame you), Check out Eater’s list of great restaurants in The Marina for recommendations.
The Interval Museum and Café by The Long Now Foundation
When you’re done with lunch, walk to Fort Mason and have coffee, tea, or an adult beverage at The Interval, a café and library created by The Long Now Foundation.
The Interval is…. here – they can explain themselves better than I can:
Featuring a floor-to-ceiling library of the books you might need to rebuild civilization, mechanical prototypes for a clock meant to last for 10,000 years, art that continually evolves in real time, and a time-inspired menu of artisan drinks.
It seems like it was made by someone who’s equal parts aesthete, futurist, and nerd. That’s the kind of person I want to be friends with. Cozy up to the bar for a while and make friends with your neighbor. Or, quietly explore the amazing selection of books in these categories (via longnow.org):
- Long-term Thinking, Past and Future: these include books on history as well as futurism and many books by Long Now speakers.
- Rigorous Science Fiction: especially works that build richly imagined possible worlds to help us think about the future.
- The Cultural Canon: great works of literature, poetry, philosophy, religion.
- Mechanics of Civilization: “how-to” books for critical skills and technology, for example books on navigation, growing and gathering food, midwifery, forging tools.
In a world where more and more is becoming instant (messaging, feedback, gratification…) Interval encourages you to think about the far future. It’s a uniquely San Francisco place, and I highly recommend checking it out.
The Wave Organ
The Wave Organ is a pleasant 20 minute walk along the coast from Interval.
Made of carved granite and pipes that extend into the bay, the wave organ amplifies the sounds of moving water to create natural “music”.
Apparently it’s best heard at high tide, and we might have visited during low tide. We could hear gurgling water when we put our ears to some of the pipes but not exactly music. It was still pretty cool though and I’m glad we visited. Plus it’s a nice walk, you get really nice views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, and it looks neat. And where else are you going to find installation art like this?
The Palace of Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts is about a 15 minute walk from the wave organ, and you can’t miss it. Just look for the huge dome and start walking.
Although it hosts art exhibitions, we just walked around the grounds of The Palace of Fine Arts. And I stalked a swan a little. Admission is free, so if I’m in the area again I’ll definitely go inside and have a look around. But honestly just being under absolutely huge columns and domes is awe inspiring even without looking inside.
The Apothecarium Marina
Yes, I’m telling you to go to a cannabis dispensary.
Cannabis is legal in California for adults who are 21 and older. You just need a state ID (from any state). This particular dispensary felt super posh, boasting a moss wall and crystal chandelier. Just fill out a quick form, show your id, and when your info is in the system you’re invited to wait for a custom consultation on a comfy leather sofa.
With the help of our friendly consultant, we chose a tincture of 18:1 CBD to THC which was supposed to be just enough THC to compliment the relaxing and anti-inflammatory effects of the CBD, but not get you high.
They offer a range of other products to suite your particular fancy.
The whole experience was great. Way more approachable, and way less back-alley than I imagined. Even if you don’t want to get high, consider checking out a dispensary when you visit San Francisco just for the experience. When in Rome, right?
If you need to eat after this (let’s be real, if you went to the dispensary you need to eat) here are a couple of suggestions.
First option, do what I did and head back to your AirBnB and make one of my amazing microwave meals. Or, since two of the day’s 5 attractions were free and you didn’t have to pay for transportation, you could top your day off with one of those Eater suggestions and not bust the day’s budget.
Where is all this stuff?
All of these spots are within walking distance of each other, in pretty tame locations meaning you won’t have to wear your hidden money belt or clutch your pearls like aunt Sally. If you want to get a little taste of San Francisco beyond the typical tourist areas without venturing too far, this is the itinerary for you.
If you enjoyed these suggestions, share them! And stay tuned for off beat itineraries for Outer Richmond/Outer Sunset, and The Mission District.
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