Experience the Old and the New at Mission Dolores in San Francisco
Looking for the old and the new San Francisco all in one neighborhood?
Head to the Mission and visit the Mission Dolores, the oldest intact original mission in California, and the oldest building in San Francisco—it was founded in 1776, and has witnessed the city's history all the way from the American Indians to the Gold Rush to the 1906 earthquake.
The Mission is open daily for visitors, but you’ll need to reserve weeks ahead for a docent-guided tour.
After you’re done checking out the Mission, walk to Dolores Park to experience San Francisco today: People of all shapes, sizes, ages, races, sexualities, and genders lie on one lawn, relaxing and overlooking the city. Expect music, frisbee, perhaps some circus skills, the waft of marijuana, and lots and lots of dogs.
Bring your own blanket, a six-pack of beer, and all your friends to enjoy a weekend afternoon in the sun.
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San Francisco’s Counterculture
San Francisco is a welcoming place for the odd, the offbeat, and the fabulous. Check out the historic fringe with a visit to the Beat Museum and City Lights Bookstore in North Beach. Take a tour of the Castro neighborhood with a stop at the famous theater and Harvey Milk Plaza. For the more daring, visit a leather store on Folsom Street or the smoke shops in Haight Ashbury. Say arggggghhh with fellow pirates at 826 Valencia’s pirate store and the Smuggler’s Cove bar. On any sunny day, head to Dolores Park in the Mission (shown) to watch hundreds of residents gather and enjoy tightrope walking, nude sunbathing, and hacky sack.
Since moving to San Francisco three months ago, I've gone to Dolores Park almost every weekend. The vibe there embodies what I've come to love about San Francisco. There's public drinking, yes, but people clean up after themselves, and behave pretty well to boot. But be sure to bring a sweater—when the fog rolls in, there can be sudden drops in temperature!