A Local’s Guide to the New Hotels, Restaurants, and Cultural Events in San Francisco

Get a peek at what’s new in San Francisco, from increasingly diverse restaurants to a slew of free entertainment.

Crowd of people in front of a stage

Exciting concerts are just the beginning of what’s in store for San Francisco in 2024.

Photo courtesy of Outside Lands

Those of us born and raised in San Francisco have long appreciated its colorful Victorian houses (especially the Painted Ladies) and fresh sourdough and Dungeness crabs at Fisherman’s Wharf. Recently, though, budding neighborhoods like the waterfront’s Mission Rock and Downtown’s East Cut and new restaurants showcasing international cuisines offer more to appreciate about the city as it grows and becomes more diverse. And spring and summer transform the city’s spaces into center stages for free festivals and concerts, bringing locals and new residents together.

Here are some of the most exciting recent openings, things to do, and happenings in San Francisco in 2024.

Hotel room with furniture in neutral tones, including large curved sofa, plus large windows

The Jay is in San Francisco’s Jackson Square neighborhood.

Courtesy of Jay Hotel

New hotels offering a luxurious stay

Walking distance to Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf is the Jay, San Francisco’s newest luxury hotel. It opened at the end of 2023 downtown, showcasing 360 contemporary rooms as well as the Third Floor, a restaurant and lounge by award-winning Omakase Group. Come for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and expect seasonal dishes like coconut pork belly and seared black cod with cauliflower couscous.

Union Square’s the Beacon Grand, formerly known as the historic Sir Francis Drake, reopened its doors in the spring of 2022 after a renovation and redesign of all public spaces and 418 rooms. The hotel, which first opened in 1928, kept its grand staircase, chandeliers, and marble floors in the lobby, while the rooms were refreshed with oak hardwood floors, white bathrooms with brass fixtures, and a jewel-toned color scheme. One of the buzziest additions? A completely reimagined Starlite Room—currently one of the hottest new nightlife spots downtown—on the 21st floor of the hotel.

On the Embarcadero waterfront is the 1 Hotel San Francisco. This 2022 property features redwood reclaimed from the old Bay Bridge; living walls and leafy native plants that seem to burst from every nook and cranny, and furnishings made of salvaged driftwood. This luxury property offers a wellness spa with soaking tubs on the rooftop terrace and a restaurant focused on organic and sustainably sourced ingredients, like its mushroom “Caesar” salad that uses local chicories.

People sitting in a dark room with candlelit tables

Aphotic, one of San Francisco’s newest restaurants, means “without light” in Greek.

Photo by John Troxwell

Plan your trip around these restaurants

One of Time’s most influential people of 2024, chef Dominique Crenn opened Petit Crenn in 2015 as a follow up to her three Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn in the Hayes Valley neighborhood. Petit Crenn closed in July 2020 as a result of the pandemic, but reopened in pop-up format in 2023. The restaurant will be permanently closing due to the end of a lease, so book a reservation online before it closes in September. The beloved restaurant pays homage to the cooking of her mother and grandmother, offering a primarily seafood and vegetable-centric menu.

Another must-try for lovers of seafood is one-Michelin-starred Aphotic, which opened in the spring of 2023 in the SoMa neighborhood. Aphotic focuses on traceability—everything served at the restaurant can be 100 percent traced down to the time and harvest of the seafood, according to chef and owner Peter Hemsley. The dramatic, black-walled restaurant provides a 10-course tasting menu format full of surprises, like its steamed crab head bun and signature oyster ice cream.

For a memorable tasting menu, book an online reservation at chef Mike Lanham’s Anomaly, which opened as a pop-up in 2018. Its Lower Pacific Heights site opened in January 2023, sending diners on an 11-course journey centered on modernist cuisine. Take the fennel soup with coconut lime snow that’s made with a dry ice mixture: Once the ice hits the hot soup, a thick cloud vapor travels outward, giving a phenomenal juxtaposition of temperatures when eaten. Plus, the open kitchen lets you watch the chefs put together each intricate dish.

Kiln made a splash when it opened in May 2023 with its 18–20 course tasting menu that’s inspired by French, Japanese, and Scandinavian cooking styles and purity of flavor. The seasonal menu uses techniques that chef John Wesley picked up throughout his career around the globe. With each course, diners are presented one ingredient, prepared in two or three ways. For example, its lamb course is a creamy hay custard with lamb shank and mushrooms, a celeriac cracker with lamb fat, and a croquette of lamb rib.

Another hot reservation to snag is at Four Kings, the Chinatown brick and mortar by chefs Franky Ho and Mike Long (both formerly of Michelin-starred Mister Jiu’s) that opened in March 2024. Named after the Four Heavenly Kings of Cantopop, its modern Cantonese menu includes spaghetti infused with mapo tofu seasonings, Chinese sausage and bacon clay pot rice, and XO snails. Vintage posters of Hong Kong pop culture in the ’90s and 2000s, vinyl albums from the team’s personal collections, and a bustling open kitchen contribute to the restaurant’s lively atmosphere.

Copra, meanwhile, is an elegant restaurant—think floor-to-ceiling shelves showcasing artisanal pottery and hand-woven chandeliers—showcasing South Indian flavors through dishes like its black cod, which is encrusted in a shallot coating before being wrapped in banana leaves and cooked on cast iron.

Fusion restaurant Dalida also opened to much acclaim when it launched last summer in the Presidio area. With a menu that combines Eastern Mediterranean cuisine with influences from Latin America and California, its dishes include lamb shoulder tandoori and pork cheek souvlaki.

People walking in a field in front of a concert stage with a sign that says "Outside Lands"

Outside Lands is a three-day festival in San Francisco celebrating food and music.

Courtesy of Ouside Lands

Cultural events that you can’t miss

Head to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in the SoMa neighborhood to see the vibrant Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Love exhibit, which features her famous immersive mirror rooms. For those who haven’t been: Get ready for kaleidoscopic colors, inflatable forms that span from floor to ceiling, and psychedelic installations. Despite the Kusama exhibit’s closure May 28, one of the infinity mirror rooms will remain open until January 2025.

Another new, popular exhibit at the SFMOMA is the Art of Noise, a multi-sensory showcase focused on the art of music and sound recording over the past century. Don’t miss out on listening experiences like the immersive audio installation by Brooklyn-based artist Devon Turnbull—his custom-built speakers are a functional sculpture that allows for extremely high-fidelity music playback.

For the fashionistas, the fine arts–centric de Young Museum’s fashion exhibition that opened in January, Fashioning San Francisco: A Century of Style, showcases pieces by over 50 fashion designers drawn from the Fine Art Museums’ permanent collections. It even offers a fun augmented reality experience for you to “try on” these over-the-top dresses, which include a 1955 “Soirée de Paris” dress by Yves Saint Laurent, a 1985 lamé outfit by San Francisco designer Kaisik Wong, and a 1987 velvet gown by Valentino.

Broadway hit Wicked is coming back to anchor the 2024 fall season from August 28 to October 13, 2024, at the Orpheum Theatre. It will be followed by the return of award-winning musical and national sensation, Hamilton, from November 27 to January 5, 2025.

Festivals worth braving the crowds

Of course, heavy hitters like the free Stern Grove are returning to the music festival scene. This year marks its 87th rendition, kicking off with Canadian indie pop duo Tegan and Sara in June and including its first annual end of the season fundraiser, which will feature legendary Chaka Khan. Founded in 1938, the city’s oldest music festival hosts over 90,000 attendees each year with the mission of making live musical experiences accessible to all. Tickets are released one month before showtime, so subscribe to its newsletter to get alerts.

Outside Lands—the most well-known festival in San Francisco—is back for its 16th year this August with headliners Tyler, The Creator, The Killers, and Sturgill Simpson. Known as the world’s “only gourmet music festival,” its food and drink lineup is as newsworthy as the music. Last year, the Taste of the Bay Area showcased 96 restaurants featuring more than 700 unique menu items throughout the three-day music fest.

The city is hosting plenty of free, ongoing concert series (with many happening in Golden Gate Park), including Illuminate Live, which will feature over 100 free performances throughout the year ranging from reggae artist Irie Dole to eclectic multi-genre artist Ariel Marin Band. Another big one is SF Live—the city’s newest series that kicks off June 1. The inaugural series will offer six months of arts and culture through a variety of performances. The beloved Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is also returning at the end of the summer to the city’s biggest park.

Organized by the promoters behind Coachella and local company Non Plus Ultra, the Portola Music Festival is back for its third year this September at Pier 80 with a stacked lineup of the top DJs and music producers in the electronic music industry. Headliners include Rufus Du Sol, Justice, Disclosure, and M.I.A.for two days of this adults only (21+) music fest.

Chelsea Davis is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco whose passion revolves around exploring the world, immersing herself in foreign cultures, and of course, eating and drinking everything delicious.
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