San Francisco’s Mission District

The warm, sunny Mission District—with Dolores Park and Mission Dolores as its cultural and physical center—is historically a Latino neighborhood (and before that, Irish). Now bodegas and taquerias sit cheek by jowl with carefully crafted cuisine and locally designed fashion.

90 Clarion Alley, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
Walk down this narrow alley connecting Valencia and Mission Streets and you’ll be surrounded by dozens of colorful murals by local artists depicting environmental and social justice, artistic freedom, and community collaboration. Funded by the nonprofit Intersection for the Arts, more than 700 murals have been painted in this vibrant display of public art since CAMP began in 1992. In a city known for its rising rents and gentrification—and especially in the Mission neighborhood at its epicenter—Clarion Alley is a sight worth visiting.
50 Balmy St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
The colorful murals in Balmy Alley are the lower Mission’s own version of the better-known Clarion Alley murals. Stroll through the small, pedestrian-friendly alleyway to see public work by local artists, a tradition that began in the mid-1980s in response to human rights and political abuses in Central America. Today, you can see murals depicting scenes from human rights abuse to local gentrification to natural disasters. Want to learn more? Take a tour with Precita Eyes Muralists.
Dolores St &, 19th St, San Francisco, CA 94114, USA
Mission Dolores Park, aka Delores Park, is one of the most popular parks in San Francisco, especially when the sun is out and the mercury is up. On a sunny weekend, you’ll be hard pressed to find a patch of green to plant yourself on, but that’s what makes Dolores Park so much fun. Yes there is a playground for kids, and basketball and tennis courts, too. But the real sport here is people watching. You’ll hear music booming between dog barks; people toss footballs, tightrope walk, and fling their Frisbees. Bodies slathered in oil glisten in the sun; ice cream melts down the arms of laughing children; the whiff of cut grass (and other questionable varieties) linger in the air. The abundant restaurants and markets in the area make make it easy to pack a picnic and fuel your day out. All you need to do is bring a blanket, plop down on a hill where the views reach to downtown, and chill out San Francisco-style. FYI: Dolores Park is named for Miguel Hidalgo, a priest in Dolores, Mexico who urged his countrymen to overthrow their Spanish rulers in 1810, sparking Mexico’s battle for independence.
3543 18th St #8, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
Founded in 1971 as the first women-owned and operated community center in the country, the San Francisco Women’s Centers has been working to guarantee a safe space and reliable social services for women and girls in the city. And since 1979, they’ve done it from the Women’s Building—or El Edificio de Mujeres—in the Mission, a women-led community space advocating self-determination, gender equality and social justice. Through education, cultural arts activities, and economic services (all available in both English and Spanish), the Women’s Building helps more than 20,000 low-income women and their families every year. Looking to take part? Visit the website to see their list of events, rental spaces and equipment, and volunteer opportunities.
3674 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
18 Reasons is a new type of community center—one that connects San Franciscans to food and food to community. The goal is to they teach San Franciscans how to cook and eat together. Run by the locally famous Bi-Rite organization in the heart of the city’s food scene between Valencia and Guerrero, they offer classes like Carving a Turkey and Making Jam, as well as host community dinners that they call Soup for Supper. Join locals at the 18 Reasons Community Center for a class or Soup for Supper—$5 gets you a gourmet bowl of soup, fresh bread, and connection to the foodie community.
2234 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
You could walk right by this incredibly popular restaurant on Mission Street and not even be able to tell what it was, thanks to the misleading “Lung Shan Restaurant” sign out front. What will tip you off? The incredibly long lines of San Francisco’s foodiest hipsters waiting to get inside the dive-y restaurant and eat Sichuan-laced, inventive Chinese dishes like sour chili chicken and kung pao pastrami. Mission Chinese has two branches—the second is in New York City—but the San Francisco location is what turned the young chef Danny Bowien into a household name. Mission Chinese has eat in, take out, and delivery; no reservations or parties of more than eight. They’re open from 11:30 am to 3 pm and 5 to 10:30 pm Thursdays to Tuesdays.
974 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
Stop by Loló’s new and improved location on Valencia street for a colorful atmosphere, delicious mezcal cocktails, and a creative Jaliscan-Californian cuisine. Owned by a husband and wife restaurateur duo from Jalisco, the western Pacific district of Mexico, Loló is open for dinner and brunch, highlighting traditional Mexican flavors with fresh Californian ingredients. Order several of the smaller plates—try the panko avocado tacos or the huitlacoche and requeson, stuffed wonton ravioli—and share. Reservations available. Loló is open Mondays through Thursdays from 6 pm to midnight and Fridays through Sundays from 11:30 am to 5 pm and 6 pm to 1 am. Sunday brunch is available from 11 am to 4 pm.
740 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
When you think of a chocolate factory, a hip and airy space in the heart of one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods may not spring to mind. But therein lies the surprise that is Dandelion Chocolate: part factory, part café, part boutique, and located in the heart of the Mission. Like beans for coffee and grapes for wine, Dandelion brings the idea of single-origin sourcing to each bar it creates. Rather than add strange ingredients to alter the flavor of the chocolate, Dandelion uses just two ingredients—cocoa beans and sugar—which allows each bean’s unique flavor and terroir to shine. Drop in for hot chocolate (with handmade marshmallows) or a chocolate dessert created by Dandelion’s pastry chef, shop for gifts, and take a twirl through the factory, where beans are roasted, cracked, sorted, winnowed, ground, and tempered before being molded. Each bar is wrapped by hand in gorgeous paper and ribbon and affixed with a label that tells a story about the cocoa bean’s origin. For a deeper dive into chocolate, Dandelion has a schedule of classes for adults and kids, and even leads trips to cocoa farms.
746 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
You might have caught wind of some recent buzz about this contemporary patisserie with its unveiling of the haute dog, Craftsman and Wolves Chef William Werner’s upscale version of the classic American food (think better meat and a flaky, buttery croissant instead of a bun). Or perhaps you’ve heard people talking about a Mission bakery that served a savory muffin with a soft-cooked egg inside of it (it’s call the Rebel Within). Whatever the reason, head to Craftsman and Wolves for a changing menu of classic and innovative breakfast pastries, cakes, confections, confitures, desserts, lunch, and savory fare, with coffee, tea, hot chocolate, beer, and wine to wash it down. Craftsman and Wolves is open Mondays through Thursdays from 7 am to 7 pm, Fridays from 7 am to 8 pm, Saturdays from 8 am to 8 pm, and Sundays from 8 am to 7 pm. Can’t make it to Mission? Stop by the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market on Saturdays from 8 am to 2 pm or order through their online shop.
3394 22nd St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
If someone described the Lone Palm bar as something out of Miami Vice, they wouldn’t be entirely wrong—the neon signs, dim lighting, and white tablecloths in an otherwise casual, somewhat dive-y bar give off a certain Vice-esque vibe. Stop by the Lone Palm for a drink at the very beginning or the very end of your night—it fills up quickly. Attentive bartenders and oft-refilled bar snacks like Goldfish also make it a good spot for a post-work Happy Hour. Lone Palm is open every day from 4 pm to 2 am.
3121 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA
Dalva itself is a wonderful stop for a drink—try the El Diablo, with tequila, lemon, ginger, cassis, and soda—but keep walking through the comfortable, dimly-lit bar and you’ll find something even better: the Hideout, Dalva’s under-the-radar back room for aficionados to sip on their cocktails, made by team of skilled bartender from a small but excellent spirit selection. Try the gin and celery tonic—old tom gin, lemon, and house-made celery bitters—and cheers to the poster of Farrah Fawcett on the wall. Happy hour is from 4 to 7 pm every day; you won’t find better $4 drinks in San Francisco. Dalva and the Hideout are open from 4 pm to 2 am seven days a week.
2900 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
While Heath Ceramics is over 60 years old, having been founded in 1948 in Sausalito, their colorful bud vases, dinnerware and tiles have enjoyed a boom in recent years. Straddling the line between a rough, hand-crafted aesthetic and an elegant, understated quality, their pieces are hard to miss in the pages of design magazines as well as at the homes of some of your most tasteful friends. The new retail location on 18th Street includes a workshop alongside a café serving Blue Bottle coffee. There is also a smaller location in the Ferry Building.

2406 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115, USA
Opened in 2005 by husband and wife duo Annie and Craig Stoll, Pizzeria Delfina’s original Mission location became an instant hit in San Francisco. The pizzeria is an annex to Delfina restaurant, their first James Beard Award–winning venture, and the small space quickly fills up—and spills onto the sidewalk—with customers looking to try their Neapolitan-inspired pizzas. In 2008, Delfina opened a second location in Pacific Heights; today, you can eat their thin crust and fresh ingredients as far south as Burlingame and Palo Alto. The original Mission Delfina is open seven days a week: Mondays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Tuesdays through Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturdays from noon to 11 p.m.; and Sundays from noon to 10 p.m.
826 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
Yep, you read that right: There is a Pirate Supply Store in the heart of the Mission! In their words: “We are a ragtag group of miscreants who sell pirate supplies in order to benefit the free programming that happens at our writing-tutoring center at 826 Valencia, and in classrooms all over San Francisco.” Cofounded by author David Eggers, the non-profit organization 826 Valencia (which is their address, not coincidentally) teaches writing to teachers and students all over the Bay Area. Chapters of 826 have also been founded in seven other cities around the country. The Pirate Supply Store—if you’re still baffled by this, they do indeed sell pirate supplies like hooks and eyepatches—is just one part of the 826 network, with other chapters having similarly quirky stores, such as Brooklyn’s Superhero Supply Co., Los Angeles’ Time Travel Mart, or Washington, D.C.’s Museum of Unnatural History. The Pirate Supply Store is open every day from noon to 6 p.m.
824 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
Stepping into Paxton Gate is like entering a wonderland. What began as a small store in an alley off Market Street in 1992 has since grown into their location on Valencia Street, a mecca for those interested in the oddities of the natural world. The stock of gardening merchandise, taxidermy (all sourced ethically), antique and vintage furniture, jewelry, books, and home décor would take hours to go through, and you’re more than welcome to stay as long as you like. Have kids with you or looking to buy a present for one? Visit Paxton Gate’s Curiosities for Kids down the block, where they believe that fun for children doesn’t have to involve a screen. And if you’re looking for designers and craftsmen for an indoor or outdoor space, look no further than Paxton Gate Design/Build, which has worked on residential and commercial spaces around San Francisco including Flour + Water, Central Kitchen & Salumeria, and the Third Rail. Paxton Gate is open Sundays through Wednesdays from 11 am to 7 pm and Thursdays through Fridays from 11 am to 8 pm.
199 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA
If you’re looking for a quiet place to have a drink, don’t go to Zeitgeist. If you’re looking to have an early night, don’t go to Zeitgeist. If you’re looking for an incredibly wide selection of beers on tap, gruff but knowledgeable bartenders, good bar food, and an outdoor biergarten filled with picnic tables and young locals—then you should definitely go to Zeitgeist. The place can get pretty crowded, so be sure to follow proper protocol at the bar if you want to get served: order your beer by its corresponding number (it’s all clear on the menu) and remember that this place is cash only. Feeling hungry? Get the cheeseburger and home fries. Zeitgeist is open daily from 9 am to 2 am. .
791 Valencia St
This long and narrow vintage clothing store is set deep in the heart of the Mission district’s best shopping, along Valencia Street; luckily, Schauplatz lives up to the block’s reputation. The stock is better-organized than most vintage stores—all the clothing is parsed out by size, style, fabric, and color—which means you won’t have to go digging through mountains of used clothes to find the perfect 80s prom dress, Pucci-esque printed shirt, or still-in-perfect-condition leather jacket. There’s a reason SF Weekly once named it the best vintage clothing store in San Francisco. Schauplatz is open from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Monday.
3266 21st St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
Stop by Gravel & Gold in the Mission and you’ll find not only vintage goods from around the world, but also handmade and sustainably produced homeware, specialty food products, books, clothing, and jewelry made in and around San Francisco. Be sure to check out the shop’s made-and-designed-in-house line of clothing and bags, Gravel & Gold Goods; their “Boob Top” is a particular bestseller. Check their website for in-store events like homebrewing workshops, and stop by every Wednesday to pick up a share for nearby Eatwell Farm’s CSA. Gravel & Gold is open Monday to Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
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