21 Hidden Gems in San Francisco to Discover ASAP
You live here—how much could possibly still be a secret to you in the city? Oh, you’d be surprised. There are plenty of hidden gems in San Francisco left to discover, even for locals. Better clear out your weekend now.
1. Angler’s Lodge and Casting Pools
There’s an area in Golden Gate park by the polo grounds where you can practice fly fishing in knee-deep pools. (There’s also a collection of hard tied-flies in the clubhouse that are apparently crazy to look at.)
2. Bernal Heights Slides
Also known as the Esmerelda Street Slides, these guys are tucked away at Esmeralda and Winfield Streets in Bernal Heights, and are just as fun for adults. Race your friends side-by-side (and, pro tip, wear yoga pants to make yourself more slippery.)
3. Mosaic Steps in Sea Cliff
Most people know about the incredible tiled steps on 16th Avenue, but these guys are parked out at the end of California street in Sea Cliff, and they’re just as dazzling. (They’re a great spot to hang if you’re feeling anti-social, too.)
4. Vintage ’80s Pinball Arcade
You might have been to Barcade, but in the Haight there’s Free Gold Watch, a custom screen printing shop slash design center slash arcade with 20 awesome throwback pinball machines that cost what they did in ’84.
5. Tobin House
Go to 1969 California Street, and you’ll see just half of a house. Apparently Michael H. de Young bought two plots of land in 1911, built a Gothic medieval house on one side, gave the deed to the other side to two of his daughters, and offered to join his half with a house they would build. They said, “Nah,” and today we have the Tobin House.
6. Golden Gate Park Horseshoe Pitch
Go to this area of Golden Gate Park, grab some horseshoes, and see if you get lucky. (It’s been in the park since 1922!)
7. San Francisco Bay Discovery Site
Okay, this is technically in Pacifica, but it’s at the top of a beautiful hike up Sweeney Ridge Trail, and marks the spot explorers first discovered the San Francisco Bay. How cool is that? (Plus, the views are incredible.)
8. Shipwrecks at Land’s End
San Francisco, as we know, was built on top of ships, but from the shore sometimes you can see the city’s old seafaring past. Go to Mile Rock Beach at low tide to catch a glimpse of engine parts and other machinery just above the water.
9. Ship Outline in the Embarcadero
Speaking of shipwrecks, head to the corner of Battery and Clay Streets and you can walk along the outline of the hull of the General Harrison. (Fun fact: the sidewalk is designed with copper nails collected from the hull.)
10. Gregangelo Museum
This whimsical hidden museum located in Balboa Terrace is an artsy, spacey, incredible spot, and can only be accessed by reservation. (We explored this on UpOut in the past, and trust us—you’re going to want to check it out.)
11. Mount Davidson Cross
At the top of Mount Davidson, right in a little clearing beyond the trees, sits a massive, magnificent cross that will leave you in awe. (I know I was when I first discovered it.)
12. Cayuga Playground Wood Carvings
Right between I-280 freeway and BART tracks in the Outer Mission is Cayuga Playground, where longtime gardener and local legend Demetrio Braceros developed themed gardens and arranged carved totems all around the park.
13. Sunnyside Conservatory
Not only does this Sunnyside treasure make the most adorable little wedding venue, but there’s a garden with 23 small bronze statues worth poking around to see.
14. Urbano Sundial
Over in Ingleside Terrances is a huge sundial, which was created in 1913 in honor of the Panama Canal connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
15. Presidio Pet Cemetery
It’s a pet cemetery in the Presidio, located here. It began back in the ’50s, when military families who were stationed there buried their loved animals in a designated, authorized spot.
16. Lotta’s Fountain
There it is—a hidden gem on Market Street, of all places. Go to 692 Market to discover this incredible work of art with an important place in San Francisco history—after the 1906 earthquake, it served as the meeting place for people to reunite with family.
17. The Golden Fire Hydrant
On the eve of the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fire that threatened to burn down San Francisco as we knew it, this was the little Mission fire hydrant that could (and basically saved the Mission from turning to ashes). Standing at the corner of 20th and Church, its gold color is repainted every year to commemorate the event.
18. Diego Rivera Mural
Head to the San Francisco Art Institute on Chestnut Street to check out the glorious concealed Diego Rivera mural, and marvel in wonder.
19. Presidio Spire
Tucked away in the Presidio is a marvelous piece of art—a sculpture called Spire by Andy Goldsworthy. It’s made from the trunks of 37 Monterey cypress trees, and towers at 90 feet in the air with a 15 foot diameter. Here’s where you can catch it.
20. The Vulcan Stairway
Beautifully decked-out in foliage tended to by neighbors, the Vulcan Stairway feels like a secret garden passageway. But it’s also got stunning views of the city, and might be the ideal way to head over from the Castro into the Haight. (They’re at Ord and Levant Streets, near 17th Street.)
21. Ina Coolbrith Park
If you’ve ever wondered where those photographers get spectacular shots of the city, look no further. Located at Taylor and Vallejo Streets in Russian Hill, this little park will give you some of the most beautiful panoramas of San Francisco you could imagine.