"San Francisco - My Favorie City - By Default" Top 5 Page for this destination San Francisco by Karnubawax

San Francisco Travel Guide: 9,334 reviews and 20,089 photos

Look Ma... I'm Trendy!

You're looking at one of San Francisco's trendiest new neighborhoods! It's the Divisadero Street corridor, or what some folks call the "NOPA" district... NOPA being an acronym for "North of the Panhandle." Divisadero Street is technically EAST of the Panhandle - by 2 blocks - but I guess "EAPA" doesn't cut it as a trendy name.

I've lived in this neighborhood for 14 years, and, for the first time, it's getting its own identity. Formerly, this area was sort of a no-man's-land between the Upper and Lower Haight. Divisadero Street was only notable for the fact that it had 3 gas stations, a rarity in these parts. But now, trendy upscale eateries and bars have been sprouting up at an alarming rate. One place even has valet parking. VALET PARKING!

I can't tell you anything about the new restaurants 'cuz they're not really in my price range. It's really weird... there's like this little pocket of chi-chi-ness in the gritty and grimy Haight. How long it'll last, I don't know. But I guess it could be worse... if you aren't full after your wild mushroom ragout and oyster shooters, you can just go to the Popeye's chicken right across the street!

IMPORTANT NOTE!!! The first week of September has seen an escalation in a simmering Latino gang war in the Mission District around 24th Street. So far 6 killings in two weeks. No tourists (or anyone else except gang members) have been caught up in the violence so far, but I would be very careful if you are thinking about checking out the Mission. This is perhaps the only area you are likely to visit as a tourist that is not safe (by comparison, there have been no murders this year in the northeast quadrant - the main tourist area - and there weren't any last year either).



San Francisco is many things... tourist Mecca, counter-culture capitol, bum central, yuppie Disneyland, high-tech ground zero, and the true Capitol of California. Even at it's worst, SF is still totally magical, and everyone should come here at least once.

San Francisco was founded by a bunch of Gold Diggers and Whores and some would say that things haven't changed much since : ) But, seriously, "The City" has always been the home of those seeking adventure and bucking the "rules of the herd." This anti-authoritarian streak runs very deep in the folks who live here, and no figure of authority would ever count on unquestioning obedience from a San Franciscan!

San Francisco has a certain magic that can't be easily defined. I guess the only way to talk about it is through impressions....old Jewish lawyers and punk rockers sitting at the same table in a cafe discussing politics, a pair of elderly black women walking arm in arm to the Baptist church stopping to talk to a gay couple on the street, little kids running up to a drag queen to ask her what her doggie's name is, people turning up after not seeing them for years and having it feel just like yesterday.

In a nutshell, there are few places where outside appearances are so glaring, and yet mean so little (a person's apparent age, especially, means nothing). That's the magic of The City, and it's still there, to all who can set judgment aside. It may not be as easily found, or given, as it used to be, but trust me... it's still there.

You know you?re a San Franciscan if?.

You?ve given over $5 to a homeless person, and told a homeless person to ?get a job? ? all in the same day.

You have over 3 kinds of mustard in your fridge.

You?ve canceled a night out because you knew you wouldn?t be able to find a parking space when you got home.

You?ve never ridden a cable car.

You pack a down jacket for a trip to the beach.

You know your neighbor?s dog?s name, but you?re not sure about your neighbor.

You complain about MUNI at least once a day.

You've seen former Mayor Willie Brown in the flesh (extra credit for having your picture taken with him).

You've gone to a big protest... and then decided they were all idiots.

You?ve used ?got stuck in a protest? as an excuse for being late to work.

You find yourself regularly wondering aloud if you?re ?the only sane person left in this town.?

You feel guilty throwing an aluminum can in the garbage without recycling it.

You don?t own a car (or a bike).

You are known by name in at least 3 cafes.

You've met at least one TV news anchorperson.

You pay your bills every month - despite the fact that, on paper, it should not be possible.

You make less than half of what the newscasts say it takes to survive in SF.

You've talked someone out of going to Pier 39.

You have never been to Alcatraz.

You have the SFPD?s non-emergency number on your speed-dial.

You've called the cops on hippies playing drums loudly at night.

You've actually said to someone "Dude, the Sixties are OVER!"

You've eaten one of those clam chowder/French bread bowls ? and wondered what all the fuss was about.

The only time you ever go to Fisherman?s Wharf is to actually buy some fish.

You see someone for the first time in years ? and they?ve been living just a few blocks away the whole time.

You?ve corrected somebody for giving the wrong directions.

Your political party is ?Decline To State.?

You?re tongue-tied when you have to ask questions about someone?s ?partner.?

You have to ask whether your friends? friend ?Andy? is a boy or a girl.

You regularly find yourself attracted to people who turn out to be half ? or twice ? your age.

You?re in a gay bar, and don?t even realize it.

You know people who have actually moved to New York City to save money.

* * *

The biggest single bit of info I can give you about this place that I call home is to tell you about the resurgence of downtown.

It wasn't all that long ago that visitors to the City avoided downtown and headed to places like the Mission, the Haight/Ashbury, and the Castro for their entertainment. But no longer.

The ever-swinging pendulum has swung back, and downtown is now cleaner, safer, and livelier than its been in many years. The best time to see downtown is on a weekday, when everything is in full swing, and it's particularly fun on Friday afternoon, when the worker bees race out of work and into the bars.

Where did all the bums go, you ask? Well, some of them have been shuffled to the aforementioned neighborhoods. And mid-Market Street (between 5th and 9th street) is as scummy as ever, but Newsom's 'Cash Not Care' program and the relocation assistance program has actually helped to reduce the homeless population - albeit only slightly.

BTW... I've made my "Brief, Selective, and Opinionated History of San Francisco," which used to be on this page, into 2 tips... they can be found here.

Our Mayor may be a womanizing drunk, but I believe in giving credit where credit is due. He has helped make downtown a pleasant place to eat, sight-see, and even stroll. Now I'm sure there were other folks involved, but still...

Union Square has gone from a gross homeless toilet to a very pleasant place to hang out. The shop spaces are no longer vacant, Bloomingdale's has moved in, and places like the Apple Store, Virgin Megastore, and many others entice the throngs that now crowd the streets that used to be frequented only by bums and thugs, and the dashing hordes of workers running for the safety of their office buildings.

The waterfront - once a depressing row of crumbling, rotting docks - is very nice now, with a huge farmer's market, a palm tree lined promenade, and the historic streetcars going from the Ferry Building all the way to Fisherman's Wharf.

S.F.'s Crime Problem - An Update

San Francisco has been experiencing a fairly steady increase in crime over the last few years, but it has started to level off a bit. Particularly troubling is an increase in the murder rate. But - as is the case in most cities - virtually all of these crimes are drug and/or gang-related, and occur in places you're not likely to go as a tourist. There have been a few highly publicized shootings on Market Street, but these incidents were mostly spillover from the ever-slumming Tenderloin District. Violent street crime in the downtown area east of 5th Street and Market is virtually unheard of, and the police seem to be making this area - the main tourist area - a priority. So relax.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:IT"S SAN FRANCISCO! Beautiful views, eclectic neighborhoods, amazing people, great spirit
  • Cons:Expensive, Bad Homeless Problem, Terrible Traffic
  • In a nutshell:See it for what it is... Not what it was.
  • Intro Updated Sep 6, 2008
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Reviews (87)

Comments (43)

  • Sep 12, 2010 at 9:41 AM

    The homeless people on Haight street are generally friendly, if you talk to them (even without giving them anything). It seems as if many people think that the best way to experience a city is to shut oneself off from it. What a waste

  • Dec 2, 2009 at 11:33 AM

    Frisco is endearing. Obsessive comments, articles, "insider's tips," warning against it's use is sad. A sign of the sophomoric snobbery that has taken hold in the Bay Area perhaps?

  • Oct 29, 2009 at 10:06 PM

    Locals use the word "The" in front of many district names and leave out the word "district". e.g. "The Mission", "The Sunset", Haight-Ashbury is "The Haight", the Tenderloin district is called "The Tenderloin", and the Castro district is "The Castro".

  • Jefie's Profile Photo
    Jul 24, 2009 at 12:11 PM

    A nice intro to San Francisco, thanks for the tips! I'm planning my first visit for September, so I'll probably be back to read more. Cheers!

  • Jun 23, 2009 at 8:55 AM

    CORRECTION-- We don't like "SAN FRAN" either! Its is NOT OK to use that phrase! You need to correct your own gaff. I'm a fourth generation SF native and we know never to use this annoying nickname.

  • May 21, 2009 at 10:32 AM

    um . . . get over yourselves.

  • jo104's Profile Photo
    Mar 9, 2009 at 7:10 AM

    some good new tips here Dave, I may be planning a visit in June will email u :-)

  • pvittoriano's Profile Photo
    Feb 26, 2009 at 8:32 AM

    Great San Francisco guide with lots of good tips and interesting info. Almost booked at the Adagio on Geary Street. Glad I didn't as you describe the area around it as one to avoid. May see in SF as I rsvp'ed to the VT meeting. Vic

  • Dec 5, 2008 at 6:09 PM

    Hi Dave I stayed at the Metro Hotel last sep when I was out for Folsom Fair.I love the area the hotel is is very interesting.I have a friend that lives three blocks from the Metro and just below Alamo Squrare.Would like to meet on my next visit

  • lynnehamman's Profile Photo
    Oct 20, 2008 at 5:35 AM

    Walking through Haight Ashbury, was not hard to imagine the 60's. and 70's.....its still a pretty interesting area! Great tips & pics

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