5×5: The Bay Area

All the best hangouts, in all the best cities, from the locals who know… 

Northern California has always been one of my favorites places to visit. I sometimes catch myself daydreaming about living there one day, ever present in its lush nature and laid-back lifestyle. From the easy access to the Redwood Forest, Big Sur, the neighboring states of Washington and Oregon, there is no way you can not enjoy yourself in San Francisco, aka The Bay. Most of us associate the area with the Golden Gate Bridge, so we thought it only fitting to ask some of our favorite locals to dive deeper into the gold that The Bay has to offer. Read on to see why they call this place home…

Lana Bear: Free People Sr. Store Manager for the Bay Area


Andytown Coffee Roasters — 3655 Lawton St & Newly 3629 Taraval St 

This is our neighborhood coffee spot (and personally my favorite roaster in the city!) We even gave bags of their coffee away at our wedding last year. Their Wind and Sea roast is supreme but the way to go if you’re stopping in for a drink is the Snowy Plover: espresso over sparkling water, brown sugar simple syrup, milk of your choice and homemade whipped cream. Grab one and walk to Ocean Beach!

Judah St in the Outer Sunset — (AKA my neighborhood!)

We live in the Outer Sunset — the totally laid-back surf vibes neighborhood. This stretch of Judah has everything you could want: Judahlicious (raw vegan café), Other Avenues (neighborhood co-op), Outerlands (one of the best restaurants in the city!) Celias (family-owned Mexican Restaurant we frequent weekly), Judah St. Clinic (holistic chiropractor), Trouble Coffee (google the NPR podcast about this spot!), General Store (everyone’s favorite insta op) & Case for Making (rad curated craft shop). 1 block away on Irving is the best surf shop in the city — Mollusk!

Golden Gate Park — Urban park consisting of 1,017 acres

Did you know GGP is actually bigger than Central Park? Home to museums, botanical gardens, a Japanese teahouse, lakes, bison, dog parks (where we take our pups!) and TWO huge musical festivals that take place each year?! Outside Lands is the best kept festival secret — we can ride our bikes over for the day, and Karl (the fog) is like a natural smoke machine. Hardly Strictly is a FREE bluegrass and folk music festival every year in October!

 20th Century Café — 198 Gough Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

The most quaint Russian café in one of my favorite neighborhoods (besides the Sunset), Hayes Valley. Pierogies along with several other lunch specialties are top notch, but the REAL treat is the Krasinki Torte AKA HONEY CAKE!

 West Coast Craft — Fort Mason Center 

This is a biannually curated craft fair — no hokey pokey crafts in sight! It’s free, open to the public and pulls together the best of the best makers and doers to showcase their latest work (for purchase!) I never walk away empty-handed.

Rika Laser: Free People Visual Manager in Training 


Conservatory of Flowers — 100 John F Kennedy Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118

One of the most profound architectural structures in the city—a total beauty inside and out. The conservatory is a must-see for any plant enthusiast or botanist in training looking for some inspiration. Exotic flowers and ceiling high palms fill the interior, and an indoor lily pad pond is home to several species of rare, colorful butterflies. 

Wallflower — 1176 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

My favorite vintage boutique in the city. This is where I first laid eyes on my 70’s suede Penny Lane coat—how we ever lived 40 years without each other is a total mystery. Wallflower boasts an amazing collection of dead-stock 70’s serigraphs, macrame decor, suede skirts, boho dresses, kaftans and kimonos. Also noteworthy is the jewelry from local makers in the Bay Area, as well as a consistent supply of modern brands such as Sugarhigh Lovestoned. This shop spins vinyl all day, a great place to bop while you shop.

Tantrum — 248 Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

Yes, Tantrum is a children’s store. But it also sells playful, retro inspired gifts for all ages including prints, pins, patches, stationary and the cutest party supplies you could ever imagine. It is truly sunshine and rainbows inside this shop. Some of my favorite vintage kitchenware and home decor were found here. On my last visit, I left with a pair of 90’s inspired cherry hair pins, a watermelon necklace, and a set of all-seeing-eye temporary tattoos. The icing on top of the cake—the owners gave me a free set of clip-on pom pom’s for my roller skates!

101 Music — 1414 Grant Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94133

Organized chaos is the best way I can describe 101 Music in North Beach. Upon entering, you’ll find amps, record players, and miscellaneous retro music equipment stacked to the ceiling! Downstairs is a maze-like room packed with records, so many that it requires treasure hunting through crates on all sides of the room. This place has the old charm of an eccentric, bohemian San Francisco. Best part—you can still buy an LP for $5!

Phoenix Hotel — 601 Eddy Street, San Francisco, CA 94109

An afternoon at the Phoenix feels like a mini trip to Palm Springs. The hotel itself is a cute, pale blue, mid-century design decorated by renowned Bay Area muralists such as Zio Ziegler. It’s worth keeping up with their events calendar, as the Phoenix hosts many cool art shows, and books amazing musicians to play sunny afternoon pool parties.

Haley Rott: Free People Palo Alto Store Manager


Afterlife Boutique  988 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA, 94110

There are dozens of boutiques on Valencia Street, but Afterlife is by far my favorite. From perfectly worn-in vintage band tees to jewelry created by local artists, Afterlife provides an amazingly curated selection of treasures. I’ve yet to find another store in the city that rivals its collection!

Case For Making — 4037 Judah Street, San Francisco, CA, 94122 

As an artist myself, I’m constantly on the hunt for new materials to create with — I often have to look no further than Case For Making! Nestled on the outskirts of the Outer Sunset, this tiny art store houses a collection of beautiful art supplies, most of them handmade or locally sourced. In addition, they also hold a variety of workshops and classes designed for artists across the entire skill spectrum. Whether you’re a well-practiced, professional painter or simply an art enthusiast, Case For Making has a little something for everyone! 

Clarion Alley — Located on Valencia Street between 17th and 18th Street

Located in the heart of the Mission neighborhood, Clarion Alley is home to a multitude of iconic murals reflecting the dynamic and diverse community of San Francisco. The murals, commissioned by the nonprofit Clarion Alley Mural Project, depict a variety of subjects and themes ranging from colorfully abstract to boldly, politically conscious. The murals are ever-changing, so each trip is a new experience!

Picaro — 3120 16th Street, San Francisco, CA, 94103

Whether it’s for happy hour or a friend’s birthday, Picaro is a go-to for me.  Another gem of the mission district, this Spanish-inspired tapas restaurant – the first of its kind in San Francisco provides a fun yet relaxed environment for its patrons. Although nothing I’ve tried has ever let me down, the sangria patatas bravas, and paella are some of my favorites. The bold décor, friendly service, and prime location are all just added bonuses to the great food!

Devil’s Teeth Baking Company — 3876 Noriega Street, San Francisco, CA, 94122

Located just three blocks from the beach, Devil’s Teeth is the perfect place to start your morning. They not only have a mural by one of my favorite San Francisco artists, Zio Zeigler, painted right outside their doors, but they’re also home to one of the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve ever had. Be prepared to stand in a bit of a line, but trust me – it’s worth it!

Dani Banta:  Social Media/Marketing Operations for The2Bandits and CAMP Collection


Green Apple Books & Music — 1231 9th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94122

I used to work down the street from Green Apple, and it was a must-see for all the visitors that passed through. This store was established in 1967, and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year! They supply both new and used books, magazines, journals, LPs, cards, gifts, and much more. It’s easy to spend hours in this store, because there are literally books from floor to ceiling, everywhere you look. Every genre you could possibly think of is represented in some corner of this store. Green Apple Books is a staple in the Richmond neighborhood, and a huge part of the SF community.

Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing Co. —  2505 3rd Street (@ 22ND), San Francisco, CA 94107

Beer, BBQ, and whiskey. What more could you ask for? This bar/restaurant/brewery is located in the Dogpatch, which is known for its industrial style buildings and deceptively large establishments. Smokestack is no exception. When you walk in, the ambiance immediately takes you back in time to the industrial past of this part of the city. There is a market style BBQ joint on one side, paired with a beer hall/whiskey bar on the other. Outside is a huge communal area with a roll-up door that makes you feel like you’re hanging out with all of your friends in their garage. Great beers, amazing BBQ, and a seriously Instagram-worthy vibe make this place a must.

Land’s End — 680 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121 

Land’s End has been my favorite place since I moved to SF. I visited once and knew that I had to live near this park, and am now lucky enough to reside in walking distance to this beautiful coastal trail. Located on the northwest corner of SF, and filled with cypress trees, plunging cliffs, and breathtaking views of the California coastline, the trail begins with views of the coastline, and around a few corners, The Golden Gate Bridge becomes visible in all of its glory. There is also a secret path that takes you down to a hidden labyrinth, that was constructed by a local artist. Vandals destroyed this labyrinth in 2015, but the artist and over 50 volunteers came together to rebuild the landmark.

AT&T Park — 24 Willie Mays Plaza,  San Francisco, CA 94107

During baseball season, AT&T park becomes my home away from home. As a huge Giants fan, I am lucky to call this my field. The baseball field overlooks the San Francisco Bay, with an incredible view of The Bay Bridge behind the outfield. Known as one of the best parks in the MLB, AT&T park is a must-see when in SF. Go Giants!

The Fillmore — 1805 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94115

One of my favorite places to see a show. Just walking through its doors makes you feel as though you are amongst the greats of music. There is so much history at The Fillmore, and saying that The Poster Room proves it is an understatement. Every inch of the bar/restaurant upstairs, along with the balcony room across the hall, are lined with posters of  sold out shows from decades prior — iconic “Fillmore Posters” of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix. These posters were originally used to advertise shows, but now each attendee is handed a poster as he/she heads out the door. 

Pearl Martin-Eagle: Photographer & Stylist at Free People Walnut Creek


Cactus Jungle –1509 4th St, Berkeley, CA 94710

…Talk about a succulent sanctuary! This nursery is packed full of all the cacti, large and small, that you could dream of. They also carry a large variety of air plants and cute gardening supplies as well. I love walking through there, wishing I could take home all the huge cacti, but of course end up leaving with just a few small succulents.

Neighborhood — Jingletown 

 I am so lucky to live in this gem of a neighborhood! It’s an arts community in between the Island of Alameda and Fruitvale. The streets are filled with colorful mirrored mosaics, murals, sculptural street art, old cars, and tons of plants… a photographer’s dream! Watching the sunset over the water on the boardwalk by the Park Street Bridge to Alameda never disappoints. And last but not least, Jingletown has its own local coffee shop, Kefa Coffee, that I frequent for the best chai, smoothie and breakfast sandwiches! 

Souley Vegan — 301 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607

Vegan, Lousiana-style soul food?! Dream come true! Don’t get me wrong, I love my dairy products, but this restaurant is one of my favorites in Oakland! Southern fried tofu, vegan mac and cheese, collard greens… Need I say more?

Café Van Kleef  — 1621 Telegraph Ave, Oakland

Located in downtown Oakland, a couple of blocks from the Fox Theater is the perfect pre-show stop! They cart in boxes of fresh, sweet grapefruits to make fresh squeezed greyhounds. This small, dark dive bar is packed full of quirky, funky art and trinkets. I always discover something new every time I go!

The Alameda Flea Market –2900 Navy Way (at Main Street), Alameda, CA 94501

This amazing flea market is held the first Sunday of every month, and offers everything from vintage clothing, vinyl, crystals and minerals, vintage furniture as well as locally crafted furniture, and all the rugs you could ever want! I typically try to get there early to avoid the crowds. It’s located right on the water with amazing bay views. Also, Faction Brewing is in the next lot over, so you can try some local craft beer after shopping!

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The Bay Area is definitely an area where I’ll be hitting up when I go to the US. Especially the Cactus Jungle. Because cacti.

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

4 years ago

Wow all of these spots look so cool! I am a little ol’ Massachusetts who is constantly dreaming of SoCo, but now I’m conflicted! Maybe I should be dreaming of Northern California!
Thanks for opening my eyes!

4 years ago

SO cool! <3

4 years ago

This is amazing!!

4 years ago

So lovely, I love the Bay area, been meaning to go back!



4 years ago

Didn’t really represent Northern Cali… if you really want the NorCal vibes, travel from sf straight up the coast.