Golden Gate park is huge, diverse, but can be overwhelming. Stop by here on a sunny day and you won’t just find a lot of people attending a clothing-optional sunbathing party, but documentary film-makers, amateur circus performers, brown-bagging computer programmers, families, Castro-dwellers, and most prevalently hipsters. Yes, hipsters. With their picnic blankets, champagne glasses, and nonchalant use of Mary Jane, hipsters have taken over Dolores Park. The diversity adds to it’s charm, it’s worth the walk from BART.
2. Mitchell’s Ice Cream
I may be addicted to sugary deliciousness, which would explain why this ice cream place is so high on my list. When I was first asking around about The Mission, I got a lot of tips from friends and strangers alike to visit this neighborhood ice cream shop. When I finally went, I got four scoops of oddly delicious flavors like salted caramel, espresso toffee crunch.. it was all such a blur of deliciousness. Go there.
3. 826 Valencia
If you like pirates and your inner child is in desperate need of attention, this little oasis in The Mission is your new destination. You can explore the many drawers, pick through the old fashioned locks, and even drop a mop on an unsuspecting visitor. This place even has an aquarium-theater. Yes theater. With seats, and curtains, and entertaining literature all over the walls. Even better? The pirate shop at 826 Valencia is just a front for a tutoring center to help local kids with their homework.
4. Paxton Gate
If you are looking for a boutique full of wondiferous oddities, this is the place. You’ll stumble upon venus fly traps, stuffed animals, bugs from around the world, animal bones, and objects that I can’t quite describe. They also have a fantastic collection of locally-made soaps and books about things you didn’t know you were interested in. Like tree houses around the world and different planty factoids. It’s such a synergy of mad scientist, world explorer, and fairy tale, that it’s impossible not to find something that sparks your imagination.
This one’s a little tricky. Sub-Mission is an art venue connected to restaurant where some truly splendid things happen. It’s a key place for local bands making their start to perform as well as a fantastic place for slightly off-beat artists to show their work. Check the events and go in at the beginning. You will soon find yourself swimming in an encampment of gypsy-esque visitors toting wonderfully bizarre hairdos and flailing wildly about. Buy yourself a drink.. or three. It will certainly be worth it to observe at least once in your lifetime.
This informally named phenomenon occurs every Wednesday night around 10 p.m. I would recommend you bring your own booze and perhaps scribble a few words that may or may not rhyme. You may witness lyrical genius or belligerent homeless man passing through wanting to say a few words. Some people like to just spout obscenities until their time is up, but it is an equal opportunity poetry experience.
7. Good Vibrations
This is a sex shop. A good one. Hilariously across the street from the local police department, Good Vibrations has all of your sex toy needs. The staff is extremely helpful, and for the record, will not kick you out for giggling at the merchandise. They have quite a full selection of dildos, vibrators, and what experts would call a ‘tame’ amount of S&M equipment. I found it interesting that they sell vegan condoms. Those actually exist? Yes.
Benders is a bar. A pretty decent bar. Complete with a bouncer and, amazingly, a fry cook. Yes they sell fresh french fried ON LOCATION. I went with a friend on a night a band was playing and a dude was doing a promotional event for a drink similar to Jagermeister. I spun the wheel an will forever have a promotional tank top advertising the drink. It was endlessly fun, a little loud, but a great crowd and good service. Also fun graffiti in the bathroom stalls.
9. Dog-Eared Books
If you like books, this place is a treasure trove of local authors and history. They have a very accessible way of locating books, and a very friendly staff. I could browse for hours, but I may just be a book worm.
10. The Golden Fire Hydrant that COULD
So this little guy is solely responsible for saving an entire block of houses after the big Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. It’s a small feature, but holds sentimental value for those living in the area. It is ceremoniously repainted every year on the anniversary of the quake. Sitting on the top of Dolores Park, this little guy is definitely worth a look.