I love San Francisco. I left my heart there for the first time back in 2004 when I visited on vacation from Massachusetts with my family at 8 years old. Back then, digital cameras were primitive (not to mention EXPENSIVE!) and an iPhone with an Instagram app was still a star in a sky… Now that I live in California I love visiting the city whenever I can, and taking advantage of the beautiful photo opportunities!
If you don’t want to wait half an hour in line to take your pic at any of the major SF tourist traps, check out these unique spots which are off the beaten path. My very favorite parts of SF to photograph are ones that allow you to explore deeper into the local culture. Here are some of my favorite hidden insta-worthy gems in San Francisco.
16th Avenue Tiled Steps
The mosaic steps in San Francisco are a unique sight. Located on Moraga street nestled between 15th and 16th avenue and right below Grand View Park, this 163 step staircase is a local artist made creation which climbs upward through the Golden Gate neighborhood from the sea to the stars.
The project started in 2003 and was completed in 2005. Neighborhood residents Jessie Audette and Alice Yee Xavier started the project in an effort to connect the community and beautify Golden Gate heights.
Artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher collaborated in the artistic elements of the design of the many mosaic panels. Neighbors sponsored and also contributed to creating the panels, with three separate mosaic workshops held so that community members could participate.
While you’re enjoying the beauty of the art and taking your next fire Instagram pic with your favorite section of the steps (which is hard to pick, because it’s all so gorgeous) remember to make sure that you’re respectful to the people around you and be conscious that the steps are located in a residential neighborhood. Also be aware that the area is a high risk area for car break ins, so hide your valuables and make sure that you lock your car.
Billy Goat Hill
San Francisco has over 220 parks and open spaces. Everyone knows about Golden Gate Park and Grandview Park, but Billy Goat Hill boasts views of the city which also can’t be matched. Sometimes there’s a swing and sometimes there’s not because it gets cut down occasionally.
The park is connected to the Walter Haas playground, and in the Summer of 2016 the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department officially opened a trail and stairs which made it easier to trek through the path where one would have had to previously fight through brush to reach. It’s located in the Diamond Heights neighborhood and is perched on the rim of Noe Valley, where the panorama of the city makes a great backdrop for your next artsy skyline pic with or without the swing.
Rainbow coffee is what made Home Cafe famous. This vanilla flavored “birthday cake” latte is as equally aesthetically pleasing as it is yummy tasting. Home Cafe makes other amazingly creative drinks too such as the Nutella latte and the Cookie Monster latte, if you’re over the unicorn drink trend of 2017. Home also sell food… I’ve heard their avocado toast is almost as impressive as the birthday cake latte’s spectrum color scheme.
Home Cafe has two locations in the city. The original is located in the Outer Sunset on 1222 Noriega (near 19th Avenue) and the newer location is at 2018 Clement St in the Outer Richmond district.
I first went to the Sunset location and fell in love with the atmosphere of creativity in their shop. I visited their Outer Richmond location more recently and it was just as fun. The co-owners and couple Annie Cheng and In Ho say that their business’ success is built on their love for each other and passion for coffee. How romantic.
The Japanese Tea Garden
Nestled into Golden Gate Park, the Japanese Tea Garden is tranquil paradise of nature in the heart of the city. It’s the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States. Here, you can snap photos of classic cultural elements such as an arched drum bridge, pagodas, stone lanterns, stepping stone paths, native Japanese plants, serene koi ponds and a full sized zen garden. In the Spring when the cherry blossom trees are in full bloom, the sights are out of this world.
Those are only a few of my favorite SF spots off the beaten path, and I’m looking forward to writing more about my love of San Francisco. If you have any more suggestions of places for exploring or any comments, let me know!
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