15 Best Things To Do in San Francisco’s Mission District (And Where To Eat)

The Mission District is one of San Francisco’s most trendy and hipster neighborhoods, packed with home decor shops, gift boutiques, restaurants, bars, and more. Looking for the best things to do in San Francisco’s Mission District? Trust us, there’s a lot to see and do here.

This guide will help you discover all the coolest, most picturesque, and most delicious places to explore in this vibrant local neighborhood! If you didn’t try a Mission-style burrito, did you really even go to the Mission District?

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About the Mission District, San Francisco

The Mission is one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods in the entire city with some of the best things to do to keep you busy in San Francisco. It’s packed with super trendy restaurants as well as some of the most fun and down-to-earth bars in the city.

What you’ll notice here is that there are two vibes— a historical/cultural vibe as well as a modern/happening vibe. There’s a special mix of residents and cultural influences—a pretty large Latin American community lives here (which translates to authentically delicious food) among other artists and students. The intertwining of “old” and “new” truly makes the Mission one of my favorite neighborhoods.

There are two main streets here— Valencia and Mission. Valencia Street is lined with many artisanal coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and bougie boutiques, while Mission Street is home to some of the best tacos and burritos in the United States. (You heard that right, La Taqueria won “Best Burrito in the US”). On side streets and alleyways, vibrant murals can be seen from left and right.

At night, the neighborhood is bustling with locals and visitors alike trying to have a good time. And don’t worry, the Mission is frequently visited by Bay Area natives so you can be sure you aren’t just mingling with a bunch of tourists.

The Mission has an unusual microclimate that actually works in your favor if you’re like me and really don’t enjoy wind and fog (what SF is notorious for). This means it’s often sunnier and warmer than other parts of the city, which makes for perfect Dolores Park weather! More on that below.

mission district san francisco


15 Fun Things to Do in the Mission District of San Francisco, CA

1. Get a burrito at La Taqueria

la taqueria san francisco

Looking for the best burrito in the US? Well then you’ve got to check out La Taqueria— it’s as authentic as it gets. The Carnitas Burrito here was voted the best burrito in the country, according to The Daily Meal. The interesting thing is that their burritos don’t come with rice (saving you calories here so you can spend it on dessert)! Definitely pair your burrito, taco, or quesadilla with their green salsa, made in-house. You’ll have to wait in line, but if you come during non-peak hours, the wait flies by.

2. Have a picnic at Dolores Park

dolores park san francisco

Dolores Park is one of the main landmarks in the Mission and one of the top reasons why I love the Mission so much. It’s absolutely the perfect place to grab some food, have a picnic, and sunbathe on a sunny day (not to mention the great opportunities for people watching). The best part of all, the people who come here are actually locals.

If you grab a spot higher up on the hill, you will be treated to some outstanding views of downtown San Francisco. Bring a picnic blanket, snacks/drinks, a football, and portable speakers and you’re sure to have a great time!

3. Check out the murals at Balmy Alley / Clarion Alley

mission district murals san francisco

The Mission has held a proud history of street art since the ‘80s, and is particularly known for its neighborhood murals. For the best works of art, your best bet would be to take a detour down some alleyways. Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley are two of the neighborhood’s best streets to see densely painted walls. If you’re looking to snap a few Instagram-worthy pictures, this is the place to go.

4. Take a Secret Foods Walking Tour

There’s no denying it, the Mission District is jam-packed with good eats. To experience it all, take a food walking tour!

Join the Secret Foods Walking Tour if you’re a foodie or are just hungry and want to sample what San Francisco and the Mission District have to offer. On this tour, you’ll sample six classic dishes from bakery-style cookies to San Francisco clam chowder, and learn about the neighborhood with your guide between bites.

SF CityPASS: Save 44% on San Francisco’s Muni and Cable Car rides + admission to the 4 best SF attractions.

5. Nightlife at Beauty Bar

Murals In The Mission District San Francisco - Free Things To Do In SF

As one of the centers of San Francisco nightlife, the Mission is perhaps best explored after dark. Beauty Bar is a glittery pink sensation with a Ryan Gosling-themed bathroom (seriously, if you love Ryan Gosling, you’ll love this bathroom). The easiest way to find it? Look out for that colorful in-your-face mural just outside the building.

For dive bars, head away from Valencia and roam towards Mission Street – Amnesia, The Homestead, and Knockout are all winners. If you’re looking for some low-key dancing, check out Bruno’s (appeals to a younger crowd, has 2 dance floors each with different music) and Double Dutch (smaller venue, always bustling with locals).

If you happen to be in the Mission District on a Wednesday, check out Teeth’s iconic “Wing Wednesday” for cheap beer and chicken wings!

beauty bar san francisco
Gosling and kittens at Beauty Bar, SF.

6. Go vintage/thrift shopping

For a more curated selection of clothing, Afterlife Boutique, No Shop and Wallflower carry marked-up but curated vintage pieces, while Mission Thrift and Community Thrift Store offer a large selection of inexpensive items with more of a thrift vibe.

For real, I’ve found some really nice $60 Dolce Vita sandals here for $5! You never know what treasures you’ll find in the Mission District!

7. Browse the Pirate Supply Store

Shop for a good cause! This one-of-a-kind museum/store sells a whole slew of pirate goods, including eyepatches, hooks, doubloons, messages in bottles, and more. It’s definitely a store of curiosities and the best part— all proceeds go to support the non-profit literacy charity 826 Valencia.

You can easily spend 15-20 minutes in here, enjoying all the little pirate-related details they’ve added throughout the store.

8. Play mini-golf at Urban Putt

Urban Putt is a perfect rainy day venue in the Mission District of San Francisco. This 14-hole indoor mini-golf course, nestled in a historic Victorian building, will easily brighten your day with LED motion sensors, virtual simulations, booming sound effects. It’s animatronic heaven, as it was designed by engineers, roboticists, and industrial designers. To extend your experience there, upstairs is a bar and restaurant outfitted with arcade games.

9. Stop by a hipster coffee shop or two

Valencia Street Mission District - Best Things To Do In San Francisco - TravelsWithElle

There are so many gourmet coffee shops in the Mission District. You’d be doing yourself a disservice by not stopping by at least one of them. I love the industrial/hipster vibe and decor of Four Barrel Coffee. The coffee is always perfect, made with professionalism each time. Seating is plentiful so it’s a great place to start your morning or rest in between stops during your day of exploration.

Not into coffee? Try Stonemill Matcha, serving up some of the best matcha drinks in all of SF. Definitely try the hojicha latte!

Read More: Best San Francisco Neighborhoods To Visit (And What To Do Beyond SF)

10. Eat a bunch of ice cream

Humphrey Slocombe Ice Cream San Francisco - TravelsWithElle

You must check out one of the following ice cream joints in the Mission district, or even all three! Humphry Slocombe, Mitchell’s, and Bi-Rite Ice Cream.

Humphry Slocombe carries interesting and powerful flavors such as Vietnamese Coffee, Secret Breakfast (bourbon and cornflake), and Jasmine Lychee. Bi-Rite offers popular flavors such as Salted Caramel and Snickerdoodle (my personal fave) and is conveniently located right next to Dolores Park. Last but not least, there’s Mitchell’s, carrying exotic flavors such as Ube, Macapuno, Mexican Chocolate, and Pistachio.

None of them fail to delight me and my friends whenever we go.

11. Get pastries and sandwiches at Tartine Bakery

tartine bakery san francisco

Do yourself a favor and introduce your tastebuds to what phenomenal pastries taste like. Tartine Bakery is one of the best bakeries in San Francisco in my opinion. My personal favorites include the morning bun (sweet, crispy exterior with a soft interior, with a bit of zest; I can seriously house 3 at a time if calories didn’t exist) and the banana cream tart (should be at the top of anyone’s list).

You must check it out for yourself. And be forewarned–there will likely be a line, but there’s a line for a reason. The baked goods are heavenly!

12. Grab a sandwich on a Dutch Crunch roll

dutch crunch san francisco

Sandwiches in San Francisco are great. And when I say great, I mean great. Grab a sandwich on a Dutch Crunch roll before heading to Dolores Park (Dutch Crunch = Bay Area exclusive and my all-time favorite type of sandwich bread).

Rhea’s Deli & Market or Mr. Pickles are sure bets.

13. Get cocktails at ABV or The Beehive

The Beehive Bar Mission District - Best Things To Do In San Francisco - TravelsWithElle

If you’re into classic cocktail bars, check out ABV. This is a really cool place to sit down, chat, and have a few drinks. Not to mention, they won the Best New American Bar award in the past and offer exceptional service. Try the Land’s End cocktail (rum, dry curacao, lemon, and raspberry) along with the tater tots and fish tacos.

At The Beehive, you’re going to be transported right into a retro-themed world. People come for the colorful cocktails, delicious Asian-inspired shared bites, and beautifully designed lounge. If you’re looking to cool down from a sunny day, order the Melonious Monk (mezcal and tequila, watermelon, green chartreuse, and lime).

14. Enjoy wine at Foreign Cinema

With a massive wine list (we’re talking massive, go see for yourself) and super unique architecture, this neighborhood staple remains popular among locals. The “cinema” aspect stems from the classic/contemporary films that are projected on a huge screen while you eat. Make sure to make a reservation!

Read More: 13+ Things To Do in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury

15. Take a walk through the neighborhood

There is so much to see just by walking around the Mission District. Sometimes, it’s best to not have a destination in mind so you can just roam–who knows what you’ll discover. Start on Valencia Street, check out Mission Street, and don’t forget to walk through the residential streets for some peace, quiet, and quaint architecture.

mission street san francisco
Quirky decor is everywhere in the Mission District, San Francisco!

How To Get To The Mission District, San Francisco

BART: 16th and Mission OR 24th and Mission stop

MUNI: the MUNI J train to Church and 18th Street

BUS: 12, 14, 22, or 33 buses

Transportation with CityPass: Save 44% on San Francisco’s Muni and Cable Car rides + admission to the 4 best SF attractions.


Where To Stay Near The Mission District, San Francisco

Lodging within Mission District itself is limited, but we like the following:

1906 Mission – This San Francisco bed and breakfast features a modern, environmentally conscious design. Each room is designed with the environment in mind: energy-efficient lighting, re-purposed building materials, and free organic toiletries are provided. Do note that these rooms have a shared bathroom.

Noe’s Nest Bed and Breakfast – Located in a charming Victorian house in San Francisco’s central Noe Valley neighborhood (near the Mission), Noe’s Nest Bed & Breakfast serves a generous daily buffet breakfast and offers guest rooms with free WiFi. Seriously, the rooms are so charming and the breakfast is just delightful.

Beck’s Motor Lodge – The stylish Becks Motor Lodge is in San Francisco’s Castro District neighborhood, an area with great shopping. Mission Dolores Park is about a 13-minute walk from here. All 58 rooms provide conveniences like refrigerators and coffee makers, plus free WiFi and flat-screen TVs with cable channels. Best of all, there is FREE parking–a rarity in San Francisco! (Check with the hotel, as parking is limited)

Staying in SF-proper is definitely not cheap. If you don’t mind taking public transportation, consider staying in South San Francisco, Daly City, or even Millbrae (you’ll be close to the SFO airport).


Best Time To Visit San Francisco, California

In our humble opinion, the best time to visit San Francisco is from September to November. Unlike many other places in the US, the fall season offers some of the city’s warmest and most pleasant temperatures. Unless there’s a massive heatwave in effect, summer temps usually hover in the 60’s and 70’s. The other benefit of traveling during these months is that there will be fewer crowds than in the summertime.

Spring is another good time to visit thanks to its mild temperatures and lack of rain. Summers are great too, but just expect higher than average tourism as most travelers tend to seek out sunny weather activities in the city.

If you’re just looking to avoid rain, any time from April to November is good.

Regardless of when you choose to visit San Francisco, be sure to bring plenty of layers. Similar to other California coastal cities/towns, the weather here can be so unpredictable (one minute brisk and foggy, the next minute warm and sunny). Below is a photo of a chilly, brisk, and foggy afternoon in mid-July!


Essential Travel Tips For San Francisco, California

  • If you’re driving into the city from elsewhere, be prepared for the horrendous Bay Area traffic, especially on weekdays during the morning and afternoon rush hours. The same goes for driving out of the city! Hopping onto the bridge to leave San Francisco could take almost an hour during rush hour. Plan your drives accordingly to avoid traffic.
  • Do not rent a car if you’re primarily going to stay in SF. Traffic sucks and parking is an expensive nightmare. What’s worse is that if you do rent a car, many hotels charge $35+ for overnight parking. If you’re considering street parking as an alternative, good luck because most hotels are located in metered street parking areas. San Francisco is relatively small, so most tourist attractions are close to each other and public transportation options are plentiful.
  • 511.org is a great resource that will provide you with detailed SF and Bay Area transportation information. Available both as an app and on the web, it should be your go-to resource for Bay Area traffic, transit, carpool, vanpool, and bicycling information. Since it’s catered towards commuters, it’s more comprehensive than Google Maps.
  • Dress in layers. Even in the summer, mornings and evenings in San Francisco can be cool and chilly due to the coastal climate. Packing layers when you head out to explore will help you stay prepared for any kind of weather. Of my 20+ years of living in the Bay Area, I have never gone to SF without bringing a jacket with me.
  • Wear extremely comfortable walking shoes. Even though public transportation is plentiful, San Francisco is a very walkable city and you’re going to be doing some hill climbing while you’re at it.
  • Expect fog and wind while in San Francisco, and bring layers so that when it rolls in, you’re prepared! Sure there are clear, sunny days, but that’s more common in the summer and early fall.

Additional Guidebooks

 

If you found this article helpful, read more here:

The Best Neighborhoods to Visit in San Francisco, California

17 Best Things To Do In San Francisco’s North Beach & Chinatown (And Where To Eat)

13+ Things To Do in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District

The Most Comprehensive Carry-On Packing List for Summer Travel

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