San Francisco’s Mission District is one of the oldest and most famous neighborhoods in the city, with strong Latino roots and an eclectic hipster vibe. Whether you’re a tourist looking to maximize your time there, or a local seeking some new activities, this list of things to do in the Mission will help inspire you to make the most of your day. Be sure to scroll to the bottom for an interactive map marking each and every spot mentioned.
1-4. Breakfast and coffee in the Mission
Start your day with a nice cup o’ joe and pastry from one of the Mission’s most popular breakfast spots. Locals have sworn by Tartine for years, and NY Times food columnist Mark Bittman once named it his favorite bakery in the US.
Rise & Grind is great for delicious waffles and coffee, and Ritual Coffee is a popular spot specializing in west coast style coffee.
If it’s eggs and bacon you seek, Plain Jane has you covered with some seriously indulgent brunch options and mimosas.
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5-9. Mission District shopping
After you’ve fueled up, it’s time to take a stroll down Valencia Street. One of our favorite stores is Paxton Gate, which is worth a visit even if you’re just window shopping. This eccentric store collects “treasures and oddities inspired by the garden and natural sciences.” That may include things as benign as gardening coffee table books – but it also includes skulls, bones, skeletons, fossils, crystals, minerals, and glass taxidermy eyes.
If you’re a bookworm, make your rounds at some tried-and-true bookstores that have been around for decades. Borderlands offers a wide collection of fantasy, horror, science fiction and mystery. Dog-Eared Books specializes in small press and local literature, and they have a healthy secondhand selection. Speaking of secondhand – Buffalo Exchange is a must for thrifters.
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Another favorite spot is Arcana over on Mission Street. This stunning plant store opened in May 2021 as a “shared living room” for the community. Not only does it have a gorgeous thriving plant selection and gardening materials for sale, but it also serves as a wine bar, restaurant and tea shop with big sofas to lounge on among the greenery. Keep an eye out for their monthly live music events.
10-18. Mission District lunch spots
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s probably time to try one of the neighborhood’s famous Mission burritos, which are absolutely massive and stuffed to perfection with rice, beans, your selection of protein, and unlimited toppings. El Faro has staked its claim as the originator of the famous burrito, as has La Cumbre. Hot tip – if you find yourself out and about with late-night burrito cravings, El Farolito and Taqueria Cancun keep their kitchens open past midnight most days.
This is the Mission of course, and there’s fantastic Mexican food everywhere you look. If you want a sit-down meal, Loló serves epic margaritas and cocktails; as does Gracias Madre, which is totally plant-based.El Techo has a fantastic rooftop deck and a variety of Latin American street food.
If you start craving a snack later in the afternoon, try Bi-Rite Creamery for gourmet ice cream with unique flavors like balsamic strawberry and cannoli. Or sip on a delicious boba drink from Boba Guys.
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19-24. Mission District public art and activities
The Mission is known for having some of the city’s most iconic public art and murals, and you’d be remiss not to explore these creations. Balmy Alley is said to be the most concentrated collection of murals in San Francisco, housing a dynamic collection of political murals that date back to the 1980s. It inspired the nearby Clarion Alley Mural Project, which showcases works promoting “social inclusiveness and aesthetic variety.” You’ll find plenty of other public art adorning the rest of the neighborhood, such as these parking posts painted to look like realistic pencils.
If you’re visiting the Mission with a group of friends or family, let loose with an afternoon of mini golf or bowling. Urban Putt is a restaurant-turned-mini golf course where you can putt your heart out after 4pm on weekdays and 12pm on weekends. The high-tech, 14-hole course is littered with SF landmarks including the Painted Ladies and the TransAmerica building. And if you’re more of a bowler, Mission Bowling Club is a great option that also serves food and drinks.
Of course, you can’t go wrong with an afternoon spent at SF’s famous Mission Dolores Park. This popular, 16-acre green space hosts countless festivals, concerts, and other events. But it’s also the city’s favorite spot for people watching, catching up with friends, and enjoying amazing views.
25-28. Dinner spots in the Mission
Still hungry? Not to worry, we’re on it!
Lazy Bear is the number 1 most highly-rated restaurant in the city according to Google reviews, and boasts two Michelin stars. It’s known for communal eating, although the business model has been slightly modified since the pandemic. In any case, the modern American cuisine here changes regularly with the seasons and truly never disappoints.
Fans of Thai food will love Farmhouse Kitchen, if not for its exciting, creative dishes, then for its beautiful restaurant. They offer a variety of options ranging from street food to noodle soup.
You can’t beat the al-fresco dining at Foreign Cinema, whose romantic outdoor patio is adorned with string lights and a large screen to project films. Enjoy delicacies like oysters, creative salads and entrees made from sustainable ingredients. Pair with quality champagne, wine, and cocktail options.
Everyone likes pizza, and Flour + Water makes some of the best Neapolitan-style pizza in the city with delicious, airy dough and a charred crust. They bring in unique new toppings every season, such as sun gold tomatoes and sweet ricotta.
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29-35. Mission District bars
It’s been a long day, and the time has come for a well-deserved drink! Beer lovers will want to trek north to Standard Deviant Brewing, with popular options including the Wrong Nelsons Pale Ale, Hazy IPA Brah, and the Nitro Cream Ale. They also feature great rotating food trucks, are very active in the LGBTQ+ community, and have adorable brewery dogs who are free to pet! Another great spot is Southern Pacific Brewing for its outdoor/indoor high-ceilinged warehouse space. They create delicious craft beers with a unique in-house 15-barrel system; plus fun cocktails and bar food.
If it’s cocktails you’re craving, pay a visit to the award-winning award-winning Trick Dog. The menu is somewhere between a children’s book and an ancient manuscript, with drinks inspired by divinity, creative expression, rationality, and hedonism. You’ll also love The Beehive, a ’60s-inspired cocktail bar with the funkiest cocktails in the biz.
Wine lovers can’t go wrong with 20 Spot, which offers a worldly selection of red, white, and sparkling wine alongside a lovely food menu including charcuterie boards, pizzas, oysters, and more. They don’t take reservations, so be sure to get there early! Another option is the cozy Etcetera Wine Bar, which has great tapas, and of course Arcana, the plant shop-turned-wine bar we mentioned earlier.
Cheers to a great day in the Mission!
Featured image: Photo by Dan Dennis on Unsplash