Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and it often brings a healthy mix of complicated feelings. Sometimes you’ve just gotta let it all out, so we asked our Instagram followers for the best places to cry in San Francisco. If you feel the waterworks coming, here are some essential public spots in SF to let the tears flow — all recommended by locals.
1. Golden Gate Bridge
Let the howling winds dry your tears, or look for porpoises in the water for a welcome distraction.
As one of the nation’s most iconic landmarks, the Golden Gate Bridge is a point of pride not just for San Franciscans, but for Americans in general. Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg recently announced that it will undergo some seismic retrofitting upgrades thanks to a $400M federal investment.
2. Pier 7
Pick a bench along the water and sob to a friendly seagull. You’ll enjoy lovely Bay Bridge views and plenty of people watching all along the Embarcadero. Go at sunset for a moody atmosphere or hit up the Exploratorium’s nearby fog bridge if you want to just disappear for a moment.
3. Ferry Building
SF’s Ferry Building has a nice big plaza to watch the boats on the water, and you can always head inside for a pick-me-up in the form of coffee, wine, or a full meal. They have a new plaza in the works where you can find fun public activities taking place.
4. Marshall’s Beach
These dramatic Bay views are a perfect backdrop for a nice big public cry. Take advantage of the photo ops to post a cryptic Instagram story. This is one of SF’s more rugged beaches, but the raw coastline only adds to the drama of these unrivaled Bay views.
5. Aquatic Park
Watch boats come and go at this peaceful park on the waterfront. For a spookier experience, read about the Gold Rush-era tombstones lining the breakwaters.
6. Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption
Pull into a pew and join others in their quiet reverence. Every self-respecting person will leave you in peace. The setting is also incredibly beautiful and calming.
Alternatively, if you could do with a laugh, keep an eye out for the “two o’clock titty” — a distinctly boob-shaped shadow that appears on the building right around 2pm.
Wave goodbye to strangers at departures. You may get a few odd looks but that will only last a couple of minutes until the next batch of travelers come along. Alternatively, look for animal reps from SFO’s friendly Wag Brigade to help cheer you up.
8. Pink bathroom at Manny’s
This nonprofit restaurant, bookshop, and gathering place is a fantastic hub of political and social activism in the Mission. In addition to music nights, trivia, and meet-and-greets, they also have a nice food selection via Farming Hope. Cry your eyes out in the bathroom and then order a coffee from a friendly face at the counter.
9. Sutro Baths
The immensely popular Land’s End Trail offers dramatic views of the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. This moderate hike will take you to the Sutro Baths, the ruins of a public swimming pool dating back to 1896. You can take a more accessible route along the Golden Gate Promenade and snap some incredible photos along the way.
10. Japanese Tea Garden
The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States. Many a San Franciscan has visited the garden, but not everyone knows its history and significance — learn all about it here.
11. Anywhere in the Presidio
Take any one of the trails or head to the beach and cry your heart out surrounded by nature. Detour to the Pet Cemetery or Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line if you really wanna feel the feels.
12. Wave Organ
The Wave Organ, created by artists Peter Richards and George Gonzalez in 1986, is an acoustic sculpture activated by the waves of the San Francisco Bay. Its haunting music comes from 25 different organ pipes placed at different levels around the sculpture, changing with the rise and fall of the tides.
13. Alamo Square
This sunny neighborhood is home to the famous Painted Ladies, which make for a lovely view to help ease the pain. Read our neighborhood guide to NoPa/Alamo Square for some inspiration for when you’re all cried out.
14. SF Public Library
SF Public Library has endless beautiful branches to try out, but some of our favorites include Ortega, which has a living roof; Bayview, which has a nice enclosed courtyard; and Bernal Heights, which has nice big tables to study (and cry) at.
After your cry sesh, consider reading our guide of things you can do with an SF Public Library card.
15. Muni or BART
There’s always a sense of detachment on rush-hour commutes, but on top of that, there’s the deafening high-pitched noise of the train that will drown out the sound of the messiest of cries.
16. Fort Point
Fort Point National Historic Site was instrumental in protecting California’s coast during the Civil War. It was created as one of California’s most formidable defenses against foreign attack, and although it never saw combat, it’s one of SF’s most fascinating lesser-known destinations. Check out their candlelight tours for a more mysterious atmosphere.
17. Strawberry Hill
This hill in the middle of Stow Lake can make for a nice secluded spot on foggy days. Come for a nice hard cry and stay for the scenery.
18. Fort Funston
This picturesque, slightly less touristy area of the city is worth a trip for beach views and exploring. Take the Great Highway trail, which starts at Fulton Street, and bike down through the park. You can stop to watch the hang gliders, loop around Lake Merced, and breathe in some fresh sea air.
19. Baker Beach
Baker Beach is an essential spot for anyone wanting to admire the Golden Gate Bridge on the edge of the water. Sit in the sand, befriend local dogs, and take in the fresh air.
20. Shakespeare Garden
The Garden of Shakespeare’s Flowers, better known as the Shakespeare Garden, is a must-see for literature lovers. This romantic garden is home to over 200 unique flowers and plants, all of which are mentioned in Shakespeare’s works. Bring the Shakespeare tragedy that most represents your struggle and settle into this pleasant place to cry in San Francisco.
Written by Jamie Ferrell and Ashlyn Davis