Lately, it seems as if the news headlines from San Francisco have been negative, from the city’s homelessness crisis and highly publicized recall elections to the area’s astronomical cost-of-living and worsening fire seasons.
But San Francisco is still San Francisco. The fog still rolls in from the Pacific to blanket the city’s jumbled hills, the sunset still flames crimson behind the Golden Gate Bridge and the smell of salt and eucalyptus still hits the moment you step outside of San Francisco International Airport. Always a city for lovers of the outdoors, pandemic restrictions led to the near-universal embrace of an indoor-outdoor city life. And at its core, the city’s spirit, a heady brew of creativity, progressivism and experimentation, remains unbreakable.
San Francisco’s pandemic recovery has been slower than other major metropolitan areas in the United States; according to data from the San Francisco Travel Association, forecasts for 2022 estimate 80% of 2019’s visitor volume. While the downtown and Union Square neighborhoods remain quieter than pre-pandemic times, the city’s singular neighborhoods, from the Mission to Russian Hill and the Outer Sunset, are vibrant with packed restaurants and bars, and many boast of new parks and in-person events. San Francisco no longer imposes a mask mandate, but some businesses will require or request masks; masks are recommended but not required on MUNI and BART, the city’s public transportation systems. Many indoor events, including concerts and theater productions, require proof of vaccination to enter.
New Parks and Slow Streets
San Francisco’s wealth of green spaces has increased thanks to a trio of new parks, including the Presidio Tunnel Tops, 14 acres of new national park land hugging the city’s north coast that opened this month. Boasting panoramic views of the Bay, the park was designed by the same group behind New York’s High Line and is home to a changing roster of food trucks, art installations and performances. For more views, check out Francisco Park in the city’s Russian Hill neighborhood, which opened in April on the site of San Francisco’s first reservoir. In the southeastern Mission Bay neighborhood, largely protected from the city’s frequent westerly winds, Crane Cove Park has become a warm, sunny destination for stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking and lounging since it opened in 2020.
In addition to new parks, San Francisco has become more walkable and bikeable with the pandemic-driven development of the Slow Streets program, which limits or prohibits car traffic on streets throughout the city. Destination-worthy ones include the Great Highway, which runs alongside Ocean Beach on the city’s western shore (it’s currently closed to car traffic on weekends and often, on windy days) and JFK Promenade in Golden Gate Park, which could be made permanently car-free in November. The 1-1/2-mile stretch of JFK takes you past destinations such as the Conservatory of Flowers and the Rose Garden, plus the Skatin’ Place, where you will often find a rocking roller disco.
A Return to In-Person Music Events
Golden Gate Park is also playing host to a number of major in-person events this year, including Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, a free, three-day music festival being held Sept. 30 to Oct. 2. This year’s lineup will feature Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Buddy Miller, with more artists to be announced soon. The Outside Lands Music Festival is taking place Aug. 5-7 with artists including Green Day, Post Malone and Lil Uzi Vert (single-day tickets from $195; three-day passes from $409). Find even more music in the Sunset District at the Stern Grove Festival, now in its 85th year. The series of free weekly concerts, happening on Sundays through Aug. 14, has acts ranging from the San Francisco Symphony to Phil Lesh.
The Portola Music Festival (single-day tickets from $200, two-day passes from $400), a new music festival coming to San Francisco from the team behind Coachella, takes place on Sept. 24-25 at Pier 80, and will showcase electronic acts including Flume, James Blake, The Avalanches and M.I.A.--nyt