Tips to Avoid the Tourist Track
Hi there! I’m a female backpacker from San Francisco. I’ve been to some amazing places, but my favorite place in the world will forever be my hometown, San Francisco.
I created this blog for people who are thinking about traveling to San Francisco, but who want to go beyond the Tourist Track. You know… Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, riding a cable car. Sure, those things are fun, but you can read all about them in any guidebook. What I want to tell you about is the stuff that us locals do. San Francisco’s culture goes deep, and by only visiting the typical tourist sites, you risk selling your trip short. There is a hidden side of San Francisco, a secret, naughty, gritty side. Locals know this, but tourists seem painfully unaware of it.
Well, I’m tired of tourists visiting my city and then leaving with an impression that barely scratches the surface. I’m here to show you that secret side of San Francisco. I want to tell you the about best gay clubs that AREN’T in the Castro. I want you to check out our Naked Bike Ride or naked yoga classes. I want you to party till the sun comes up at an underground rave. I think you should spend a day at Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park, which has the perfect mix of hippies and homeless people – sometimes you can’t tell which is which, but it makes for some great people watching. I want you to know that Fisherman’s Wharf is the worst place to eat dinner in the entire city –you’ll eat better seafood for half the price in almost any other neighborhood.
When I travel, I am big on traveling through the back door. If you have ever heard of Rick Steves, you know exactly what I’m talking about. He coined the term, but I can’t think of a more perfect way to describe my style of travel, so I am going to use the same phrase to describe my own travels. Rick writes mostly about Europe, so I’m going to cover one of the places he left out – San Francisco!
When I travel I look, talk, and act like a local. I hang out with locals more than I hang out with other travelers. Wherever I go, I find out as fast as possible where the locals hang out – then I start hanging out there, too.
I don’t just travel to tick off experiences on my checklist of places to go (although, yes, I do have a checklist). I travel to integrate myself with each culture and to understand it as best I can. Not only is this a much more meaningful way to travel, but it is WAY more fun. Also, I am pretty broke, and traveling through the back door allows me to do way more in each country with my limited budget.
Here is a random example of what traveling through the back door means to me: When I was in Italy, I only had a few days to kill and I really wanted to meet some locals. So when I walked past a bar and saw two friendly-looking men sitting outside, I walked over to say hi. They were drinking what looked like limoncello – an Italian liquor that I had heard was delicious and had been meaning to try. Now, my Italian consisted of about seven phrases that I had memorized from my guidebook the night before, but I still gave it a shot:
Me: Buon giorno! (Good morning!)
Italians: Buon giorno.
Me: (pointing to the bright yellow drink) Es limoncello?
Me: (making a thumbs up sign) Es buono? (Is good?)
Italians: Si, molto buono! (Yes, very good!)
Me: Ok, I get one!
I proceeded to buy myself a limoncello and hang out with the guys on the patio for a couple hours. Turns out their English was better than my Italian, so we were able to talk about all kinds of things. They told me a bunch of cool stuff to do in the area.
So if you’re looking for some fancy hotel and restaurant recommendations in San Francisco, I can’t help you. You should probably just stick to that Lonely Planet book. But if you’re looking to discover the real San Francisco, the one that locals see every day but tourists usually miss… well then, this blog is for you.