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Something different in San Francisco

San Francisco has always had a reputation for being alternative and avant-garde, and while some of its rougher edges have lately been sanded off by the booming tech industry, there’s still plenty to see and do that’s off the typical tourist track. From vibrant cultural festivals to bouldering adventures, street art to surfing, here’s how to live it up on your next trip, San Francisco style.

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San Francisco festivals

Given that San Francisco is known both for its diversity and its enthusiasm for the arts, it should hardly come as a surprise that the city offers up a wide-ranging roster of festivals throughout the year. From Carnaval and Chinese New Year to the San Francisco International Arts Festival and the Fillmore Jazz Festival, plan your trip around the city’s popular annual events. 

The best festivals in San Francisco

Natural beauty boutiques

San Francisco is a city that prizes all things organic, artisanal, and locally made, and that philosophy extends to its beauty boutiques, too. Scoop up good-for-you souvenirs at shops like 100% Pure (where you can find everything from all-natural peppermint deodorants to mushroom eye creams) and Acacia (where you can score body products from the fragrance- and synthetics-free Heliotrope line).

Bay Area beauty: San Francisco’s best natural products

Street Art

Silicon Valley’s tech scene may be changing San Francisco’s reputation as a beacon of alternative living, but there are still many signs of its avant-garde identity to be found around town. The city’s vibrant murals and graffiti are one of the most visible indications. From the psychedelic street art along Haight-Ashbury to the Mission District’s colourful walls, see San Francisco’s arty side — beyond its museums.

Travelling with teenagers: cool places in San Francisco

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Bay Area bouldering

When you’re visiting a city with as much natural beauty as San Francisco, it only makes sense to spend a few hours outdoors. Beyond the beach strolls and hill walks, sporty types will want to check out the city’s rock climbing and bouldering facilities. Follow climbing groups to local landmarks like Indian Rock in Berkeley and Stinson Beach in Marin County, or spruce up your skills at one of the city’s indoor climbing centres. 

Alternative San Francisco sporting events

Surfing schools

Speaking of spending time in the great outdoors: there are few better San Francisco souvenirs to come home with than a newly acquired set of surfing skills. Even if you’ve never before attempted to hang ten, a number of local surf schools make it their mission to get beginners comfortable in the waves.

Top San Francisco surfing schools

Live music in San Francisco

Given that San Francisco has produced a number of world-famous bands, it’s only fitting that it has world-class live music venues, too. Like the Fillmore, which dates to 1912 and which has hosted concerts by the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and other local legends. Or the Warfield, which began life as a vaudeville theatre in 1922 and once held a speakeasy run by none other than Al Capone. In San Francisco, the music venues are as characterful as the bands that play them.

Image credits: 

Natural Beauty © 100% Pure

All other imagery © iStock