Last year, I wrote a post on places you can hold a business meeting. This year, I decided to take on a different tactic: show you the places in San Francisco you can chill out. Dreamforce is an amazing, exciting experience, packed with things to see and do. But all work and no play leaves a body drained and unfocused. You need some time for the three Rs: rest, realignment, and relaxation to prep for the next session or to fully digest the keynote you watched. Here are some downtime ideas.
I’m a believer that good food restores and regenerates you. Luckily, there is no shortage of good things to consume in the city — and not too far from the Dreamforce campus either.
The Ferry Building is exactly that: a terminal for ferry boats that transports commuters across the bay. Fortunately, it also houses a bustling marketplace full of top San Francisco merchants. Whether you’re looking to slurp some oysters at Hog Island Oyster Company, pick up a heavenly wedge of cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, or sit down for a sumptuous meal at the Slanted Door, you’ll come hungry and leave happy. We haven’t even TALKED about the wonderful farmer’s market that takes place on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday. Just go. You can’t miss it; head down Market Street towards the bay and you’ll soon see its iconic clock tower.
The Market wants to remind you that the Ferry Building isn’t the only fine purveyor of local provisions. This grocery and dining project is located on the ground floor of the Twitter Building near Civic Center. With over 22,000 square feet to work with, you’re bound to find something delicious. Try some of Taco Bar’s daily taco options, and sidle up to the Tapas Bar to sample a cheese board. Split a pizza with friends, and relax with an iced coffee. It’s a great place to sample some local favorites.
Is this the future of coffee? Cafe X is a fully automated robot cafe that serves up your favorite espresso drinks in seconds. Convenient, cashless, and fast (it makes 120 coffee drinks in an hour), this kiosk is for people who want to grab artisanal coffee on the go. Located next to the Dreamforce campus in the Metreon, it’s perfect for popping by in between sessions.
Bubble tea (or boba tea) is a sweet drink made with a variety of teas, coffees, fruits, and chewy, jelly-like tapioca balls (pearls). While readily found in many Asian neighborhoods, folks at Boba Guys have kicked their tea up a notch by creating their drinks from the highest-quality ingredients. Choose their classic milk tea, or check out something more modern like their iced matcha latte. Treat yo’self — the Boba Guys know their stuff.
Image from Foreign Cinema
After a full day of Dreamforce, you may want some time to relax, but that doesn’t always mean heading back to the hotel for some room service and TV. Check out one of our perennial favs, Foreign Cinema, where you can have dinner and a movie combined. Located in the Mission District, you can dine in an open-air patio (hello heat lamps!) and sample some of the best food in the city, all while watching a movie projected on a huge screen.
When going to an event like Dreamforce, it’s tempting to always be on the go. But it’s actually really helpful to relax and recharge your batteries during the event so you don’t get overwhelmed. Here are a few quiet places to quiet your mind.
You might think that all spas are more or less all alike, but the Spa Vitale stands out amongst other hotel spas due to its prime location. Located in the Hotel Vitale, the spa boasts rooftop soaking tubs in your own little private bamboo garden. You can soak away your stress while sipping herbal teas and munching fresh fruit — heavenly. Or treat yourself to a massage and a gorgeous view of the San Francisco Bay. I feel relaxed already.
Here’s a true respite for those looking to get out of the hustle and bustle of downtown for awhile. For a $12 day pass fee, you get access to the wonderful and historic Mechanic’ Institute Library where you can slow down, read a newspaper, leaf through books and collect your thoughts. And, if you’re a chess player, there is a chess room where folks can gather and play — although rumor has it that there are some serious hustlers that hang out there!
Japanese gardens are world renown for being tranquil spots to relax and reflect in. This garden in Golden Gate Park is no exception. Known as the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States, you can walk around on stepping stone paths, admiring native Japanese plants, koi ponds, pagodas and arched bridges. Be sure to stop at the garden’s tea house for a restorative cup and a tasty snack before you leave.
Located just across the way from the Japanese Tea Garden is its larger, more diverse counterpart: the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Stretching across 55 acres, visitors can view over 8,000 different plants from around the world. You’ll see magnificent redwood trees, spectacular magnolias, and even step back in time by experiencing plants that were around when dinosaurs roamed.
Image from Grace Cathedral
Grace Cathedral is a gathering place for visitors all over the world. You can partake in live musical performances, take a yoga class, or view beautiful artworks and tributes. But for a truly meditative visit, check out the church's labyrinths. A labyrinth is meandering walking path that allows you to conduct a walking meditation for either spiritual practice or an opportunity to calm the mind and enjoy peace, quiet and reflection.
Despite only being 49 square miles, San Francisco is packed with fun things to do. In the downtown area alone, you’ll be spoiled for choices.
Aside from the large Broadway plays and productions that run nearly every night of the week here in San Francisco, we have a vibrant local theater community. One of the largest nonprofit organizations is American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.), which puts on classical and modern productions, and is an acting school. A.C.T. operates two theaters in the city, so if you’re in the mood for a show, check out their performance calendars.
Sometimes you just want to sit with a big tub of popcorn and stare at a large screen in silence. The movie theater at Embarcadero Center isn’t your typical multiplex; you won’t catch the latest blockbuster action hit. Instead, you can watch independent and foreign films that are often overlooked. Check out the latest documentary or an acclaimed critical darling instead of waiting for it to be available for streaming online.
Image from SFMOMA.org
Instead of passing it every day while you move about the Dreamforce campus, make some time to go inside. SFMOMA houses an internationally recognized collection of modern and contemporary art. And if you’ve been there before, it’s worth it to re-visit — the museum has re-opened after a 3-year long renovation and it is stunning. Be prepared for crowds though; this is a hot ticket in town.
Visiting City Lights is any must-do for any bibliophile as it’s a legit literary landmark. As an independent bookseller and publisher, City Lights famously published Allen Ginsberg’s Howl in 1955 and propelled the Beat generation into the spotlight. Today, the store continues to be a center for literary culture, holding in-store events and by producing podcasts. Take a walk up to North Beach to visit the store and grab a slice of pizza afterward!
Various docks around the city
As you walk around San Francisco, you’ll notice that we are a bike share-friendly city, with docking stations scattered all over town. It’s the perfect way to zip around if you don’t feel like walking, and you’ll see stunning views while riding through places like the Embarcadero or Wharf areas. Be sure to check out where there are bike lanes beforehand for the safest route, and keep an eye out for buses that can’t always see you.
A favorite pastime for city-dwellers, it’s unsurprising that there are so many beautiful places to take a walk in the city. If you feel like getting some exercise AND views, try one of these walks.
Part of the colossal 500-mile San Francisco Bay Trail, this nearly 3-mile walk is a nice and easy route for most people. It passes through the Marina District and Chrissy Field, all while giving you a waterfront view. Refuel at the Warming Hut for a warm (or cold) drink for a pleasant break. At the end of your walk, you’ll be rewarded with an epic view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the bottom up.
Sure, you may have seen the Golden Gate Bridge many times in movies, or even from the vista point, but have you ever actually walked across it? This 2-mile walk is one of those ‘bucket list’ kind of tasks that everyone should experience in their life and is nothing short of spectacular. As you walk more than 200 feet above the water, look for landmarks like Alcatraz Island, Sutro Tower, and even Sather Tower in Berkeley. TIP: Take a jacket! It gets windy and cold on the bridge.
Image from The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
Lover’s Lane is the oldest footpath in the Presidio. More of a light leisurely footpath stroll, this 0.6-mile walk takes you from the Presidio Gate to the Main Post within the Presidio. If you start at the south end of the path (Presidio Gate) you’ll soon see Wood Line, Andy Goldworthy’s art installation located in the eucalyptus forest just east of the trail, running parallel. Wood Line is a path of zig-zagging eucalyptus branches and trunks, cutting through the forest floor. It creates a striking continuous flowing line through the forest scenery. Get up close and even walk on the installation; it's a literal art walk!
Lands End is a rugged bit of coastline at the northwest edge of San Francisco. The Lands End trail is moderately easy and flat, so it’s popular with people of all ages. In addition to the sweeping views, this trail has a lot of cool things to explore. For example, near the Lands End Lookout visitor center, you can inspect the Sutro Bath ruins, or the labyrinth near Mile Rock Beach. As with any coastal trail, bring a jacket!
If you’re feeling ambitious or really need to burn off some energy, try the energizing (or brutal depending on your perspective) walk up to Coit Tower via the Filbert Street Steps. Starting at the entrance on Sansome Street, climb your way up the side of the hill and don’t forget to occasionally look behind you: that’s where the views are! You’ll walk through the Grace Marchant Garden, past residential homes, and maybe even hear the infamous Telegraph Hill parrots squawking. And if your legs aren’t feeling like jelly yet, try descending the hill using the nearby Greenwich Street Steps!
Little oasis' in the middle of any city, parks and plazas are the traditional place to get away from the bustle. There is no shortage of them in San Francisco, so here are a few where you can take a minute to rest.
Union Square refers to the general shopping, hotel, and theater district in San Francisco, but the actual square is the public plaza at the district’s center. The one block plaza is surrounded by department stores, boutiques, and galleries, so it’s a prime tourist destination in the city. Take a break from Dreamforce, grab a sandwich, and picnic in the sun while people watching.
Last year I wrote a little about rooftop POPOS (privately-owned, public open space) that are beloved by San Francisco office workers. I'm almost loathed to reveal this one since it’s so charming, but I know you won’t abuse it. This roof terrace and garden is relatively small but treats you to a wonderful view of downtown. Perfect for chilling out and even better for a swanky evening party. Head up to the 11th floor and enjoy.
South Park is a small oval-shaped park in SOMA, not far from AT&T Park. One of the oldest parks in the city, it was originally intended to be an English-style strolling park. Today, the park is surrounded by charming cafes & restaurants, and tech offices. Grab a bubble tea or ice cream roll from the nearby STEEP Creamery & Tea and enjoy it here.
Image from Shutterstock
At the heart of Japantown, you can’t miss a five-tiered pagoda rising above the rooftops. This is the Peace Plaza, a good place to rest your feet or meet up with friends before you enter the shopping center to grab Japanese food. The plaza itself is minimalistic in design, with a few benches and greenery, but it really shines as a gathering place for local events.
Want to feel like a San Franciscan? Hop on BART and over to Dolores Park where all cultures and walks of life gather. Last year, the park reopened after receiving a massive renovation, and it looks better than ever. Relax on lush green lawns and admire the city skyline, play a set of tennis on the courts, or join a pickup game of soccer. Dolores Park serves a lot of different people and purposes, and is a source of pride for the city. Enjoy!