8 Reasons to Play Tourist in San Francisco’s Ocean Beach
Sometimes we get so caught up in wanting to travel that we forget about the local gems located minutes from our front doors. Take Ocean Beach, for example — it is less than 30 minutes from central Marin and is a gorgeous, moody 3.5-mile stretch of uninterrupted beach with lots of eating and drinking options nearby. It’s a sublime place for a long, leisurely walk, with points of interest like the Sutro Baths and Lands End Lookout and easy access to Golden Gate Park at the northwest end (the kids will love the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden — it blooms in March, but still a lovely diversion — and the Dutch Windmill). Even though you are in San Francisco, you feel like you have been transported to a faraway beach town with quaint surfer-filled cafes, notable coffee shops and restaurants with nostalgic seafood offerings that will take you right back to your own childhood. So plan a beach walk, a visit to the zoo or a museum and enjoy life as a tourist right in your own backyard. What says summer more than that?
1000 Great Highway
Housed in a historical landmark that was once an Army headquarters, this eatery serves the type of beachy standbys we all love — clam chowder, crab, oysters and lobster rolls, plus handcrafted lagers and ales made in-house. Ask for a table upstairs for a sea view or downstairs at Park Chalet for a light-filled experience and the option of outdoor seating.
4541 Irving Street
This neighborhood bookstore has a thoughtfully curated selection of books and is the ideal place to stop for a coffee before heading out on a beach walk. Or if the little ones need a rest post-stroll, the charming outdoor area off the back offers a sweet respite.
4035 Judah Street
A wonderfully chic find in this low-key neighborhood, the General Store stocks a high-end selection of apparel, jewelry, kids’ items and home goods. One visit to the store and you’ll be hooked (check out the online apparel offerings, too) — it’s the place to get that one item no one else has.
4542 Irving Street
Technically in the Outer Sunset neighborhood and minutes from Ocean Beach, this familiar favorite serves the same SoCal-inspired menu of fish tacos, chips and guac, and ceviche as the Mill Valley location. Equally as charming and equally as delicious.
100 34th Avenue
We never need a reason to visit this iconic museum, and we have to admit, it pairs perfectly with a beach walk and seaside lunch. While there are a handful of ongoing exhibitions over the summer, The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England and Botticelli Drawings are two highlights.
734 La Playa Street
Whether or not you are a teetotaler, this nonalcoholic cafe, bar and bottle shop is a must-visit. Try the vegan avocado wrap, a cup of locally roasted coffee or one of the deliciously complex mocktails (the cafe also offers mixology classes). Top tip: inquire about the booze-free speakeasy in the cafe and you will likely get a tour. So fun!
4001 Judah Street
Open for brunch Friday to Sunday and dinner Wednesday to Sunday, the locally sourced, organic menu items are upscale comfort food at its best. We love the cozy dining room with its wood-paneled walls and inviting bar. Try the Elderflower Spritz and trout toast; you will not regret it.
Sloat Boulevard at The Great Highway
You can always find a good excuse to go to the zoo, but the Summer Wildlife Weekends are an excellent reason to make the trip right now. Starting this month, the zoo will host an outdoor music and bar event on Friday evenings — the ideal cap to a lazy day of wandering around the beach.