Mastering a plan for summer solstice in San Francisco
Between the sparkling bay, hilly streets, and varied complement of restaurants, San Francisco prompts visitors to leave their hearts all year long. Thanks to fog in summer, however, June, July, and August in this city usually represent the most temperate time of year. That means the summer solstice is often a great time to explore San Francisco without having to worry about sweating in the blazing sun. This year's solstice is on June 21. Here are our suggestions for what to do with the occasion's 14 hours, 46 minutes, and 52 seconds of daylight.
Crissy Field: If it's a clear morning, you can glimpse the sunrise on summer solstice at Crissy Field in the Presidio. This green expanse stretches along the northern waterfront and offers spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay. There are plenty of recreational activities there, too. Walk by the restored marsh and make sure you find a spot where you can see the Golden Gate Bridge—it will glow bright orange as the sun emerges over the East Bay hills.
Ferry Plaza farmers’ market: One of the best farmers’ markets in the nation, this weekly event attracts everyone from camera-clicking tourists to the city’s best known chefs. Stroll through the stalls and shop the fresh organic produce and artisan foods from local farmers and ranchers. The market is open from 8 a.m.-2 p.m., but we suggest going early to avoid the large Saturday crowds.
Union Square: When you’re ready to leave the fresh vegetables and flowers behind, cab over to chic Union Square to shop at stores including Bloomingdales, Prada, Jimmy Choo, and Macy's (to name a few). Your credit card may get a little tired, but you’ll still enjoy the joie de vivre that's always present in this 2.6-acre public plaza.
San Francisco Bay Cruise: One of the best perspectives of the city skyline is from the water, so head to Pier 39 and shove off on a bay cruise. The Blue & Gold Fleet offers a 60-minute tour which will take you past barking sea lions, along the waterfront, and under the Golden Gate Bridge. The trip includes plenty of great photo opportunities.
Castro: To check out one of San Francisco’s most unique districts on summer solstice, go to the Castro. What was once an immigrant working-class neighborhood is now the largest and most vibrant gay and lesbian community in the United States. The area has become known for embracing the unorthodox and for trendy shops and restaurants. Grab a coffee at Café Sophie, admire IXIA’s exotic flower arrangements, and don’t miss the iconic Castro Theatre and its Art Deco design.
Parada 22: Hungry? Head to the Haight District for some enticing Puerto Rican food. Parada 22 is a tiny, authentic restaurant about which locals rave. Its mint green walls are covered with old photographs; on the menu you'll find dishes such as Pastelon, Camarones a la Criolla, and Berenjena. The delectable home-style flavors make the sometimes-lengthy wait well worthwhile.
Summer Solstice Celebration in the Redwoods: Watch the darkness fall in the 55-acre San Francisco Botanical Garden, located in Golden Gate Park. The Summer Solstice Celebration begins at 6 p.m. and includes two complimentary glasses of California wine and bites of local cheeses. Stroll through 100-year-old Redwoods and explore some of the nearby trails. If you're lucky, if it's clear, you might even catch the sunset. Tickets range from $20-30.
Viewfinder Tip: Get tickets to the outrageous Beach Blanket Babylon, the world’s longest running musical revue. Shows are scheduled for 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. on June 21.
Trattoria Contadina: North Beach is a perfect place to grab some dinner after dark. There are several authentic Italian restaurants from which to choose, but we like the family-run Trattoria Contadina. The restaurant is beloved for excellent service and an even better wine list. The Carlesimo is this eatery's most well-known dish.
Cantina: Wrap up the longest day of the year with some craft cocktails at Cantina in Union Square. With a hip, artsy interior and an intimate setting, this bar is one of the neighborhood's true gems. Try to snag a stool near the bar, so you can watch bartenders crush up fresh mint, ginger, and lemon. The Laughing Buddha and Five-Spice Margarita are the most popular beverages. Both are great drinks with which to toast a successful day.
How would you spend your perfect day in San Francisco?
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