Andrew is a freelance writer and substitute teacher from Redwood City. He has a B.A. in Literature from San Francisco State.
Overlooked Western Neigborhoods
San Francisco may be one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in America. The city is full of iconic scenery, fantastic restaurants, and cultural attractions. Any trip to San Francisco would not be complete without a visit to the Richmond and Sunset districts.
Visitors love San Francisco’s romantic history and lively nightlife. You can get lost for days in some of the most famous attractions, so it is easy to overlook the Western neighborhoods. That would be a big mistake as Richmond and Sunset are full of local architecture, cultural attractions, boutiques, and restaurants. This list highlights some of the best known and lesser known attractions.
About the Sunset District
Sunset is the largest district in San Francisco, so it boasts an eclectic assortment of attractions and sights. Highlights of the Sunset District include the access to the Pacific Ocean, Golden Gate Park, and the University of San Francisco.
In the early days, Sunset contained many sand dunes. Apparently, 19th century San Franciscans called the area “the Outside Lands.” Locals disagree on why it is called the “Sunset District.” There are several urban legends about the name including a story that Aurelius Buckingham, a historic property developer, coined the nickname.
Since Sunset is so large, people divide it into sections: Inner Sunset, Central Sunset, and Outer Sunset.
About the Richmond District
Richmond is the Sunset District’s neighbor. It is well known for convenient proximity to San Francisco’s urban parks. Richmond is also home to a prosperous Chinese American community and is home to some of the most highly rated Chinese restaurants in the city.
Like Sunset, the Richmond District was also originally covered sand dunes. In keeping with San Francisco's rich tradition of immigration, the district was named by early resident and Australian immigrant George Turner Marsh. Marsh was a well-known art dealer.
Ten Things to Do in San Francisco's Richmond & Sunset Districts
1. Hike Lands End and Admire the View
Lands End is in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The park boasts access to beautiful urban hiking trails, stunning coastal views, a labyrinth, and the ruins of Sutro Baths. Many believe Lands End provides the best view of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
2. Spend the Day (or Two) at Golden Gate Park
Not far from Lands End is the Golden Gate Park. You can easily spend a couple of days in the park between the museums and park attractions. Within walking distance of the park is an assortment of cafes and restaurants. The De Young Museum and Academy of Science are museums housed within the part where you can explore science, art, and culture. If you are in the mood for outdoor fun, you can rent a pedal boat and enjoy the Stow Lake Catch. The San Francisco Botanical Garden and Japanese Tea Garden are among the other park attractions. During the Summer, Golden Gate Park hosts a series of outdoor concerts.
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Golden Gate Park
3. Enjoy a Walking Tour
San Francisco neighborhoods are full of charming architecture. The hilly landscape adds unique visual appeal. You can enjoy a DIY self-guided walking tour, or you can join a tour led by locals. San Francisco City Guides offers volunteer-led walks in several neighborhoods including Richmond and Sunset districts.
4. Play Golf at Lincoln Park
Lincoln Park offers stunning coastline views, and it also features a city golf course. Lincoln Park Golf Course offers a lovely view and affordable rates, check their website to check rates and availability.
5. Catch a Film at the Balboa Theatre
The historic Balboa Theatre opened in 1926 in outer Richmond. This independent cinema screens a mix of independent films, Hollywood blockbusters, classics, and special event screenings. Balboa sometimes hosts affordable Saturday morning screenings that include a movie, popcorn and a drink for $10. Check the Balboa Theatre for current rates and schedule.
6. San Francisco Zoo
The San Francisco Zoo is a beautiful urban zoo that will delight adults and children alike. The zoo is in the Sunset District. The zoo is home to over 1,000 exotic, endangered and rescued animals. According to the zoo’s website, they have over 250 animal species intermingled with lush gardens including native and foreign plant life. The zoo offers free days for San Francisco residents with valid ID, but don’t worry if you are not a resident. The San Francisco Zoo is an affordable day out for visitors.
7. Browse Green Apple Books
Green Apple Books is a popular independent bookstore and a book lovers dream. Customers browse and purchase new or used books, music, and movies. According to the Green Apple Books website, consignors bring over 1000 used books to sell to the store each week. They carefully select books in good to excellent condition. With so many books, there is likely a book that interests everyone! Find them at 506 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118.
8. Enjoy San Francisco's Best Peking Duck
Chili House is a charming and authentic Chinese restaurant in the Richmond District. The restaurant has earned critical acclaim for having the best Peking Duck in San Francisco! This is quite an accomplishment in a city that is renowned for having an extraordinary variety of Chinese food. Visit Chili House @ 726 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118.
9. Climb the Stairs at the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps Project
Sunset District is home to the Tiled Steps Project. The local neighborhood set out to turn some of their outdoor staircases into works of art. The project features 163 glass mosaic tiles made by local artists.
The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps Project
10. Shop at Sunset’s Farmer’s Market
Each Sunday from 9a to 1p, the Inner Sunset hosts a farmers’ market. The market is a great place to source fresh produce, grass-fed beef, artisan cheese, and other delicacies. The market runs all year so you can always find something delicious. Find the market at 1315 8th Avenue, San Francisco, CA.