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Sight seeing in San Francisco will be *so* much easier with this guide to healthy things to do there


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Photo: Getty Images/Steve Smith

San Francisco is an innovative, weird, beautiful, dirty, wonderful place. It’s one of the most eclectic and scenic cities in the country, and one of the healthiest, too. Mindfulness, sustainability, and organics are a big part of its culture, which means it’s easy to nurture your mind and body while visiting its 49 square miles.

The Fog City is a haven for the food-obsessed, whether you appreciate a solid Mission-style burrito (hello, Taqueria Cancun!) or are looking for a Michelin-approved meal. Healthy eaters have it especially good in this town: Plant-based restaurants like Nourish Cafe and Gracias Madre are popular with vegans and meat-eaters alike, and you’ll find tasty burger options at traditional burger joints like Roam and Super Duper. The Mission is home to Cha-Ya, a vegetarian Japanese restaurant that works for a casual lunch or dinner; Nopalito, closer to Golden Gate Park, offers a daily menu of seasonal Mexican food. (Can you tell SF has quite the culinary scene?)

It also has 125 miles of bike lanes, while Golden Gate Park has miles of closed roads for strolling, cycling, and other only-in-SF happenings like a roller-skate disco on Sundays. And if you’re willing to brave the chilly Pacific, rent a surfboard (and a wetsuit—you’ll need it!) from one of the shops in the Outer Sunset.

A few insider tips to know before you visit The City: Pack layers—the city’s microclimates mean that when it’s 75 and sunny in the Mission, it might be foggy and cool in the Sunset. You can bypass the long cable car queues by walking a block or two down the line, then hopping on there. And while parts of the city may surprise you with its grit and grime, others possess a dreamy, atmospheric magic. So go in with an open mind, catch a sunset at Crissy Field, and take the boat to Alcatraz. But whatever you do, don’t call it Frisco.

Keep reading for a city guide of San Fransico’s healthiest places to sleep, eat, and play.

Good Sleep

Proper hotel

Is it crazy to book a hotel when San Francisco is the birthplace of Airbnb? Not when there are so many solid places to stay. Rates are rarely cheap, but there are plenty of stylish and splurge-worthy spots. For instance, The Proper, the city’s newest design hotel, is bursting with pattern and color. Along with being central to public transit, the hotel offers Shinola bicycle rentals to guests daring enough to traverse SF’s hills. A few blocks away, you’ll find The Phoenix, a rock ‘n’ roll motor court hotel with a sometimes-rowdy, always-happening scene—and a Saturday yoga series that draws the cool kids.

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Hotel Vitale

Runners will love the pet-friendly, upscale Hotel Vitale thanks to its spot on the Embarcadero, whose sidewalk paths curve all along the Bay. Killer views of the Bay Bridge are another draw, but the best reason to stay here is its location across from the Ferry Building and its incredible, twice-weekly farmers’ market.

The Lodge at the Presidio

If communing with nature is more your thing, book a spot at the newly renovated The Lodge at the Presidio. It’s located within the Presidio, a national park with incredible views of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. Wake up to birdsong, grab some included breakfast, and explore the park’s 24 miles of trail among towering pine and eucalyptus trees. Or to really get away from it all, head way out west to Ocean Park Motel; the Art Deco landmark (the first motel in the city!) is two blocks from the Pacific in a quiet, remote residential neighborhood.

Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco

Using the company expense account? Here’s a reason to consider the Four Seasons: Guests have complimentary access to the massive, 127,000-square-foot Equinox gym overlooking Market Street. Along with having a large lap pool, basketball court, and fitness classes, it’s also a not-so-secret singles’ scene. Hey, you never know when love might strike.

Good Food

Bowl’d Açai food trucks

Hankering for an açai bowl or smoothie? Bowl’d Açai food trucks are solid options (as are Basik Cafe and BeBeBar).

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So crunchy, yet so smooth.

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Eight AM

If yo want something healthy…ish for breakfast, Eight AM offers both avocado toast and sweet crepes near Fisherman’s Wharf.

Mixt

For a quick and reasonably priced lunch, try Mixt’s locally sourced salads—they’re the best in town, as the lines out the door suggest.

Bi-Rite Market

Pretty much the best picnic in town involves a stop at Bi-Rite Market, a packed-to-the-rafters gourmet grocery store around the corner from the famous bakery Tartine. Pick up some locally made kombucha, a hefty sandwich, and in-season fruit; then, head a block away to hang with the locals (and catch some downtown views) in Dolores Park. Or use the same idea at the Bi-Rite on Divisadero, a stone’s throw from Alamo Square Park. Either way, it may just help you have the perfect SF day.

Good Sweat

Salt

There’s no shortage of boutique fitness choices, from national names like SoulCycle and Barry’s Bootcamp to local stars like Salt (a barre-kickboxing hybrid). But if you left your grippy socks at home, or just want a workout that’s both a mental and physical exercise, go to Lifted, which offers a mashup of meditation and strength training.

The Assembly

The city’s newest temple of self-care is The Assembly. Located in a renovated church, this beautiful wellness-oriented women’s clubhouse offers work and meeting spaces, fitness classes, meditation sessions, and—lucky for you—a $70 day pass for visitors.

Run for the hills

Naturally, San Francisco offers plenty of outdoor activities. It’s either a runners’ paradise or runners’ hell, depending on your perspective—so lace up if you’re ready for a challenge.

Good Times

Golden Gate Park

And then there’s Golden Gate Park. It measures more than 1,000 acres, so plan your itinerary and accept that you can’t see everything in one day. A few highlights: Its Japanese Tea Garden is a meditative escape from city life, while the bustling California Academy of Sciences and DeYoung Museum offer plenty to think about. Or maybe you’ll choose to do as many locals do: Stretch out on a blanket, breathe in the salty air, and wonder how lucky a person can be to be in a place as pretty as San Francisco.

Chinatown

To get a sense of the variety within this small peninsula, you’ll need to go beyond the central hotel district of Union Square. First stop: Chinatown. It’s arguably the most beautiful in the country, especially when neon signs and paper lanterns light up the night. From there, it’s easy to stroll through North Beach, the historic home to the city’s Italian population and Beat scene—and onward to Coit Tower, an Art Deco landmark with sweeping views worth the uphill climb.

The Mission

A BART ride away (that’s SF’s public transportation system, BTW) is the Mission, the heart of the city’s Latino culture; you’ll find colorful murals, excellent street vendors, and the most sunshine in the city. Along the Valencia corridor, third-wave coffee roasters exist alongside hip boutiques and independent bookshops. Nearby, the Castro is the social and political center of gay life. Further afield is the Haight, whose history speaks for itself; take a detour to Alamo Square Park so you can see the Full House row house. (You know you want to.)

Pacific Heights

For jaw-dropping views of the Bay, walk up Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights. The posh neighborhood is home to some of the city’s most beautiful mansions, with chic boutiques to go with them. Looking for excellent Asian food? Head to the fog-cloaked Richmond and Sunset districts for Thai, Chinese, and Burmese restaurants—or to Japantown for late-night karaoke fun.

There’s so much to do in SF, we couldn’t fit it on one list. Check out Fog City’s best saltwater pools and holistic health spots while you’re researching. 

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