My family and I will be in the area for a little over 24 hours. We live in Austin and we understand tourists taking over your town, so we don't want to be that. If you could help with some direction on how not to look like a ridiculous tourist that would help tremendously. We just want to be normal people walking about.
We are not natives, but we don't want to be intrusive. Please help! Google said Bubba Gump and Joe's Crab Shack were great seafood spots. We live near the other coast so we know that's a lie. The kiddo loves chocolate and my husband and I love bread. We all want seafood of course.
Lastly, I know that the chances of us getting this particular loaf of bread are slim, because I cannot seem to remember the shop, but dad would bring me there in my 20s and the baker still makes his bread fresh every day in a basket. It is an old school style bake shop (bread only, if I remember right). Shot in the dark, but do you know the shop's name? Please help if you can...
The Hopefully Non-Ridiculous Tourist
First, I appreciate your candor, and your desire to do all you can to not be an annoying tourist when you come and visit San Francisco. And really, I don't think you have much to worry about. The mere fact that you know tourists can be annoying puts you one step ahead of a lot of them!
I've written about tourists before, and some of the things many locals find annoying, so if you avoid standing in the middle of sidewalks blocking foot traffic to check a map or your phone, or standing in the middle of actual traffic to take a photo, you'll save yourself a lot of angry glares.
That said, if the city were to design a new official flag, it would probably feature the image of someone with their nose buried in their phone as they're walking down the street. Do that, and you're sure to blend right in!
And walking really is the best form of transportation within the city, as long as you're hearty enough for the hills. The traffic within the city seems to get worse every week, so driving will only cause frustration, not to mention, you probably won't find parking where you're going anyway. Muni is your second-best bet, though be prepared for packed buses, long waits, and some....characters. Do your best to figure out the routes before you venture out, (some drivers are great with directions; others are decidedly not) and get a pass so you don't have to deal with having exact change.
I'd also warn you to be prepared for the weather. If you're coming within the next month, do know that even though it's technically summer, it's likely to be pretty cold for at least half of the day. Don't get caught sightseeing after the sun goes down while wearing summer clothing! Nothing screams "Tourist!" more than someone wearing an Alcatraz t-shirt and cargo shorts, shivering as they ride a cable car at dusk.
If Google were a person, I'd slap them right in the face for even mentioning Bubba Gump and Joe's Crab Shack as acceptable places for a tourist to check out! That said, I would not steer you away from Fisherman's Wharf in general, despite its reputation as a tourist trap. I've written of my love for it in the past, and that love still stands. But the secret to having a good time down there is avoiding any chain restaurants, and sticking to the places that have stood the test of time. Great seafood can still be found at places like Scoma's, Sabella and La Torre, and The Franciscan (which also has some of the best bay views of any restaurant in the city).
Away from the Wharf, there's Waterbar and Hog Island Oyster Bar, but your best bet for seafood is Swan Oyster Depot, as long as you're willing to wait in line. They're only open until 5:30 p.m., and the place is tiny, so there will be a line to get a seat at the counter. But if you're willing to get stuff to go, you can usually skip that line, place your order at the register, and be on your way pretty quickly. (Take that grub up to Huntington Park, which is a few blocks up California Street, for a nice picnic, weather permitting!)
As for chocolate, you'll have no trouble finding Ghirardelli Square chocolate all over the city, including at Ghirardelli Square itself. But they aren't the only game in town. There's also Dandelion Chocolate, Charles Chocolates, and Christopher Elbow Chocolate, to name a few.
Lastly, I'm sad to say I'm drawing a blank about where that bread bakery may have been, (or still might be); I'm hoping perhaps some readers may have ideas, and will be willing to share them in the comments. In the meantime, be sure to check out this recent list of the best bakeries in the city for some possible alternatives during your visit.
In summation, don't sweat it! You're going to do fine, and have a great time! And don't be afraid to ask questions while you're out and about. Because while there are certainly locals who might say they hate tourists, that so-called hatred is easily tampered by something they all love: Being a know-it-all about the places you simply must see while in San Francisco.
Rain Jokinen was born and raised in San Francisco and, miraculously, still calls the city home. Her future plans include becoming a millionaire, buying a condo complex, and then tearing it down to replace it with a dive bar. You can ask this native San Franciscan your questions here.