S.F. Mini Guide: Valencia St.
One of my favorite areas in San Francisco is Valencia Street in the Mission District. Between about 16th and 22nd streets, there is an awesome stretch of unique shops, food and art. I can’t fit it all in one post without making it too long, but here are some of my favorite places on Valencia Street.
(While this neighborhood has a lot of great community organizations and projects, it is also heavily gentrified, something I do not want to gloss over. Read these articles for more in-depth information on gentrification in the Mission: The New York Times / Haas Institute at Berkeley / this case study on gentrification/displacement in the SF Bay Area / Smart Cities Dive.)
Loló: I’ve had brunch and dinner at this Mexican restaurant and everything I’ve eaten is delicious. The decor inside is super fun - a wall covered with doilies, light fixtures covered in buckets adorned with pom poms, etc. No matter what time of day you’re there, there’s something yummy to eat and a great atmosphere.
Garden Creamery: This is a recent discovery. My friend Lucy took me to Garden Creamery and I fell in love. The flavors are delicious and they have some great dairy-free options, which is unfortunately all I can eat now. In addition to ice cream, they also sell pops and ice cream sandwiches. But the best treat at Garden Creamery is the Chimney Cone - a cone made of churro that is only served between 2-4pm on Saturdays.
Smitten: Another great ice cream shop. Smitten has a few locations in SF, including one in the Mission. Each order is made individually with liquid nitrogen, which is becoming a pretty popular trend with ice cream shops. They use fresh ingredients and the flavors are delicious!
Dogeared Books: I always love me a good small bookstore. Recently, I’m making an even bigger effort to support community bookstores over Amazon/B&N. Dogeared also has a location on Castro Street in San Francisco. Along with new and used books, Dogeared has a lot of unique magazines, zines and local literature.
Community Thrift Store: I’ve found some great gems here, from mugs to CDs for my car (no aux cord for me). CTS is a non-profit thrift store and works with over 200 charities in the Bay Area, which is awesome! Check it out, you won’t regret it.
Afterlife: This super cool vintage store has mostly ‘80s and ‘90s styles. The prices are a little on the higher end, but everything is in great condition and well-curated.
Thread Lounge: This store is pretty big and has a large variety of clothing, home and accessories. Some of the items are handmade or from small businesses, others are vintage, some are brand new. It’s a really beautiful space and there are a lot of colors. Even if you don’t find something, the experience of shopping there is super fun.
Therapy: Therapy is another great store that carries a wide variety of merchandise. There are a few locations around San Francisco, and the one on Valencia is pretty big. Therapy has clothing, shoes, fun gift knick knacks, jewelry, and more. The stuff is really fun and cute, and I always find good birthday gifts here for friends.
Paxton Gate: Paxton Gate is basically the inside of a prop room for an episode of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Crystals, plants, bones, taxidermy, etc. It’s super cool and a little weird, so if you don’t mind shopping surrounding my taxidermied animals, this is a spot for you. You can even buy a rat penis bone!
The Pirate Store: This is a very niche store but very entertaining. It bills itself as “San Francisco’s Only Independent Pirate Supply Store,” and honestly, that’s the only way to describe. It’s very fun!
Clarion Alley Mural Project: The Clarion Alley next to Community Thrift Store is a community art project that showcases a lot of social justice-themed art. These aren’t cute murals painted specifically for Instagram, like so many popular murals now, this project has been going on since the early ‘90s and has seen over 700 murals. I love walking up and down the alley and studying the murals and all their little details.
“I Love My Butt” wall: This wall is between 18th and 19th street on Valencia. I have not been able to find the history of it or info on why it’s there, but it’s fun and great for silly photos!
Ampersand Flowers: This adorable flower shop is not on Valencia Street, but it’s about a block up on Albion Street. It’s small and has a very nice atmosphere and they also have a gorgeous Instagram feed!
I hope you enjoyed this mini-guide! Let me know if you would like to see more posts/guides like this!