San Francisco/SoMa

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SoMa, short for South of Market, is San Francisco's urban renewal district and an extension of downtown San Francisco, with brand new condominiums, office buildings, and a thriving club scene, the result of real estate speculation and the Bay Area's technology sector. Some of the city's newest attractions can be found here, including several museums, the convention center, and the ballpark for the San Francisco Giants, which has only furthered the gentrification of the area. The neighborhood is bordered roughly by Market Street on the northwest, the 101 Freeway (from Market Street to I-80) and 16th Street (from 101 to the San Francisco Bay) on the south, and the San Francisco Bay on the east.

Understand[edit]

Once home to warehouses and dilapidated Victorian houses, SoMa saw an artistic and club culture revival in the 1980s. By the time of the Internet boom of the 1990s, the "live-work" buildings of this area had become prime real estate, and the artists and musicians who had made it cool could no longer afford the sky-high rentals.

With the burst of the dot.com bubble, SoMa has become somewhat more affordable, but has also lost many of the businesses that made the area attractive during the boom. Some of the best clubs are still in SoMa, but a taxi is recommended for getting around, especially after dark as some areas are still a bit dangerous.

Get in[edit]

Map of SoMa

Being at the San Francisco end of the Bay Bridge and the heart of San Francisco's public transit network, there are extensive transit options to this district.

By rail[edit]

Caltrain, a commuter rail line between San Jose and San Francisco, terminates at the    Caltrain station at 4th & King Streets, just down the street from AT&T Park.

Bordered by Market Street on its northwest side, SoMa is within easy walking distance of all MUNI Metro lines and the several BART lines which run under Market Street. Running on Market Street is the F-Line Streetcar which stops frequently on its route from the Castro to the Ferry Building, then north on the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf.

Additionally, the MUNI Metro T-Third and N-Judah lines emerge from the Market Street subway and travel through the SoMa district, stopping at a few places along the Embarcadero south of Market, including AT&T Park. The N line stops at the Caltrain station, while the T line continues south down 3rd Street into Southeast San Francisco.

By bus[edit]

MUNI offers extensive bus service through SoMa, with nearly every street having a bus line of some sort. Routes 10-Townsend, 20-Columbus, 30-Stockton, 45-Union/Stockton and 47-Van Ness are the best bets for getting down from the neighborhoods to the north, like Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf. Routes 1-California, 5-Fulton, 6-Parnassus, 38-Geary and 71-Haight-Noriega are some of the best for getting in from eastern neighborhoods like The Avenues, while routes 9-San Bruno, 12-Folsom/Pacific, 14-Mission, 26-Valencia and 27-Bryant come up from Southern San Francisco through the Mission district.

Nearly all intercity bus service into San Francisco runs into SoMa, including Greyhound, MUNI, and various other Bay Area transit services (AC Transit, samTrans, Golden Gate Transit, and WestCAT). Due to the current reconstruction of the Transbay Terminal, all this service currently goes to the    Transbay Temporary Terminal at Main and Howard Streets. Facilities are minimal, with bus bays for Bay Area service on the Howard Street side of the terminal and on the streets surrounding the site, and Greyhound service on the Folsom Street side of the terminal.

By car[edit]

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which is part of Interstate Highway 80, offers a direct connection from the cities of the East Bay area (such as Oakland) to SoMa. After getting into San Francisco, any of the first three exits (Fremont/Folsom, 5th Street, 8th Street) will lead you into SoMa before I-80 terminates at US-101.

From the south, there are two freeways running into SoMa: I-280 dead ends near the Caltrain Station - stay in the right lanes to get onto 6th Street, or stay in the left lanes to get onto King Street and past the Caltrain Station and AT&T Park. US-101 comes up from the south to merge into I-80, where you can get off onto I-80 and take one of the two eastbound exits into SoMa, or stay on US-101 (stay in the left lanes) and exit at 9th Street or Mission Street before the freeway terminates at Market Street (US-101 continues north as Van Ness Avenue).

SoMa is also well-connected to other San Francisco neighborhoods by surface streets. From the north, The Embarcadero is the best one for getting down from Fisherman's Wharf, while Van Ness Avenue is the best for getting from the Golden Gate area. Between those two are a number of other major thoroughfares, such as Montgomery, Stockton and Hyde Streets, which will also do nicely. From the south and southwest, 3rd Street, Mission Street and Market Street all work well.

Parking here, as anywhere else in San Francisco, can be a challenge, but there a number of parking garages in the district, including a large one at Mission between Fifth and Fourth streets for the Moscone Center. People driving to a Giants game are advised to park at the large parking lot along 3rd Street just south of AT&T Park, just across the canal.

By boat[edit]

Two ferry companies offer special ferry service to Giants home games at AT&T Park: Golden Gate Ferry from Larkspur, and Alameda Oakland Ferry from Alameda and Oakland.

See[edit]

New skyscrapers over Yerba Buena Gardens
  •    Moscone Center747 Howard St +1 415 974-4000. Stretching across adjacent two full blocks between Mission, Folsom, 3rd and 4th Streets (with another building across the street at 4th and Howard), Moscone Center is a major convention center and entertainment complex with a variety of attractions. As a convention center, the Moscone Center houses major exhibits and conventions, including a number of major (especially IDG) expos that occur each year, including Apple Computer-related expos such as Macworld and Apple's WWDC, and LinuxWorld. The main entrance to the Moscone Convention Center is on Howard St. (on both side of the street) in between 3rd and 4th Sts., and the Center is divided into Moscone North, between Howard and Mission Sts., and Moscone South, between Howard and Folsom Sts. Moscone North and Moscone South is connected at the lower level underneath Howard St.; Moscone West is not connected to Moscone North or Moscone South.
  •    Charles Looff Carousel (corner of 4th and Howard). Daily 10AM-6PM. A beautiful carousel dating back to 1906, now fully restored and open for rides. $2 per ride.
  •    Metreon101 4th St (at Mission),  +1 415 369-6000. This Sony Entertainment-sponsored mall/entertainment complex has some interesting shops (including an entire store devoted to the Sony Playstation), a 15-screen movie theater with an IMAX screen, and a video game parlor/arcade where you can drink and play virtual bowling. A food court on the lower level serves the convention area and is overwhelmed during lunch hours of the major conventions.
  •    Yerba Buena Center for the Arts701 Mission St (at 3rd),  +1 415 978-2700. Tu-W, F-Su Noon–5PM, Th Noon–8PM. An interesting venue for local contemporary artists. Rotating exhibits, performances, and film screenings. $7 adults, $5 seniors/students, free on the first Tuesday of each month.
  •    Yerba Buena Gardens +1 415 820-3550. Daily 6AM-10PM. The Yerba Buena Gardens, above the Moscone Convention Center, provide a nice urban oasis. A large grassy meadow, a memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr., play places for kids, fountains and gardens make this a great place to come, play and relax. Free.
  •    Children's Creativity Museum221 4th St (at Howard),  +1 415 820-3320. W-Su 10AM-4PM. An arts and technology museum geared towards kids and families, centered on giving visitors a chance to produce animation, video, sound, performance visual arts, and more. $11 adults, free under age 2.
  •    SOMArts Cultural Center934 Brannan St (at 8th),  +1 415 863-1414. Tu-F 12-7PM, Sat Noon–5PM. An locally focused contemporary art venue and public garden. Rotating monthly exhibits, performances, and film screenings. Free.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from Yerba Buena Gardens
  •    San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)151 3rd St (across the street from the Yerba Buena Gardens),  +1 415 357-4000. Currently closed for major renovations and expansion of the building, which is scheduled to be complete in early 2016; see the website for temporary exhibits set up around the Bay Area. An innovative art museum with five floors of galleries featuring changing exhibitions as well as permanent displays featuring the works of some very famous 20th century artists, including Georgia O'Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and many others. Be sure to see the unique glass bridge on the 5th floor, perched high above the main lobby.
  •    Cartoon Art Museum655 Mission St (between New Montgomery and 3rd),  +1 415 227-8666. Tu-Su 11AM-5PM. A unique museum dedicated to cartoon art in all its forms. $6 adults, $4 students/seniors, $2 children, age 5 and under free.
  •    California Historical Society Museum678 Mission St (between New Montgomery and 3rd),  +1 415 357-1848. W-Sa Noon-4:30PM. Changing exhibitions showing the history of the state. Free.
  •    Museum of the African Diaspora685 Mission St (inside the St. Regis Hotel),  +1 415 358-7200. W-Sa 11AM-6PM, Su 12PM-5PM. A museum dedicated to the diaspora of Africans. $10 adults, $5 seniors/students, children 12 and under free.
  •    Contemporary Jewish Museum736 Mission St (between Third and Fourth streets),  +1 415 655-7800. F-Tu 11AM-5PM, Th 1PM-8PM. Dedicated to Jewish history, art, and culture. $10 adults, $8 seniors/students, free for youth 18 and under (Thursdays after 5PM: $5 for all visitors, still free for children 18 and under).
  •    South Parkalong Park Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets. This is a charming quiet park in the middle of the hustle and bustle of industrial SoMa. Eat at any of the small restaurants around the edges, they are all pretty good. Not very nice at night since homeless use the park to sleep.
  • Treasure Island. An artificial island half-way between San Francisco and Oakland connected to Yerba Buena Island which the Bay Bridge passes through. The island has excellent views of the San Francisco and Oakland skylines and quirky structures from the international fairground turned-navy base-turned neighborhood. Accessible by Muni bus line 108 from the Transbay Terminal in SoMa. If you travel by car, there is no toll between Treasure Island and the rest of San Francisco.

Do[edit]

A view of left field and the bleachers on a gorgeous day for Giants baseball
  •    San Francisco Giants - AT&T Park24 Willie Mays Plaza (at Third and King Streets),  +1 415 972-1800. One of the building projects that revitalized this area, the stadium is an imposing brick edifice that has all the necessary modern amenities, such as beer and Wi-Fi. It looks out upon San Francisco Bay, which makes a fine backdrop for those home runs that splash into McCovey Cove. Except for days when there is an afternoon home game, public tours of the ballpark are available at 10:30AM and 12:30PM. Giants tickets range from $10 to over $100, depending on section and date of game. Ballpark tours $22 adults, $17 seniors, $12 children.
  •    City KayakPier 40, South Beach Harbor (at Beach St and the Embarcadero),  +1 415 357-1010, e-mail: . M-F 1PM-6PM, Sa-Su 11AM-6PM (last launch at 4PM). Enjoy the many great views of San Francisco from the water. They offer kayak rentals from South Beach Harbor in San Francisco but only kayak trips from Fisherman's Wharf location. A 'trip' comes with a guide. Rental session $49 adults, $44.10 youth; rental $14-$29/hour, depending on kayak.
  •    Intersection for the Arts925 Mission St (between 5th and Mary Sts),  +1 415 626-2787. An alternative art organization that has premiered works by noted authors such as Dave Eggers and world-class playwrights such as Denis Johnson. The resident theater group, Campo Santo, is very good. The space also has an art gallery.
  •    Yerba Buena Bowling Center750 Folsom St (between 3rd and 4th),  +1 415 820-3532. Su-Th 10AM-10PM, F-Sa 10AM-Midnight. Bowling alley. Walk-in game $4.50-$7, depending on time.
  •    Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center750 Folsom St (between 3rd and 4th),  +1 415 820-3532. The only permanent indoor ice skating rink in San Francisco, and perhaps the most beautiful, with floor-to-ceiling windows giving a superb panoramic view of the surrounding area. Open year-round. Check the Ice Center schedule online for public skating hours. $8 adults, $6.25 children, $5.50 seniors. Skate rental extra.
  • Dore Alley. This street hosts the Up Your Alley Fair, the warm up event for the famous Folsom Street Fair. Held the last Sunday in July, this preview is smaller, wilder, and more local, but no less crowded and just as fun.
  • The Folsom Street Fair. This annual event, held on the last Sunday in September, features Leather, Bondage, Rubber and other Fetish and BDSM activities. Stretching over a mile you will find wall-to-wall dance clubs, bands, and booths where you can shop for a whip or learn about safe sex. It started out as an underground event to protest the gentrification of SoMa. It is organized by a non-profit to raise funds for many SF area charities. It's a world class event, and the third largest outdoor event in California. With a suggested donation is $5, it's quite a bargain today.

Buy[edit]

  •    Alexander Book Co.50 2nd St (between Stevenson and Jessie),  +1 415 495-2992. M-F 9AM-6PM. A large independent bookstore with three floors of thousands of new books.
  •    General Bead637 Minna St (between 7th and 8th),  +1 415 621-8187. Tu-F 10AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 12PM-5PM. Thousands of beads and bead-based products for any bead and jewelry lover.
  • Metreon101 4th St (at Mission),  +1 415 369-6000. A Sony Entertainment-sponsored mall/entertainment complex has some interesting shops, such as an entire store devoted to the Sony Playstation, a book store, a toy store, and a couple of other electronics/entertainment related stores.
  •    Podesta Baldocchi1 Saint Francis Place (of 3rd St between Harrison St and Folsom St),  +1 415 346-1300. M-F 7:30AM-5PM, Sa 8AM-2PM. A charming and long-standing floral shop.
  •    Rincon Center101 Spear St (between Mission and Howard near the Embarcadero),  +1 415 777-4100. This is mostly for dining but there are also many shops here as well.
  •    Westfield San Francisco Centre865 Market St (between 4th and 5th),  +1 415 512-6776. M-Sa 10AM-8:30PM, Su 11AM-7PM. This massive nine-floor Westfield-owned complex contains around 400 shops and restaurants, including some upscale places. Anchors for the mall include a Bloomingdale's, a Nordstorm, a Bristol Farms grocery, and a movie theater.

Eat[edit]

In addition to the numerous restaurants listed below, there are also food courts in the Metreon and the San Francisco Shopping Center, both of which are large and offer a variety of restaurants; although in the case of the Metreon, be sure to avoid the food court during lunch hours of any major convention, when the lines for each restaurant will get very long.

Budget[edit]

  •    Brainwash1122 Folsom St (at Langton between 7th and 8th Streets),  +1 415 431-9274. M-Th 7AM-10PM, F-Sa 7AM-11PM, Su 8AM-10PM. It's a Laundromat! It's a cafe! It's a pub! It's all of the above. A fine place to do your laundry while grabbing a beer, some lunch, playing a little pinball, surfing the net, chatting with your friends, or watching a live show.
  •    Dottie's True Blue Cafe28 6th St (between Market St and Mission St),  +1 415 885-2767. M, Th-F 7:30AM-3PM, Sa-Su 7:30AM-4PM. Top-rated breakfast cafe and a top contender in San Francisco proper. Affordable food with friendly service; comfortable, intimate atmosphere, and excellent food. Arrive early to stand in line with all the other admirers. $3-$12.
  •    Reds Java HousePier 30 (on the Embarcadero near the Bay Bridge),  +1 415 777-5626. Have the hamburger, fries and an Anchor Steam combo.

Mid-range[edit]

  •    21st Amendment563 2nd St (between Bryant and Brannan),  +1 415 369-0900. M-Tu 11:30AM-9:30PM, W-Sa 11:30AM-10PM, Su 10AM-9:30PM. Good "California-style microbrew" beers. Classic brew pub-grub - burgers, fish, some salads. The Jerk Chicken is excellent. Full menu and images are online. Great place to have drinks before or after a Giants game.
  •    Canton Chinese & Dim Sum Restaurant655 Folsom St (between 2nd & 3rd Streets),  +1 415 495-3064. Daily, lunch and dinner. Large selection of Cantonese dim sum as well as traditional Chinese dishes, including tanks of live seafood. Great place for a banquet.
  •    Delancey Street Restaurant600 Embarcadero St +1 415 512-5179. Tu-F 11AM-11PM, Sa-Su 10AM-11PM. It's not just a restaurant, it's a training school for the Delancey Street Foundation - an organization that helps people rebuild their lives from scratch. Nice backdrop of the San Francisco Bay and cheap eats to boot.
  •    HidivePier 28 (on the Embarcadero near the Bay Bridge),  +1 415 977-0170. This is where SoMa residents go for quick meetings and meals. You can also find decent food here to go along with the great waterfront views.
  •    Manora's Thai Cuisine1600 Folsom St (at 12th),  +1 415 861-6224fax: +1 415 861-1731. Lunch M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM, Dinner M-Sa 5:30PM-10:30PM, Su 5PM-10PM. A favorite Thai place among locals, they serve up a great Pad Thai and Thai soups.
  •    Palomino345 Spear St +1 415 512-7400. A nice, classy bar where you can get delicious food, such as thin-crust pizza or calamari.
  •    South Park Cafe108 South Park St (at Jack London Alley between 2nd and 3rd),  +1 415 495-7275, e-mail: . Lunch M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM, Dinner Tu-Sa 5:30PM-10PM.
  •    Thirsty Bear Brewing Company661 Howard St (1/2 block from Moscone Center),  +1 415 974-0905fax: +1 415 974-0955. M-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F 11:30AM-11PM, Sa Noon-11PM, Su 5PM-10PM. Brewpub meets tapas bar. Good beer brewed in-house, from very light lagers through a nice Kozlov Stout. One or two brews on nitrogen. Very good small-plate food with a Mediterranean / Spanish flair. Tuesday is cask-ale night - beer served from traditional wood cask instead of modern steel - while it lasts, which usually isn't very long.
  •    Tres Agaves130 Townsend St (between 2nd and 3rd),  +1 415 227-0500. Su-W 11:30AM-10PM, Th-Sa 11:30AM-11PM. Best margaritas in the city, along with great Mexican food. The food comes with so many sides that one appetizer and one entree is easily enough for 2 people.

Splurge[edit]

  •    Fringale French Bistro570 4th St (at Freelon between Bryant and Brannan),  +1 415 543-0573fax: +1 415 905-0317. Lunch Tu-F 11:30AM-2:30PM, Dinner Su-Th 5:30PM-10PM, F-Sa 5:30PM-11PM.
  •    Yank Sing101 Spear St (in the Rincon Center near the Embarcadero),  +1 415 781-1111. M-F 11AM-3PM, Sa-Su 10AM-4PM. This is the place for dim sum, and thus you might need to wait 30 minutes (at most) to have a table. You do not need a menu to order your food; the staff lets you choose what you want to eat from carts pushed around from the dining room. The shrimp, dumplings, and duck here are delicious. The setting of the restaurant is also wonderful.

Drink[edit]

  • 21st Amendment +1 415 369-0900. See above under Eat.
  •    83 Proof83 1st St (between Elim St & Mission St),  +1 415 296-8383. This narrow lounge sits precariously between a Walgreens and a Wachovia. Friendly bartenders will concoct any type of drink you desire, which makes it great for a quick, after-work drink or late-night cocktails. 83 Proof is also well-suited to group outings with its cozy atmosphere and chill vibe. Along with the DJ, weekend nights can get pretty loud sometimes.
  •    City Beer Store & Tasting Bar1168 Folsom St (between Hallam St and Langton St),  +1 415 503-1033. Tu-Sa Noon-10PM, Su Noon-6PM. Your best bet for beer to go.
  •    District216 Townsend St (between 3rd and 4th),  +1 415 896-2120. Old furniture store converted to the latest wine-bar in SoMa.
  •    Hotel Utah Saloon500 4th St (at Bryant),  +1 415 546-6300. M-F 11:30AM-2AM, Sa-Su 1PM-2AM. Popular brewery.
  •    Jillians175 4th St (inside the Metreon),  +1 415 369-6100. This upscale sports bar has a huge video wall great for watching sports. There are also 8 well kept pool tables for something to do. This bar becomes a dance club on Friday and Saturday nights with a strict dress code -- nice shoes required.
  •    Press Club20 Yerba Buena Ln (between Market St & Mission St),  +1 415 744-5000. This bar focuses on wine, with some of the finest from the nearby Wine Country. Sneak a peek at the wine cellar, and don’t be surprised if you’re super critical of the next glass of wine you drain outside the Press Club. Be prepared, however, to put a dent in your credit card or wallet by the end of the night.
  • Thirsty Bear Brewing Company661 Howard St +1 415 974-0905. An upscale brewpub/restaurant and favorite expense-account spot for the trade show crowd from nearby Moscone Center. The cask-conditioned ale is satisfying, but the place can get crowded.
  • Tres Agaves +1 415 227-0500. See above under Eat.

Clubs[edit]

Many of San Francisco's best dance clubs are in SoMa.

  •    10151015 Folsom St (at Harriet between 6th and 7th),  +1 415 431-1200. Lines all night outside during the weekend. A twenty-something meat market.
  •    The Cat Club1190 Folsom St (at 8th),  +1 415 703-8964. Thursday is 80's night where you're guaranteed to hear at least one Madonna song throughout the night. $6 cover.
  •    DNA Lounge375 11th St (near Folsom),  +1 415 626-1409. The DNA Lounge is a 2-story club which often caters to the geekier "digerati" crowd. One of the founders is Jamie Zawinski, a former Netscape superstar and Internet nabob. Events feature themed electronica dance nights (Industrial, Techno, Trance, etc.) and live bands. There is usually a cover between $3 and $25 (for the bands).
  •    The End Up401 6th St (at Harrison),  +1 415 357-0827. An SF institution. Essentially doesn't close on the weekend, and thus where people 'end up'. Great old school SF house music. Unexpected outdoor patio/waterfall space to chill.
  •    Mezzanine444 Jessie St (at Mint, between 5th and 6th),  +1 415 625-8880. Where all the shirtless buff gay boys go. Great sound system. If you like cheesy techno and disco diva wailing music, this is the place.
  •    The Stud399 9th St (at Harrison),  +1 415 863-6623. Fun semi-dingy club. Don't miss Trannyshack, Tuesdays at midnight. Very worth the sleep deprivation at work the next day.

Sleep[edit]

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget under $100
Mid-range $100 - 199
Splurge $200 and over

Budget[edit]

Mid-range[edit]

Splurge[edit]

  •    Courtyard San Francisco Downtown299 2nd St (at Folsom),  +1 415 947-0700fax: +1 415 947-0800. A Marriot with all the amenities that generally come with it. $200–$250.
  •    Four Seasons Hotel757 Market St (between 3rd and 4th),  +1 415 633-3000. Very high-end hotel. Beautiful art collection, and extensive sports club with fitness facilities and spa.
  •    Harbor Court Hotel165 Steuart St (between Mission and Howard),  +1 415 882-1300fax: +1 415 882-1313. A waterfront boutique hotel on the Embarcadero, across from the San Francisco Ferry Building, with views onto San Francisco Bay. $230–$280.
  •    Hotel Griffon155 Steuart St (between Mission and Howard),  +1 415 495-2100fax: +1 415 495-3522, e-mail: . A comparatively smaller hotel with small but very comfy rooms and good service.
  •    InterContinental Hotel888 Howard St (at 5th),  +1 415-616-6500fax: +1 415 616-6581. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 12PM. A translucent cool-blue tower that doubles as a city landmark.
  •    Marriott Marquis55 4th St (between Stevenson and Mission),  +1 415 896-1600fax: +1 415 486-8101. Convention center hotel situated across the street from the Moscone Center.
  •    The Palace Hotel2 New Montgomery St (at Market),  +1 415 512-1111fax: +1 415 543-0671. Established in 1875, The Palace has 552 guest rooms. In 1945, the official banquet honoring the opening session of the United Nations was held in The Garden Court at The Palace.
  •    St. Regis Hotel125 3rd St (between Mission and Minna),  +1 415 284-4000. A historic and very upscale hotel with a spa, butler service, and on-site restaurant.
  •    W Hotel181 3rd St (at Howard), toll-free: +1-877-946-8357. Another major convention center hotel, with lots of amenities and very nice rooms.

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