by Stacy Conlon
San Francisco is synonymous with wellness. Conscious and forward-thinking locals usually walk or bike around and bring their reusable bags to the market. Buses operate on zero emissions electric, taxis are often hybrids and the city waste system is responsible for collecting residential and commercial compost material. And that’s just the beginning!
What’s fantastic about visiting San Francisco is although it is ‘big’ in terms of attractions, restaurants, culture and amenities, geographically it’s fairly small covering only 7×7 miles square. Public transportation is widespread and simple to use so you can do a lot in a short amount of time. This city is an overflowing cultural melting pot that has something for everyone. But, in the tune of wellness, following are eight of my favourite things to do in San Francisco.
1. Practice Yoga: There are over 100 locations to practice yoga in San Francisco. Some of the very best teachers in the country are trained and teach here. One of my favorites in terms of quality, ambiance, level and variety of classes is Yoga Tree. There are five locations in the city and they offer workshops and retreats in addition to daily practices. In addition, a unique and memorable option is Hiking Yoga, a company that offers small group outings to off-the-beaten-path city hiking trails with views. During restful breaks, there’s time to practice asanas in gorgeous outdoor locations.
2. Dine Healthfully: There are approximately 4,500 restaurants in San Francisco. Known as America’s best restaurant city, San Francisco chefs excel at combining the freshest local California ingredients, authentic, international flavors and a memorable touch of creative genius. One of the best areas to dine is in North Beach. This area, settled by Italian immigrants, offers outstanding Italian food in charming, old world cafés. As a great resource, the SF Weekly has a ‘Best of Food & Drink’ as voted by readers. One of my personal favorites is Lavash located in the Inner Sunset neighborhood. It has wonderful ambiance, impeccable service and traditional, fresh and healthy Persian food. Next door, the Inner Fog Wine Bar is a lovely place to taste wines from California and around the world.
3. Visit Golden Gate Park: This beautiful oasis in the middle of this bustling city is even larger than Central Park in New York. In Golden Gate Park, you’ll find a labyrinth of hiking trails, gardens, lakes, wildlife and even a herd of bison. There are natural wonders like the massive redwood trees in the AIDS Memorial Grove, exotic butterflies and flowers at the Conservatory of Flowers and idyllic meditation seats in the Japanese Tea Gardens. One idea is to rent a bike and ride west toward the expansive Ocean Beach dotted with surfers, sunbathers, volleyball courts and fire pit BBQs. End the day at the Beach Chalet with a glass of wine and a few appetizers as you watch the sunset beyond the ocean waves.
The California Academy of Sciences is a wellness must-see in Golden Gate Park. Not only is it stunning, but also the greenest museum in the world. Insulated with used denim, it is the only place on the planet with an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and a 4-story rainforest all under one roof (which, by the way is covered in solar panels that power some of the building and a ‘living roof’ covered in native plants that collect and convert rainwater for internal use). Across the plaza, catch a stunning view at de Young Museum. Take the elevator up the main tower (complimentary) and catch a panoramic view including the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands.
4. Walk or bike Golden Gate Bridge: With its stunning 1.7 mile span, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge with views of the Marin Headlands, the Bay, downtown and the Bay Bridge is the perfect place to take a walk or a bike ride across. If you bike, continue past north end of the bridge and exit downhill toward the cute seaside village of Sausalito. Perhaps take some time to shop or dine, then take a water taxi back to the Embarcadero.
5. Take a neighborhood walking tour: One of the best activities is to simply grab your camera, a few layers of clothing and pick an area to walk around. Check out the upscale Union Street, the historic hippie culture of Haight Ashbury, the quintessential Victorian architecture of the Painted Ladies along Alamo Square, the incredible murals in the Mission, the vibrant, gay-friendly Castro District, the bustling downtown vibe of Union Square, the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, the waterfront attractions near Pier 39 or the stunning views of Alcatraz from Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. Just remember to take your time, breathe and take in the amazing details of the architecture, art and people in this dynamic city. Recently, I read an article ‘San Francisco, a City with 670 Stairways to Heaven’
6. Visit a Farmers’ Market: Nine farmers’ markets operate in the city including the massive and popular Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, renowned throughout the country as one of the top farmers markets to visit. It is widely acclaimed for both the quality and diversity of its fresh farm products, and artisan and prepared foods. On any day, especially Saturdays, some of San Francisco’s best-known chefs, and most famous farmers, can be seen at the market. It provides an interactive forum for people to learn about food and agriculture.
7. Enjoy a spa: For a wellness spa experience, try SenSpa offering treatments that include holistic healing, wellness coaching, nutrition, acupuncture, plus the usual facials, massages, body treatments and more. Kabuki Springs and Spa is another that offers an extensive menu of wellness-focused spa services in a warm, inviting Pan-Asian setting. In the great tradition of Japanese public baths, this spa is a peaceful sanctuary devoted to nurturing harmony and relaxation through the healing powers of water and therapeutic touch.
8. Stay in a wellness-minded hotel: Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar is a boutique hotel that helps guests maintain their healthy lifestyles with its ‘People In Motion’ program, a daily and ongoing initiative that celebrates the health and wellness priorities of guests with morning guided runs and bicycles available for loan.
Stacy Conlon, also known as The Zen Girl, is a certified wellness coach and mindfulness training facilitator.