I Heart My City: Jill’s San Francisco

Jill Schneider‘s career as a photojournalist takes her all around the world, but her hometown of San Francisco always calls her back. A high school photography teacher and leader for National Geographic Student Expeditions, Jill is also a frequent Intelligent Travel contributor. Here are some of this California girl’s favorite things about her city by the bay.

Follow Jill’s story on her website.

San Francisco is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is for a walk at Land’s End. Start at Ocean Beach and work your way up to explore Sutro Baths. Head out onto the Land’s End Trail for great views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Make sure to stop at the Labyrinth, but wear layers because it can get chilly out there.

September is the best time to visit my city because that is when our Indian Summer hits.

You can see my city best from Twin Peaks or Bernal Hill.

Locals know to skip Pier 39 and check out the Mission District instead.

Chrissy Fields, with San Francisco's iconic  Golden Gate Bridge in the background (Photograph by Jill Schneider)
Chrissy Fields, with San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge in the background (Photograph by Jill Schneider)

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs.

In the past, notable people like Ansel Adams and Robin Williams have called my city home.

My city’s best museum is the Academy of Sciences because it has a living roof, a great aquarium, a four-story living rainforest, and a planetarium to boot.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s to use your emergency break and turn your wheels toward the curb if you’re parked on a hill.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is in Golden Gate Park.

My city really knows how to celebrate gay pride because we are a very open and accepting community.

You can tell if someone is from my city if people are wearing fleeces and down jackets in July.

For a fancy night out, I try one of the many new, trendy restaurants. Some of my favorites are Delfina, Nopalito, State Bird Provisions, Foreign Cinema, Crustacean, and Yank Sing. I have lived here my whole life and still haven’t even scratched the surface of our foodie mecca.

Just outside my city, you can visit Half Moon Bay and Point Reyes National Seashore  (go oyster shucking at Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm or Tomales Bay Oyster Company!).


The four-story rainforest inside the Academy of Sciences (Photograph by Jill Schneider)
The four-story rainforest inside the Academy of Sciences (Photograph by Jill Schneider)

My city is known for being foggy, but it’s really climatically diverse.

The best outdoor market in my city is the Ferry Plaza Embarcadero Farmers Market, held every Saturday.

Art’s Cafe is my favorite place to grab breakfast (try the hashbrown sandwich) and El Farolito is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read SFGate.com.

My city’s biggest sports event is baseball. Watch it at ATT Park. Go Giants!

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I find a farmers market and fill up on free samples.

To escape the crowds, I go about 20 minutes north of the city for a hike in Marin County. Start off with brunch at the Dipsea Cafe in Mill Valley (or pack a picnic and enjoy it on the hike), then explore Muir Woods, hike to Stinson Beach or through Tennessee Valley, or summit Mount Tamalpais.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be Brangelina because it cares about cultural issues, makes a lot of money, but does not flaunt its wealth.

The dish that represents my city best is Dungeness crab, and the Bloody Mary is my city’s signature drink.

The Defenestration Building on the corner of 6th Street and Howard is my favorite building in town because it has furniture attached to its exterior.

The most random thing about my city is that denim jeans were invented here–for Gold Rush miners who needed tough, comfortable clothing.

San Francisco's signature drink: The Bloody Mary (Photograph by Jill Schneider)
San Francisco’s signature drink: The Bloody Mary (Photograph by Jill Schneider)

Golden Gate Park is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out Madrone Art Bar.

Having it be socially acceptable for naked people to walk around the streets could only happen in my city.

In the spring you should enjoy the outdoors. Visit the Conservatory of Flowers, the botanical garden, or the Japanese Tea Garden–or go for a walk on one of the many beaches in the area, such as Ocean Beach, China Beach, and Baker Beach.

In the summer you should take advantage of all of the free concerts in the park. Every weekend there is live music in Golden Gate Park and Stern Grove. Outside Lands is another popular music festival in August. It’s not free, but it’s worth the investment.

In the fall you should put on your shorts and go to Dolores Park for a picnic. Make sure to get ice cream from Bi-Rite (I recommend the salted caramel!).

In the winter you should go skiing in Tahoe.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the Exploratorium.

The best book about my city is Tales of the City because it gives you a taste of San Francisco life and its eccentric culture in the 1970s.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is “California Soul,” by Marlena Shaw.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because it has eclectic neighborhoods, natural beauty, and a lively arts scene–all in close proximity to world-class skiing, hiking, and vineyards.

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  1. Frederic Fournier
    London UK
    March 28, 2014, 6:37 pm

    I lived and worked 2 years in Berkeley… and visited San Francisco numerous times. I love this city to bits! Reading this lines brings back a lot of memories and brings back this special feeling I had when walking and photographying the streets of Frisco. Beautiful city, beautiful area… I would retire and die there without looking back.

  2. Yasmari Garay
    United States
    March 27, 2014, 4:26 pm

    Dying to go to San Fran… and this article doesn’t help haha. SO many great things to do!

  3. JERRY
    March 27, 2014, 4:19 pm

    When you see that red heart in a sentence you are not to say ‘I heart my city’ but say ‘ I love my city’. The heart is a symbol for the term love.

  4. William Oldenburg
    New York
    March 27, 2014, 3:00 pm

    Jill you are exponential having lived in your.. my herb caens city for 15 yrs in the 70’s &80’s… after viewing your work I’m moving back

  5. yusuf bozok
    türkiye Ankara
    March 27, 2014, 1:09 pm

    bilmediğim gitmediğim yerler hep özlemimdedir..

  6. Ray Lampe
    MA and GA
    March 27, 2014, 12:36 pm

    But I personally like the intimate views from Coit Tower and the vista from Marin Headlands or the top of Mt. Tamalpais.

  7. Ken Forbes
    Fairfield, CA
    March 27, 2014, 12:10 pm

    What – no Haight Ashbury mention, with it’s music history, people and architecture?

  8. DougH
    Greeley, CO
    March 27, 2014, 11:46 am

    For me, the song is “San Francisco” – first fell for it with the movie of the same name, then David Kelsey’s version where he would play both the piano and organ at the same time and the bartenders would swing the chandeliers during the performance.

  9. Ray Lampe
    MA and GA
    March 27, 2014, 10:39 am

    I read this great paean with tears. I lived all too briefly in Burlingame before necessity brought me reluctantly back East. There is more to “The City” than can be captured in anything short of a large volume, or perhaps a lifetime. I could probably write such a volume, as could most people who ever lived in and loved the Bay area. Now retired, I am tempted to move back there, but it would not be the same without my late wife, who perhaps loved it more than I. I will visit, though, spurred by reminders such as this article.

  10. Lauren@Styleseer
    El Cerrito
    March 26, 2014, 7:09 pm

    This was a fun post and I’m reluctant to nit-pick, but San Francisco’s signature drink is the Irish Coffee. The Bloody Mary is more closely associated with New York.

  11. Daz
    March 26, 2014, 2:59 pm

    When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is ”Lights,” by Journey