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The Perfect Day In Civic Center & Alamo Square

Tips to Make the Most Out of Your Day in These SF Districts

The Civic Center neighborhood sits in the heart of the city. This beautiful area houses SF's City Hall, the Asian Art Museum and several performing arts buildings.

Just up the hill, you will find the gorgeous Alamo Square district. It's one of the neighborhoods that did not suffer too much during the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. This means you will still find dozens of historic Victorians as well as the famous Painted Ladies of Alamo Square. This neighborhood has several amazing bars and restaurants too.

The walking tour below offers an easy path through these two neighborhoods in just one day. It's the 'best of the best' and what I consider the 'perfect' day in this historic area of San Francisco.

I recommend doing this self-guided walk Tuesday through Friday, since this is when all the attractions within the schedule are open. The Asian Art Museum closes on Monday and City Hall opens only during the week.

8:30: Savor Your Breakfast at Brenda's

chocolate beignets

Brenda's French Soul Food is one of the yummiest places to grab breakfast or brunch in San Francisco. It's a cute restaurant offering New Orleans style food. Sample some of their specialties such as their Shrimp and Grits or their chocolate filled Beignets. If you are looking for something more traditional, you will not be disappointed with their egg scrambles and omelets.

You will find Brenda's at 652 Polk Street between Turk and Eddy Streets. They are open every day at 8am, so head over early if you enjoy taking your time at breakfast.

10am: Admire Thousands of Artifacts at the Asian Art Museum

asian art museum

Take a left out of Brenda's and walk three blocks south to the Asian Art Museum. It's one of my favorite museums in San Francisco.

This gorgeous museum features thousands of artifacts from the countries in Asia. You can see ancient pieces of art from China, Japan and India. Pieces from Tibet, Nepal and Indonesia are also on display.

One of my favorite exhibits is the Chinese Jade Gallery. It features dozens of intricate and colorful jade carvings.

Spend a couple of hours here admiring these gorgeous pieces. You can also pay a little extra to visit their temporary exhibit (most of the time it's worth the additional fee).

The museum opens at 10am Tuesday - Sunday. Admission is $12 for adults.

Click here for more pictures and what to expect during your visit to the Asian Art Museum.

12:30pm: Soak in the Beauty of SF's City Hall

city hall

Were you admiring the beautiful gold dome during your walk to the Asian Art Museum? This is San Francisco's City Hall.

This government building welcomes visitors during their normal business hours. Inside, you get the chance to see its breathtaking marble stairs, the inside of the dome and a couple of small museums.

It's free to enter and the entire visit takes about an hour. Make sure you read my SF City Hall page for tips on finding all the hidden gems within this beautiful San Francisco attraction.

2pm: Grab Some Lunch at Arlequin Cafe in Hayes Valley

After your visit to City Hall, walk south on Van Ness Street to Hayes Street. This is where you will find several restaurants and cafes in Hayes Valley.

If it's nice and sunny, I recommend stopping for a sandwich or a salad at Arlequin. They have gourmet grab and go lunch as well as a back patio with several tables. It's the perfect place to rest for a while and prepare for the second half of your day.

Another cool thing about this cafe is that there is a wine bar and shop next door. You can walk back and forth between the two without stepping outside.

This means you can also enjoy a nice glass of wine with lunch. If you aren't sure what you want to try, ask their experts. They are friendly and willing to help you find the perfect glass of wine to compliment your meal.

3pm: Get a Postcard View of the Painted Ladies of Alamo Square

painted ladies alamo square

After you finish at Arlequin, take the 21 bus up to Alamo Square. Pick the bus up near the corner of Hayes Street and Gough (you'll need to cross Gough Street). Take it up the hill to Hayes and Pierce Streets.

The minute you step off the bus, you will realize why you are here. The view from this angle of the Painted Ladies of Alamo Square with downtown San Francisco in the background is amazing.

Spend some time taking pictures and walking around the park. You can also grab a seat on the lawn as you soak in the views around you.

Instead of eating lunch at Arlequin, you can also head to Alamo Square for a picnic. One of the best sandwich shops in the area is the Alamo Square Market on Scott Street near Hayes Street (about a half block down the hill at 535 Scott Street). It's a small shop on the ground level of a house and they make the most amazing sandwiches. You can also pick up other goodies such as chips, sodas and dessert.

4pm: Walk Around Alamo Square to See More Colorful & Historic Victorians

painted lady in alamo square

After you finish at Alamo Square, walk around the neighborhood and admire the other colorful Victorians. You will find a few on Grove Street between Steiner and Fillmore, some gorgeous houses on Fillmore between Grove and Hayes and on Steiner Street between Fulton and McAllister.

Once you are finished walking around the neighborhood, head toward Divisadero Street. If you can't find it on your map, just ask the locals as they are always happy to point you in the right direction.

6pm: Sip Cheap Beers at the Bean Bag Cafe

By this time, I'm sure you will be exhausted and ready to sit down for a little while. The best place to grab a cheap beer in this neighborhood is at the Bean Bag Cafe on the corner of Divisadero and Hayes Street. They also serve up any type of coffee you may desire and a number of other non-alcoholic drinks.

It's the perfect place to unwind, discuss your plans for the following day and mingle with the locals.

7pm: Savor the Flavors of the Best Pizza in Town

Once you finish up at Bean Bag Cafe, walk north on Divisadero Street two and a half blocks to Little Star Pizza. This funky pizza joint has THE best pizza in town.

At this time in the evening, you may have to wait for a table. However, the wait is worth it.

They serve up both deep dish and thin crust pizzas. My two favorites are the Classic Deep Dish and the Pesto Chicken Thin Crust. They also have a great beer selection and several wines by the glass.

After dinner, you can grab a few more drinks at the Fly Bar (on the corner of Fulton and Divisadero) or a glass of wine at The Wine Kitchen (at 507 Divisadero).

An alternative for the evening is to catch a ballet performance, a show by the world famous SF Symphony or a theater performance. You can also check out the new Jazz Center in Hayes Valley. Click here for a list of calendars by month.

How to Get to the Starting Point

The best way to get to Brenda's French Soul Food (652 Polk Street) is to take the 31 bus. Pick it up on the corner of Market and 3rd Streets and take it to Polk and Eddy Streets. You are then just a half a block away from Brenda's.

Your best bet from Fisherman's Wharf is to take the 47. Pick it up on the corner of North Point and Jones Streets. Take it to the Van Ness Avenue and Eddy Street stop. Walk one block down Eddy Street to Polk and Brenda's is just a couple of buildings down the street on your right.

Want to print this itinerary? Click here to download an easy-to-print version of The Perfect Day in Civic Center and Alamo Square walking tour.

Other Things to Do in these Neighborhoods

While this itinerary gives you a great overview of these three neighborhoods, you will also find some other fun things to do in each one. Click the links below to learn even more about these neighborhoods:

Tips to Save Money During Your Vacation

Stretch your dollar further with half-priced tickets on Goldstar. This online ticket retailer offers hundreds of cheaper tickets to top theater performances, tours and bay cruises.

They often post their discounted tickets for upcoming events that are only one to two months away. I often use them for last minute planning and/or to get some great tickets to fun SF tours (yes, I go on tours all the time too!).

Click here for their current selection of ticketscenter. Check back often too as they update their site every day!

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