With such a rich cultural legacy, it’s no surprise that the Mission is known as the beating heart of San Francisco. Its sunny weather, Dolores Park, markets, cafes and bakeries, and gloriously high palm trees along Dolores Street welcome visitors to our fair city. 24th Street feels like the real Mission to me with a powerful community spirit that beckons with boldly colored, inventive murals and fragrant taquería and food stalls. This vibrant, tree-lined street positively hums with its own uniquely funky vibe. For a chance to show your children some real San Francisco flavor, try a few of these spots.
When to go: You can go anytime, but weekends are definitely a bit busier and often crowded.
How to get there: This expanse of 24th Street extends from Mission Street to Portrero Street with a BART station conveniently located at 24th and Mission. Parking can be challenging, especially on weekends, but side streets offer more parking options. Remember to bring plenty of coins for the parking meters.
What to wear: It’s always best to wear layers in San Francisco to be prepared for fog or sunshine.
What to bring: The Mission is often sunny and warm, so hats, sunscreen, and plenty of water are recommended. You’ll be outside, so this is not a rainy day activity, unless of course, you want to puddle jump along the way.
Things to do: Located at 24th and York Street, the 24th Street Mini Park is a true hidden yet sparkly gem. Behind a gate that at first appears private, you can simply open it and walk into a mosaic wonderland of fun. Surrounded by the most outrageously beautiful murals, kids will love climbing on Quetzalcoatl, the long mosaic-tiled snake sculpture who seems to slither across the playground. On sunny hot days, if you press the green button on the post near the bushes, the jets from the water feature will spray your children until they’re soaked. The inventive murals and play structures almost create a sense of being in an amusement park. This park also features a flying saucer swing, a multi-seated tetter-totter, and the back of the park has a few picnic tables in the shade.
Take a walking tour down Balmy Alley to view local artists’ impressive talents on full display in their fantastically original murals lined from end to end. It’s just parallel to Treat Avenue and Harrison Street between 24th and 25th Streets. This block-long alley, with the highest concentration of murals in all of San Francisco, astounds with constantly evolving art – a testament to the community’s concerns and its history with murals from as far back as the mid-eighties. Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center offers art classes and group tours on the weekends. Their Urban Youth Arts Program also produces some incredible works of art.
Lunch spots: With so many taquerias filling the street with their tempting smells of cilantro and chile, it would be a crying shame not to try some hearty and filling tamales at Roosevelt Tamale Parlor, crispy pupusas at La Santaneca de la Mission, or a superb burrito at El Farolito. A longtime institution St. Francis Fountain will take you back in time, as you share a cheeseburger or banana split with your kids. The diner scoops Mitchell’s Ice Cream (another nearby longstanding family-owned business) as sundaes, milkshakes, fountain classics, and even Guinness Floats for adults. It’s good for you! They offer lunch and dinner menus and breakfast is served all day. Don’t forget to check out the candy counter with old-time favorites like ring pops and Bazooka bubble gum and even trading card packs. Your kids will be singing “Toot Sweets” on their way out the door.
Dessert spots: Dynamo Donuts are dy-no-mite! Sample a few (like the ever-popular Bacon Maple Apple, Caramel de Sel, and Chocolate Rose Geranium Hazelnut) made with organic flour, milk and palm shortening rather than preservatives. Share the delicious scrumptiousness of a few donuts accompanied with Four Barrel Coffee to keep tired parents on the move.
Humphry Slocombe is to ice cream what Elvis Presley is to rock n’ roll: The King. Choose from all-time favorite flavors like Secret Breakfast (a breakfast of champions, for sure), Peanut Butter Curry or Chocolate Smoked Sea Salt. For children, try old reliables like Malted Milk Chocolate or Meyer Lemon. Limited seating is available inside under a two-headed cow or al fresco on the sidewalk.
Cost of trip: Fairly low, depending on how much you spend on dining out.
— Nicki Richesin