Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Our guide navigating the city's best
neighborhoods for a fun weekend that won't break the bank.
Ignore those depressing headlines about how expensive San
Francisco has become (both for renters and travelers)—there's still plenty
to do on a budget in this constantly evolving city.
By sticking to one
neighborhood each day, you'll save on transportation costs and allow
yourself more time to dive into the city's nooks and crannies.
Here's how
to do it all without shortchanging your experience.
Friday: China Town You'll find some of San Francisco's most colorful
and affordable dive bars in China Town.
Li Po is the most famous of the bunch,
named after a great poet of the Tang Dynasty.
It opened in the
post-prohibition bar boom of the 1930s and hasn't changed much since (it has
the worn red leather booths and tattered Chinese lanterns to prove it).
The
oddball vibe sets the mood for their notorious lethal Chinese Mai Tai: dark
and light rum, Bacardi 151, Chinese liqueur and pineapple juice for $9, which
is pretty cheap considering it has the strength of four drinks in one.
Head around the corner to Z&Y, a Chinese restaurant frequented by every
spicy food fan from locals to President Obama.
Their atomic Szechuan-style
crispy chicken ($8.95) is a local favorite, and served in a traditional
Chinese restaurant setting (think groups at large round tables with a massive
Lazy Susan in the middle).
Brave souls can cap off the evening at Bow Bow Cocktail Lounge, the tiniest,
grittiest, and liveliest karaoke dive in the city, with an immortalized
bartender who goes by the name Mama Candy.
Saturday: Cruising the Embarcadero Rise early and book it down the Ferry
Plaza Farmers Market, open Saturdays year-round from 8 a.m.
to 2 p.m.
More
than 120 vendors crop up, selling anything from fresh-baked kouign-amanns to
heirloom dragon tongue beans.
Most Saturdays, CUESA hosts free seasonal
cooking demonstrations (with tastings) at their post in front of the entrance.
As a general rule of thumb, stick to the southern end of the Embarcadero
pedestrian promenade to avoid the row of overpriced tourist traps that
comprise the north end (Fisherman's Wharf; Pier 39).
Make a slight exception
to hit The Exploratorium a few steps south.
While general entrance is a pricey
$29 a pop, check their calendar for the occasional free day.
Otherwise, you
can check out their thought-provoking outdoor installations gratis.
Nearby, head to Waterbar, which has an oyster happy hour for $1.05 per
shuck, from 11:30 a.m.
to 5:30 p.m.
Make a pits top at the Instagram-worthy
Cupid's Span—a giant bow and arrow sculpture puncturing the Rincon Park
grass.
Continue down to Red's Java House, a historic waterfront dive where
you can score a hefty sourdough cheeseburger for $5.52.
Work it off with a
bike rental at neighboring Bike Hut $6 per hour ($3 per hour for kids'
bikes).
Sunday: Culture in the Mission In the morning, fuel up with a cup of drip
coffee from one of The Mission's scene-y third-wave coffee houses, like
Ritual Coffee Roasters (from $4 per cup).
Nurse it from the succulent-clad
curbside parklet, the perfect perch to watch the Mission awaken. Do as the
locals and swing by Bi-Rite market for a bottle of bubbly under $12, then head
to Dolores Park.
Really, they should charge for seating here because the
people-watching is better than a movie.
Dolores is the confluence of the
city's archetypes—flannel-clad hipsters, Google Glass-eyed techies,
vendors pushing popsicle carts, shirtless bros in pastel polos tossing around
a game of ladder golf.
When you've had enough of the show, walk to La Taqueria, where you can
score one of the best tacos in the city starting at $2.10 (though you'll
probably want more than one).
The Mission is saturated in murals.
Spend the
afternoon strolling Balmy and Clarion Alley and the 24th street corridor until
the sun begins to set.
Jenna Scatena is on the San Francisco Bay Area beat for Travel +
Leisure.
Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Ignore the headlines about how expensive San Francisco
is—if you're visiting for the weekend, we've got a plan for doing it on
a budget-friendly $25 a day.
Read on for the details.

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