The Bay Area, Explained By a Local
Unbeknownst to visitors, the Bay Area isn’t just a singular conglomerate. Broken into different parts — South, North, and East — each has its own vibe and culture. (And no, don’t ask me what happened to the West because I’m convinced it never existed). Since I grew up here, I’ll give you the low down on each so you know what to do and where to go when you visit.
North Bay & Peninsula
The upper side of town hosts Marin County & the city of San Francisco. The city garners the most attention from visitors and locals alike. You know about the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, but what about Ina Coolbrith Park with a view of the city? Past the tourist exterior, the city has a small-town charm in each neighborhood. This rings true, particularly in Russian Hill, Little Italy, and the Marina, which are some of my favorite boroughs.
I love to picnic in the park (try the park across the street from the Painted Ladies or Mission Dolores is a huge classic). Plus, the city gets even better after a nice drink or two… maybe more. One fun way to get that view is to do a bottomless brunch — check out Chubby Noodle on Sundays! You’ll thank me for getting the experience of feeling ~funky~ while walking around the beautiful city.
Pro Tip: Never forget to bring a jacket — nights get chilly and windy! And don’t go to the Tenderloin District. Trust me on this one. You’ll see weird things in other parts of the city too, but particularly here.
Marin County houses a much more natural and earthy experience. From beautiful hikes to small towns within, it’s somewhere you will definitely need to bring your hiking shoes and have a car. It’s easy to get stuck without service after a hike, so don’t get stuck and be prepared!
Pro Tip: Visit Mount Tamalpais for some of the most beautiful views in California. You will literally be above the clouds.
Heavily known as Silicon Valley, the South Bay is known for making the tech industry what it is today. Wherever you go, you will see the tech bros frequenting the restaurants casually talking over ideas that may one day become the next Facebook. This consists of the area South of San Francisco until the bottom of San Jose. AKA it’s mainly San Jose. Fun Fact: Did you know SJ has a higher population than SF? Yep, you heard me right. Feel free to fact check.
Yet, it also has some of the most authentic food you’ll find. Not to mention, it’s where I was born and raised. While there isn’t as much Italian food as somewhere like New York, South bay is definitely the Asian food capital of the West. Some of the best dumplings are in a small restaurant off of the main street with only plastic utensils and disposable plates. To this day, I haven’t had better Spicy Pork Wontons… even in China.
Pro Tip: Visit a boba shop & get dumplings. This is the best way to experience the Bay… through your taste buds! Oh, and you’ll definitely need a car here. There’s not much public transportation besides the bus which takes 4x as long + Ubers rack up a fat bill.
Not extremely well known, the East Bay is a more residential Area but still has great aspects. You can also find great food here as well as newer residence areas. There’s a large Asian population here as well, but not nearly as much as the South Bay. You’ll find hotter days and more strip malls, but BART makes it much more accessible to get from place to place, including straighter shots to the city.
It is also home to Oakland, a wildly beautiful city, but also one in which you must watch where you go. Some parts of the city are more dangerous than others, so be careful when exploring! However, it is home to some of the richest culture and diversity in the Bay Area. You’ll find some of the most unique art installations and deep rooted culture.
Pro Tip: Check out Cesar Chavez Park. It has some of the most beautiful views of the San Francisco skyline and the water. It’s great for a walk and a picnic!
I hope this honest rundown gives you more of a feel for the Bay when you come visit. If you’re looking for cool things to experience, I have all of my recommendations for things to do, see, experience, and more on my profile! With over 100 recs from me alone, download the app to save for your next visit to travel the Bay like a local.