Find The Authentic Heart Of The City In The Mission San Francisco

Get ready to walk down streets flanked by large colorful bursts of murals, then try some of the best Mexican food you've ever had in your life. The Mission District in San Francisco is defined by its vibrant cultural heritage and artistic streets.

Formerly a predominately Chicano and Latino area, the Mission has undergone a renaissance of art and culture as a younger, bohemian crowd has moved into the neighborhood. This is not to say that the original communities have been erased. Instead, the young artsy types and the working class Latino families have blended together to make a special neighborhood filled with authenticity and culture. The Mission is the perfect neighborhood to get a pulse on the heart of San Francisco. Here are our top picks for what to do in the Mission San Francisco.

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Mission District Overview

Mission District Overview

The Mission is known as San Francisco's Latino neighborhood, with a wealth of good ethnic restaurants representing the diversity of Latin American countries. Visit for a dose of salsa music, discount stores and outdoor produce markets. Step into any taqueria in the Mission for inexpensive, authentic Mexican dishes prepared in an open-grill kitchen. The quarter is also well known for the colorful (and socio-political) murals that cover walls, fences, even entire buildings.

Dolores Street, just four blocks west of Mission Street, is a pleasant palm-lined boulevard. A little further on 20th and 21th Streets are some of San Francisco's most beautifully restored Victorian houses.

Visit the Mission Dolores, founded in , to see San Francisco's oldest building. It's also where the Mission District gets its name. Although a predominatly Latino district, the Mission has recently earned a reputation as an up-and-coming neighborhood. Artists, writers and musicians, attracted by the low rents, great food and the colorful neighborhood, have flocked to the Mission in recent years.

Dolores Park

Dolores Park

Dolores Park is the beating heart of the Mission District in San Francisco and a major landmark of the neighborhood. Here, you'll find women sunbathing, children playing Frisbee, and a few parties that have smuggled in a cooler of beer. The park has incomparable views of the city and the soft rolling hills make this the perfect place to spend a relaxing afternoon.

Complete with tennis and basketball courts, a playground, and two off-leash dog play areas, the park also features tall palm trees for a retreat from the California sun. Often, the park is the location of music festivals and other cultural events. Settle in with a burrito from La Taqueria and bask in the sunshine. You can even support the local businessman who sells fresh coconuts laced with rum. Talk about fun!

Taqueria

Taqueria

Although the Mission San Francisco has experienced a wave of gentrification over the years, the neighborhood still holds on to its Latino culture in many ways. Take, for example, Taqueria, a 30-year-old Mexican restaurant that practically invented the regional taco and burrito styles.

The Mission takes its food seriously and this restaurant lives up to the hype. Try a taco dorado with its deep-fried taco shell wrapped in a soft corn tortilla with your own choice of meat. Although competition is fierce, Taqueria continues to serve its loyal customers who have a hankering for a taste of real Mexican-American cuisine. You're also going to love the amazing mural on the side of the building!

  • 2794 24th Street (not to be confused with La Taqueria on Mission Street!)
  • Website

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Clarion Alley Mural Project

Clarion Alley Mural Project

Starting in 1992, the Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) has created over 700 murals. With messages of community empowerment and workers rights, CAMP turned a primarily blighted space into an area filled with murals and color. The murals don't cohere as one collective style, but instead show a full range of techniques and aesthetics. At CAMP, you can see the artistic and multicultural heart that makes the Mission San Francisco such an irresistibly charming community.

  • One block long between Mission and Valencia Streets and 17th and 18th Streets
  • Website

Mission Dolores

Mission Dolores

Before San Francisco was even a city, Spanish conquistadors built the Mission Dolores as a testament to their spiritual mission in California. The district's namesake was founded in 1776, and the current building was consecrated in 1791, making it the oldest building in San Francisco. It even survived the two huge earthquakes of 1906 and 1989. It continues to be a hub of cultural and religious life, and you can even take a tour. Brilliant frescoes and a hushed basilica are calming presences in the middle of the city. For movie buffs, the Mission Dolores even has a cameo in Hitchcock's 1958 film Vertigo.

Precita Eyes Muralists

Precita Eyes Muralists

Want someone knowledgeable about the murals to show you around? Look no further than Precita Eyes Muralists. This community-based arts organization provides tours of the Mission's many vibrant murals. Established in the seventies by two local artists, Precita Eyes also offers arts education programming for youth development. This is a great place to go to learn about the eclectic murals of the Mission San Francisco and support local, community-based organizations.

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Taste of the Mission Culinary Walking Tour

Taste of the Mission Culinary Walking Tour

Here's an easy and fun way to explore the Mission's culinary landscape. This lively food tour takes your palate on a journey of ethnic flavors — from Italian prosciutto, Venezuelan arepas (flat bread), to authentic Mexican tacos and Vietnamese coffee. There are plenty of free samples as you hop from South America, Asia and Latin America at local Mission taquerias, cafes, ice cream shops, bakeries and restaurants.

Your culinary concierge introduces you to the best of San Francisco's most vibrant and flavorful neighborhoods. All samples are included, so it's best to arrive hungry! Taste a diverse range of ethnic food from Venezuela to Vietnam and visit local favorites like La Victoria Bakery, Mission Pie, La Palma Foods and others.

The culinary tour ends with a visit to a popular local ice cream shop where you sample a flight of flavors. While you walk the streets of the Mission, you also see those famous murals at the Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center.

Dog Eared Books

Dog Eared Books

With such famed literary residents as Danielle Steele and Jack Kerouac, San Francisco caters to book-hungry residents with many wonderful independent bookstores. Dog Eared Books has made its mark on the Mission District in San Francisco since 1992. Although they sell books catering to all interests, they do specialize in Beat, off-beat, small press, and local literature.

The atmosphere of the bookstore is kitsch and pleasant with odd obscurities scattered throughout the store. The staff is made up of bibliophiles who are happy to find you whatever you may be looking for or to give recommendations of their own, based on your interests and curiosities.

Bi-Rite Creamery

Bi-Rite Creamery

This is something we don't want to miss… and neither does anyone else. You'll find people lining up around the block to get a taste of the always fresh, locally-sourced, and organic ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery.

Part of Bi-Rite's mission is to serve up ice cream reminiscent of the good old days of ice cream parlors, and they want their ice cream to taste as close as possible to that era. This means that lemon ice cream should be really lemony, butter pecan should taste like toasty pecans and rich brown butter, and chocolate should taste like real chocolate.

There is also a bakery next to the ice cream kitchen that serves up delicious brownies and cookies. Savor the flavors of this rich ice cream shop followig a long day of basking in the San Francisco sun. After walking around the Mission District all day, you deserve a sweet treat!

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Galeria de la Raza

Galeria de la Raza

Originally the Mission District was predominately Latino and Chicano and it's organizations like Galeria de la Raza that have tried to preserve this cultural heritage. The storefront gallery, run by a community-based non-profit arts organization, celebrates Chicano & Latino culture with bi-monthly exhibitions.

The Galeria de la Raza also has ongoing projects to support young Latino and indigenous artists through mentorship, capacity-building and small grants. Pop into the gallery to learn about the history, culture, and contemporary art of this important population to the heritage of the Mission. The exhibitions are sure to be enlightening and provocative.

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