The Bay Area: A Whittie’s Guide to the City
Are you new to the Bay Area or soon-to-be resident? Or maybe you’re just here for a few sleeps and looking for a great place to get a bite to eat. Moving to or visiting a new area can be a tough transition so we've asked your fellow Whitties for the best places to eat, play, find housing and more to give you a leg-up in your new domain.
"Facebook Group: Bay Area Rooms and Apartments"
"With friends or family, or by reaching out to any contacts in the area. There is very little access to affordable housing and almost everyone I know lives with family, or has found housing through someone who already lives in the city and has an extra room, or knows someone who has a rent-controlled place (except for the people who can afford the $3-4k/month rent for a studio or one-bedroom, in which case go for it). You can check the Facebook page ‘Affordable Housing For OK People' (approval required first), which often lists rooms in queer- and POC-friendly homes in East Bay and the city."
"Craigslist. Expect to share with roommates. Outer parts of the city can be significantly less expensive, and it's possible to find places with good access to transit." Blair Frank '13
"Outside of San Francisco, there are still some decently priced areas in Oakland and San Leandro. Within the city, the inner and outer Richmond areas can be reasonable if you don't mind having a few housemates."
"San Francisco is very expensive, but could potentially be possible with roommates. The East Bay (Oakland, Berkeley) are definitely more reasonable, but it's expensive all over. I'd focus on trying to live somewhere close to good transit access points, BART, Caltrain, etc. The Bay Area is expansive, and long commutes (1hr+) are pretty standard here - if you have the luxury of finding a job first, it'd be great to look closer to work as possible."
"Oakland (easy BART to SF), or if you're looking in SF well-connected neighborhoods like the Mission, SOMA, Bernal Heights."
"The Sunset (east side of San Francisco), or outside of the city. The commute tradeoff is worth the decreased rent in surrounding areas (Millbrae, Burlingame, etc.)"
"For affordability = Outer Sunset, Excelsior, Portola, Bay View. For fun = Mission, Inner Sunset, Potrero Hill." Kaitlin Strange '08
"Outer Richmond and Sunset are most affordable; Noe Valley, Mission, and Marina are more expensive and lively neighborhoods with many young adults."
"It depends on where you are working and what's important to you. Living in the South Bay (Belmont, Sunnyvale, and East Palo Alto) or East Bay will be cheaper but there is less going on relative to San Francisco. Other areas in South Bay such as Palo Alto and Mountain View have gotten quite expensive, although you may still get more for your money than living in San Francisco. If you decide to go for SF, even if you're a tech worker, if you're young, you're going to need to find roommates or get a one bedroom with a significant other and it will still probably be quite expensive."
"There is no ‘best.' BART for mostly reliable transit along the Mission-Market corridor to parts south and east. MUNI can be horrifically unreliable, but it's what we have, and the coverage is pretty good. If you need to get somewhere NOW, Lyft/Uber." Blair Frank '13
"BART, Walking, Muni." Sarah Deming '10
"In San Francisco, using Muni or a rideshare app is generally the best. If you have the stamina for biking up hills, you'll be in good company. Highly recommend getting a Clipper card which can be used as fare for all the major forms of public transit in the Bay Area." Allison Bogisich '17
"BART has the furthest reach and makes jobs in Downtown SF a quick hop from the East Bay (Oakland particularly). AC Transit also runs Transbay buses from the Easy Bay to the SF, which are a great commute option. With the prevalence of Uber and Lyft there's essentially on demand ride sharing across almost the entire Bay Area."
"If you live near a station, BART can work well, but it can be crowded and delayed. Buses surprisingly good. Bikes are great for getting to and from stations and if you live in a flatter area - lots of bike friendly routes. People are starting to do the scooter rental thing, too." Rachel Hahn '10
"San Francisco is a very walking friendly city so I get most places by walking. However, the bus lines are fairly robust, and BART can get you to far away places fairly quickly. I also have a bike that I use to go to and from places." Tabor Martinson '15
"Bad idea. You will pay hundreds a year in parking tickets, no matter what. Also, there are consistent car break-ins that are rough if you keep anything of value in your car." Steve Shoemaker '10
"Parking is difficult. Regular city stuff, lots of bumps and scrapes should be expected on your car." Sarah Deming '10
"Pros are independence of a transit schedule and ability to get out of town easily; cons are parking, expense, and the isolation that comes from not taking transit." Leslie Beach '08
"Pros: Can rely on it to get you places on time, can use it to go camping/in nature etc. Cons: PARKING. Parking spot in building can be expensive." Carrie Sloane '12
"Cars are very useful unless you live in a super urban area with little parking. Traffic is bad during rush hour, especially if you work in SF and live in the East Bay." Rachel Hahn '10
"Pros: getting to hiking trails. Getting places quickly. Cons: it's expensive." Andrew Patel '14
"Pros is being able to leave the city and go on weekend trips. Cons is that driving in SF sucks and you don't really need to. I live somewhere parking is free but often you have to pay $100-300 a month for parking so it doesn't make much sense unless your job gives you parking or you will leave a lot. I like having it to go on adventures."
"Ultimate on ocean beach" Steve Shoemaker '10
"Walk, Bike, Museums, Golden Gate Park, and Picnic at Crissy Field."
"Hike, go to the beach, spend time in Golden Gate Park, explore downtown."
"Get outside! Awesome hiking in every direction. Also explore the coast/beaches and cool towns tucked away."
"Going hiking nearby during the weekend or attending comedy club shows is usually good for a fun evening." Allison Bogisich '17
"Yosemite, Tahoe and Marin are all driving distance away for all the outdoor recreation you could dream of! I go rock-climbing in the Mission and I also have a bike and bike around a lot. But I walk a TON on the weekend, to various cafe's, restaurants and parks. I run around the city too and visit various farmers markets. There's also free workouts on the weekends through Bounce SF and also athletic stores like Athleta and Lululemon that have free run clubs and outdoor workouts to get to know people"
"Drive to Twin Peaks for the incredible views and watch the tourists." Clark Sun '18
"I go to a lot of literary readings when I'm out for fun." Blair Frank '13
"The Exploratorium and the Academy of Sciences both have great "After Dark" programs on Thursday evenings (21+) with special exhibits and drinks. Golden Gate Park has museums and plenty of outdoor areas to walk (or bike, or roller blade) around in. Ocean beach, while chillier than the stereotypical California beach, has a beautiful view and is great for runs or walks. The Sutro Baths ruins and Lands End hike at the end of the beach are fun to explore and the hike leads to beautiful views of the bridge. At the base of the bridge is Fort Point, which is a free historical monument and connects to the Crissy Field walk along the bay."
"The Bay Area has everything. Lots of good biking, hiking, water sports of all kinds, skiing (Tahoe), camping, etc. There are also lots of bars, breweries, restaurants, historical sites, museums, sports venues, concert venues, etc. Anything you want to do, it's probably here."
"HIKE - Foothills Park, Stanford Dish, Black Mountain, Windy Hill, Purisima Redwoods, Big Basin, Point Reyes, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Santa Cruz, Pescadero. BIKE - Baylands Bay Trail, San Tomas Trail, Stevens Creek Trail, Guadalupe River Trail (all pretty flat)." Elizabeth Greenfield '18
"San Francisco is an outdoor haven with limitless parks, hikes, and places to explore. I try to make the most of living in such an incredibly beautiful place by going for walks, hikes, and day trips as often as possible. There are a number of great parks to take in the views and picnic with friends (Alamo Square, Palace of Fine Arts, Dolores Park, Golden Gate Park, Crissy Field, Lafayette Park, Washington Square Park, etc.). I also try as many yummy food places as possible and I go for hikes in the Presidio, Lands End, Buena Vista Park, Mt. Sutro Open Reserve, Fort Funston, etc.)."
"I highly recommend the book Cool Gray City of Love by Gary Kamiya to both new transplants and locals alike. It's an engaging account of San Francisco's history, geography, and personality that motivates the reader to walk the streets, parks, and hills!"
"In Marin, Mt Tamalpais State Park, Point Reyes, Samuel P. Taylor park, the Marin Headlands. In SF, Fort Funston, The Presidio, Ocean Beach, Mt. Sutro, McLaren park. In the East Bay, Wildcat Canyon, Mt. Diablo, Tilden Park. On the Peninsula, Sam McDonald State Park, Butano State Park, Big Basin, Pescadero Marsh." Leslie Beach '08
"Playing squash at Stanford, bike rides through Portola Hills or over the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin headlands."
"I used to live near the Presidio National Park in the city, so I would go for regular hikes/walks in there, check out the museums in there (e.g. Presidio Officer's club, the Walt Disney Museum, etc.), and I would play basketball, tennis, soccer, bocce, frisbee, etc. on the numerous fields there. They also have a fun food truck event with over 100 food trucks and live music on Thursday nights and all day Sunday. Finally, there's plenty of biking areas and there is also the famous Baker Beach that looks back on the Golden Gate Bridge--where I would go and do bonfires with friends." Tabor Martinson '15
"The Beaches in SF, Marin, or the South Bay, beautiful Redwoods in the East Bay."
"Presidio, Land's End, Point Reyes, and Marin Headlands for hiking, and Neck of the Woods for comedy shows." Allison Bogisich '17
"The open space preserves along I-280 are all great for hiking. For wineries, I would highly recommend visiting the wineries in Los Gatos/Saratoga area like Picchetti. They're easier to get to than Napa and produce phenomenal wines. For brewery recommendations, visiting Russian River in Santa Rosa is a must. You can hike mount Tam or visit Muir Wood if you do that as well." David Wilson '15
"The Booksmith." Blair Frank '13
"The Circus Center on Frederick Street offers super fun classes in everything from Aerials to Clowning to Juggling and Acrobatics, and is right next to Golden Gate Park."
"Any direction there are many. Point Reyes, Big Basin, Pinnacles NP, Yosemite, Russian River, Santa Cruz, and Big Sur are just a few great places for outdoor activities."
"Budget meal = Sunset / Mission. Nice meal = Pacific Height / The Marina. Top restaurant recommendation: Ly's Vietnamese Cuisine. Cheap, low risk of disliking anything, good food." Clark Sun '18
"La Taqueria on 24th and Mission because it's a classic." Steve Shoemaker '10
"Beretta - Great cocktails, good food, nice ambiance-not too expensive." Sarah Deming '10
"Divisadero is up and coming, as is Ocean Ave. everyone in SF comes to Marin for Sol Food in San Rafael, but I like Casa Mañana better ... Arizmendi is a local string of co-op bakeries and pizza places-casual, affordable, and delicious, plus at least somewhat idealistic in their business practices." Leslie Beach '08
"Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous (yay for dessert!)"
"If you want cheap but amazing Mexican, go to El Farolito in the Mission. Also amazing vegan Mexican there is Gracias Madre. If you're looking for something more nice, go to Chubby Noodle in North Beach-amazing Asian food in a hip neighborhood but a little pricey."
"Something new opens every week-bad restaurants don't survive in the Bay Area!"
"Currently my top pick is Flores over on Union Street in the Cow Hollow Area; it has awesome happy hour deals with delicious traditional Mexican flavors that have a subtle modern spin to them-get the crab tostadas!" Allison Bogisich '17
"In San Carlos and Menlo Park there's a restaurant called The Refuge that's nice." David Wilson '15
"Brunch at Zazie in Cole Valley. It combines a bunch of very San Francisco things: waiting in long lines for brunch, amazing fresh food and outdoor seating for unreasonably great days." Blair Frank '13
"A hamburger at Zeitgeist" Kaitlin Strange '08
"Drake's Dealership-good beer and food, nice outdoor space, very social" Rachel Hahn '10
"Burgers: Roam (Fillmore or Chestnut St.), Drinks and Modern Italian: Beretta (Mission St.), Fancy Cantonese: R & G Lounge, Reasonably Priced Dumplings/Noodles: King of Noodles (Irving St.), Upscale Mexican: Padrecito (Cole Valley)."
"Shizen is one of my favorites for a nice night out. It's artful and flavorful and vegan and not too pricy... Great specialty vegan sushi and good sake list. The wait is long, but you can put your name on the list and then go get a drink and play games nearby while you wait."
"I think for a young grad, Chubby Noodle is a great option because it's Asian-American Fusion is really popular for young people, it's vibe and layout are conducive to going out with groups of friends, and they pump hip tunes (Drake, Kanye, Frank Ocean, etc.) for people to enjoy listening to." Tabor Martinson '15
"For something sweet, I recommend frozen Greek yogurt from Souvla (2 locations: on Divisadero or Hayes). In the East Bay, I recommend heading to Temescal. Between Cholita Linda, Pizzaiolo, Doña Tomás, Burma Superstar and more - you can't go wrong!"
"Live music at the Fillmore, Bottom of the Hill, Great American Music Hall, the Fox Theater in Oakland, the Greek Theatre or Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, Terrapin Crossroads or Sweetwater or 19 Broadway in Marin. There's a really awesome theater community right now too- Cutting Ball Theater, the Magic Theatre, Berkeley Rep, ACT, Aurora, We Players' site-specific theater, Marin Theater Company, CalShakes, African American Shakespeare Company, etc." Leslie Beach '08
"Bars on 16th St. and Valencia St. in the Mission or Bars around Polk Street." Sarah Deming '10
"The Mission is fun, so is the Haight and the Castro."
"The California Academy of Science has Nightlife evenings open to adults only on Thursdays, where they have fun rotating themes for exhibits and live music plus drinks. Blondies' Bar in the Mission district is a great bar option for drinks and dancing with a dance floor area- can get a bit crowded but it's small enough that you can't lose your companions!" Allison Bogisich '17
"I love going out in the Mission and dancing at Make Out Room! Going out in the Castro and dancing is fun too."
"In the East Bay: Eli's Mile High, Missouri Lounge, The Lodge, Double Standard, Ruby Room for smokers"
"ABV in the Mission is easily my favorite bar -- just the right mix of fancy and low key. Smuggler's Cove is a fantastic and fun temple to rum. Go to Toronado at least once. Bring cash." Blair Frank '13
"San Francisco has great live theater, Uptown Oakland for bars and music." Rachel Hahn ‘10
"The Mission. Between 16th-24th Street on Mission/Valencia there is pretty much every type of bar/club/nightlight. El Rio is a great queer bar a little out of the way on Mission (past 26th and Cesar Chavez) and Oasis is a popular queer nightclub on Castro."
"I don't go out to clubs, but I do enjoy going out to events--of which there are plenty to choose from. If you like salsa or bachata there's a great bar called Cigar Bar, if you like exploring museums, there's a 21 and up event every Thursday night at the Exploratorium and the Academy of Sciences that gives people access to the museum and often has bars and fun music. If you like bar hopping, there are great spots on Grant St. in North Beach, Chestnut St. in the Marina, Union St. in Cow Hollow, and Polk St. in Nob Hill. Fillmore St. in Pacific Heights can also be a good place to check out bars." Tabor Martinson '15
"San Rafael, Thursday morning and Sunday morning, in the Civic Center parking lot! The local chefs go on Thursday mornings; Sunday's more a family affair. In the summer, the Wednesday night Fairfax farmer's market is sweet." Leslie Beach '08
"The Ferry Building Farmer's Market: Wednesday Closed Thursday 10AM-2PM Friday Closed Saturday 8AM-2PM Sunday Closed Monday Closed Tuesday 10AM-2PM"
"Cal Ave. Palo Alto every Sunday"
"Grand Lake, Downtown Berkeley, Claremont Ave"
"I live in the Sunset District and go to the Farmers Market every Sunday (year round) on 9th and Irving (a pretty hip area). In the whole Bay ... the Embarcadero has a nice one at the Ferry Building but it's pricey. The East Bay has great ones too."
"Lake Merritt Farmers Market on Saturdays; also Fridays in Old Oakland. Also the Ferry Building in SF, with the farmers market on Saturdays."
"Clement Street has a great farmer's market on Sundays (between 2nd & 4th avenues) from 9am-2pm" Allison Bogisich '17
"The Mountain View farmers market is one of the best in the whole Bay Area. It runs year round at the Mountain View Caltrain station" David Wilson '15
"Noe Valley farmers market - most Saturdays" Kaitlin Strange '08
"Between housing/food/transportation/going out, you're not going to be able to save a dime. It's hard to pay off student loans that way, so if that's a big issue for you, consider living somewhere cheaper for a couple years to get those under control." Steve Shoemaker '10
"If you are young and social, live in San Francisco or Oakland. Do NOT live in Peninsula/East Bay Suburbs (e.g. Palo Alto, Mountain View, Walnut Creek etc.) The commute might be longer living in the city but it will for sure be worth it." Sarah Deming '10
"If you've got a car don't park anywhere close to a driveway! Not only will you get a ticket but you get charged for the tow which is ridiculously expensive- trust me." Allison Bogisich '17
"Everyone talks about how expensive the Bay Area is - and they're right - but so much of the best stuff to do here is free. Start inviting people to hike or walk or cook together - It builds a different, warmer kind of friendship and community when you're not always spending money. Also, many theaters and cultural events have under-35 discounts that make stuff a little more accessible." Leslie Beach ‘08
"People in Silicon Valley are not as balanced as Whitman students. There's a lot of stress among people because work-life balances are tricky to achieve. Also in Silicon Valley young people are often working around the clock in tech institutions and much less outgoing, therefore hard to meet friends your own age." Elizabeth Greenfield '18
"When looking for housing, be careful of scams - if something looks too good to be true, it almost ALWAYS is." Tabor Martinson '15
"Avoid the allure of ‘tech life' - don't go crazy on fancier apartments in hipster areas, don't blow too much money on crazy meals, don't Uber everywhere if you can walk / take public transportation" Clark Sun '18
"Expecting Muni to run on time is a fool's errand. Embrace the chaos." Blair Frank '13
"If you go literally anywhere on a weekend, it will be crowded. Try to plan things either earlier in the day or at times/dates when you won't be competing with the 7 million other people in the Bay Area. For example, never visit half moon bay on a weekend with nice weather." David Wilson '15
"Muni buses are usually unreliable/late. Also - watch where you step!" Kaitlin Strange '08
"It's super expensive. Finding a place that is affordable to live will really change how your lifestyle works here. Spend less on housing, and free up your funds for everything else. Also-invest in a great bike lock!" Rachel Hahn '10
"Making friends takes time. Join clubs. Be yourself." Andrew Patel ‘14
"It's very expensive to live here, and eating out at all the amazing restaurants adds up. Make sure you account for high rents and cost of living, and know that you pay a premium to live in this world class area."
"I really researched the various neighborhoods to live in because each neighborhood has a microclimate of various people. I also would really caution to get to know your potential roommates before moving in - I was very jaded by the cheap price and nice apartment I visited, and chose to ignore the very crazy roommate inside :) It ended up being a terrible move and I had to move out 6 months later. Just visiting the apartment once isn't always enough - go get a drink or coffee with the roommates a second time to show your interest, and also get to know them more."
"Get a clipper card. Watch your belongings. Take advantage of all the city has to offer!"
"It's really beautiful." Steve Shoemaker '10
"The weather is so mild you can do things outside 325 days a year. I love the diversity of food options. I love how cheap produce is. I think people are pretty friendly in SF (especially compared to Seattle) you can actually turn strangers into friends here." Sarah Deming '10
"Its history and its integration of green and urban spaces." Leslie Beach '08
"There is always something going on any day of the week, and you can usually get anywhere with public transportation within San Francisco (which can't always be said for other parts of the Bay Area)." Allison Bogisich '17
"Born and raised. And my dog is here." Clark Sun ‘18
"It's a wonderful, dynamic place that feels so alive, without being overwhelming. The weather is amazing. The people are great." Blair Frank '13
"The murals, art, food, nature, sunshine, and people." Kaitlin Strange '08
"It's beautiful, nature is nearby, there is so much to do, amazing food, it's diverse, places and cities are close together and easy to get between, there are a lot of Whitties here!" Rachel Hahn '10
"It is close to the best locations in California and home to some wonderful diversity. The entire world in terms of language and culture are at your doorstep. Not only is SF beautiful, but you're close to the ocean (Santa Cruz), Napa, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and you're not far at all from San Luis Obispo or even L.A."
"There's so much to see and do in the Bay Area! San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley would each be enough on their own - and yet we have the gift of them all at our fingertips! Plus the South Bay, Marin, and more..."
"San Francisco is gorgeous, has so much access to beautiful nature, a good job market, young people, and amazing food. It has a blend of cultures and a huge variety of neighborhoods. It has a lot of tech, but you can also find a lot of social justice and non-profits. It's just the best!"
"Easy access to the outdoors, incredible culture (events, institutions, food scene), great opportunity professionally, amazing weather."
"It has always been my home, so I am biased, but I think it has some of the best food in the world, the population is incredibly diverse (if you look farther than Market St/downtown), it is beautiful and has access to amazing outdoors activities, the weather is great (mild, lots of fog, never too hot or snowy), and there are a lot of people who live here who care about making a positive impact on the world. The city does struggle with homelessness and the housing crisis and income inequality, but the people who have been here for a long time are constantly striving to hold onto the spirit of love and acceptance that defines our home."