11 Unusual, Quirky Gifts You Can Only Find in San Francisco
For the people on your shopping list who have been swept off their feet by San Francisco's charms, there is a nearly unlimited array of local wonders to be had. Home to a thriving community of artists, designers, craftspeople, culinary artists and scientists, this city offers one of the world's most richly varied shopping environments. Here's a list of some quirky and classic items guaranteed to delight any fan of San Francisco.
Two local women, Stacy Rogers and Deirdre Nagayama, have designed a line of graceful, wearable clothing at affordable prices under the label Curator. Their designs are simple and durable, making use of natural fabrics. Check out their stunning Seacliff coat for a taste of real San Francisco style. You can visit their small shop at 1767 Church St. in Noe Valley or check out Curator's collection online. They also sell an interesting selection of handmade soaps, jewelry and accessories.
The Scent of a City
The breeze blowing through each San Francisco neighborhood picks up unique fragrances, and a particular scent will always carry you back to a special spot. Destination Fragrances uses pure essential oils to capture the essence of a dozen city neighborhoods and blends these into its pure Scents of San Francisco candles, which includes a special holiday fragrance. From the Mission District (lime, palo santo and cinnamon) to the Haight (patchouli, cedarwood and ylang ylang), these handmade aromatherapy candles will bring a touch of the city to any home.
Kika is the nickname of Brazilian-born confectioner Cristina Arantes. A San Franciscan since 1999, she has developed an artisanal line of chocolate-covered goodies, called Kika's Treats, using local Dandelion Chocolate and a range of natural sweeteners. Her caramels use coconut palm sugar, which lends its own unique, dark sweetness. They were voted "best caramels" at the San Francisco Chocolate Salon. Kika's Treats are available online and at more than a dozen fine food retailers throughout the city.
French-Style Fruit Preserves
Based in the burgeoning Dogpatch neighborhood, Maison de Monaco creates delicious handmade fruit preserves that are sold throughout the city. The French family that started this tiny business uses a traditional recipe, meaning their products are loaded with more flavor and less sugar than commercial fruit jams.
Coffee from the Diaspora
The Museum of the African Diaspora has partnered with Red Bay Coffee for a curated selection of four coffees that represent the exclusive flavors of the African Diaspora: Ethiopia: Origins, Kenya: Movement, Burundi: Adaptation and Brasil: Transformation. Each cup is a reminder of how the diaspora connects us all. Red Bay was founded by artist Keba Konte, who sources his beans from Sweet Unity Farms, which was founded by David Robinson, son of the famed baseball player Jackie Robinson, and his wife Rachel. The beans are all roasted in Oakland in their garden roastery, dubbed the "Coffee Dojo." www.moadsf.org
Walk on the Wild Side
Have someone on your list who loves a good scoop (and this time, we don't mean ice cream)? Wild SF Walking Tours offer an unvarnished insider view of the city. Every guide is a working artist or activist who will tell you tales that most visitors never hear. These super-affordable tours highlight moments from San Francisco's unique social history, as well as providing opportunities to become acquainted with your fellow travelers. The fun doesn't always end when the tour does. Many times, the guide and tour group will go on to have food or coffee together at one of the great local places you've just discovered. Book a tour as a gift. www.wildsftours.com
Celebrate the Inner Nerd
A visit to the California Academy of Sciences is an absorbing experience in and of itself, but giving the gift of a behind-the-scenes tour will appeal to the hidden scientist in anyone. The Academy offes two different special tours: you can either focus on the research labs that drive the museum's continuing explorations, or you can learn about how the animals in the Aquarium are cared for. All tours include reserved tickets to the Planetarium and the special Rainforests of the World exhibit. www.calacademy.org
We said that our list was quirky, right? For that one friend for whom only a costumed taxidermied animal will do, Paxton Gate in the Mission is your source. Wandering through their store is an experience not to be passed up, even if you don't invest in any (ethically sourced) skulls or stuffed wildlife. If you're looking for something slightly less off the beaten path, they also offer an array of highly civilized gardening tools and personal products.
Speciality San Francisco Soaps
Soapmaker Alana Rivera creates her bath and body products in her San Francisco workshop and sells them online, as well as at interesting gift shops like Perish Trust, located just a short walk from the famous Painted Ladies. Rivera's Etta & Billie soaps are offered in a rich palate of unusual fragrances, with ingredients that are sourced as locally as possible.
Feel Like A Major Leaguer
Delight the baseball enthusiast in your life with a high-quality baseball they won't be able to find in any old sporting goods store. Huntington Base Ball Co.'s limited-edition ball was designed especially for San Francisco's FOG Design+Art fair, and it's available in two rich vintage colors. This ball and other design delights are found in the Park Life Store and Gallery in the Inner Richmond, voted "Best Gift Store" by SF Magazine. Bundle it with a behind-the-scenes tour of AT&T Park and you're all set.
Wig Out in the Castro
For the last 80 years, Cliff's Variety in the Castro has been charming visitors with its cornucopia of randomness. Stop in this store and you'll find products ranging from home improvement to art supplies to fun and games. During the holiday season, the store is decked out in costumes, wigs, tiaras and stockings—perfect for that one zany friend of yours. www.cliffsvariety.com
The City by the Bay has always been an incubator of creativity, and your gift-giving can reflect this, drawing from the unique breadth of San Francisco's maker culture. Visit some of the city's one-of-a-kind stores and galleries, in person if possible (and online, if not), to discover its rich and flavorful selections.