Making the Most Out of Your First Visit to San Francisco's SOMA Neighborhood
One of San Francisco's most well-known neighborhoods is SOMA, which is short for South of Market. This neighborhood stretches from Market to Townsend and Embarcadero to Eleventh Street, encompassing an impressive variety of nightclubs, restaurants, hotels, museums and more. If you're curious about what a neighborhood with this much diversity in commercial and residential buildings looks like, check out this guide to SOMA as you plan your visit.
SOMA's history dates all the way back to 1847, when some of San Francisco's earliest settlers realized the need to open stores that could serve the growing population. After all, the area appealed to immigrants and those people who'd flocked to California for the Gold Rush. Business owners, who noticed the proximity to shipping facilities and the desperate need for shops, suddenly found much appeal in SOMA as well. As the decades have gone by, SOMA has withstood earthquakes, financial depressions, disease epidemics and more. Yet it has always survived, and today — due to revitalization efforts in recent years — it even thrives. It’s now the home of some must-see San Francisco attractions, including The Moscone Center, the Folsom Street Fair, and several museums and theater companies.
Best Time to Visit
Thanks to San Francisco’s beautiful weather most of the year, you can visit SOMA whenever your schedule allows. If you want to have a particularly memorable time; however, plan to visit during the famed Folsom Street Fair in late September. This huge event celebrates the leather subculture that many people don't even know exists until they visit SOMA at this time of year. There’s also the How Weird Street Faire in early May, which is perfect if you're into electronic music. Can't visit in spring or fall? You can still have a great time in SOMA. Just make sure you check Moscone Center to see which events are coming up soon, since this conference center hosts major conventions, tradeshows and more year-round.
Awesome Places to Visit for Your First Time
Admire Some Breathtaking Contemporary Art: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (151 Third St.)
You can't visit San Francisco without spending time at one of the city's amazing museums; you'll see why when you check out SOMA's best cultural offerings. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art — or SFMOMA for short — features more than 30,000 pieces of modern artwork, thanks to a recent expansion. Not only are the ticket prices for adults reasonable, but this museum also outdoes itself by offering free admission to anyone 18 and under, as well as 45,000 square feet of public spaces filled with art that's free to see. Whether you plan to buy a ticket or visit free-of-charge spaces, you can easily spend the day at SFMOMA.
Relax with a Glass of Wine: Press Club (20 Yerba Buena Lane)
When you're in the mood for a great glass of wine with dinner, you can count on Press Club to have what you need. If you're feeling adventurous, feel free to taste several wine offerings here. You can't go wrong with either choice.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors: Yerba Buena Gardens (Mission St. and Howard St. between Third and Fourth streets)
You can take advantage of San Francisco's fantastic weather by spending an afternoon at these local attractions. Not only is there lush green grass at Yerba Buena Gardens, there are several other features in this area, including the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, an ice skating rink, a bowling alley and more.
Salesforce Park (Salesforce Transit Center, 425 Mission St.)
At the new Salesforce Park atop the Salesforce Transit Center, you can stroll along a 5.4-acre elevated park four stories above the streets. A daily schedule of free events, numerous botanical gardens, public art, and seating areas to enjoy the unique viewpoints await your visit. Please note that the Salesforce Transit Center is temporarily closed for repairs and scheduled to reopen Fall 2019.
Catch a Ballgame: Oracle Park (24 Willie Mays Plaza)
Baseball fans take note: This is where the world-champion Giants play! Even if you're not into ballgames, you'll still appreciate the beautiful view of the bay and can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium. Oracle Park is also a great venue for many big events in San Francisco, from concerts to festivals.
See Some Amazing Light Art: Moscone Center (747 Howard St.)
If you walk along Howard St., you'll be met with a towering pedestrian bridge that connects the two sides of Moscone Center. This visual masterpiece is Leo Villarreal's "Point Cloud." Along the ceiling of this bridge are 858 steel rods with LED bulbs that change colors 30 times per second. Walk across this bridge for a fully immersive experience, or observe it from afar. For best viewing, see this installation at nighttime from the corner of Howard and Third Streets.
Best Places to Stay
SOMA has more than a dozen hotels from which to choose, and most are both unique and reasonably priced.
Good Hotel (112 Seventh St.): The name says it all. This hotel is ideal if you like the idea of using mostly sustainable products when you stay in SOMA. The label applies to everything from the bed frames and bedspreads to the lighting and sinks. Head to the Good Hotel if you’re looking for a simple, fun and comfortable place to stay in SOMA — that just happens to be just a couple blocks away from the Folsom Street Fair location.
Hotel Zelos (12 Fourth St.): For a stylish boutique hotel in SOMA, Hotel Zelos won't let you down. No matter which room you end up in, you'll get a breathtaking view of the peaceful courtyard or the bustling city below.