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April 24, 2017

Returning to San Francisco's SOMA Neighborhood? Here's What to Do Next

The last time you visited San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood you likely checked out SFMOMA, maybe grabbed a bite to eat, and then headed off to see Alcatraz, the Presidio or other well-known San Francisco sites. This time around, consider spending more time in SOMA exploring its lesser-known treasures. Here are 10 suggestions to get you started.

Catch Up on History at the California Historical Society (678 Mission St.)
California has a long and interesting backstory that is so much more than Hollywood and ‘49ers, and you can discover it at this must-see museum. From collections of manuscripts, journals, photos and maps to gallery exhibits on the Native Americans who once called the state home, the Historical Society is the repository of documents tracing California’s ever-changing appearance and population.

Bite Into the Perfect Pizza Crust at Zero Zero (826 Folsom St.)
Try a range of wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas at Zero Zero, topped with a unique variety of vegetables like corn, eggplant or Padron peppers, or homemade cured meats including prosciutto cotto and soppressata. The popular crust served here is made from the eponymous "00" flour that gives the restaurant its name. Pasta and other entrees are also on the menu. As they say, save room for dessert: Zero Zero dishes out Straus organic soft-serve ice cream in vanilla or chocolate, with optional sides that include ricotta doughnuts and toppings such as Calabrian chile caramel.

Sip a Pinot Noir at Bluxome Street Winery (53 Bluxome St.)
California winemaking originated in SOMA, before the 1906 earthquake and then Prohibition ended all local wineries. But it’s back, baby, thanks to Bluxome Street Winery bringing the art of winemaking back to its roots, beginning in 2010. You won’t be disappointed by a visit here — Bluxome wines repeatedly earn scores of 90+. Enjoy a flight of “Today’s Pours” in the tasting room while watching the wine being crafted in the next room over.

Get a tan on the patio at ATwater Tavern (295 Terry Francois Blvd.)
Eat like a San Franciscan in San Francisco. Their food is inspired by legendary San Francisco classics like cioppino, steamed mussels, and other seafood dishes, along with meats cooked over a wood-fired Santa Maria grill. Don’t forget to check out their outdoor deck complete with views of the Bay, AT&T Park, and the downtown skyline. Perfect for a sunny cocktail happy hour.

Flip a Paddle at SPiN (690 Folsom St. at Third Street)
Let your wandering spirit be your guide as you head to SPiN — the local franchise of an international Ping-Pong social club part-owned by actress Susan Sarandon. Even if it’s been years since you first picked up a paddle in your parents’ basement, the knack will surely come back to you in no time. Bring friends, meet strangers; it’s all fun and games, along with drinks, cuisine and a retro-meets-modern edge.

Let Your Hair Down at Oasis (298 11th St.)
Experience what some consider the “real” San Francisco at Oasis, a venue for cabaret, burlesque and drag shows, along with more sedate nightclub fare. Whether you’re gay, straight or somewhere in between, Oasis — which was opened by two local drag stars in 2015 — is the place to grab a cocktail and enjoy the show.

Exercise Your Right to Drink at the 21st Amendment Brewery Cafe (563 Second St.)
Generations ago, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution repealed the national prohibition on alcohol. Since then, drinkers of legal drinking age have been enjoying their right to imbibe any number of alcoholic brews at any number of local bars. The 21st Amendment Brewery serves its own craft beers, which range from the appropriately named Brew Free or Die! IPA to the Elizabeth Street Bitter. There is also pub food in case you need you soak up the alcohol, including burgers, ribs, fish and chips, and more.

Expand Your Knowledge at the Museum of the African Diaspora (685 Mission St.)
Explore this unique museum to learn about the diaspora as viewed through contemporary art. The MoAD's goal is to present the history of the African diaspora across four themes—origins, movement, adaptation and transformation. The result is a collection of exhibits that you'll be thinking about and processing long after you leave the museum.

Score Food and Fun at Lucky Strike (200 King St.)
If the crowd at Lucky Strike is any guide, bowling never really goes out of style (although the shoes are another thing entirely), it just morphs into something new. Lucky Strike acts like a sports bar that just happens to have a bowling alley inside, which means you can just go to eat, drink and enjoy the nightlife without having to knock down any pins along the way. But why not reserve a lane anyway? You’ll remember how fun bowling can be, and work off some cocktail calories.

Discover New Worlds at Alexander Book Company (50 Second St. between Market and Mission)
Wander through three floors of books in this independently owned SOMA bookstore, which also features kids’ and tech sections. Opened by brother and sister Michael and Bonnie Stupin in 1990, Alexander Book Company has survived and thrived for more than 25 years, despite the proliferation of e-books and bookstore chains. Beloved for its coziness and its friendly and helpful staff, this bookstore also specializes in books featuring, or written in, San Francisco. This includes "The Maltese Falcon," "On the Road," and "The Joy Luck Club," to name just a few. Spend some time here just soaking in the peace and quiet, lulled by that crisp new-book smell.

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