What to Do in the Outer Sunset Neighborhood
Head due west towards the Pacific to discover the quiet side of San Francisco. Wide, windswept beaches beckon and tranquil residential neighborhoods are home to friendly local shops, cafes and restaurants. Welcome to the Outer Sunset.
Easily reachable on the Muni Metro system by taking the N Judah, L Taraval or M Oceanview trains from downtown, the Outer Sunset is a vast area that borders the Pacific Ocean. Although it's not quite as walkable as the rest of the city (Lyft is an excellent option), it sparkles with many hidden gems. For visitors looking for a true local experience, the Outer Sunset is a San Francisco neighborhood well worth exploring.
Things to Do in the Outer Sunset
A glorious stretch of wild coastline that offers sunsets to die for and some of California’s best surf watching, Ocean Beach is one of San Francisco’s greatest natural escapes. Driving alongside it on the Great Highway is one of the most scenic auto trips in the city. At night, the golden sands are lit up by the bonfires of locals gathered around fire pits constructed by the National Park Service (no fires are allowed between November-February).
San Francisco Zoo & Gardens (Sloat Boulevard at the Great Highway)
From the African savannah, complete with a lowland gorilla preserve, to Grizzly Island, where California’s state animal can be viewed lumbering through the forest, the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens are a full day of fun for all ages. Taking the L Taraval to the end of the line will not only get you there in a jiffy from downtown SF, but will also get you a discounted admission. www.sfzoo.org/
Pine Lake Park and Stern Grove (Sloat Boulevard and Vale Avenue)
A steep forested valley in the middle of the Outer Sunset, Pine Lake Park is a peaceful oasis of verdant nature made for solitary walks, except on summer weekends. From mid-June until mid-August, the park hosts the Stern Grove Festival, the longest-running and most important of San Francisco’s free summer concert series. It takes place in a gorgeous grove of cypress and redwood trees. The L Taraval, M Ocean View or K streetcars drop you right near the park entrance.
Things to Buy in the Outer Sunset
Case For Making (4037 Judah St.)
Not your typical arts supply store, this local favorite stocks hand-selected watercolor supplies and raw materials for a variety of artistic pursuits. It also offers regular workshops to the community.
Blackbird Books (4033 Judah St.)
A neighborhood bookstore where the selection is handpicked and customers are welcome to browse for hours, Blackbird Books is a social gathering place as well as a book lover’s hideaway. It frequently hosts readings and other events.
Avenues Dry Goods (4120 Irving St.)
Shop for locally made home furnishings and art as well as a great selection of California native plants at this unique and decidedly relaxed but hip shop. It is often referred to as San Francisco's best-kept secret.
Mollusk Surf Shop (4500 Irving St.)
The best surf in California is not in Southern California, but can be found along the foggy banks of Ocean Beach. The waves are heavy as refrigerators and the freezing temperatures breed an outlaw sense of living on the edge (of San Francisco). Mollusk has become a cornerstone of the neighborhood, selling clothing and great boards to the surf rats who head out into the ocean. They occasionally host art shows and live music too
Things to Taste in the Outer Sunset
Beachside Coffee Bar and Kitchen (4300 Judah St.)
From breakfast burritos to tofu sunset sandwiches, with everything from waffles to quiche thrown in as well, the eclectic menu at Beachside has made it a local favorite for breakfast and lunch. The hand-poured individual-cup coffee is famous, too.
Hook Fish Co. (4542 Irving St.)
The fresh catch of the day is what’s on the menu at Hook Fish Co., an Outer Sunset seafood restaurant that gets rave reviews. From crab cakes to fish tacos, everything here goes down great with the house-made pico de gallo.
Java Beach (1396 La Playa St.)
An Outer Sunset institution since 1993, this friendly, cozy café occupies a key corner location with a nice outdoor patio right across from the rolling dunes of Ocean Beach. Meet new friends or peruse the paper over a veggie pesto bagel and a house latte. You'll have a hard time leaving.Pick up a pound of the locally roasted coffee beans to take home, too. You can't go wrong with Bernie's Blend or Judah Tunnel Espresso.
Lady Falcon Coffee Club (Alamo Square Park)
While this vintage 1948 coffee truck can often be found at several distinct locations across San Francisco, including the Presidio and Alamo Square Park, its favorite haunt is along Ocean Beach in the Outer Sunset. Grab a craft-roasted cuppa to warm up your hands and heart before building your sand castle.
Outerlands (4001 Judah St.)
Executive chef Yoni Levy has brought the fine art of California fusion to the Outer Sunset with this critically acclaimed eatery that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Try the daily vegetarian doughnut special on the fly, or grab a wooden table and order the jalepeño shrimp or chickpea panelle to see what all the fuss is about.
Woods Outbound (4045 Judah St.)
Calling itself a “commuter-sized club bar,” this often-packed Outer Sunset watering hole is located at the end of the N Judah streetcar line. Widely known for its great craft beer selection and spicy empanadas, this is one of the best places in the neighborhood to rub shoulders with locals.
See the Outer Sunset in action by watching this video of scenes from our recent MYSF tour of the neighborhood.