Travel

It’s free to hang out in San Francisco

The easiest way to meet up with a friend is for a coffee, beer, lunch, or dinner. Here’s a list of alternatives outside the house I have actually done when I feel sober, full, and cheap. And really, if you’re in good company even shopping for carpet will be fun! So also checkout the sf.funcheap guide.

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San Francisco Botanical Garden

This is not the Butterfly Conservatory in Golden Gate Park. It’s a huge garden with plants from Chile, South Africa, a bamboo forest, and a delicious sensory garden where you touch and smell the most wonderful plants. It’s free for SF residents with ID and a really nice relaxing walk.

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Play 50c games at the Brewcade

Hey children of the 90s, this jam is for you! Arcade games are about 50 cents and pretty fun if you’re looking to hang and do something more casual. Plus you can make Michael Jackson moonwalk again. Like Tutu Tuesday it will require some self control to avoid having a beer, it is the Brewcade after all. But if you’re hungry for Tacos, do not go to Hecho next door. Not tasty. But El Castellito around the corner on Church is my go-to spot and I think has a Taco Tuesday special.

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James Turrell Skygarden

One of my favorite indoor San Francisco views is hidden on the 12th floor of the Federal Building on Seventh and Mission. It’s free to enter but you must show a legal ID and go through a metal detector. Unfortunately it’s only open from 9am to 3pm Monday-Friday. But if you work in Soma it’s an awesome place for one-on-ones and rarely crowded. Here’s a great self-guided tour of the place including history on the elevators, architecture, and beautiful art in the basement.

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Dollar Days at the Golden Gate Fields

Horse Racing isn’t first on my list either. But it’s actually really fun and kid friendly. I love this activity because you don’t really have to pay attention but can if you want. The races are short enough that you can get engaged for a few races then wander off and see the horses, get a dollar beer, dollar hot dog, or get distracted hanging out. If you might drink the beers, please take the bus or an uber there.

Hot tubs and yoga

The SF Fitness Fillmore location has a hot tub! If you and your homies have membership there it’s a nice free alternative when you don’t want an entire day at Banya. Here’s the cheap yoga in SF but you can’t really chat during yoga so it’s not a great option.

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Flora Grubb Garden

This is a truly incredible flower nursery. The plants are very tempting to buy and way beyond my personal price range which makes it easy. I generally wouldn’t recommend hanging around in a shop if you don’t plan to buy. This is one of my exceptions. And if do want a coffee, there’s  Ritual Roasters in there.

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Visit the Parks

I can’t not mention the parks, there are infinite choices here. Dolores Park is an obvious choice. Sometimes I bring my Doodles coloring book which is a easy alternative to an accidental $50 BiRite picnic. Duboce Park is great if you want to watch some cute pups. I love Twin Peaks on a sunny day and Corona Heights at night on an evening with a bright moon. Of course you can visit one of the many beautiful ocean-side spots like Fort Funston, Ocean Beach, Sutro Baths, walk the Labyrinth and even the Embarcadero. There are enough guides to parks and nature in San Francsico. This is not that!

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Tutu Tuesday

Hosted on the second Tuesday of the month at Harlot SF in Soma is the cutest party with great Deep House in San Francisco. It’s $2 entry with a Tutu. The sparkling waters are free, hydrating, and come in the same glasses as cocktails so no one bugs you about not having a drink 🙂 But be sure to tip your bartender for the effort!

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Free Museum Days

Special exhibits are usually at a discount and most spots are free the first Tuesday or Thursday of the month. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in Soma has a beautiful well lit lobby with nice seating where you can bring your lunch or sit and talk for quite some time undisturbed. The Asian Art Museum is $5 every Thursday after 5pm. It’s a cool under the radar spot.

Nina Mehta is an Indian American writer and product designer in San Francisco. She started writing online in the 90s and began her career in journalism near sweet home Chicago. Nina has since lived and worked in Berlin, London, and Tokyo.

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