When Jesse and I were first dating we always felt like Sundays were ours- we would get up early after a fun night out with friends and go for long walks, explore the city, try new spots and just be outdoors. We would talk and laugh and we really got to know one another. Thinking about those times makes me feel so happy. When I was in graduate school and Jesse was getting BuildingConnected off the ground we spent most of our Saturdays working and Sundays were spent just catching up on sleep and trying to squeeze some activity in around his meetings with Dustin.
Now that we have more of a routine with Miss Lillian we have gotten back to our roots and wake up early on Sunday and pick a neighborhood to explore, the only difference is this time we are pushing a stroller (oh yeah, and I am not exhausted from being out until midnight!). We have enjoyed doing this because it allows us to see the changes in the various neighborhoods but we can avoid the crowds and long lines and be granny old parents. I want to share some neighborhood guides for readers who just moved to the city or out-of-towners who are planning a trip.
I have been wanting to share this post about my insider's guide to Noe Valley for some time and am glad to finally have the opportunity (aka sit down and actually do it). But since I grew up in the Castro and spent a lot of time on the other side of the hill in Noe Valley, I really do feel a possession over this neighborhood and will be perfectly frank witchu about the neighborhood. The past couple of months I have spent pretty much every day walking along 24th Street and know this corridor like the back of my hand!
My dad grew up in Noe Valley and Jesse and I have lived in two Noe Valley apartments since we moved in together. I am biased and think it is the best neighborhood because of it's walkability, variety of stores, neighborhood feel, relaxed attitude, and abundance of babies and children! Noe Valley used to be a working class neighborhood with Italian and Irish immigrant families. It was always tucked away in San Francisco and it only really started to shift and become more popular when all of the tech companies started providing shuttles to the south bay. Noe Valley is the last San Francisco shuttle stop before getting on the freeway and it attracted a lot of people for it's convenience. Walking around you will find a mix of natives and tech people. You can tell because of the increasing construction and juxtaposition of older looking homes and brand new, modern architecture.
Please, come visit Noe Valley anytime! This guide is just part one and features the attractions solely on 24th Street.
I recommend parking at 24th Street and Dolores and walking west toward Diamond and then crossing the street and returning back on the opposite side. You can pop into any store or restaurant and you will not be disappointed. Here are some of my favorites:
- Ambiance - An all-time favorite. BEST place to pop into if you are looking for a dress for an a specific occasion. They have so many dresses at all different price points and styles. You can also get a Kris Nations necklace there!
- Mapa Mundi Kids- The MOST adorable children's store I have ever been to! Every piece is perfectly curated and so purposeful. The owners buy things from all over the world- shoes from Spain, local organic clothes, books in multiple languages. They are having an amazing sale right not--40% off select items-- and it's hard not to resist everything in there. They also have the best complimentary wrapping paper which is amazing for moms on the go.
- Two Birds- This upscale boutique has a higher price point and much smaller selection than Ambiance but they always have great sales. I love walking by on my way to Walgreen's and peeking at the new Vince shoes they have in the window (and then look down at my dirty neon Nikes and tell myself, "this is motherhood")
- Mill Merchantile- I've never bought anything from Mill but I love peeking in once a quarter for inspiration. They have the best window displays!
- When Modern Was: Great spot to get inspiration for home design, especially DIY projects. Pieces are expensive but they are a small business so I try and support them!
- Chocolate Covered- This place has been in business forever because they create one of a kind gifts. Bring in a photo or newspaper and they can copy it onto special paper that they adhere to a tin. You can add specialty chocolate to the tin or add other gifts. You can also pick something from their EXTENSIVE selection of street signs, city venues, school buildings, and newspaper headlines.
- Flowers of the Valley- This quaint flower shop is for sure Instagram worthy and luckily, has some of the best flowers in the Valley. Their specialty is putting together arrangements on the spot for a custom bouquet. They are also open late- some nights until 7:00pm!
- Just for Fun- This was a store that my parents always wanted us to avoid when we were growing up because everything in there is amazing and it is the type of store where children plead with their parents to get them something. And they have a little bit of everything: seasonal holiday selection, children's games and books, stationery, art supplies, custom invitation printing, and party decorations.
- Little Chihuahua- Yum, yum, yum. This place saved me during grad school when I would be starving and could grab some quick, "healthy" Mexican food. Great salsa selection and their sangria is delicious!
- La Boulange- NO WORDS. Welcome back to the hood. You still have some kinks to work out, but we will give you some time.
- Happy Donuts - This is the Curran family donut spizzy!!
- Noe Valley Bakery- I started another Instagram acccount: @PastriesPlease because all I want to eat is pastries and I feel like I am always begging Jesse to let me but I realized almost all of the photos are of Noe Valley Bakery because it is the best bakery in the city. They have cakes you can pick up, yum- red velvet, or you can order a custom cake with fondant and crazy designs. They usually showcase them in their windows- very cute!
- Easy Breezy- Frozen yogurt that does the trick. I don't think it is amazing but I think that is mostly because I am out of my yogurt phase. That was so 2007 for me.
- Saru Sushi- My favorite sushi spot for life. But get there early! They open up at 5:30pm and there is always a line!
- Contigo- One of the more upscale dining options in the area if you are looking for some tapas!
- Novy- Started by my friend Kristen and her sister. They are San Francisco natives and the restaurant is a family endeavor. I wrote about Novy here!
- Toast- Classic brunch diner with a long wait. But it is delicious and family friendly. Dogs are always parked outside drooling at their owners.
- Cask House- I have actually only popped my head in and the space is great. Perfect date night spot while you wait an hour and forty five minutes for Saru to seat you.
- The Dubliner- Sports bar that is perfect for watching Curry hit those long 3s.
- Valley Tavern- I used to go here a lot more often. It is your typical tavern but the pool table and back "patio" are a nice addition.
- Martha's Bros- Best place to sit outside at the parklet and read the newspaper or just chat with friends. It can get chaotic ordering inside because of the layout but everyone is friendly and I think they have the best decaf coffee in all of the city.
- Starbucks- You've probably never heard of this coffee shop before but they are great! Love their hot chocolate.
- Bernie's- Tucked away on the bottom floor of a Victoria, Bernie's has great coffee beans and an intimate place to read or study. Right next to Whole Foods.
I hope you enjoy Noe Valley as much as we do!!