Sometimes I Rant

Dear Stupid American* Tourists In San Francisco,

Summer’s right around the corner, so I know that we’ll be seeing each other real soon. And you know, I’ve been good over the last few years, I haven’t complained about you (too much), I’ve let you go about your business. So this year I thought I might make a few requests. You certainly don’t have to oblige me, but at least hear me out.

Firstly, San Franciscans aren’t really big on tourists. Loud, arrogant Americans who have no desire to learn about local history or customs are about as welcome in SF as they are in Paris. I know we’re part of the same country and all, but we’re also kind of...artsy. And liberal. And sometimes progressive. And I know this may be hard to believe, but we’re not actually embarrassed about this. So even if these traits are laughable in your neck of the woods, they’re the heart and soul of this city. You might want to wait till you’re home to insult us. No, that protest isn’t a joke. Please stop pointing at the gay couple holding hands.

Now. I might recommend you look at a map before you get here. No, no. Not of San Francisco, of the United States. Okay? See there, how California is really big? Where the part towards the bottom – we call that Southern California – touches Mexico? And how Mexico is kind of warm? And how like, when you think of California you think of LA and Hollywood and Beverly Hills? But see how those parts are also near the bottom? And then how San Francisco is not? And also, if you look closer at the state, you see how SF is located on a bay? On the Pacific (brrrrrr) Ocean? Okay, remember that. Now, look at some weather reports. Any light bulbs yet? A ha! Yes! There it is! San Francisco is located in NORTHERN California! You WILL have to bring long-sleeved shirts and pants! It may be July, but that fog is going to roll in and you will want your coat and scarf. Yes, scarf. In July.

Don’t buy new shoes for the trip. Those hills you see in all those movies and pictures? They’re not pretend. “Uphill both ways” is entirely possible around here, and just walking a couple blocks can take some serious effort. Your unbroken-in (glaringly) white sneakers are going to give you blisters.

Don’t wear a fanny pack. Ever. Think of your children.

And speaking of children. Look. San Francisco is a “big city.” That means there are lots of “big city” things here, like homelessness and people who swear on the street and service people who don’t speak English in addition to those gays you were pointing at. If you want to protect your children from seeing these sorts of “unsavory” city things, I recommend you vacation elsewhere. Like your backyard.

The cable car is totally fun, but it is a little dangerous. If you lean too far out, you can get hit by things that you pass by. You will note that there is no guard rail. Not even an invisible one. So if it looks like your leg is going to hit that pole unless you pull it back inside the car, you’re probably right. And then if you don't pull your leg back in and it gets all banged up, do you know whose fault will that be? No, not the fault of the cable car, the cable car drivers, or all of San Francisco. It will be YOUR fault for being too stupid to understand laws of motion in the absence of a seatbelt. Double true for falling off the cable car entirely.

Lastly, and MOST IMPORTANTLY: Do NOT go around bitching about how San Francisco isn’t really that great if the ONLY place you go is from Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf and back again, the ONLY food you eat is from chain restaurants, and the ONLY shops you visit are stores you already have in your own damn mall. Unless you’re drunk and have a tremendous sense of irony, there are about a million billion things to do here that are cooler** than going on a Segway tour at Ghirardelli Square.

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*Immediate caveat: I don’t think that most tourists, most Americans, or most American tourists are stupid. But I have been insulted directly and indirectly by enough visitors that I am writing this for them. Not you.

**Like going to a wine festival at Ghirardelli Square, where your friend will have the opportunity to take this picture.


  1. LOL!!! How many guests did I tell to bring their coats for their July visits to SF? Aproximately 1,492. How many actually brought those coats? 0.

    Love your blog.


  2. THANK YOU. I am in Washington, DC, and I HATE HATE HATE tourist season. It's like, look, people. We work here. Please do not stand in groups of 50 blocking the metro. Please, on escalators, WALK LEFT, STAND RIGHT. And again-those guys holding hands in Dupont? Real people, who do not exist solely for your entertainment. I like your idea- these people should vacation in their backyards if they cannot respect a city and the people that live there.

  3. AMEN! That goes for Seattle! Yes, the ferry's are neat. Yes, it's fun to drive your car onto a boat. Please remember you have to drive off too and get back to your car before we dock! Rant over. Phew

  4. right on! i think this is great advice to all tourists heading anywhere from san francisco north to seattle!

  5. Hear, hear! Another caveat: if you are not familiar with how one-way streets work, or are easily distracted in a ferret-like manner, DON'T DRIVE. Take a taxi! GRR! Every night on the drive to work I always get stuck behind some nimrod in a rented car driving 10 miles an hour who keeps trying to turn the wrong way onto streets or wants to watch the sparkly whatevers that are interesting to backwater tourists. NO.

    --Sarah the Local Lurker

  6. i live down in monterey, and i hear you on the tourists. for the love of god, there is more to this beautiful place than fishermans wharf (yick), cannery row (puke) and the aquarium (cool.) i avoid those places like the plague from june until september. i was just up in your fair city yesterday, and i just love it up there. it's only an hour and a half away from me but like going to another world. i was a horrible tourist and took pictures of the golden gate while driving across it. i know, pathetic.

  7. Perfect Rant,and now I must add..I'm in Santa Cruz, and it's very similar with the pointing at 'weirdos' and the 'Boardwalk' as our big draw.
    Tourists seem to leave their common sense at home; the most infamous tourist question in Santa Cruz is "Hey, is that Hawaii?" regarding J's town, Monterey, which is only across the bay from us, and definitely NOT Hawaii.
    My sister who has lived in SF for 6 years...just called me from her trip to Europe and said she has her first sunburn since she moved to SF and her hair is going back to blonde.
    What I learn from tourists?
    You can't live off assumptions.

  8. hungryforsomepastfromSF3:16 PM, May 24, 2006

    Don't hate me, I will be a good 'tourist', from your neighbor far far to the South, LA. Quick question, since you were so helpful with those band members who were looking for a place to eat, maybe you could halp me too... know of a good italian (pasta) restaurant up there?

  9. hi hungry,
    i don't hate you!

    typically, when someone asks where the good italian places are in SF, they are directed to North Beach, because that's where about 18 million italian places live. everyone has their favorite, and it's really nice to stroll around and just kinda pick one. the most crowded and touristy is called The Stinking Rose, and while it's silly, i actually like it. (most locals would kick my ass for saying that.)

    so. if you want an entire italian-based evening, head to north beach.

    HOWEVER. my favorite italian restaurant in the city is this one:

  10. I went to the Stinking Rose in LA (it’s near Beverly Center) and the food was alright, the cheesy fondue appetizer was particularly good, but mostly I was impressed by the size, selection, and quality of their mohitos. Yum!

    Citycat, I’m pretty sure that stand to the right/walk to the left on the metro escalators is purely a DC thing. I agree that it works for the most part because everyone who rides the DC metro everyday knows that’s the rule, but when I moved to LA and started walking up an escalator at a mall and hit an immobile human wall that seemed to not notice I wanted to pass I remembered that it doesn’t work like that everywhere.

  11. As a resident of North Beach, I'll offer some advice: stay away from the Stinking Rose. It's awful. But there are some delicious Italian places in North Beach: Trattoria Contadina, Ristorante Ideale and Sodini's are my faves. Have fun!

  12. In DC, stand to the right walk to the left is hard for a tourist to know because you will vey rarely see a sign that says that because Metro does not endorse it. They claim when people walk on the escalator there is a greater risk of an accident happening. I don't understand why people are always complaining about this--you can always take the stairs.

  13. It cracks me up how it's the transplants (you, Kristy) who want to close the gates to the city after THEY arrive.

    Hello tourists, and welcome!! Our city revenues depend on you. (remember?)

  14. native girl,

    oh, don't be silly.

    i'm not closing the gates or hoping tourists will go away. i'm making a statement about tourists who come here and hate on the city. i'm saying there are cooler things to do than frequent the tourist traps. i'm also suggesting that if you're going to go to a place you don't know, that maybe you should learn about it either before you go (pack a sweatshirt, expect homelessness), or at least be somewhat gracious about learning it once you arrive. i think most tourists do that -- there are just those who...well, who don't.

  15. More Nativer Than You6:23 PM, May 24, 2006

    It cracks ME up how the "natives" can call the "transplants" to task, because after all, they were here first.

    How about this formulation: Tourists, welcome! If you're walking around Pier 39 in a fanny pack, you have a sunburn and you're wearing a sweatshirt that says "Alcatraz Recreation League Size XXXL?" You probably will not be mistaken for a local. But you're still welcome.

  16. LOL!

    I lived in Santa Rosa for 18 years (well, 2 of those years actually out at Bodega Bay) and learned really quick the art of layering clothing. I always recommended to visitors to bring sweatshirts, jackets, and so forth. Of course, the one time Hub's cousins came from Phoenix (and brought clothing for cool weather) we had a heat wave, and we all thought we would die of heatstroke when we went into the city to see Phantom of the Opera.

  17. you know, the stand to the right/walk to the left thing applies in SF, too.. at least on BART. i think there are even signs to that effect... but i don't take BART often enough to remember if that's true, or if i imagined it..

    shoot me, but i love the bagna calda at stinking rose. still, going there in the summertime is nothing but trouble.

  18. sanfranciscosweatshirtsalesman11:04 PM, May 24, 2006

    It is always 90 degrees everywhere in CA, especially San Francisco. Please don't bother bringing your sweatshirt when you visit. always find me eating Italian food at Scoma's, right next to Pier 39 where my sweatshirt shop is. That's Pier 39, the hippest new spot in SF. Come soon!

  19. would like to add for New York City tourists - if you're going to stop walking to look up at the buildings, please step out from the middle of the sidewalks. That's just plain rude. People are walking here, dammit.

    on another note, SF has been high on my list of places to visit. Now i know how not to be an awful tourist. thanks! :)

  20. to the anon bitching about my intolerance --

    stated before; not getting into a political debate here. there's no point. nothing i write will change your mind and it will just start a flame war.

    but since you're being SO insistent, i'll add: being intolerant of intolerance is NOT the same thing as being intolerant. (are you a hater if you hate hate? no. it's not that simple and it just doesn't work like that.)

    so for you and again for native girl -- my issue is NOT with tourists at large. my issue is with tourists who come here without any idea of what to expect, who don't take any pains to learn, and who then base their HATRED and CONTEMPT of SF on their uninformed/unexplored experiences.

    if you go to paris and only eat in american restaurants, well, okay. but then don't complain about how parisian food isn't that great.

    i have *actually* heard a lot of people say things like, "San Francisco would be great it it weren't for all the gays." nope, i'm not tolerant of that.

  21. tourist prevent me from leaving the house on the weekends in nyc. oh the aaaagony they cause me, but when you move to ny, you're signing up for that shit no matter what.

  22. Here's a thought: WHY do you care what tourists think of your city? If you love it, and obviously you do, that's all that matters. Be happy and stop worrying about things you can't control!

  23. I agree with and get your point 100%. I'm an SF transplant too (although moved to the east bay a couple of years ago and commute in), and all of your points are very good ones. It is very difficult for me to not get annoyed with tourists in Union Square who are walking at a snails pace as the cable car goes by. But then I remember that they have nothing to do but be tourists, and they probably don't know that I have to get to work. Then I wish I could go back to what I felt like when I first moved here. It's an amazing city, especially if, as you mentioned, you get away from the tourist traps and see what else it has to offer.

  24. THANK YOU! Thank you from another home town local! I live in the "Hamptons" and I feel your pain. No, I do not "summer" here. My house is not my "weekend" house. I was born and raised here. Oh and you are not coming out to the "HAMPTONS", there is no such singular are either going to West Hampton, Southampton, Water Mill, Sag Harbor, Wainscott, East Hampton, Amagansett, or Montauk....these towns allll make up the ..........."Hamptonsssss".

  25. Ericha2@comcast.net10:49 AM, May 25, 2006


    Thank you for your "Open Letter to SF Tourists".

    I've lived in and around SF for the last 6 1/2 years and I was a typical tourist for the first 2 days I was here...then I branched out. What a difference! I think the biggest problem with the tourists is that there IS so much to see here. It takes a few days for them to get over the wandering around aimlessly from "hot-spot" to "hot-spot" before they are able to get their bearings and behave normally and see more of the city.

    I am actually going to be acting as a tour guide to my sister on Saturday. Thank God she is open-minded and artsy herself so I don't have to worry about her reactions to the city. However, we only have 6-8 hours for sight-seeing so I am forced to do the same-old same-old like Coit Tower, GG Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, etc. She even wants to go to the aquarium. *sigh* However, I am going to take her across the bridge so she can see the gorgeous view of the city from the Marin Headlands and Sausalito (something many tourists don't know about). Hopefully we won't have too much fog on Saturday. And I'm taking her to dinner in Redwood City at one of my favorite Italian restaurants (Arrivederci).

    My fave Italian restaurant in the city is Prego on Union or The Magic Flute on Sacramento.


  26. OMG, the Segway Tour looks like the most fun thing ever! (Ok, so I have that tremendous sense of irony you mentioned...)

    I've never been to SF, but my parents absolutely loved it when they went there a few years ago... Of course, the whole reason they went was so my dad could make a pilgimage to City Lights Books, so yeah... They kind of strayed from the normal touristy stuff.

    And K, you're totally right. Who DOESN'T check before they leave on a trip to a new city? Even LA can get chilly in the evenings! (I lived in Santa Barbara for 2 years, and you definitely needed a sweatshirt at night, no matter the time of year...)

  27. My first night in the City, 20 years ago, I arrived at SFO at 11 p.m., in July, in shorts and a tank top. Need I say more. Oh...and my luggage ended up in Miami somehow so that's all I had to wear.

    Terry, you're not have seen that sign on BART but it's for entering and exiting the train. Be courteous and enter/exit to the right kinda thing. Don't even get me started about that!

  28. Cracking up. Please don't forget:

    * stopping in the middle of Ven Ness to take a picture
    * jumping on or off the cable car whilst moving
    * being overly enamored with the Silver Guy, Gold Guy or any derivation
    * asking "why is it so cold in June?"

  29. I thought your post was hilarious! I hope you have a lovely summer and are only blessed with happy tourist experiences :)
    I have had to give the SF tour to visiting friends and family for years and living 1& 1/2 hour away Im not enough of a local to know some of these places mentioned by you and your visitors thanks a lot!


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