History: The Mission is named for Mission Dolores (formally known as Mision San Francisco de Asis), founded by Spanish priest in 1776-making it the oldest building in San Francisco and the oldest mission chapel still standing in California. Valencia Street, named for the Spanish explorer and soldier who first trekked into the region, is one of San Francisco’s most venerable streets. For most of its 167 years it sat in obscurity, the quiet little sister to loud, raw-boned Mission Street. But that all changed in the late 2oth century, when its cheap rents began drawing young urbanites who established it as a hangout for artists, would-be bohemians, and, notably, so many young women that it was briefly dubbed the Women’s district. (It’s all described in local writer Michelle Tea’s book Valencia, which cemented the neighborhood’s image as a destination for young radicals.)
Don’t Miss: Block by block, Valencia Street is the Mission’s go-to for boutique stores selling irresistible things that you didn’t even know were things. Looking for pirate flags and rum? That would be the Pirate Store (San Francisco’s only pirate supply store- we think) at 826 Valencia. Fresh teas and medicinal herbs? Scarlet Sage Herb Co. is the place. Prehistoric fossils, taxidermy mice, and great organic fertilizer? That’ll be Paxton Gate, whose sister store a block down specializes in children’s toys from the predigital age. Dijital Fix stocks designer home tech, while artisan jewels are in abundance at Love and Luxe. Lost Weekend video, the Mission dweller’s fave for cult-film video rentals, also offers classic film screenings and surprisingly, stand-up comedy. When lunch hour arrives, it may be hard to resist Little Star, whose deep-dish pizzas are so thick that they take 25 minutes to bake (totally worth it). Find fried Pacific cod tacos at Tacolicious, or burritos at La Taqueria around the corner on Mission (crowned America;s best burrito by FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver). The Abbot’s Cellar offers a craft beer to go with anything-over 100 varieties altogether. (If you ever wondered which beer goes with fresh squid and braised tomatoes, now you’ll know.) On an overcast day, warm up with a coffee among the laptop-toting set at Four Barrel Coffee. If it’s sunny, grab a salted-caramel ice cream a few blocks over at Bi-Rite Creamery and join the crowds sunbathing in Dolores Park, which couples the Mission’s best views of the San Francisco skyline with the most eclectic cross-section of its population.