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What the Locals Do in San Francisco

Want to get a slice of local life by just hanging out, skipping the sightseeing? These experiences will let you pretend you're a San Franciscan, without a whopping rent check.

Shop the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market

Roll out of bed and make your way to the Ferry Building—preferably on a Saturday—to join locals and celebrity chefs on a taste bud–driven raid. Out front, farmer-run stands showcase the Bay Area's finest organic, free-range, locavore goods. The indoor stalls will keep your mouth watering with artisanal cheeses, chocolates, and luscious pastries. Snag some takeaway food and perfectly ripe fruit for a picnic.

Stretch Your Legs in the Presidio

Spend a few hours wandering around this former military base at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. The park is redeveloping the old military buildings, along with ball fields and other rec areas. Join people walking their dogs on the wooded hiking trails, or amble the paths along the sand of Crissy Field, then get in line for a cocoa at the Warming Hut.

Hang Out in Hayes Valley

Long beloved of artsy, cutting-edge locals, this quarter of cool cafés and high-design boutiques is either coming into its own or getting too big for its britches, depending on whom you ask. The renovation of Octavia Boulevard, one of this neighborhood's main arteries, makes Hayes Valley even busier. Grab a coffee from local cult microroasters Blue Bottle Coffee or a brew at the new Suppenküche Biergarten and check out the latest temporary art installation in Patricia's Green, the petite community park.

Find a Quiet Beach

Leave the beach near Fisherman's Wharf far behind and seek out these two instead. Breezy Baker Beach, tucked against the cliffs just south of the Golden Gate Bridge, is known for its bridge and ocean views—and its nudists, those hardy souls. A bit farther south, nestled in ultra-pricey Seacliff, is China Beach, a smaller, more secluded spot that's never crowded.

Linger over Breakfast

Notoriously food-centric San Franciscans are big on the most important meal of the day. The lines at popular breakfast places can be just as long as those at the hottest nightspots. Some longtime favorites include:

Mama's. The line forms early at this tried-and-true diner. 1701 Stockton St., at Filbert St., North Beach, San Francisco, CA, 94133. 415/362–6421. www.mamas-sf.com.

Kate's Kitchen. Heaping plates of Southern-inspired fare take the edge off a hairy-tongued Lower Haight morning after. Go for the cornmeal pancakes. 471 Haight St., near Fillmore St., Lower Haight, San Francisco, CA, 94117. 415/626–3984. www.kates-kitchensf.com.

Sweet Maple. Famous for its Millionaire's Bacon (bacon with brown sugar, black pepper, and cayenne), this stylish diner also serves what many claim is the city's best French toast. 2101 Sutter St., at Steiner St., Lower Pacific Heights, San Francisco, CA, 94115. 415/655–9169. www.sweetmaplesf.com.

Nurse a Coffee

Spend a few hours in the right independent café or coffeehouse and you'll feel like you're in a neighborhood living room. Come for a jolt of java, sometimes a reasonably priced meal, and usually Wi-Fi. Stay all afternoon—nobody minds—and you'll see the best reflection of a microcommunity.

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