Mission Dolores – San Francisco, CA

Lively, upbeat and casual, Mission Dolores captures the spirit of diversity that represents the heart of San Francisco culture. Located in the north central portion of San Francisco at the crossroads of Noe Valley, the Castro District, and Haight-Ashbury, Mission Dolores streets buzz with activity all day and well into the night. If you're visiting for the first time, wear your walking shoes, and pack a sweater. Although warmer and sunnier than some areas of San Francisco, Mission Dolores gets chilly when the fog rolls in at night. Mission Dolores is wedged between Dolores Heights and the Mission District. The neighborhood wraps around and is named for the Mision San Francisco de Asis. or Mission Dolores. This historic mission was founded in 1776. The current mission building replaced the earlier log building and was built in 1791, making it the oldest building in San Francisco. Mission Dolores has become one of San Francisco's hippest neighborhoods in a city known for its unique, trendy communities. Here, old Victorians with tiny, well-tended yards dot steep, tree-lined streets, and small wine and tapas bars dot the landscape. Hipsters lounge in coffee bars while young moms with ponytails push strollers up the streets. Apartments in Mission Dolores never stay vacant for long, especially with this neighborhood's proximity to Downtown San Francisco, its walkability, its chic restaurants, and it burgeoning arts scene.

Schools in Mission Dolores

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Restaurants & Nightlife

Mission Dolores boasts dozens of restaurants and food stands serving everything from tacos and tamales to the Lebanese staple ma'amoul. Nearly every street corner features some sort of eatery, and almost every one of them serves up amazing food. Heavily influenced by Latino culture, Mission Dolores boasts some of the best authentic Mexican restaurants in San Francisco. One of the most popular is La Palma Mexicatessen, a small, traditional Mexican eatery located at 2884 24th St. Savor La Palma's handmade tortillas with carnitas and a side of chile verde for flavors that are unrivaled anywhere in the state. Next, take a trip to Valencia Street and the charming restaurant and agave bar, Lolo. Family-owned and operated, Lolo blends an Old Mexican vibe with a quirky, bohemian twist. Go with a group so you can try several dishes, such as empanadas with Portobello mushrooms or shrimp with cascabel and chipotle pepper sauce. If you're over 21, take a walk on the wild side with one of Lolo's exotic cocktails made with the agave distillate, Mezcal. Ready for something more traditionally American? Stop in at the Monk's Kettle, the Mission's first gastropub. Named for the world's first craft brewers, Belgium's Trappist monks, this high-end beer-and-burger joint serves up hand-brewed beers paired with simple American fare. Expect your beer to cost a bit more than the $4 to $7 it would run at a typical Mission Dolores tavern. The small-batch brews on tap and vintage bottles often cost as much as $12. Check out Blondie's Bar and No Grill, a trendy nightclub with a big martini selection, outdoor seating, and neon purple decor. If you prefer wine, stop in at Dalva, where homemade sangria drinks wow the locals and keep patrons stacked three-deep nearly every weekend. Casanova Lounge features Bogart-style kitsch, an assortment of microbrews, and a slightly rowdy weekend crowd. If you feel like dancing, head out to Shades of Blues or the Elbo Room, which feature salsa music and dancing at least one night a week.

History & Culture

When the Mision San Francisco de Asis was founded in June 1776, the settlement was located near the Arroyo de Los Dolores creek (the Creek of Sorrows). It was named for St. Francis of Assisi, but it was most commonly referred to by its location by the creek -- Mission Dolores. Unlike many other early buildings, the mission survived the California Gold Rush and the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. The Mission Cemetery, the only one left within the city limits, is the final resting place of the earliest California pioneers and many Native Americans. Today, the mission is still an active church, and it offers guided tours of the Old Mission as well as of the cemetery and gardens. Mission Dolores was once known as a hub for counterculture, especially the punk movement of the 1970s. It retained that gritty reputation well into the late 1990s. When San Francisco became the headquarters of the tech industry, it brought with it a population boom. Due to its excellent location just one mile from downtown and its (at the time) affordability, Mission Dolores saw rapid growth. It retained its reputation as an artists' haven, especially with the high number of community-based art organizations and public art. You won't have to go far to find art and culture -- in fact, you won't have to leave the neighborhood. Just stroll down Balmy Alley or Clarion Alley and admire the fantastic murals, many dating back to the early 1970s. You'll find numerous art galleries in the Mission, plenty of live music, and so many festivals you may begin to think there's one every weekend. Some of these include the Carnaval (a major event), the 24th Street Fair, Rock Make Street Festival, Day of the Dead, the San Francisco Food Fair, and LitCrawl.

Transportation

Most residents of Mission Dolores don't own a vehicle. Mission Dolores is only a mile from downtown and the entire area is very pedestrian-friendly. In addition, gas prices are about 15 percent above the national average, and limited on-street parking and high garage prices make owning a car difficult and expensive. San Francisco has terrific public transportation options, and you can hop on the Bay Area Rapid Transit at Mission and 16th St. or Mission and 24th. Take a quick ride downtown, or head all the way to Oakland International Airport to catch a flight out of town. MUNI buses leave Mission Dolores at numerous stops along Mission St. and crisscross most of the city. A cable car ride from Market St to Fisherman's Wharf offers leisurely sightseeing and some spectacular views. Zipcar offers hourly car rentals at reasonable rates, and Uber remains a call away. Just download the apps to your smartphone and away you go. Travel out of San Francisco proper on any one of several freeways. Head south on I-280 to Highway 92 to drive through the Santa Cruz mountains to the beach at Half Moon Bay, or take the I-380 loop to San Francisco International Airport. Head north on Highway 101 to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and the redwood forests of Marin, or veer south to Silicon Valley and San Jose. I-880 takes you to the Bay Bridge, Berkley, and Oakland International Airport. Avoid frustrating delays by traveling during off-peak hours whenever possible. Find traffic updates, alternate routes, and ride-sharing information online at 511.org or by calling 511.

Cost

San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the United States, but it is also one of the most expensive, no matter where in the city you decide to live. The City by the Bay boasts the third-highest cost of living in the nation, due mainly to the cost of housing. Expect to pay a whopping $2,400 to $3,100 per month to rent a studio or small one-bedroom apartment in Mission Dolores. Energy costs are about 10 percent above the national average; however, food, groceries, and other consumer goods closely mirror those in the rest of the country.

Shopping

Exciting shopping opportunities abound in Mission Dolores, which features vintage clothing, trendy household items, and retro fashion finds galore. Hip and funky are the operative words here, so don't look for designer labels or high-end boutiques. Need something to jazz up your living space? Try Aldea Home and Baby, an eclectic collection of what owner Johanna Bialki calls "urban organic" chic. For a true Mission Dolores experience, stroll down the street to Therapy, a retro-contemporary space filled with new and used furniture, clothing, and home decor. Do your grocery shopping at one of the local markets, such as Rainbow Market or Duc Loi Supermarket. Both feature fresh, organic produce, bulk foods, a deli counter, and locally sourced poultry and seafood. The Mission Community Market, an independent farmer's market on 22nd and Bartlett St., opens every Thursday except Thanksgiving and four weeks in December, rain or shine. Local vendors sell fresh produce, baked goods, homemade pastas, smoked salmon, and locally-raised poultry. Community volunteers staff a bilingual health counseling booth and sponsor a variety of kid-centric activities, including an enormously entertaining open-mic night.

Parks

At the epicenter of Mission Dolores lies Mission Dolores Park, a teeming microcosm of local residents, tourists, sports enthusiasts, dog lovers, and vendors of all kinds. The park serves as a premiere destination for visitors from all over San Francisco. A full 16 acres, the park features open lawns, a playground, a dog play area, tennis courts, a basketball court, a soccer field, and some of the grandest views in the city. Established in 1906, this park attracts up to 10,000 people on weekends.
38 Dolores
38 Dolores St, San Francisco, CA 94103
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72 Gough
72-78 Gough St, San Francisco, CA 94102
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