San Francisco’s Outer Sunset

Oct 3, 2018

The Firstborn loves a chilly getaway, so for his 15th birthday he chose a trip to San Francisco’s Outer Sunset district. Having never spent more than an hour or so in this part of the city, I was 100 percent on board. Letting one’s offspring choose our travel destinations doesn’t always pan out, but this kid has never let me down, so: away we went!

Being the rad human that he is, he had a kickass mix already prepared for the drive, which included Prince – of course – because he is a caring son who loves his mother (and wants me to be in the best mood possible for our adventures). Also, he knows good music when he hears it.

After a quick stop for our annual photo op at the Marin Headlands and then somehow getting just a teensy bit lost, we made our way to the Ocean Park Motel – San Francisco’s first-ever motel – which turned out to be absolutely freaking delightful. The gentleman who checked us in blew my mind with the amount of historical information and neighborhood tips he had to share, complete with copies of news clippings, maps and more.

Being the first motel in San Francisco also told me, by nature of deduction and also my smarts, that it is also the oldest motel, so I kept an open mind as we headed to our room. Literally anywhere is going to be fun with my kid around; he is hilarious and equally appreciative of my sense of humor, so, we have a good time either way.

Luckily, my worries were for naught and our room was in fact two separate bedrooms overlooking a serene garden with windows that actually opened for fresh air. I was like, “what are we, Rockefellers?!”

In hindsight, maybe he’s just humoring me when he laughs at these stupid jokes…? Anyway, we loved it.

With only one night in the city, we quickly set to doing what we do best: eating, and toodling. We both love walking around neighborhoods popping into stores, galleries, eateries and candy shops, checking out the local scene.


Our first stop was lunch around the corner at the Java Beach Cafe, because food is important fuel for toodling. On the way back to our room(s!) to grab our hoodies, we passed by a cart of books outside what turned out to be the United Irish Cultural Center, into which I was lured by said books. Damn books! Getting me into trouble every time.

The pause in our Party Party Fun Time was worth it if only to satisfy my need for a fix of dusty-old-book smell, and to practice the important life skill of disentangling oneself from the very enthusiastic history lessons, upcoming event invitations and overall pride of place demonstration that was fully embodied in the two young-at-heart volunteers who wanted to show us every. single. thing. I still haven’t recycled all of the pamphlets and flyers they gave me – I have too much Irish guilt! And I’m not even Irish!

After our escape, we bopped around a couple different neighborhoods – one nearby, one not so nearby, thanks to the bribing tactics of “there’s good shops for toodling here” from my brother, who lives there and knows our weakness. When asked the name of his neighborhood, he said “it’s kind of Bernal Heights, but also sort of Noe Valley…?”

There may have been a third one in there but honestly, I’d stopped listening by then. All I know is, there’s a fancy wine shop there which sells camel milk chocolate bars. CAMEL MILK CHOCOLATE, you guys. I can’t…I don’t….

The following morning we walked down to Ocean Beach, where it was cool and foggy and therefore my son’s favorite kind of weather. We talked, watched dogs frolic and contemplated life until our hunger drove us to brunch not too far away, at Outerlands.

While waiting for a table, we stopped in to Black Bird Books for a really long time because books, strolled past the tattoo shop and considered, as always, getting matching tattoos and what they would be (his = heart with ‘Mom’ inside, mine = heart with ‘Son’ inside…his sister would be super mad but hey, it wasn’t her birthday, sooooo). We perused inside General Store, admiring all of their very expensive vintage overalls and wool sweaters (perhaps knitted by the Irish Center’s volunteers in their prime?), pondered possible art projects at Case For Making, and squeezed past the crowd waiting outside Trouble Coffee, which is famous for their toast and may, in fact, have started the whole crazy toast trend. Thank you, Trouble! This also reminded me that the one and only time I’d ever hung out in the Outer Sunset before was specifically to come to this place, so, phew! No FOMO on this day!

These weekends wear me out a little because I’m more of a ‘lay on the couch reading’ kind of mom most days, so I only did minimal running around and climbing at our last stop, Fort Point. I did have a lot of fun watching this kid, though. He is now a giant person. He came out of my body. Ugh life is such a weird, alien-movie miracle.

Our drive home was, as ever, a delight. He is in general a thoughtful riot to be around, and our rare one-on-one time is abso-freaking-lutely precious and golden to me.

Just like him.

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