Explore San Francisco

The Clif Bar Founders' Favorite Things to Do in San Francisco

The outdoor- and adventure-loving couple's guide to exploring the Bay Area

Gary and Kit Erickson are the proprietors of Clif Bar & Co., which is headquartered just across San Francisco's Bay Bridge in Emeryville. The outdoor- and adventure-loving couple also owns Clif Family Winery & Farm and the Velo Vino tasting room, both located in Napa Valley.

How does San Francisco inspire your company?

[Gary] The people are brilliant, creative and diverse. With a mild climate and proximity to so many outdoor sports, the Bay Area is a base camp to a variety of adventures—surfing, hiking, climbing, cycling, sea kayaking, skiing—you name it. It’s no wonder that it’s the birthplace of so many well-known outdoor brands. At Clif Bar, we are in good company with brands like Mountain Hardwear, Sierra Designs and the North Face. And, of course, there's the food! The Bay Area's access to fresh, organic produce combined with the variety of cuisines makes it an amazing place to eat. All these qualities inspire the food we make at Clif Bar & Company and the Clif Family Winery in Napa Valley.

Clif Family Bruschetteria food truck
Clif Family Bruschetteria food truck (©Clif Bar & Co.)

What’s your favorite thing to do outdoors in the city?

[Kit] We love to walk or run. It's the best way to explore and we see new things every time. The hills make it a fun and challenging workout!

What are some of your favorite San Francisco spots and neighborhoods?

[Gary] North Beach and the Embarcadero are our favorites. We love being by the water, and we love the food and culture of North Beach. The new Exploratorium on the Embarcadero is a gem. The museum has a special place in our hearts because when Kit lived in the city she worked there for 10 years, and we still love to visit. There is always something new to learn, see and do. It's great for kids and adults—they even have evening events where they serve drinks and you can play with the exhibits. It’s not just the museum that’s amazing—the restaurant is also exceptional! 

Of course, the other "must see" is a walk or bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. Bring a warm jacket and brace yourself for a dramatic experience. Just being on the bridge is fun, and the view of the city from the bridge is jaw dropping. It can be foggy at times, so aim for a sunny day.

Clif Bar & Company headquarters in Emeryville
Clif Bar & Co. headquarters in Emeryville (©Clif Bar & Co.)

What's your favorite restaurant in San Francisco? What do you order?

[Gary] We have two. North Beach Restaurant and SPQR. North Beach Restaurant has the Italian classics from the Tuscan region. In the 1980s, I worked there as a valet. The owner, Peter Petroni and his team, are wonderful hosts and treat us like family. We also love SPQR. It is really fun and serves exciting Italian food. Matthew Accarrino, the executive chef, takes the time to dive deep with seasonal food and always delivers unique flavors. Kit's favorite dishes are the giant ravioli at North Beach Restaurant and the spinach francobolli at SPQR. I like the petrale sole at both North Beach and SPQR.

Where would you send someone looking for a hike in or near the city?

[Kit] For an easy nature walk, you can't beat Golden Gate Park on Sunday. It’s fun, the streets are closed and there are gorgeous plants and paths. For a hearty hike, we love Mount Tamalpais. There are lots of large open fire roads to hike or bike and spectacular views of the bay and city.

Bruschetta from the Bruschetteria food truck
Bruschetta from the Bruschetteria food truck (©Clif Bar & Co.)

If you had to recommend some SF “must-sees” that aren’t obvious, what would they be?

[Kit] San Francisco has wonderful art scene. A "secret" art spot that's worth checking out is the Diego Rivera mural at the San Francisco Art Institute a block off Columbus Avenue in North Beach. Student work from the school's MFA and BFA programs is also displayed in the gallery. It’s free to the public and only a block off of Columbus Avenue in North Beach. The school also has 270-degree views of the bay, and you may even see the parrots of Telegraph Hill fly by. 

Our Perfect Day

Sea lions at Pier 39
Sea lions at Pier 39 (©Sea Lion Center)

Morning

A brisk hour-long walk along the Embarcadero with a stop at Pier 39 to see the sea lions. Then, over to Caffe Trieste for espressos and bakery treats.

Angel Island
Angel Island (©Visit Marin)

Afternoon

If possible, we’d be out on the water. You can take a ferry ride to Angel Island for a hike and a picnic. Angel Island is another great place for a view of the city. 

Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill (©SF Travel/Scott Chernis)

Evening

A walk up the Filbert Steps to Coit Tower to see the sunset. Then, a beer or glass of wine at a North Beach bar. The Embarcadero also has amazing food spots, especially in and around the Ferry Building. You can’t go wrong with dinner at Slanted Door. (Be sure to make a reservation!) We'd finish the night with a play or some live music. Beach Blanket Babylon is always fun. It’s an edgy, political, satirical San Francisco staple that changes with current events.