Written by: Lisa Gordon

I’ve got a little-known secret for you guys: there’s always something fun to do in San Francisco.

Okay, so that was some good old-fashioned sarcasm. Of course San Francisco is full of amazing things to do—it’s probably one of the million reasons you love living here. On any given day of any given month of the year, you can find festivals, fairs, shows, concerts, and events galore—many of them free, and lots of them outdoors. (And forget what the nay-sayers say: it is almost always sunny in this city. Am I right? (Okay, maybe lately that’s just a drought effect. Sigh.)

So now that I’ve confirmed the obvious for you, you’re thinking now what, right? Well, that’s it! Go on and enjoy your street fair/craft show/outdoor concert!

Just kidding. Go ahead and enjoy those all you like—I know I certainly do. But my events and social calendar to-do list can sometimes exhaust me just by looking at it. Plus, I hate to say it, but after you’ve lived here for a while, certain major city events start to feel a little ‘been there, done that’ (Bay to Breakers, I’m looking at you…).

So one of my favorite things to do on a free day requires no planning, no transportation, and no preparation. I call it the Anti-To-Do List because, when I leave my house, I quite literally have no idea what I’m doing.

It started because I began realizing that some of the best days I have in this city are days when I just let the city show itself to me. When I said “yes” to new places and new things and new people and new situations. (Yes is the new maybe, you guys.)

I’ve found that the best times to do an Anti-To-Do List are mid-morning when you have the whole day free, or after an early-ish dinner and/or cocktail when you don’t have any other plans. You can Anti-To-Do List (yes, it’s also a verb) alone or with a friend. But sometimes, it’s better alone. (Hence the daytime and early evening suggestion because come on guys, be safe!)

It works like this:

  1. Leave your house.
  2. Walk
  3. Look around.
  4. Go into shops/restaurants/buildings/hotels/parks you’ve never been to before.
  5. Say hi to people in those places, or, if you see something happening, ask what’s going on.
  6. Sit down. Watch people go by.
  7. Repeat

Pretty simple, right? And also maybe sorta pretty obvious. But no one seems to do it!

If you’ve never done the Anti-To-Do List before, I recommend trying it in your own neighborhood first. You might think you know your own hood in and out, but trust me, you probably don’t. Especially at this very time in San Francisco, things are changing con-stant-ly. New businesses and restaurants are opening in every nook and cranny. And even though it’s (sadly) pretty true when they say that lots of the artists are being pushed out, there’s still a good chance you’ll run into something awesome being made, created, or installed right in front of your eyes.

Some things I’ve discovered on Anti-To-Do List outings in the past year include: free gardening classes at a beautiful community garden, a free all-California wine tasting at a cute new liquor store corner shop, an actual speakeasy (and I don’t mean Bourbon & Branch), a fly-fishing and casting pool facility built in the 1930s, a well-known SF street artist painting a mural, an estate sale where I got some bad-ass vintage barstools for $25 a pop, and…well…if I give you guys too many of my secrets, maybe you’ll start following me around and then it won’t be an Anti-To-Do-List anymore!

Just kidding. The point, though, isn’t to find hidden gems—though I promise you will—but rather to experience this city in your own private way. You’ll love it even more than you already do. I know, hard to believe, right?

San Francisco has everything, not least of which is a sort of intangible, magical quality. But it’s only going to reveal itself to you when you’re least expecting it. So the next day you’ve got nothing going on… instead of planning something—don’t. Just walk out your door. And let us know what you find—or don’t 🙂

For more stories from Lisa, visit her website!