In fog we trust: 10 ways to get cozy with Karl
In the Bay Area, foggy days are upon us—always. So we scoured the city high and low to bring you all the mist-related foods, cloud-inspired drinks, and activities best done with a little Karl up above.
Weather is like a box of chocolates in San Francisco: You never really know what you’re going to get. One minute, you’re bundled-the-eff-up Randy Parker style in the misty Sunset; next, you’re peeling away sticky layers alongside near-naked Dolores Park goers under the glaring Mission sun.
The weather is so reliably unpredictable, we ’Friscans rarely venture outside without a hoodie, windbreaker and Patagonia fleece (perhaps layered over a tank top and swimsuit), because who knows what the skies might hold a mere 400 yards away?
Well, just ask Karl, San Francisco’s iconic, mysterious fog that’s so high profile around these parts, it has a name and Twitter persona. Karl’s the one to blame for San Francisco’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde climate.
Read on for the best ways to truly embrace the haze, savor the steam, dare we say, “Do the dew?” on a foggy San Francisco day.
1. Drink the fog
Yes, literally drink the fog away. You could do this by sticking a straw in the air, but to look less crazy, just have a glass of Fog Point Vodka. Using “fog catchers”—large nets posted up on the California coast—the folks at Hangar One turn fog into fresh water. They blend the water with vodka distilled from local sustainable wineries to create a crisp sipping vodka, with hints of honeysuckle and pear. Find it at Hog Island Oyster in the Ferry Building, which, conveniently, is home to some of the area’s best clams and oysters, or at Foreign Cinema, a hip outdoor movie experience with local food, wine and cocktails. If you're too scarred from smirnoff-heavy college days, skip the vodka and tap into the brewing magic of Esquire’s Brew Dogs, who created a vaporized beer by harvesting San Francisco fog. Speaking of brewing…
2. Seek out some suds
Nothing lifts spirits on a foggy day like a pint. Luckily, The City has a plethora of local breweries to choose from. Feel your way over to Sunset Reservoir Brewing, located smack in the center of Foggy Hood, SF. Grab a pitcher of their Foggy Lager and enjoy seasonal homemade comfort foods like baked mac n’ cheese, fried chicken and beignets. And one can’t mention Bay Area breweries without throwing a nod to Anchor Steam, a local fixture since 1849. Book a behind-the-scenes-tour and learn about their Gold Rush roots, then grab a pint of the Old Foghorn Barleywine Ale—nothing feels more “SF” than that.
Drink San Francisco-inspired beers at Barebottle Brewing, where you’ll taste several batches of homebrew creations and vote on your favorites. Ever wonder what Muir Woods would taste like? Or San Francisco’s famous sourdough—in liquid form? There’s an IPA and a wheat beer for that.
3. Hunker down with local literature
We’re not saying you should go highlighting textbooks on the formation of fog. But you should pay homage to Northwestern literary greats, like Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac, Diane di Prima and Robert Frost, who drew inspiration from the foggy coast. Settle in with a novel at City Lights Books in North Beach, the infamous, eclectic three-story literary landmark for Beat Gen bookworms since 1953 (go upstairs and grab a seat). Then step outside and into the famous Jack Kerouac Alley to read poems by Maya Angelou, John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac himself, engraved in both English and Chinese. End the day by doing as a writer would: Pop next door to Vesuvio Cafe, a dimly-lit stained-glass bar where Kerouac and company once sipped the night away. Or swing by the Italian Tosca Cafe, a 1919 city landmark whose distinct bohemian spirit is still intact. Famous for its jukebox, "house cappuccinos," bartenders in white coats and celebrity patrons that have included Hunter S. Thompson, Allen Ginsberg, Johnny Depp and Beyonce, we promise the house-made pastas won't disappoint.
Another equally “SF” reading option is Silent Reading Hour, a free monthly event at Hotel Rex hosted by Lemony Snicket (a.k.a Daniel Handler) and Radio Silence. Read in silence for 90 minutes as you sip wine and cocktails in a room full of strangers.
4. Sing the foggy blues
True story: Nothing brightens a foggy day quite like grown men and little girls in princess dresses singing “A Whole New World” in unison. Escape the fog for an afternoon by catching a matinee Sing-Along at the Castro Theater. The ornate 1922 building incites a sort of Broadway nostalgia, and the crowd consists of moviegoers young and old who turn out—often dressed up in costumes—to see old favorites like “Grease,” “Mary Poppins” and “Beauty and the Beast." Hosts introduce the films, help warm up the audience’s chords, and hand out goody bags at the end.
5. Get lost in a dewy dreamscape
A little fog makes ideal conditions for a new twist on a well-known hike. Head to Land’s End and meander along the eucalyptus-studded cliffs of the Coastal Trail. While you won’t be gazing over the Pacific horizon (or even see 10 feet in front of you), walking on the edge of the Earth in the midst of the white fluffy mist is an ethereal experience. Witness the Golden Gate Bridge and cypress trees peek out and disappear as you trek.
At the trail’s end, settle in at the Cliff House for front-row seats of Karl rolling over the ocean. Mosey up to the zinc bar and ask for cup of clam chowder (and perhaps a martini!) to warm your insides. And of course, don’t leave without stepping into the Giant Camera Obscura perched just outside the restaurant.
6. Blast to Pier 39’s Past
Notoriously overrun with lost international tourists eating at Applebee’s and families on vacation donning matching Alcatraz sweatshirts, Pier 39 is not usually top on our SF to-do list. But...on a foggy day in any season but summer, the pier feels a little more like it’s charming past self—the one that made it so popular in the first place. Arrive early in the morning to stroll along the pier in relative solitude as seagulls and fishermen bring in the day’s lunch. Plus, the sea lions don’t mind a little mist!
Walk through Fisherman’s Wharf to Hyde Street Pier and the San Francisco Maritime Park to see eight historic vessels parked along the docks (you can even buy a ticket and go aboard for self-guided tours). Karl hovering mysteriously over the 1886 Balclutha creates a scene straight out of "Pirates of the Caribbean." Top off a crisp morning walk with brunch and Irish Coffee at Buena Vista Cafe while pretending to be a sailor from the early 20th century.
7. See fog-inspired art
While you’re bayside, head back down Embarcadero to the Exploratorium. Your first stop there should be Fujiko Nakaya’s Fog Bridge, which connects Piers 15 and 17. Walk over water as a cloud of fog rises from below, enveloping you in misty wonder—you’ll forget about all the tourists and pedicabs whizzing by for a few moments. Then duck indoors for interactive science, art and perception exhibits ranging from earthquakes and frozen frogs to auditory illusions.
Next on the museum list, book a ticket to the SF MOMA to see exhibitions and art from around the world in addition to pieces from artists based in the Pacific Northwest. Hear Bay Area artists, performers, and thinkers present their work in the 50 Artists series taking place each Friday.
8. Take your games indoors
Maybe it’s because windy-foggy haze doesn’t make for prime gaming conditions. Or maybe it's because when you move everything indoors, you can also stick a bar next to it (or both!). Whatever the reason, San Francisco’s got an unusual amount of hip places to play games inside.
Foggy days were made for tournaments. Make your first stop Urban Putt, because mini golf needs maximum brain power and sober coordination. Next, hit the Mission Bowling Club and throw a few strikes. Last, head for the dimly-lit Hidden Vine for an indoor, upscale game of bocce.
Equal parts, charming, bizarre, nostalgic and delightfully creepy, Musee Mecanique at Fisherman’s Wharf is another perfect place to wander around on a foggy day. In an old warehouse on the water, explore one of the world’s largest collections of coin-operated musical instruments and antique arcade games. Think peep-show slide booths, mechanical dioramas illustrating the evils of opium, and 1930s animatronics that might show up in one of your nightmares. You can even try to beat the arm wrestler from "The Princess Diaries."
At night, throw on a denim jacket to revel in 90s glory before a foot-deep beige computer monitor in SOMA’s Folsom Street Foundry. There, gamers unite in an old warehouse-bar oasis of beer pong, board games and couches filled with controller-gripping die-hards playing Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart and Halo projected on the walls.
9. Misty days were meant for tea
Sometimes Karl brings weather that reminds us of England. So on a foggy day...do as the British do, we guess, and drink lots of tea! Head to The Center SF, a yoga studio teahouse with a zen back patio. Relax with a cup of Pacific Peppermint and sample their all-organic selection—or experience a traditional Gong Fu style ceremonial service by an in-house tea expert.
A cloudy day wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Samovar. An SF-based tea lounge built as an escape from the rat race, the cafe is dedicated to enjoying humanity, not computer screens. Sip the California Rose and munch on healthy international bites, like a ginger-quinoa waffle, or enjoy a full Moorish, Russian, Chinese or Japanese tea service.
Add an only-in-SF twist to teatime at KitTea, a haven for yogi-tea drinkers who also happen to love cats—can you say niche? Book a kitty yoga class, attend a cat-snuggling movie night, or meet with friends in the cafe. Just be sure to check your landlord’s pet policies before you go, because all the adorable felines are available for adoption.
10. Go to Twin Peaks
No celebration of San Francisco’s quintessential weather element is complete without seeing it from above at one of the Bay Area’s most iconic landmarks: Twin Peaks. On a foggy day, hike (or drive) to the summit parking lot and watch Karl roll from Bay to ocean. Bring a few quarters for the telescopes to watch the fog erase the city’s landmarks and uncover them as it glides across the peninsula. Pro tip: Bundle up so you can stay a while. Seeing the fog blanket buildings that normally tower above you can be an enchanting, introspective experience.
Fogginess and dreariness don’t need to be synonymous. Next time Karl rolls in, let San Francisco’s iconic weather accessory serve as inspiration for your day’s adventures.