What to do in San Francisco during VMworld - A guide from a local

How to get around, what to know about the neighborhood around Moscone, food recommendations, and what to do if you’re staying in town for the weekend.

I’m very excited that VMworld is coming back to San Francisco, my adopted home, for the first time since 2015. If you haven’t been to San Francisco since then, quite a bit has changed in the neighborhood by the Moscone Center, where VMworld will take place.

Since I love showing off San Francisco, I put together a little guide for visitors. This isn’t meant to cover everything—instead, these are all the recommendations that I would give to a friend. Enjoy, and see you at the show!

Moscone and the neighborhood

If you haven’t been to Moscone in a while, it’s way better now! The expansion project wrapped up earlier this year, so now there’s no more construction to deal with. And when you’re down in the bowels of the expo hall, the connection between Moscone North and South is now much wider and more open.

In general, the neighborhood to the northeast of Moscone has turned into a hotspot, especially around 2nd and 3rd streets, and Mission, Folsom, and Howard streets. Take a walk around, and you’ll see a ton of new buildings and restaurants.

If you need a nice break from the show, check out the newly opened Salesforce Park, which is on the roof of our new transit center. It’s kind of like the High Line in New York, and it’s only a 10-minute walk from Moscone. It has beautiful gardens, you can see all the new buildings, and there’s even a gondola that you can take to get up there from street level.

Transit

If you’re taking an Uber or Lyft from the San Francisco airport, be aware that earlier this year the pickup location was changed from the curb of the departures level to the roof of the central parking garage. If it’s rush hour, BART (our regional train system) can be faster. There are plenty of signs for both.

If you’re staying downtown, you know that Moscone is just a short walk away. But San Francisco’s second biggest cluster of hotels is up in Fisherman’s Wharf, and a lot of attendees end up there. The fun thing about staying up there is that you can actually use San Francisco’s cable cars or historic streetcars to get to Moscone.

To take the cable car, head to the Powell/Mason Cable turnaround at Bay and Taylor Street and ride it all the way to the Powell and Market turnaround. It shouldn’t be too crowded early in the morning or late at night. Once you get on, the ride takes about 20 minutes, and then you can say that you rode the cable cars not just to be a tourist, but for legitimate transportation! It costs $7—here’s the info.

You can also take the F line streetcar. I live in the North Beach neighborhood, and while I usually walk to work, I take the F line when I have to be at Moscone first thing in the morning. It costs $3, and you can pay in cash with exact change or buy tickets.

Lastly, like many big cities recently, San Francisco is full of rentable scooters. I think micromobility is a cool concept, since it relieves congestion by taking people out of Ubers and Lyfts. Please take care when in traffic and when parking your scooter—I want to help my fellow citizens become more accepting of the scooters. Another good tip is that the bike share bikes (the ones in the docking stations) can be rented directly from the Lyft app.

Food

San Francisco has a million great restaurants, but to me, the emblematic food of the city is the Mission-style burrito. These are the burritos that inspired the founder of Chipotle, but way better.

Good burritos are farther afield from Moscone. My favorite comes from El Castillito, in the Castro—get the super burrito al pastor! (It’s a short ride on the MUNI subway or the F line.) In the Mission (near the 24th Street BART stop), head to Papalote for a burrito spot with excellent salsa. Closer to Moscone, look for a Señor Sisig food truck. It’s a different style of burrito based on Filipino street food, but also amazing.

San Francisco’s version of Shake Shack is called Super Duper, and there are a couple downtown. I won’t try to get in any arguments about which is better, since I haven’t had Shake Shack in a few years, but it sure is good.

If you’re looking for a spot for a lunch meeting and everything near Moscone is packed, head a few blocks north to Belden Place. It has a bunch of outdoor European-style cafés, and it’s my go-to area for work lunches.

Lastly, if you want snacks for your hotel room, there’s a Trader Joe’s at 4th and Market, as well as one near Fisherman’s Wharf, on Bay Street. You’ll find better and cheaper snacks and drinks (including cold beer) than the ones in your hotel lobby; they do close at 9 p.m., though.

Things to see

If you’re staying for the weekend to do some sightseeing, again, San Francisco and the Bay Area have a million options. Personally, one of my favorite weekend activities (especially when friends are visiting) is to go on long walks through the city, alternating between urban parks and neighborhood cafés.

Some of my favorite neighborhoods to walk in are the Castro, Noe Valley, the Haight, Corona Heights, Ashbury Heights, and Golden Gate Heights. For the quintessential Saturday afternoon, grab a picnic and head to Mission Dolores Park. Or for a longer walk, head to Crissy Field, walk west along the water to the Golden Gate Bridge, then keep going down the coast to Sea Cliff, Lands End, the Sutro Baths, and finish at Ocean Beach.

If you’re staying by Fisherman’s Wharf, find the skippers offering $15 1-hour boat rides out under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz—it’s the easiest way to get out on the water and a great value.

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