If there's one phrase that defines the San Francisco mentality, it's "What’s next?" Ask a San Franciscan what he or she does and you're likely to get a long answer. He or she could be a competitive kite-boarder, a gourmet smoothie aficionado, a mural painter and the CEO of a tech startup that just went public.
San Franciscans are always looking for the next great thing, whether it's in business or recreation. When Levi Strauss came here in 1853, it was to sell dry goods. He quickly realized what miners really needed wasn't canned beans but a tougher pair of work pants. So with a handful of rivets and some dyed denim, Strauss invented blue jeans and struck it richer than any gold miner ever could.
And while gold didn't make many people rich, it did leave a legacy of hard workers, risk-takers and folks who refuse to be told what they can't do. In the late 1800s somebody got the bright idea of going further north to the Napa Valley and starting a wine industry. The global wine industry laughed then, but today, Napa has 450 different vineyards producing wines that regularly win top international awards.
A Napa Valley trip is an easy and essential part of any San Francisco itinerary. If you just can't spare the time, bring Napa Valley to you. Try Press Club SF, where individual wineries showcase their top tastes alongside expertly paired goodies like local Humboldt Fog chèvre and Cowgirl Creamery triple-cream brie.
Locals in San Francisco like to play hard, too – whether it's surfing the 25-metre waves at Maverick's Beach, in-line skating in Golden Gate Park or participating in the monthly mass bicycle event known as Critical Mass.
San Francisco's over-achiever culture is balanced by how laid back and friendly the city is. Venture capitalists dress like bike messengers and you can find both at the same art opening, comparing notes on their favourite after-hours cocktail bar. In San Francisco, you can get into just about any restaurant wearing sneakers and a hoodie. Ask nicely and most locals will share their favourite "secret" spot with you.
There is one absolute rule of protocol, however. Call San Francisco by its name, or call it The City – most locals do – but under no circumstance should you ever call it "San Fran" or "Frisco." Stick to that one guideline and you’ll find much to discover in this beautiful city.