My first encounter with the Mission District was at dusk on a cold August evening. We had just moved to San Francisco and were still in shock at how cold the summer months are. We got out of the BART at 16th St. Mission station, and I was immediately terrified. “If there was a hell, that must be what it looks, sounds, AND smells like,” I thought. I covered Dragon in his stroller, wrapped my coat tighter around myself, walked as fast as I could with my head down, and prayed that the sun wouldn’t set before I reached my destination.
It wasn’t until I got over the initial culture shock of being in such a big/diverse city with a small child (mostly on my own on weekdays) that I grew more comfortable and less intimidated by the people who hang out in the streets in the middle of the day. But the Mission was still hit or miss for me, and it wasn’t until this past week (and the gorgeous spring weather), that I surprisingly, and very suddenly, fell in love with that area.
Dragon and I met our friends for coffee at the cafe of their choice yesterday, and it turned out to be a gem that I would never have gone into on my own.
Mission Pie, as the name suggests, offers a variety of pies, both sweet and savory, yet is not pie-exclusive. You can check out their menu here. My favorite part of the cafe, however, was the little kiddie table by the window with toddler-sized stools and an array of toys. While I enjoyed my mocha, Dragon and his buddy busied themselves with the new (to them) toys, and my friend and I were able to catch up without having to worry about our children bothering other patrons.
After letting the kids blow off some steam at story time at the Mission Branch library, Dragon and I went off on our own to explore the neighborhood a little. I think it was a combination of the caffeine, the weather, and Dragon being a good little man, that I absolutely fell in love with Valencia and want to move there, stat. It is lined with the cutest cafes (outdoor seating!), and the most eclectic stores I ever did see. Where else are you going to find a unicorn, a pirate, baby toys, a yoga studio, a healing center, and have the option of changing your name (Social Security Administration office) all within a few blocks?
I was only able to venture from 24th St. to 19th St., but here are a few of my favorites:
Aldea, Inspiration for Every Room
This is what I refer to as “a happy shop,” the minute I walk into it, I become happy. Each section of the store is designed into the different rooms of a house and the space is re-designed regularly. This was my first time there, but I assume next time I go, it’ll be a different look to explore? Also, though there are a lot of delicate wares and gifts, I found it to be completely stroller friendly. I never felt with a wrong nudge, I may shatter the whole place. If you love home decor, they are currently hiring! (Aldea Baby is right down the street.)
826 Valencia – The Writing Center
At first glance, this place may seem like any old pirate supply store, but it’s actually a non-profit to help students age 6~18 ‘with their literacy and writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.’ My love for writing started at a young age, my un-published teen novel played a big factor into me being admitted to my college, and had I had an organization like 826 Valencia at my hand, I would have been all over it! Perhaps I would even be a published author by now?
I’m not even sure how to begin describing this place. I do know you can spend hours and hours here exploring taxidermy, insects, plants, skeletons, ‘all the treasures and oddities inspired by the garden and the natural sciences,’ a natural history museum you can purchase for your own home. Imagine that! They also offer workshops, in which the Succulent Terrariums Class looks especially appealing to me. Animal activists, do not fret. Paxton Gate does not support the trade of poached or endangered animals and source all of their items through humane ways.
Not a sponsored post. All reviews and photos my own.