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Mission District mural. San Francisco Travel Guide

Mission District

The Mission District is a vibrant neighborhood (with the warmest microclimate) where the forces of gentrification are engulfing the vestiges of San Francisco’s historic Hispanic settlement. This Travel Guide highlights the live music venues and restaurants, record stores, murals, and festivals that make the Mission District in San Francisco a special destination for music fans.

Mission District History

The original Spanish settlement of Misión San Francisco de Asís was founded on June 29, 1776. This founding predates the signing of the Declaration of Independence by five days and the Gold Rush by 73 years. It is both the oldest original, intact Mission in California and the oldest building in San Francisco. The old Mission gave San Francisco its name. Neighboring Dolores Park, a popular weekend day hangout, is named for the basilica next door.

Mission District Exterior photo of Mision San Francisco in the Mission District.

In the Mission District, you can shop for Lucha libre masks and Mexican delicacies on 24th Street or craft chocolate and craft beer along Valencia Street. You can dine at Foreign Cinema for one of The City’s best high-end restaurant experiences or nosh on bacon-wrapped hot dogs from a street vendor and come away satisfied.

And of course, there are countless taquerias scattered throughout the neighborhood. On occasion, you may still be serenaded by a mariachi in parklet diners along the streets of the Mission District.

Mission District photo of display of Lucha libre masks outside a shop in San Francisco.

Mission District Live Music Venues

There are lots of great venues in and around the Mission District. Click the link in each description to check the venue’s calendar of upcoming events.

The Chapel – 777 Valencia Street

Originally built in 1914 the building served as the chapel for an adjacent Mission District mortuary. With a 40’ vaulted ceiling and a capacity of about 400, The Chapel is a nice music venue to catch local and touring acts in San Francisco.

Amado’s – 998 Valencia Street

Amado’s is a street-level bar that features live music in a cozy, partially seated basement space. Occasionally they will also have live music on the main level. Amado’s is a low-key Mission District spot. Look for solo acoustic sets here by artists who typically play in larger venues.

Swedish American Hall/Café du Nord – 2174 Market Street

Located adjacent to the Mission District in what was a mostly Scandinavian community in the late 1800s, Swedish American Hall has been home to the Swedish American Society since it was built in 1907. This San Francisco building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and features two music venues.  Café du Nord, a San Francisco venue with a capacity of 250, has since served food, drinks, and some great live music since 1908. The similarly sized Swedish American Hall presents occasional shows in varying configurations – standing, seated, and sometimes in the round.

Exterior photo of entrance to Swedish American Hall and Cafe du Nord on Market Street in San Francisco.

Bottom of the Hill – 1233 17th Street

Since it began hosting live music in 1991 (in a building built in 1911), Bottom of the Hill with a capacity for 250, this venue has been the San Francisco launching pad for acts such as Oasis, Alanis Morissette, The Strokes, Elliott Smith, Arcade Fire and the White Stripes. The already famous Beastie Boys, wanting to get back to their punk roots, stealthily played a show here in 1996. And, Green Day filmed a special for MTV here a couple of years later. 30 years on, this historic venue still has lots of good acts coming through. The Bottom is a little over a mile east of the heart of the Mission District in neighboring Potrero Hill.

Exterior photo of the Bottom of the Hill in Portreo Hill near the Mission District in San Francisco.

Thee Parkside – 1600 17th Street

Speaking of Green Day, Billie Joe Armstrong formed a cover band called The Coverups that have mostly gigged around the Bay Area…an Oakland Street Festival, the ultra-cool Ivy Room in Albany, and The Golden Bull in Oakland (where he is a co-owner). The only music venue they have played in San Francisco is Thee Parkside. This neighborhood bar with patio seating is a block away from the Bottom. They offer good food, a solid selection of craft beers, and live music on the weekends.

Exterior photo of Thee Parkside in Portreo Hill adjacent to the Mission District.

Mission District Restaurants with Live Music

Curio SF

Adjacent to The Chapel, Curio Bar SF is a relaxed spot for drinks or a bite to eat in the Mission District of San Francisco while enjoying live music on their outdoor patio. Their lineup showcases a wide variety of styles including gypsy jazz, flamenco, and reggae, during evenings and weekend brunch.

Etcetera Wine Bar

Just a couple of doors down from The Chapel, Etcetera Wine Bar offers tapas, flatbreads, and boards with cured meats or cheese. Etcetera features live jazz most nights but does not publish a calendar. Call ahead for details.

Radio Habana Social Club

Radio Habana is a welcoming neighborhood hangout, with funky decor and a tiny, dining room. They often have live music, sometimes Latin music, or a chill local rapper from this San Francisco neighborhood that will take over the parklet. The menu includes Cuban and other Latin foods.

Casements

What do you call an Irish Pub in the Mission District that serves French onion soup, curry dishes, fish tacos, Guinness stew, and live music in one of the coolest (heated) outdoor patios in San Francisco? Casements. Check their events calendar as live music and DJ sets are scheduled sporadically and can start anytime, day or night.

20 Spot

The sign outside this cozy, corner restaurant on a quiet side street in the Mission District says RECORDS. These days, 20 Spot restaurant presents a tasty seasonal menu of small plates, boards, and a pizza or two along with their signature roasted duck breast and possibly another entree. The wall behind the bar displays their wine selection along with cubbies of records, a nod to the building’s past. Employees spin vinyl throughout the night. While not live music, 20 Spot in San Francisco offers a cool, music-themed ambiance.

Mission District Record Stores

Stranded Records – 1055 Valencia Street

Stranded is the retail arm of Superior Viaduct, the archival record label. They buy and sell used records in this Mission District store in addition to carrying Viaduct re-releases. Stranded initially focused on the San Francisco punk scene, but expanded to include a wide range of genres and eras in a tightly curated, high-quality collection.

Exterior photo of Mission District record store Stranded Records.

Thrillhouse Records – 3422 Mission Street

Thrillhouse is a volunteer-run, not-for-profit, DIY record store in San Francisco.  While they consider themselves primarily a “Punk Record Store,” they carry all types of new and used records at reasonable prices by San Francisco standards. While not in the most convenient Mission District location without a car, punk collectors will find Thrillhouse worth the trip.

Mission District record store Thrillhouse Records interior photo.

Grooves Inspiralled Vinyl – 1797 Market Street

Grooves’ stunning exterior is a beacon to music fans, so cool that Bob Dylan even painted it. This San Francisco record store is packed floor-to-ceiling with a wide range of used vinyl and collectibles.

Bird & Beckett – 653 Chenery Street

One BART stop up from 24th Street Station in neighboring Glen Park is Bird & Beckett Books and Records. While primarily a bookstore, Bird & Beckett regularly hosts a wonderfully eclectic schedule of BYOB live music performances in their store.

Photo of sign in front of Bird & Beckett Books and Records in San Francisco.

Mission District Music Festivals

The Mission District in San Francisco offers a variety of street festivals, many boasting live music.

Carnaval San Francisco

Carnaval San Francisco is a 2-day festival over Memorial Day weekend with a colorful parade and live music entertainment on five stages throughout the day. This cultural extravaganza celebrates the heritage of Brazil, Mexico, Panama, Bolivia, Cuba, Peru, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Colombia, Trinidad & Tobago, Guatemala, El Salvador, and more. While the parade can be viewed live on local network television, experience the festival by visiting the Mission District.

Mural honoring Mission District Carnaval celebration in San Francisco.
This mural above a brake shop on 24th Street honors The Mission’s Carnaval celebration.

20th Street Block Party

The 20th Street Block Party takes place on Valencia Street between 20th and 21st Streets. Concert promoter Noise Pop sponsors a fun, donation-supported indie music festival on Valencia Street in the Mission District of San Francisco. The Block Party pumps continuous live music with bands on 2 stages.

Noise Pop’s 20th Street Block Party 2022. One of the cool under-the-radar music festivals in San Francisco.

SF Porchfest – Various Locations

SF Porchfest takes place in backyards, stoops other outdoor spaces throughout the Mission District. The most recent, the first since the pandemic, was their smallest event. Earlier festivals in San Francisco have included as many as 35 bands at 17 venues throughout the Mission. A wide variety of musical genres are represented.

One SF Porchfest regular is The Wronglers, the bluegrass performance outlet of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass benefactor Warren Helman until his passing away in 2011. SF Porchfest 2023 takes place on June 10 from 12 to 6 pm.

Mission STOOP Fest – Various Locations

STOOP Fest is very similar to Porchfest except it takes place throughout the year and includes oral history, poetry readings, youth, and cultural performances throughout the Mission District. The festival takes place on the first Saturday of February, April, June, August, October, and December. Check out their program for details.

Other Things to Do and See

Mission District Murals

Over the past 40 years, the buildings of the Mission District have become an outdoor art gallery. While many address social issues and Latino heritage, others are just plain fun. Check out Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley which are packed with great street art. For fans of Carlos Santana, there are currently two murals of the pride of the Mission (one at 24th Street BART pictured and one at 19th Street just west of Mission). 

Photo of Mission District mural honoring the family of Carlos Santana.

Carlos Santana Home – 205 Mullen Street

The Santana family moved to the Mission District area from Tijuana, Mexico when Carlos was 14. Residing in neighboring Bernal Heights, Carlos Santana attended James Lick Middle School in Noe Valley and Mission High School.

He was living here with his family when he began playing in bands. Neighbors recall Carlos Santana playing neighborhood block parties, quinceanera celebrations, and garage jams (Ramona at 14th Street).

Exterior photo of childhood home of Carlos Santana in San Francisco.
Home of Carlos Santana from his teenage years through early stardom with his namesake band.

Carlos Santana has said that he got his blues education in Tijuana but his higher education at the Fillmore Auditorium where he would see his blues heroes like B.B. King. He was working as a dishwasher at the Tik Tok Drive In on 3rd Street when he played his first gig at the Fillmore, as an unbilled opener for The Who the weekend before Monterey Pop.

By the time Santana played Woodstock, bandmate and future Journey co-founder Gregg Rolie lived in this home’s basement-level apartment. Drummer Michael Shrieve moved in when he left home for the first time. Carlos and his Santana bandmates were known to hold percussion jams in Precita Park just around the corner.

Picnic in Dolores Park

A block from the Mission, you will find Dolores Park, a classic San Francisco neighborhood park that boasts the City’s warmest weather. The scene on weekend afternoons is worth checking out as is the view of downtown San Francisco.

Photo from Dolores Park in the Mission District with view of downtown San Francisco in the distance.

The Marsh Theatre

The Marsh is a performing arts theatre space in the Mission District with two small stages and some big-time, one-person act theatre. Hopefully, you get a chance to see Don Reed performing one of his autobiographical shows, although we have enjoyed every show that we have seen here.

Urban Putt

For a fun, touristy activity with a mostly local crowd, check out Urban Putt. It’s indoors, San Francisco-themed mini golf. There is a bar near the entrance, so you can grab a drink before you start. This is a good daytime activity on rainy or cold days, although it does get very busy.

Need More Ideas?

If you are visiting San Francisco and looking for travel ideas check out my San Francisco Travel Guide. Also, Grateful Dead fans may enjoy my Grateful Dead Trip of North Beach. Lastly, my Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Guide helps visitors maximize their enjoyment of the greatest music festival in San Francisco.