If you’re not looking, you might miss Noe Valley. Not as well known as it’s neighbors the Castro and the Mission, Noe (as we locals call it) is a diverse neighborhood with a commercial strip where you can do almost everything you ever wanted to do in a day. You can start out at Bernie’s a little coffee shop where pets hang out with their people, kids and drag their parents in to say hi to Bernie, the diminutive owner who offers tastes of lemonade and nibbles of cookies to her little customers. For me, the best days start out with a cup of chamomile and my computer at one of the tables that sit in the shop’s front bay window, where I spend more time people watching than writing.
By yourself? Stroll down 24th street to Elisa’s and indulge yourself in a massage (but for a real treat, wait til dark and unwind in one of their hot tubs under the stars). Once you’re all relaxed why not continue the pampering with a mani pedi at one of the shops that dot 24th street, and, after your nails dry, try your hand at ceramic painting in Terra Mia on Castro. This airy shop provides everything you need to hand paint pieces that you can sip your morning Joe from or hang on the wall to remember how tiny and cute your son’s hand was when he was five.
Stop in Bliss Bar to chill out and mingle with the Jazz-heads, grab a cocktail (try the Lola – it’s sublime), and plan your next move if it’s Sunday. Some of the best local jazz musicians perform starting at about four. During the week, check out Fresca’s happy hour – their tasty Peruvian snacks (the chino civeche combines Asian and Latin flavors and makes you want to order just one more) and pisco sours are perfect sustenance for shopping. The boutiques along 24th Street range from super-trendy to homey and you can find outfits for the dance floor and the perfect PJs. For sports fans who want to cheer on the Niners or see if the Giants will make it to post-season play, Noe Valley Tavern is your place. A friendly sports haven where you can order food from one of two or three neighborhood diners and delis and the beer is always ice cold.
Is it family day? The playground at 24th and Douglass is a swinging good time or you can pop into Cover to Cover, Phoenix Books or the Sally Braun Library for story time (give them a call for times and days).
Ice Scream you scream we all scream for cake – and what better way to wrap up the perfect day that with cupcakes so before you head home, grab one of each of Noe Valley Bakery’s old fashioned treats. Their selection is delectable and, if you close your eyes, come will bring you back to your childhood – try the raspberry zinger.