SF Street Smarts 101: How to Avoid Waiting in Line

Take a stroll around San Francisco on any given day and you’re nearly guaranteed to be confronted by hoards of well dressed individuals in line for something. Maybe it’s brunch (it’s probably brunch), maybe it’s a new sneaker release or tickets for the symphony. Regardless of the final goal- be it edible or etherial- spending precious vacation time in line is never ideal (even though waiting in some of these lines is to becoming a true San Franciscan as some ritual hazing is to fraternities). Luckily for you, Vantigo is looking out for your best interests (as always), so here are the best ways to avoid waiting in the most common lines in San Francisco while still getting the best of both worlds. Now go forth and eat all the things don’t wait in line!

1. Tartine Bakery: Getting (insert delicious thing here) from Tartine can be a challenge. However, if you are visiting from anywhere east of California you can make your jet lag work in your favor by getting up with the dawn to beat the line Tartine. The bakery opens at 8, so arrive at 7 with a book (and maybe a soccer chair) to beat the line.

2. Alcatraz TicketsThere is a little secret that you may not have heard yet- if you are planning to visit San Francisco during the summer months and want to do the Alcatraz tour, (especially if you want to do the night tour) you need to book 5 months out. This will prevent you from waiting in line for Alcatraz tickets at the crack of dawn and being disappointed.

3. Hyde St. Cable Car: This one is a doozy, but luckily there are two ways to outsmart this line. The first option is similar to the last case- get in line at Powell St. or Fisherman’s Wharf early. The cable cars start running around 6am. The alternate for those who sleep a bit later is to reverse mind-trick what everyone else is doing, which is waiting in line to ride the cable car up to Lombard St, where they will get off and walk down the street. In case you can’t see where this is going, the trick is to go to Lombard St and get on the cable car when everyone else gets off. You didn’t hear it from us.

4. Bi-Rite Creamery: Oh so delicious and ever so popular, the Bi-Rite Creamery in the Mission District is known to have a direct correlation between length of line, nice-ness of day, and amount that you want to eat ice cream. It can be painful at times. But fear not, because the secret here lies not so far away- in NoPa in fact. The Bi-Rite Grocery on Divisadero has Bi-Rite ice cream, and the line is typically a fraction of the length, while the ice cream is just as tastey. (Now only if Alamo Square didn’t look like a mountain of dirt….)

5. Plow, State Bird, Mama’s, etc: When it comes to the infamous brunch and dinner spots in San Francisco there are three steps to be taken. Step 1: Cross your fingers while researching whether you can make a reservation. Step 2: Resign yourself to the fact that you are going to have to show up at the crack of dawn, or leave work early to be the first to get in line for a table. Step 3: Consider investing in an REI low profile chair. Godspeed!

One last thing before we send you off, newly emboldened with your line avoiding knowledge- if you ever thought any of these lines were bad just read about how San Franciscans waited for two hours in the rain for real, honest to god, New York Bagels. (Worth it, obviously).


About the Author // Eliza Dropkin is a Vantigo Tour Guide. She enjoys live music, good food, and cruising around town in Lillie (though she loves all the vans equally).


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