The Best Non-Alcoholic Drinks and Sober Things to Do in San Francisco
Guaranteed fun, no booze required.
If you’re looking to imbibe in San Francisco, there’s no shortage of options. From renowned craft cocktail bars to popular breweries, neighborhood watering holes, sports bars, and wine bars, it’s almost as easy to find a place to drink in San Francisco as it is to stumble upon a local park. But for those abstaining from alcohol entirely or just cutting back, you aren’t without options.
If you’re looking to still socialize with people who enjoy a boozy cocktail, you can absolutely join in the fun. Non-alcoholic cocktail culture only continues to become more popular, something San Francisco bartenders acknowledge by offering creative non-alcoholic concoctions that are just as interesting as their boozy counterparts and non-alcoholic wine and beer options.
And even though “getting drinks” is a very popular go-to activity in this town, if you’re looking for fun that doesn’t center around alcohol, San Francisco delivers. From beaches to bowling and afternoon tea to an afternoon at a museum, there’s no shortage of ways to make memories (that you’re guaranteed to actually remember!) Keep reading for your ultimate guide to exploring San Francisco when sobriety is a priority.
Non-Alcoholic Drinks and Dining in San Francisco
Non-alcoholic cocktails are having a real moment right now. Gone are the days when someone abstaining has to choose between a Shirley Temple and fizzy water. Many of today’s non-alcoholic cocktails are as creative and balanced as the ones that come with booze. Delicious and zero chances of a hangover? Zero-proof cocktails are the perfect choice for someone who doesn’t drink at all or wants to take a night off.
Considering their popularity, it’s no surprise that some of San Francisco’s most popular bars have committed to the alcohol-free game with drinks that wow and don’t feel like a concession. One of our favorites is Copra, the stunning Indian restaurant on Fillmore Street with some of the most delicious food you’ll find in San Francisco and a section on the drink menu dedicated to non-alcoholic cocktails.
Another gorgeous restaurant that offers non-alcoholic cocktails is Villon on the ground floor of the Proper Hotel. Their drink menu offers seven drinks (that may contain less than 0.5% ABV) created by Bon Vivant Hospitality’s Josh Harris (Trick Dog). Harris is incredibly talented and very proud of his 20 years of sobriety, so it’s no surprise the drinks are unlike anything you’ve sipped before. Enjoy one in the stylish lounge while people-watching, which is an activity unto itself.
You should be eating at Pabu Izakaya, Michael Mina’s modern Japanese restaurant in the Financial District, simply because it has one of the most flavorful and delicious menus we’ve experienced in a while, but if you’re looking for a delicious drink without spirits, also because it offers a robust cocktail menu with an entire page dedicated to alcohol-free cocktails and beer and wine alternatives.
Other “fancy” spots with excellent spirit-free cocktails include Nari, the restaurant from the Kin Khao team inside Hotel Kabuki in Japantown, and Bar Iris, the swanky lounge attached to Nisei in Russian Hill.
If you’re looking for something a little more casual, head to Cole Valley Tavern in, well, Cole Valley, where you’ll find friendly service, comfort food, and some very thoughtful cocktails that come sans alcohol.
Prefer your destination 100% alcohol-free? Ocean Beach Cafe, a non-alcoholic bar and bottle shop, is the spot and has the most extensive list of non-alcoholic cocktails and, for those who are “California sober,” a few “hemptails” featuring 2 to 6mg of THC. They also offer “temperance tastings” and a non-alcoholic mixology class for those who wish to explore the category a little more.
Non-alcoholic bottle shops
You can pick up non-alcoholic spirits, wine, and ready-to-drink cocktails at Ocean Beach Cafe, but if you’re looking for a shop totally dedicated to the cause, there’s only one in San Francisco: Boisson in Hayes Valley. Boisson has a slew of other shops in LA and NYC and is a one-stop shop for non-alcoholic spirits, wine, beer, cider, ready-to-drink cocktails, mixers, and more.
Tea is a delightful drink any time of day, but especially in the afternoon when paired with tiny little sandwiches and desserts. You’ll find a traditional tea service at the iconic Rotunda at Neiman Marcus, which offers a daily afternoon tea of finger sandwiches, scones and jams, and petite sweets. If you enjoy a Parisian vibe, head to Maison Danel, a stylish French brasserie, pâtisserie, and tea salon where you’ll find multiple afternoon tea options, including one with full caviar service.
Hotels tend to offer some of the most classic afternoon tea services you’ll find in San Francisco. Our favorite ones are at the St. Regis San Francisco, the decadent and historic Palace Hotel, and, of course, the Fairmont San Francisco, which makes the Saturday afternoon experience in the Laurel Court feel extra special with polished silver, fine china, Victorian accouterments, and live piano accompaniment.
Finally, since we wouldn’t even have tea if not for China, two notable spots that celebrate that fact include Jade Chocolates Teahouse & Cafe, a shop in Chinatown where you’ll find gorgeous small-batch chocolates and themed afternoon teas with Asian, Pacific Islands, and California history and the Imperial Tea Court in the Ferry Building, a traditional Chinese tea house where you can sip tea and snack on dim sum, as well as shop for tea, teaware, and gifts.
Wellness and Physical Activity in San Francisco
Kabuki Springs and Spa has been bringing “balance, wellness, and inner calm” to Japantown for more than 50 years. The springs are what set it apart from other spas (though it does offer all of the traditional services)—there’s a hot pool, cold pool, dry sauna, and steam room, and guests are encouraged to partake in a “time-old bathing ritual” of alternating between hot and cold. The communal bathing facilities are bathing suit-optional on days dedicated to just men or women and are all-gender on Tuesdays when bathing suits are required.
A bath salt soak in a stone tub is always relaxing, but somehow, it feels even better when the tubs are in a bamboo garden on a rooftop, and in the case of Bamford Wellness Spa, on the rooftop of 1 Hotel San Francisco. After the soak, relax on the deck and take in views of the Ferry Building and Bay Bridge. The spa also offers massages and facials for a true afternoon of blissful relaxation.
Golden Gate Park
A simple walk through this 1,017-acre park full of lakes, meadows, gardens, museums, and more is a wellness journey in and of itself. But if you’re really leaning into a wellness vibe, look no further than the Japanese Tea Garden, where you’ll find an arched drum bridge, pagodas, stepping stone paths, native Japanese plants, koi ponds, and a Tea House overlooking a pond. The Botanical Garden is also an excellent place for wandering and meditation, as are any of the other gardens, the AIDS Memorial Grove, and the Prayer Book Cross (if you can find it).
You might not think of bowling as “sporty,” but someone very close to us recently pulled a muscle (she also got a turkey, so WORTH IT) at Presidio Bowl, so we’re filing it under “athletic-ish.” Presidio Bowl is our go-to bowling alley because it has old-school bowling alley vibes, 12 lanes, and over 40 beers and cider on tap. Mission Bowling Club is also great, but there are only six lanes, so it can be harder to get in. It does win points, however, for being 21 and over after 6 pm every day but Sunday and for its legit burger.
Miniature golf is one of those childhood activities that maybe only gets more satisfying as you get older, but at Stagecoach Greens, SF’s only outdoor course, it’s even more satisfying because you also get to learn California “Boom and Bust” history along the way. The holes tell stories about everything from the Gold Rush to the 1906 earthquake, so even if you lose, you win! (But hopefully, you also win.) Either way, Stagecoach Greens is inside Parklab Gardens, so after, you can head to the food trucks and, if someone in your group wants a 21 and over drinks, a beer garden (with a full bar) for a post-game snack.
If you own skates, you can always head to the Skatin’ Place along JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park (we wish someone would open a skate rental place like they used to have in the ‘80s!), but if not, the Church of 8 Wheels, a rollerskating rink inside of, yes, an abandoned church can set you up with everything you need (except skill—that you’ll have to learn on your own). Go after 7 pm when it’s 18 and up if you want to avoid having to dodge or possibly run over children.
Golden Gate Park has a million “sporty” activity opportunities. There are quality tennis courts, a disc golf course, a skate park, a 9-hole golf course, an archery field, horseshoe courts, fly fishing, horseback riding, and even lawn bowling, but our favorite will always be the paddle (or pedal) boats at Stow Lake. Work up an appetite by taking a spin around the lake (there are also row boats in case one person wants to do all of the heavy lifting, or rowing as it were), and then head to the cafe for snacks or lunch (and beer and wine for those who are partaking).
Other Things to Do in San Francisco
Despite the fact that we all know intellectually that San Francisco is surrounded by water on three sides, it seems like many of us tend to forget that comes with beaches. Lots of beaches. Maybe not beaches where you’ll go to get a tan, but definitely beaches where you can hike, kite surf, regular surf, have a bonfire, grill out, or sunbathe in the nude. Here are our favorites. Just remember to dress warmly and bring layers. Even in July. Especially in July.
The best way to explore SF is on foot, and if you set out on any of the city’s many urban hikes, you’re bound to discover something new. A few of our favorites include Mount Sutro Open Space Preserve, five miles of trails and a 900-foot elevation gain, Mount Davidson (at 927 feet, it’s the highest point in the city), Twin Peaks (just five feet shorter than Mount Davidson), Fort Funston, pretty much any of the trails in the Presidio, and, of course, the Lands End Trail. If you don’t mind leaving the city, we think all these hikes with gorgeous views are worth the trek.
Whether you’re into old-school Ms. Pac-Man, skeeball, Dance Dance Revolution, pinball, air hockey, Mortal Kombat, or Mario Brothers, one of SF’s arcades will have what you seek. Thriller Social Club in SoMa (21+ after 9 pm) is two floors with all of the above. Inside a historic theater, the Emporium on the Divisadero Corridor also covers all bases and has a DJ on the weekends. Plus, it’s 21 and up at all times. The Detour in the Castro is smaller, but it’s also 21 and up 24/7 and offers food, drinks, and themed nights, like a board game night on Tuesdays and trivia on Thursdays. Since this is a guide about doing stuff without imbibing, we should mention that all of these spots offer alcoholic drinks, as well as non-alcoholic options. Thriller Social Club and the Detour also offer food, and while the Emporium does not, you are allowed to bring your own in.
SF is home to all kinds of museums—including fine art, antique arcade games, not one but two hands-on science museums, cartoons, Asian art, modern art, Jewish art, art from the African diaspora, and more. Get our full rundown of the best ones here.