What We’re Looking Forward to in San Francisco in 2021

Things are looking up already.

Unfortunately, despite all of the hype, things didn’t magically go back to normal when the clock struck midnight on January 1. We’re still cooped up at home, we still have to wear masks whenever we leave the house, and we still miss seeing our friends and family face-to-face. But a COVID vaccine is being rolled out, so there is hope that at some point in 2021, we’ll be able to leave Zoom happy hours, 5,000 piece puzzles, and in-home workouts behind in lieu of a new normal where we may still have to wear masks, but at least we’ll be able to—dare we hope—high five at a football game, share a tub of popcorn at the movies, and wear clothes other than sweatpants (okay, we’re not actually looking forward to that last one), as well as all of this stuff, most of which we never knew we’d miss so much.

The end of the regional “Stay-at-Home” order

SF implemented the State’s Regional Stay Home Order on December 6 (and then extended it indefinitely on New Year’s Eve) putting an end to outdoor dining (indoor dining was long gone after a brief six week trial in October and early November), personal care services, outdoor museums, non-essential travel, and even socializing outdoors with more than one person from outside of your household. Yup, even six feet apart while wearing masks. Basically, for the past month we’ve only been allowed to go on runs, take walks, do essential errands, and... well,  reasons why you’re flaking on your plans (okay, that one we’re totally fine with).

Until Bay Area ICU availability is above 15%, SF ICU availability is above 25%, and new cases and hospitalizations decrease for three weeks in a row, that order’s not going anywhere, which is why of all the things we’re most looking forward to this year, it’s having that order lifted and making sure it stays that way. We promise we’ll never take a haircut for granted again.

Eating outdoors at our favorite restaurants

Once upon a time, we were excited to be able to safely eat indoors again, and we still miss so many of the restaurants that are (hopefully) temporarily shuttered because outdoor dining just didn’t make sense and they couldn’t survive on takeout alone (looking at you Cala and Californios and Frances and Benu and Petit Crenn and so many others), but at least we still had outdoor dining. Now, we don’t even have that, and we really miss bundling up in our puffy jackets (though the prevalence of space heaters almost makes that unnecessary) and enjoying a meal with friends in one of the parklets that popped up in recent months.

Just a few we look forward to going back to include The Morris for when we need to feel a little fancy (yes, even in a puffy jacket), State Bird when we want an intimate experience with inventive provisions, Izzy’s Steakhouse for a stiff pour and a steak on a bustling (but not too bustling) patio, Curio for live music and a great burger, Merchant Roots for delicious food served with a side of whimsy, Foreign Cinema when we want to feel completely normal (the experience on the iconic open air patio is the same as it’s always been—with the exception of masks), Monk’s Kettle when we need to curb our sour beer and pretzel with beer cheese cravings, Waterbar for Bay views and oysters, and Zeitgeist for grilled cheese and Bloody Marys. Plus, basically, every other restaurant we’ve ever enjoyed a meal at.

Listening to live music at actual venues

Think back really hard and you might be able to conjure up memories of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with sweaty strangers at The Independent, listening to jazz at Club Deluxe any night of the week, dancing to your favorite DJ at 1015 Folsom, swaying under the chandeliers at Bimbo’s, chilling to R&B at Madrone Art Bar, or grabbing an apple at the Fillmore and hoping the sold out show will be worthy of a free poster. For now, we put on our favorite Spotify playlists and dance in our underwear waiting patiently for the time we’ll be forced to put on clothes (at most venues, anyway) so that we can dance with each other.

Eating, drinking, and dancing at our many street fairs and festivals

SF and Northern California usually have some pretty stellar music festivals every year (BottleRock, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Outside Lands, and Snowglobe just to name a few), but it’s not just the music festivals we miss right now. It’s also all of those festivals we tell ourselves we’ll go to one day, but consistently put off “until next year.” Well, Gilroy Garlic Festival, Castroville Artichoke Food & Wine Festival, Feast Mendocino, Lodi Wine and Chocolate Festival, California Artisan Cheese Festival, Pebble Beach Food and Wine, Eat Drink SF, Union Street Fair, Fillmore Jazz Festival, Cherry Blossom Festival, Stern Grove Festival, North Beach Festival, Folsom Street Festival, Pride and all the rest... if you build it this year, we will come.

lassen volcanic national park
Zack Frank/Shutterstock

Hitting the open road

Skiing at Squaw, wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma, hiking in Yosemite, enjoying the views of the Pacific in Big Sur, drinking craft beer in Mendocino, whitewater rafting down the American River, cruising down Highway 1 with the ocean by our side, sitting in the hot springs in Paso Robles, watching the elephant seals in San Simeon, enjoying happy hour with our dogs in Carmel, riding the Giant Dipper in Santa Cruz... that list is just the beginning of the places we’ll be hopping in our cars to visit when travel is a thing we’re doing again. 

Watching our favorite teams play... in person

In early March, the Warriors became the first professional sports team to play a game without fans, but it soon became clear that we were about to experience a summer without freezing our butts off while watching the Giants and a fall where Niners football would only be watched on TV. Cheering a game-winning basket, splash hit, or Russell Wilson sack just isn’t the same when you’re doing it from your couch. And even though we don’t miss the beer lines, we have noticed that somehow the beer we're drinking while watching games on TV just don’t taste as good as the ones we reluctantly spend an exorbitant amount of money on.

San Francisco Symphony
Courtesy of San Francisco Symphony

Seeing performances come to life on the stage

Local theater companies have done their best to keep us entertained with live streamed shows written especially for these times, audio shows, videos of past performances, and more, but the opera, ballet, symphony, and plays just aren’t the same without the hush of the crowd as the curtain rises, the sound of the orchestra playing right in front of you, the cacophony of applause from the audience, or the feeling of being totally immersed in something that everyone around you is also immersed in. Whether you’re looking forward to “Mean Girls” on stage, the theatrical magic of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” the inspiring plays put on by A.C.T, the vocal artistry of the San Francisco Opera, improv at PianoFight, or the large-scale orchestral stylings of the SF Symphony, we will all breathe a sigh of relief when we don’t have to pretend that watching online is anywhere close to as amazing as being there in person.

Getting some culture at SF museums

For most of us, the only culture we’ve consumed in the last 10 months came in the form of Netflix and sourdough starter. In 2021, we plan to change that by see all kinds of art at the de Young, Legion of Honor, SFMOMA, Asian Art Museum, Contemporary Jewish Museum, and the Museum of African Diaspora, going to the planetarium, aquarium, and rainforest at the California Academy of Sciences (probably on Thursday nights when cocktails are involved), and getting hands-on with the 600+ exhibits at the Exploratorium in between copious applications of hand sanitizer. But the one we’re most looking forward to? Stepping inside of the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit at SVN West (and possibly eating a gummy beforehand).

Daisy Barringer is an SF-based freelancer who has spent way too much “quality” time with her Saint Bernard recently and looks forward to him slobbering on someone else for a change in 2021. Follow her on Instagram @daisysf to see how adorable and enormous her dog is.