To many visitors, and even some San Franciscans, the Richmond and Sunset districts are largely unexplored areas that sandwich Golden Gate Park. Less flashy and more foggy, but for some, this is the real San Francisco.
"The Avenues" are home to tens of thousands of San Franciscans who dine, eat and play in the suburban expanse between the hubbub of downtown and the waves of Ocean Beach; but, whereas both the Sunset and the Richmond have established themselves as diverse small towns in the middle of the big city, they have their differences.
The Richmond is in many ways defined by its relation to the parks; bordered by Golden Gate Park on the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and Lincoln Park, Land's End, Mountain Lake Park and the Presidio of San Francisco to the north, bisected by the Presidio Greenbelt and with the Marin Headlandsand the Golden Gate Bridge in full and clear view, the neighborhood, which is otherwise a simple but far-reaching grid, has a feeling of being encapsulated by nature. It is thus known as a safe, peaceful, serene, family neighborhood, and one of the city's largest as a whole, both in terms of housing stock and population.
South of Golden Gate Park, the Sunset District mirrors the Richmond in terms of its Irish and sand-dune origins, but stretches of the Inner Sunset, especially the quadrants around Irving Street and 9th Avenue and Judah from 45th Avenue to the Ocean, are rapidly turning into hipster hamlets, with trendy restaurants, bakeries and boutiques. The Sunset’s main attraction, however, is way out west where the turf meets the surf. Thin, sandy Ocean Beach is a good spot for a contemplative wander to watch surfers battle strong rip tides and chilly waters. Fort Funston, a large, natural dune area on the southwest edge of the city, is a favorite place for dog walkers and hang gliders. Just down the road, the San Francisco Zoo borders picturesque Lake Merced, encircled by biking and jogging paths.