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About Bernal HeightsVisitors seeking true local flavor in San Francisco will find an excursion to bohemian Bernal Heights worthwhile. A commercial strip of small markets, barber shops, fruit stands, cafes, bars and restaurants on Cortland Avenue punctuates Bernal's mainly residential streets. The historic Alemany Farmers Market is the oldest existing farmers market in the United States and has operated in the same spot since 1947. A gigantic flea market takes its place on Sundays.
Bernal Heights plays an increasingly established part in San Francisco's diverse foodie scene. Hipsters adore the creative comfort food at chic, yet relaxed Blue Plate, and eclectic Emmy's Spaghetti Shack feeds the late-night crowd something other than burritos (a rarity in these parts). Groups can share the goods at Mexican-Salvadorean restaurant El Zocalo, famed for seafood plates like crab enchiladas, and the French-country charm of Liberty Café (reputed to be the neighborhood's first "real" eatery) doesn't disappoint with its focus on seasonal, fresh ingredients, which they use to serve up homey food like potpie.
The offbeat and charming enclave also boasts a decent nightlife. El Rio is the real prize here; its wide, multi-level patio is one of the best spots to soak up an elusive, warm San Francisco evening. Cozy Wild Side West also boasts a patio filled with nooks and crannies, and the bar draws all walks of life, despite its reputation as a lesbian hangout.
Bernal Heights attracts young families with children due to its profusion of somewhat affordable, single family-homes with yards, and easy access to lush parks. Dog owners are drawn to Bernal Park, the second-largest park in San Francisco, where their pets can run free off-leash. Bernal Park is easily spotted throughout the city, and the grassy dome's steep climb to the summit leads to sweeping views of Noe Valley, the Mission, and the downtown skyline. Holly Park and Precita Park offer recently renovated playgrounds, picnic tables, and basketball and tennis courts.
The neighborhood is a hub of community-based events. The Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema showcases local filmmakers at free screenings in August and September. Fiesta on the Hill, celebrating the ethnic, cultural, and economic diversity of the district, occurs each October. The entire hill turns into one mega garage sale during the annual Hillwide Garage Sale each August, and the San Francisco Illegal Soapbox Society's derby takes over Bernal Heights Boulevard every year.