(CNN) — Want to get away from it all? And would you want to go, or go back to, what is arguably the best city in America? Well, visiting San Francisco may not be possible at the moment.
But with a few digital and analog resources, a little effort and a handful of that magical pixie dust we call imagination, it’s possible to evoke the sights, sounds and tastes of the city.
Whether you need a big hit off that famously laid back and permissive vibe or you want to start preparing for your first, or next actual trip there, immerse yourself now.
Here is a highlight reel of the parts of San Francisco that don’t require setting foot in what Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane called “49 square miles surrounded by reality,” a quote inscribed above the historically Beatnik bar of Vesuvio Cafe in SF’s North Beach neighborhood.
Step one: Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.
You can have your crusty sourdough bread, Dungeness crab and uh, Rice-A-Roni. For me, the meal that is the quintessential taste of San Francisco is a Mission District burrito.
Lay down a handful of warm black or pinto beans, top with grated Monterey Jack cheese, avocado, salsa and optional meat or tofu in a tortilla. Then wrap it up like a giant egg roll. It should be big, almost falling apart and too much to eat, served with salty tortilla chips. If you’re lucky, your local Mexican take-out can replicate it, but it’s not hard to make yourself.
San Francisco is also a beer town. Aim to procure some from Bay Area breweries such as 21st Amendment, Bear Republic, Speakeasy or Anchor Steam. As a one-time resident of San Francisco, their IPAs are the taste of the city for me.
… and a movie
With its municipal beauty, stomach-dropping hills, beautiful bay, bridges, islands, distinct architecture, rich history and cool vibe, San Francisco is the setting for many classic films and some great car chases that conjure that feeling of traversing its diagonal streets and windblown edges.
Here is a cinematic buffet from which to feast that spans from the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 to present-day gentrification also tearing up the streets.
Jonesing for more? There are great SF cameos to be enjoyed in “Superman,” “Inside Out,” “Hulk,” “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Big Hero 6” (technically set in fictional San Fransokyo), “Basic Instinct,” “The Rock,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and the dramatic Golden Gate Bridge ending of the James Bond movie, “A View to a Kill.”
And there’s a “Tales of the City” mini-series produced by PBS from the books by Armistead Maupin, now on Netflix.
Dig this mood
You can get your coffee shop beatnik on by busting out your beret, bongos and cappuccino. Dim the lights. Read or listen to some beat poetry or jazz. And crank up the air conditioning to hoodie temperatures — San Francisco is perpetually chilly.
Put all that together in your home and you may look ridiculous. But so what, man? You’re just doing your thing, daddy-o.
We built this city on rock ‘n’ roll
San Francisco has a music culture that took root in the 1950s and ’60s with folk and then with the psychedelic sounds of the hippies and jam bands that followed. Bands and musicians who lived in The City and left their mark include The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Journey, Carlos Santana, Janis Joplin and Chris Isaak.
But if you want to create a San Francisco playlist, it should be an eclectic mix for an eclectic place.
Museums + landmarks
No, you can’t go to these amazing and unique places now. And virtual is never as good as the real thing. But just because you can’t hang with your friends right now doesn’t mean you don’t want to still see them on a screen.
Whether it’s fascinating photos, cool history or online activities, some of my favorite spots in San Francisco still have something on their websites to engage your love of the city.