A Wonderful Neighborhood
There is a sense of community here, and people have long been attracted to its charm. Located in the South-East section of the city, bordering Noe Valley, Glen Park and the Mission District, Bernal Heights has that small town friendly feel many big-city dwellers crave. Combine this with the cosmopolitan edge that our locally-owned shops, services and restaurants provide, and you’ll find that Bernal truly has something for everyone!
Truly Something for Everyone
Bernal Heights means something different to every one of its residents. To some, Bernal is epitomized in Bernal Hill, our namesake and one of the city’s great open spaces. Here, people stroll, dogs frolic, and everyone admires the city’s sweeping panoramic views from the top. It’s one of the city’s least discovered prime viewing areas for the 4th of July, and on that rare clear July evening, you can see fireworks in all directions! The Bernal Hilltop Native Grassland restoration project helps protect the hill’s native wildlife.
Cortland Avenue – The Heart of the Village
To others, Bernal Heights means Cortland Ave, a mini hub of retail activity, featuring shops like Good Life Grocery, Heartfelt Gift Shop, independent bookseller Badger Books, and full service pet store Bernal Beasts. There is also a branch library, a very active Neighborhood Center, and a playground that was voted one of the city’s best by the Bay Guardian newspaper. There are also several all-important coffee stops, including Progressive Grounds and Martha and Bros, and nationally famous restaurants like Liberty Cafe and Moki’s Pacific Grill, which has some of the best sushi in town. A lack of chain stores fosters the independent spirit that makes Bernal Heights unique.
Bernal Heights is a child-friendly neighborhood, and you’ll see lots of little people everywhere you go. It’s literally teeming with tots and there are lots of activities for families in the neighborhood, including a drop in toddler playtime at St Mary’s Rec. Center, new Mom groups meeting at Progressive Grounds, story hour at the Bernal library and even kids yoga classes. There are several excellent elementary schools in the area, including Buena Vista/Horace Mann and Fairmount, which both have Spanish immersion programs. Also, Synergy and the San Francisco School are private schools which many Bernal children attend.
While Bernal Heights is predominantly a family-oriented neighborhood, it does have its own nightlife scene. There are a few bars along the Cortland strip, including the Wild Side West with its wonderful outdoor garden, and Lucky Horseshoe, which has live music several times a week. Additionally, Mission Street is just down the hill, with a wide variety of bars and restaurants, some of which host live music.
The history of community activism in Bernal Heights goes back many years. The Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center opened its doors in 1979, and today it’s still involved in senior services, teen activities, building affordable housing, as well as hosting many meetings for community groups of all kinds. The neighborhood is full of activist-oriented folks who’re always planning something, from Music on the Hill to Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema.
Bernal is also full of artists, writers, and photographers, some of whom publicly display their work annually during Open Studios in October. There is a strong tradition of mural art in the city, which finds its spiritual home through Bernal’s own Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center. Here you can pick up mural walking tour brochures, or take your toddler to art class.
Gardens and Parks
Besides Bernal Hill, a wonderful green space for dog-walking, jogging and picnics, Bernal has newly renovated Holly Park, Bernal Park and Precita Park all with wonderful playgrounds and climbing structures for the kids.