Darren Criss loves sharing music and places with a sentimental meaning. The award-winning actor and singer takes a trip down memory lane and shares all of his favorite places in his hometown, plus he curated some spots he's loving right now.Less
"I’m probably the last generation of people growing up going to record stores and buying albums. Amoeba was such a fun place to go to. It was like an exclamation point on my hang-out day in the Haight. I loved going there, checking out albums, and listening to as many as possible. You could scan the bar codes and check out the music. There were always a lot of great artists coming through. It was a cool place to hang out, being around music and record people."
"Haight-Ashbury has all these great vintage stores. I really got into vintage clothing when I was a teenager. I remember I bought some bell bottoms here that I thought were really cool. I used to wear those at school, and I was like, 'Man, I'm so hip.' I love Wasteland."
"This spot opened after I left San Francisco, but when I go back to the Haight, I love to stop by here. As a cocktail bar owner, I’m pretty choosy about cocktail menus, but they have a great one. I pay a visit every time I’m in town."
"Golden Gate Park is very dear to me. I’ve enjoyed going there recently as Outside Lands is now a fixture of the city. I loved going to the park for runs. I had soccer games and practice there, too. I’ve just had a lot of fun here walking around all times of the year. I love when it’s foggy and cold, and you have to dress up warm for a walk. I have a Pavlovian reaction when I smell the eucalyptus trees in the park. I have a very strong connection to the place."
"One place in particular that I’ve always loved in Golden Gate Park is the Japanese Tea Garden. My wife and I are big Japanese culture fans. We taught ourselves to read, write, and speak Japanese during the pandemic, so it’s a big part of our life. I’m a fan of Japanese gardens, and I’m a big tea drinker, so it checks all the boxes for me. It’s a beautifully curated, traditional Japanese garden. It’s a peaceful place to have a contemplative moment in the park."
"When I was younger, we lived in the Marina, and I spent a lot of time with my parents at Marina Green—going for runs and doing stuff with my dad. My dad was a big runner. He always loved it there."
"Crissy Field is a special place to me. I used to ride my bike here. In fact, it’s where I learned how to ride a bike. This park was fun for us because, obviously, our last name is Criss. So it became ‘Hey, this is our field,’ where we could ride our bikes. It’s an old abandoned landing strip for planes. They’ve transformed it into this really beautiful nature reserve in the past twenty years. A lot of the natural wildlife is coming back to the area, and it has completely been revitalized."
"I recently did the Hedwig and The Angry Inch musical on Broadway, and then I did its tour. I first got into the musical when I was growing up in San Francisco, so I would be remiss not to do it in my hometown. We were stationed at the Golden Gate Theatre in the Tenderloin, and there’s a cocktail bar close by that I’m particularly fond of. You can have a quiet drink there. It’s especially nice after a show when I don’t want to use my voice too much. It’s my idea of the perfect cocktail club."
"CREOLA is another newer spot I’m very fond of. It’s a great cajun, New Orleans–style seafood restaurant. My wife and I got married in New Orleans, and we love that city. I just stumbled onto this place when I went here for Sunday brunch. They had a lovely dixie jazz combo playing, which was such a nice treat. I had a delicious crab benedict here—one of the best I’ve ever had."
"My brother and I grew up getting a lot of music from The Music Store. We were really into bluegrass. My brother is a banjo player, and we’d go see a lot of local folk and bluegrass bands there. Shelby was the guy that ran the store, and I was always fond of him. You know, even at that point, I realized that having a mom-and-pop record store was special. I hope it can live on forever."