Sunday, September 9, 2012

Weekend Trip to San Francisco

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”  So true…where else do you see people walking around in trench coats in mid-June?  Thankfully the fall weather is usually fantastic, making September and October the perfect time for a weekend trip.  Unlike the sprawling cities of San Diego and Los Angeles, San Francisco is compact, and relatively easy to traverse in a short period of time.  Just make sure to bring your walking shoes!

Day 1, Friday:  Check out and check in.
Sneak out of work early and head over to the San Diego International Airport.  Both Virgin America and Southwest offer several flights daily to San Francisco International Airport (SFO).  Hop in a cab, or avoid the traffic by taking BART to the Union Square area.  Check in to your hotel and ask for a free map of the city.  Join the young professional happy hour crowd for a quick cocktail at Americano before you turn in for the night.  You’ll need rest for tomorrow.

Day 2, Saturday: Choose your own adventure.
The Tourist. While I normally avoid Fisherman’s Wharf like the plague, the Alcatraz tour is a fan favorite, even among those who have lived in the Bay Area for years.  Buy your tickets well in advance.  While the official website warns that tickets sell out “several days in advance,” you can interpret this as “several weeks in advance.” Give yourself a few hours for the ferry ride there and back, and the tour itself.  After the tour, get the hell out of Fisherman's Wharf and soak up the retro ambience at Original Joe’s in North Beach, San Francisco’s Italian neighborhood.

The Museum Aficionado. The California Academy of Sciences is a fascinating museum located in Golden Gate Park.  This museum features a four-story rainforest, a living roof, and currently the Earthquake exhibit. The de Young museum for fine arts.  Then reward yourself for being so cultured by enjoying Nopa's urban rustic cuisine. 

The Spa Lover: Enjoy a heavenly massage at the Burke Williams day spa in Union Square.  For a quicker treat, ladies can hit up the Benefit Brow Bar at Macy’s for expert brow shaping, while men can visit the Art of Shaving for a traditional straight razor shave.  Enjoy small plates at State Bird Provisions, voted Best New Restaurant in America by Bon Appetit magazine.  

Day 3, Sunday. A Walker's Paradise: Roll out of bed and walk over to Café de la Presse, a French restaurant adjacent to the China Town Gate.  Nibble on a fresh croissant while perusing one of the restaurant’s European fashion magazines or newspapers.  Take a spin through China Town and pick up a pair of chopsticks for your foodie friend back home.  Then head down the hill for some shopping in Union Square.

Walk down Market Street to the Ferry Building, an indoor marketplace on the water featuring gourmet specialty foods and unique items for the home and garden.  Stop for lunch at Out the Door, the more casual counterpart to the Slanted Door.  Dine on one of the benches out back, and enjoy the view of the bay.  For a post-lunch treat, stop at Miette for French macarons, or Ciao Bella for gelato.  Gift idea: Scharffen Berger chocolate, or Blue Bottle Coffee.  Check out of your hotel, grab your bags, and hop on BART back to the airport.

Recommended hotels:  While you can’t go wrong with the Ritz Carlton or the Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco offers a plethora of more reasonably priced options.  Consider either the Chancellor Hotel or the Palace Hotel for classic décor in a convenient location.  If you prefer more modern digs, check out the Hotel Vitale. 

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