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Even if you don't leave your heart in San Francisco, you'll want to return again and again to the city by the bay. Yerba Buena, as it was called until 1847, is the host to over 13 million visitors each year. In this compact city of 46 square miles, it is not only easy to find your way to all the wonderful attractions, it’s also fun. You’ll even see local residents amongst the tourists on cable cars: the most scenic form of public transportation anywhere. What a great way to commute to work. But San Francisco is a walking town as well, and traipsing up and down its hills is part of the fun of discovery. All of this exploring will help you work up an appetite so you’re sure to enjoy their phenomenal restaurants.
Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 41
Don’t visit San Francisco and miss the stomping ground of the Birdman of Alcatraz. It’s a beautiful boat ride, and once on the island you can take a self-guided tour of the famous Federal Prison, learn more at the Visitor's Center and walk the paths around the island. Audio guides include the “voices” of guards and some of the island’s most notorious inhabitants, as well as the history and explanations of what you’re seeing. Tickets sell out early, especially on weekends, so it's best to reserve ahead of time.
de Young Museum
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
www.thinker.org (Fine arts Museums of San Francisco)
Reopened in Fall 2005, this beautiful and somewhat controversial new building by architects Pierre de Meuron and Jacques Herzog is a joy to explore. Love the architecture or hate it, you will agree that, like the Getty in Los Angeles and The MoMa in New York, the de Young is a world-class jewel of the arts. The Oceanic Gallery, which resembles a giant tent, is particularly amazing. Note the extensive Impressionistic collections, as well.
Golden Gate Bridge
The ubiquitous symbol of San Francisco means so much to so many. Built during the height of the Great Depression, the Golden Gate took four years to complete and was the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time. It may not be the longest anymore, but it is by far the most soulful, charming and charismatic. Cross the bridge on foot, or rent bikes and ride across, but be sure to wear layers.If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can continue your bike ride along the scenic trail to Tiburon, and stop to eat on the picturesque deck of Sam’s Anchor Café before taking the ferry back into the city.
Okay, okay…San Francisco’s cable car is touristy. But there is still a certain thrill when you stand in front and look out as you coast down the hill toward the bay. It can also be a practical mode of transportation, taking passengers from Powell and Market Streets down to Fisherman’s Wharf, or up the hills of California Street to the posh hotels and restaurants of Nob Hill.
Golden Gate Park
Which is the best urban park in the U.S., Golden Gate or Central Park? The former is bigger (1,000 acres), has half a dozen museums, a Japanese tea garden, a mesmerizing Redwood grove, a fly-fishing pool and so much more for the lover of outdoors.
California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Drive
The academy of arts and sciences is located in Golden Gate Park. The sleek glass and concrete building combines energy with technology in that it has a "living roof" where plants provide natural insulation. It also houses the biggest all-digital planetarium in the world. It employs real-time data from NASA to show spectators cosmic events as they take place in space.
230 California Street
The financial district may not be a happening neighborhood at night except for Perbacco that places emphasis on the food of Italy's Piedmont region. Try the crisply cooked pig trotter meat.
3560 18th Street
Here the food of Italy's Liguria region (near Genoa) is served. The modern restaurant with an open kitchen has the best pansotti (pesto covered pasta stuffed with cheese and greens) and focaccia de Recco (golden poofy, cheese stuffed dough)
800 North Point Street
Billed as new American cuisine, this chic restaurant, including even its sleek Armani-esque décor has received glowing reviews have been. Call and promise your next born and 9 months from now you'll have the reservation.
560 Divisadero Street
The name is short for “North of the Panhandle”.The food is “urban rustic” with a specialty in organic wood-fired dishes.The atmosphere is cozy and vibrant simultaneously. Try the Mediterranean fish stew or grass-fed hamburger with fries and harissa aioli. While they don’t take reservations in advance, you can call starting at 2:00 pm the day you wish to dine. If you don’t get a table, you can sit at a large communal table in the center of the restaurant.
The Slanted Door
Ferry Building Marketplace
1 Ferry Building #3
It is said that this is one of the country's toughest Asian restaurants at which to secure a reservation. However, once you're there dining, it will be worth the effort. It is the high quality of the ingredients used that make this family owned (no fewer than 18 relatives) so superior.
373 Broadway Street
Foodies flock to this place. Chef Daniel Paterson has received two Michelin stars. The 11 course tasing menu is $125.00 but well worth it. Reservations are mandatory in the main dining room but not in the adjacent lounge. Coi is pronounced "kwa".
1408 Clement Street
This small charming French bistro, is one of San Francisco’s hidden treasures. You won't find a lot of bells and whistles here, but you will eat well in a relaxed atmosphere.
1658 Market Street
Zuni is like the Winchester mystery house: with alcoves and nifty little seating areas in hard to reach spots. Come for the oysters; they have more different kinds than you’ll see almost anywhere. And for the seafood; you could learn to love periwinkles. The menu is rather eclectic, internationally inspired but rooted in the foods of the Mediterranean. Choices change daily, but long-standing favorites include the roast chicken (45 minutes, but worth the wait) and the Caesar salad. Everything is fresh, fresh, fresh. The servers know what they’re doing, there’s outdoor seating and they’re open until midnight.
1725 Haight Street
Local food and snacks are accompanied great drinks in this industrial chic bar in the Haight-Ashbury area. The kitchen stays open til 1AM every day.
Keiki à Nob Hill
1250 Jones St.
Part of the current trend of Japanese-French fusion, Chef Keiko Takahashi creates delectable hybrids by adding Japanese flavors to classic French dishes. Served in an incredibly elegant atmosphere with impeccable service, you will be treated to a spectacular blend of flavors like in Chef Keiko's signature dish of Pan Seared Artisan Foe Gras with Espresso Sauce, which comes with artichokes and Japanese sweet potato puree. They also have a fantastic wine list sporting many vintage French wines to perfectly pair with your meal.
1539 Solano Ave
Managed by a husband and wife team, Rivoli creates deceptively simple food that is both comforting and delicious. It has an incredibly romantic setting overlooking a tiny garden accentuating the feel and ambiance of the place. Their Lamb and Pork Meatballs with artichokes, cranberry beans, polenta, and a soft cooked egg is incredibly homey and pleasing, while their Grilled Scallops with Butternut Squash and Mozzarella Ravioli creates a delicious combinations of flavors and textures in the mouth. Along with the fabulous food, their wine list excels as well.
450 Post St.
This extraordinarily decorated seafood restaurant is guaranteed to take your breath away as soon as you walk through the door. The ambience is both modern and classic and will make you feel like you are the captain of your own luxury submarine. The food equally impresses by offering some of the freshest seafood available in the city. Their Champagne Poached Main Lobster is rich and delicious and is served with butter braised leeks, cara cara oranges, and black truffle coulis, while their Roasted Maryland Striped Bass also impresses. Excellent raw bar and wine list make this restaurant truly a winner.
220 Jackson St.
Gourmet Greek is what's on the menu here at Kokari Estiatorio. Set in an exquisite dining room, you will be served beautiful open fire roasted meats and incredibly delicious deserts. They serve their grilled Lamb Chops with a lemon-oregano vinaigrette and their famous Kokkari potatoes, making a delicious combination of fresh and rich flavors. They also serve whole roasted lamb, chicken, and duck as well. For desert, try the Milo Furnistò, baked apple stuffed with cinnamon and walnuts served with masticha gelato or their delicious Baklava.
Ferry Building Marketplace
One Ferry Building
Tel. 415. 693.0996
In this beautiful, historic Ferry Building, you’ll find some of the best produce and food stalls, as well as amazing real food "take-out". On Tuesdays and weekends the area’s farmers bring the freshest offerings, turning the marketplace into the country's premier farmer’s market. There are also some pretty amazing restaurants here which you can learn about on the site. And don’t forget to wander out the back doors and take a stroll along the water; you’ll find yourself almost directly underneath the Bay Bridge.
3319 Sacramento Street
Stop in to peruse gorgeous orchids arranged in unusual containers like Italian biscotti jars or Chinese lunch boxes.
344 Presidio Avenue
Self-dubbed “a footwear mecca,” The Casbah carries women's shoes by Alberta Ferretti (think stilettos) and Giuseppe Zanotti.
3234 Sacramento Street
Belgian linen placemats, embroidered towels and Italian pajamas. Also great bedding in traditional and modern designs.
Alexander Book Co.
50 Second Street
This full-service independent bookstore offers three floors stocked with over 60,000 new books. You’ll find all categories of books and extensive African-American, children's and graphic design departments. Complimentary services include special orders, gift-wrap, and author/book signing events.
Kuraya Japanese Antiques
2345 Harrison Street
This may be the most impressive shop for Japanese Antiques in all of the U.S. From the outside it's just a nondescript warehouse but go inside and that all changes. Hundreds of tansu chests dating from the mid 19th to the early 20th century are just some of the amazing bounty to be found. Jin Spring and his business partner Ito Tsuyoshi can trace the provenance of almost everything in the shop.
135 Post Street
Gump's department store has everything from furniture and lighting to rugs and linens but, for the visitor to San Francisco one of the best reasons to visit this amazing store is for their gift department. For anyone who knows, a gift from Gump's is as good as Tiffany.
375 Sutter Street
New York has Bergorf's, Dallas has Neiman's and San Francisco has Wilkes Bashford. This store had been a San Francisco institution for over 40 years. When one thinks of quality clothing in this city this is the store that comes to mind first.
Flax Art and Design
1699 Market Street
This is the "grand daddy" of all stores for art materials and supplies. Martha Stewart herself would probably genuflect upon entering.
Free Walking Tours of San Francisco
This non-profit organization has more than 200 trained volunteers who lead FREE history and architectural walking tours 52 weeks a year. They are sponsored by the San Francisco Public Library and are a project of the Tides Center. More than 30 different walks lasting from 1-1/2 to 2 hours include “Bawdy & Naughty,” “Cow Hollow,” “Deco Downtown,” “Nob Hill” and other fun and fascinating themes.
National Parks Service’s Alcatraz
This site gives the history of this famed island of concrete and crags, as well as links to the tour lines for visiting it.
Tante Marie's Cooking School
271 Francisco Street
This is one of San Francisco's oldest culinary institutes. Simple seasonal cooking classes are offered with emphasis on organic and farm fresh ingredients. Global cuisine cooking courses from Thai to Morracan. Five hour class is $185.00
718 14th Street
The light, white leather atmosphere in the lounge sets the tone for the house music or soul now spun. The fruity house specialty, the Amber Special, confirms this spot’s reputation as a cheery place to relax in good company.
45 Rose Street
Not a hotel at all, this eclectic bar behind Zuni Cafe might strike you as unique, intimate or just small. It is, however, one of the more romantic places for an after dinner cocktail.
420 Mason Street
If you only make it to one nightclub on your visit, be sure it's this one. No other club begins to rival the wild time someone could have at this uber-hip dance party. Feeling posh? Reserve a VIP booth for yourself and up to nine of your friends.