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Solved: San Francisco suggestions appreciated

Discussion in 'Random Discussion' started by letchworth, Feb 12, 2007.

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  1. letchworth

    letchworth Thread Starter

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    I'm planning an upcoming trip to San Francisco--- have been there before and seen just a few tourist things--- so wondered if there are some suggestions of "Places you'd tell your family and friends not to miss"??

    Trip won't be a long one- but I'd really appreciate your suggestions.
    letchworth
     
  2. poochee

    poochee

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    Fishermans Wharf...Lots to see and great restaurants.
     
  3. MSM Hobbes

    MSM Hobbes

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    When are you going, what time of year, how many days?
    How many people, what ages - or going solo?
    What are their/your interests, more city or tourist or off-the-beaten-path stuff or...?

    I've only spent 10 days there, but,,, absolutely loved every minute of it, and seriously enjoyed getting lost in and outside of the city. Give me some feedback on the above, so better tailor some suggestions for ya(s).
     
  4. poochee

    poochee

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    Check at your hotel for which areas of the city you should avoid. Safety measure.
     
  5. letchworth

    letchworth Thread Starter

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    Somehow I lost my reply-- I'll try again
    Thanks to you both---
    Travel will be with my wife and adult daughter within the next month on Sun-Tue. We are staying in Union Square area-- I thought my wife might enjoy some shopping (although I don't know much about that) and thought I'd check out TIX for theatre tickets.

    My wife and I visited in the 70s- Fisherman's Warf, China town, cable cars- and, if memory serves me right, I think we got to try our hands fishing off a pier (caught flounder, crab and starfish- as I recall) & drove down the Crookedest street in our 1969 Dodge Dart.

    My daughter, some friends and I visited back 4-5 years ago. Saw much of the same, but also Cable Car Museum, Bay Cruise, Ferry to Salsolito, Golden Gate Park, Japanese Tea garden, Legion of Honor, aquarium- and the seals.

    Food recommendations are appreciated-- Like so many, my favorite meal was the Clam Chowder on the Pier- (although my all-time favorite chowder hails from Rhode Island-- This was great, sitting on the wharf and drinking it all in).

    Again, thank you for you suggestions
    letchworth
     
  6. sometimesiwonder

    sometimesiwonder

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    China town and the metreon are two great places to not miss :)
     
  7. poochee

    poochee

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    Union Square is a good place to stay. Your wife will love the shopping. Theater sounds great. Hope you have a lovely time.:)
     
  8. sometimesiwonder

    sometimesiwonder

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    I've also found the following information which looks like great helpful, informative information on what one can do in San Francisco from none other then one of the google ads on this site :eek: :D (y) :cool: :

    San Francisco at a Glance

    You could live in San Francisco a month and ask no greater entertainment than walking through it," wrote Inez Hayes Irwin, author of The Californiacs, an effusive 1921 homage to the state of California and the City by the Bay. Her claim remains true today: as in the 1920s, touring on foot is the best way to experience this diverse metropolis.

    San Francisco is a relatively small city. About 800,000 residents live on a 46½-square-mi tip of land between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. San Franciscans cherish the city's colorful past; many older buildings have been spared from demolition and nostalgically converted into modern offices and shops. Longtime locals rue the sites that got away -- railroad- and mining boom-era residences lost in the 1906 earthquake, the baroque Fox Theater, and Playland at the Beach.

    San Francisco's charms are great and small. You wouldn't want to miss Golden Gate Park, the Palace of Fine Arts, the Golden Gate Bridge, or a cable-car ride over Nob Hill. But a walk down the Filbert Steps or through Macondray Lane or a peaceful hour spent gazing east from Ina Coolbrith Park can be equally inspiring.

    The neighborhoods of San Francisco retain strong cultural, political, and ethnic identities. Locals know this pluralism is the real life of the city. Experiencing San Francisco means visiting the neighborhoods: the colorful Mission District, the gay Castro, countercultural Haight Street, swank Pacific Heights, lively Chinatown, ever bohemian North Beach, and arts- and news media-oriented SoMa, among others.

    Copyright © 2006 by Fodors.com, a unit of Fodors LLC.
    All rights reserved.


    San Francisco's Best in 3 Days Itinerary

    Day 1

    In the morning explore Fisherman's Wharf and its jumble of tourist shops, street performers, and artists. Pier 39 is a consumer extravaganza, where a double-decker Venetian Carousel shares space with touristy shops and Underwater World, a fascinating walk-through glimpse of ocean life. Don't miss the antics of the hundreds of sea lions basking in the sun. Hop on a cable car (the Powell-Hyde line is the most dramatic) at the wharf and take in sweeping views of the bay, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge as you rattle your way to Union Square, ground zero for sophisticated shopping.

    The charming cafes and boutiques of Maiden Lane are worth a look. Later, head to the area south of Market Street (SoMa) to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to see works by local, European, and international masters. Then take in an evening of culture on Geary Street's theater row, or quaff a cocktail and watch the sun set at one of Union Square's sky-view lounges, such as Harry Denton's Starlight Room at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel.

    Day 2

    Begin the day with a walk on the Golden Gate Bridge, then head to North Beach, the Italian quarter. Join locals from the old country for breakfast Italian style: an espresso and pastry at an outdoor café along Columbus Avenue. Allow an hour or two to wander this small area filled with tempting delis, bakeries, and pasta houses. You'll see such beat-era landmarks as City Lights Bookstore and reminders of the city's bawdy past in the steamy shops and clubs of Broadway.

    Be sure to walk up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower. You'll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the bay and the city's tightly stacked homes. Spend the afternoon exploring labyrinthine Chinatown, where tea and herb shops, fish markets, and exotic-produce stalls spill onto the street. Then take the California Street cable car up blue-blood Nob Hill and top off the evening with a cocktail at the Crown Room, the Fairmont Hotel's skyline bar. Or back in North Beach take in Beach Blanket Babylon, the quirky musical revue of San Francisco, at Club Fugazi.

    Day 3

    Take a morning ferry from Pier 41 to the infamous prison on Alcatraz Island. Or if you are drawn to the bucolic vistas across the bay, take a ferry north to Marin County's Tiburon or Sausalito for a stroll through town and lunch overlooking the bay. (Ferries to both towns depart from Fisherman's Wharf, and those to Sausalito only from the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero.) When you return to the mainland, head to the epicenter of 1960s counterculture, Haight-Ashbury, where the streets are lined with excellent music and book shops and groovy vintage-clothing stores.

    Join the in-line skaters, runners, and walking enthusiasts in picnic-perfect Golden Gate Park -- the city's most glorious green space, with more than 1,000 acres of greenery stretching from the Haight to the Pacific. Among the gardens, lakes, and playing fields you'll find the serene Japanese Tea Garden. Spend the rest of the afternoon sightseeing or strolling in the park, around Stow Lake. Don't miss the Dutch Windmill on the park's coastal edge. Head over to the Beach Chalet for dinner or a drink and a view of the Pacific sunset.
    Copyright © 2006 by Fodors.com, a unit of Fodors LLC.
    All rights reserved.

    Fodor's Choice: Our Editors' Top Picks

    Lodging

    $$$$Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco. Elegant decor, cityscape views, and free access to the magnificent Sports Club/LA facilities.

    $$$$Hotel Monaco. Decor is a riot of color and pattern; staff is devoted to pampering.

    $$$$Mandarin Oriential. The posh hotel occupies the top floors of one of the city's tallest buildings. The views are great even if you don't use the binoculars in your room.

    $$$$Palace Hotel. A landmark building graced with a stunning entryway, high ceilings,and marble bathrooms.

    $$$$Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco. The opulent lobby and elegant rooms result in the Ritz's ranking among the world's best hotels.

    $$$-$$$$Hotel Rex. Richly decorated rooms and literary soirées evoke the spirit of salon society in the 1920s.

    $$-$$$$Union Street Inn. This romantic getaway has an old-fashioned English garden, elaborate complimentary breakfast, and personable owners.

    $-$$Alamo Square Inn. Two houses -- a Queen Anne Victorian and a Tudor Revival -- and a small apartment building form this lovely B&B.

    Budget Lodging

    $Grant Plaza Hotel. Outside the small, modern, and sparkling rooms, the striking architecture and fascinating street life of Chinatown beckon.

    ¢-$San Remo Hotel. Lace curtains and brass beds are some of the charming touches in this Italianate Victorian near Fisherman's Wharf.

    Restaurants
     
  9. sometimesiwonder

    sometimesiwonder

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    $$$$Fifth Floor. The fare is sophisticated and the presentation stunning at this intimate space in Hotel Palomar.

    $$$$Gary Danko. Usually solidly booked six weeks in advance, Gary Danko gets rave reviews for its contemporary cuisine, making it a must for visiting foodies.

    $$$$Masa's. Chef Ron Siegel, famous for besting Japan's Iron Chef, is at the helm of this celebrated temple to food. The prix-fixe dinner menus include a vegetarian option.

    $$$-$$$$Farallon. Lamps take the shape of jellyfish and columns are covered in kelp at this stylish and fun seafood restaurant.

    $$$-$$$$Jardinière. One of the city's most talked-about restaurants is a serious pre-theater event, thanks in large part to the incredible cooking of chef-owner Traci Des Jardins.

    $-$$$$Ritz-Carlton Dining Room and Terrace. Two distinct dining experiences in a neoclassic Nob Hill showplace: the formal, French-accented Dining Room and the cheerful and informal Terrace.

    $$-$$$Zuni Café. Chef Judy Rodgers' Italian-Mediterranean fare is refined, not fussy, and attracts an eclectic crowd late into the night.

    $-$$Delfina. The simple but exquisite Italian fare at this casual, lively spot is what makes diners return again and again.

    Budget Restaurants

    $L'Osteria del Forno. As you enter this modest North Beach storefront, you're likely to feel as if you've been transported to Italy.

    ¢-$Chow. The highest-quality local ingredients at low prices. Be prepared to wait along with the other folks hoping to snag a table.

    ¢-$Swan Oyster Depot. Grab a stool at the counter of this fish market-diner lunchtime favorite and order some chowder, if you want hot food, or perhaps oysters or shrimp salad.

    After Hours

    Big 4 Bar. Listen to a piano player while sipping a fine brandy at this clubby, romantic Nob Hill spot.

    Bottom of the Hill. A low-key showcase for some of the best local alternative rock.

    Club Fugazi. The North Beach cabaret's Beach Blanket Babylon revue has been going strong for more than 30 years.

    El Rio. The Mission dance club moves to a world beat on Friday and to other genres throughout the week.

    Great American Music Hall. The nightclub, in a former bordello in the Tenderloin, books top-drawer blues, folk, jazz, and rock acts.

    Harry Denton's Starlight Room. Drink in the city views along with your martini at this glamorous nightspot on the 21st floor of the Sir Frances Drake Hotel.

    Redwood Room. Thursday through Saturday nights you usually have to be on the guest list to get into this sleek, monochromatic space.

    Quintessential San Francisco

    Castro Theatre. The grandest of San Francisco's few remaining movie palaces.

    City Arts & Lectures. The annual program includes conversations with writers, composers, actors, and politicians.

    Coit Tower. Glowing at night atop Telegraph Hill, this beacon of western individualism was inspired by Lily Coit, one of early San Francisco's great originals.

    Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The hiking trails have incredible views of the ocean and bay.

    Lombard Street. The "crookedest street in the world," with its winding brick paths and its well-tended flowerbeds, is worth the queue.

    Pacific Bell Park. Watch the Giants play a day game at this retro-style baseball stadium.

    Palace of Fine Arts. This rosy rococo palace, a San Francisco landmark, was built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

    Stern Grove Festival. Free music and dance performances on Sunday afternoons in summer.

    San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Crossing the sky bridge in the atrium, you'll appreciate the cutting-edge designs of architect Mario Botta.

    Shopping

    Amoeba Music. Thousands of new and used CDs, records, and cassettes for sale at bargain prices.

    Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. The most upscale of the city's farmers' markets is held in front of the restored Ferry Building. The Saturday market is the big deal.

    Folk Art International/Boretti Amber/Xanadu Tribal Arts. Three collections of global art and jewelry in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed space in the Union Square area.

    Molinari Delicatessen. Making its own salami, sausages, and cold cuts since 1896. Pastas are also available.

    Nordstrom. The focus is on service at this department store, housed in a four-story atrium encircled by spiral escalators.
    Copyright © 2006 by Fodors.com, a unit of Fodors LLC.
    All rights reserved.

    A Union Square Walking Tour

    Begin three blocks south of Union Square at the San Francisco Visitor Information Center, on the lower level of Hallidie Plaza at Powell and Market streets. Up the escalators on the east side of the plaza, where Powell dead-ends into Market, lies the cable-car terminus for two of the city's three lines. Head north on Powell from the terminus to Geary Street, make a left, and walk west 1½ blocks into the theater district for a peek at the Geary Theater. Backtrack on the north side of Geary Street, where the sturdy and stately Westin St. Francis Hotel dominates Powell between Geary and Post streets. Union Square is across Powell from the hotel's main entrance.

    From the square head south on Stockton Street to O'Farrell Street for the Virgin Megastore; the Original Levi's Store is north. Walk back toward Union Square past Geary Street and make a right on Maiden Lane, a two-block alley directly across Stockton from Union Square that runs east parallel to Geary. When the lane ends at Kearny Street, turn left, walk 1½ blocks to Sutter Street, make a right, and walk a half block to the Hallidie Building. After viewing this historic building, reverse direction and head west 1½ blocks up Sutter to the fanciful beaux-arts-style Hammersmith Building, on the southwest corner of Sutter Street and Grant Avenue. In the middle of the next block, at 450 Sutter, stands a glorious 1928 art deco skyscraper, a masterpiece of terra-cotta and other detailing; handsome Maya-inspired designs adorn its exterior and interior surfaces. From here, backtrack a half block east to Stockton Street and take a right. In front of the the Grand Hyatt hotel sits Ruth Asawa's Fantasy Fountain. Union Square is a half block south on Stockton.

    Timing

    Allow two hours to see everything around Union Square. Stepping into the massive Macy's or browsing in boutiques can eat up countless hours. If you're a shopper, give yourself extra time.
    Copyright © 2006 by Fodors.com, a unit of Fodors LLC.
    All rights reserved.

    A North Beach Walking Tour

    The City Lights Bookstore, on Columbus Avenue, is a must-see city landmark in North Beach. But first, get your bearings by standing on the northwest corner of Broadway and Columbus. To the southwest is Chinatown. The Chinatown portion of Grant Avenue intersects Broadway a few steps west of Columbus before changing character completely after it crosses Broadway and Columbus in North Beach. The Financial District skyscrapers loom overhead to the south of the intersection of Columbus and Broadway, though one of the earliest and shortest examples, the triangular Sentinel Building, where Kearny Street and Columbus Avenue meet at an angle, grabs the eye with its unusual shape and mellow green patina. (The building's owner, filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, has the penthouse office.)

    East across Columbus is the Condor, where in 1964 local celeb Carol Doda became the nation's first dancer at a nightclub to go topless. (These days Doda runs a lingerie shop at 1850 Union Street and the Condor is a sports bar.) Around the same time, North Beach was a nexus of comedy: Bill Cosby, Phyllis Diller, Dick Gregory, the Smothers Brothers, and other talents cut their teeth at clubs such as the hungry i and the Purple Onion.

    To the north of Broadway and Columbus is the heart of Italian North Beach. A few doors north of the Condor, Grant Avenue heads to the north, toward Telegraph Hill. Columbus shoots northwest past Washington Square to Fisherman's Wharf.

    Now walk southeast across Columbus to City Lights Bookstore, where you can pick up a book by one of the Beat writers. Three of the most atmospheric bars in San Francisco are near here: Vesuvio, across Jack Kerouac Alley from City Lights; Specs, across Columbus from City Lights at 12 William Saroyan Place; and, a few steps south of Specs at 242 Columbus, Tosca, where opera tunes stock the jukebox. For joltingly caffeinated espresso drinks, also to the tune of opera, head north on Columbus a block and a half on the same side of the avenue as City Lights to Caffè Puccini, at No. 411. By now, you've been in North Beach for a couple of hours and hardly gone anywhere. There are sights to see, but relaxing and enjoying life are what North Beach is all about.

    Head up the east side of Columbus Avenue (the same side as the Condor) past Grant Avenue. On the northeast corner of Columbus and Vallejo Street is the Victorian-era St. Francis of Assisi Church. Go east on Vallejo Street to Grant Avenue and make another left. Check out the eclectic shops and old-time bars and cafés between Vallejo and Union streets.

    Turn left at Union Street and head west. Pick up a delectable, Italian-style treat at Gelato Classico Italian, at 576 Union. Continue west to Washington Square, an oasis of green amid the tightly packed streets of North Beach. At Union and Stockton streets is San Francisco's oldest Italian restaurant, Fior d'Italia, which opened in 1886. After the 1906 earthquake and fire, the restaurant operated out of a tent until its new quarters were ready. On the north side of the park, on Filbert, stands the double-turreted Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church.

    After you've had your fill of North Beach, head up Telegraph Hill from Washington Square. Atop the hill is Coit Tower. Many people won't want to attempt the walk up the steep hill; Coit Tower can be reached by car (though parking is very tight) or public transportation -- board Muni Bus 39-Coit at Washington Square. To walk, head east up Filbert Street at the park; turn left at Grant Avenue and go one block north, then right at Greenwich Street and ascend the steps on your right. Cross the street at the top of the first set of stairs and continue up the curving stone steps to Coit Tower.
     
  10. sometimesiwonder

    sometimesiwonder

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    On the other side of Coit Tower, the Greenwich steps take you down the east side of Telegraph Hill, with stunning views of the bay en route. At Montgomery Street, perched on the side of the hill, is Julius' Castle restaurant. A block to the right at 1360 Montgomery Street, where the Filbert steps intersect, is a brilliant art-deco apartment building. Descend the Filbert steps amid roses, fuchsias, irises, and trumpet flowers -- courtesy of Grace Marchant, who labored for nearly 30 years to transform a dump into one of San Francisco's hidden treasures in the 1900s.

    Timing

    It takes a little more than an hour to walk the tour, but the point in both North Beach and Telegraph Hill is to linger -- set aside at least a few hours.
    Copyright © 2006 by Fodors.com, a unit of Fodors LLC.
    All rights reserved.

    A Chinatown Walking Tour

    The Bus 30-Stockton, which travels north and south on Stockton Street, gets you from downtown or Fisherman's Wharf to Chinatown. While wandering through Chinatown's streets and alleys, don't forget to look up. Above street level, many older structures -- mostly brick buildings that replaced rickety wooden ones destroyed during the 1906 earthquake -- have ornate balconies and cornices. The architecture on the 900 block of Grant Avenue (at Washington Street) and Waverly Place (west of and parallel to Grant Avenue between Sacramento and Washington streets) is particularly noteworthy, though some locals decry it and similar examples as inauthentic adornment meant to make their neighborhood seem "more Chinese."

    Enter Chinatown through the green-tile Chinatown Gate, on Grant Avenue at Bush Street. Shops selling souvenirs, jewelry, and home furnishings line Grant north past the gate. Dragon House, at No. 455, is a veritable museum; the store sells centuries-old antiques rather than six-month-old goods made in Taiwan. Old St. Mary's Cathedral towers over the corner of Grant Avenue and California Street. Continue on Grant to Clay Street and turn right. A half block down on your left is Portsmouth Square. A walkway on the eastern edge of the park leads over Kearny Street to the third floor of the Holiday Inn, where you find the Chinese Culture Center.

    Backtrack on the walkway to Portsmouth Square and head west up Washington Street a half block to the Old Chinese Telephone Exchange (now the Bank of Canton), and then continue west on Washington Street. Cross Grant Avenue and look for Waverly Place a half block up on the left. One of the best examples of this alley's traditional architecture is the Tin How Temple. After visiting Waverly Place and Tin How, walk back to Washington Street. Several herb shops do business in this area. Two worth checking out are Superior Trading Company, at No. 839, and the Great China Herb Co., at No. 857. These Chinese pharmacies carry everything from tree roots and bark to over-the-counter treatments for impotence.

    Across Washington Street from Superior is Ross Alley. Head north on Ross toward Jackson Street, stopping along the way to watch the bakers at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookies Co. Turn right on Jackson. When you get to Grant Avenue, don't cross it. For some of Chinatown's best pastries, turn left and stop by No. 1029, the Golden Gate Bakery, where the moon cakes are delicious.

    Head west on Pacific Avenue to Stockton Street, turn left, and walk south past Stockton Street's markets. At Clay Street make a right and head halfway up the hill to the Chinese-American National Museum and Learning Center. Return to Stockton Street and make a right; a few doors down is the Kong Chow Temple, and next door is the elaborate Chinese Six Companies building.

    Timing

    Allow at least two hours to see Chinatown. Brief stops will suffice at the cultural center and temples. The restaurants don't invite lingering, so if you're lunching, a half hour should be adequate unless you choose one of the higher-end places.
    Copyright © 2006 by Fodors.com, a unit of Fodors LLC.
    All rights reserved.

    A Walking Tour of Golden Gate Park

    The Conservatory of Flowers is the first stop on this walk. To get here from the park's north side, head for the intersection of Fulton Street and 6th Avenue, where the Bus 5-Fulton and Bus 21-Hayes from downtown stop. Walk south into the park at 6th Avenue. The road you come to is John F. Kennedy Drive. Turn left on the blacktop sidewalk and head east. Across the drive on your right is the Rhododendron Dell. (If it's springtime and the rhododendrons are in bloom, detour into the dell and return to John F. Kennedy Drive heading east.) Past the first stop sign you see the exterior gardens of the conservatory on your left. Explore the gardens; then walk south (back toward Kennedy Drive) from the conservatory entrance. Continue east on Kennedy Drive a short way to the three-way intersection and turn right (south) at Middle Drive East.

    Less than a block away at the intersection of Middle and Bowling Green drives is a sign for the National AIDS Memorial Grove. Before you enter the grove, follow the curve of Bowling Green Drive to the left, past the Bowling Green to the Children's Playground. If you have kids in tow, you'll probably be spending time here. If not, still take a peek at the vintage Herschell-Spillman Carousel.

    Reverse direction on Bowling Green Drive and enter the National AIDS Memorial Grove, a sunken meadow that stretches west along Middle Drive East. At the end of the wheelchair-access ramp make a left to view the Circle of Friends; then continue west along the graded paths (ignore the staircase on the right halfway through the grove) to another circle with a poem by Thom Gunn. Exit north from this circle. As you're standing in the circle looking at the poem, the staircase to take is on your left. At the top of the staircase make a left and continue west on Middle Drive East.

    At the end of Middle Drive East, turn right and follow the signs leading to the Shakespeare Garden. After touring the garden, exit via the path on which you entered and turn left (to the south). A hundred feet shy of the 9th Avenue and Lincoln Way entrance to Golden Gate Park is the main entrance to Strybing Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. You could spend an afternoon here, but to sample just a bit of this fine facility take the first right after the bookstore. Follow the path as it winds north and west. Take the second right and look for signs for the Fragrance and Biblical gardens.

    Backtrack from the gardens to the path you started on and make a right. As the path continues to wind north and west, you see a large fountain off to the left. Just before you get to the fountain, make a right and head toward the duck pond. A wooden footbridge on the pond's left side crosses the water. Signs on the other side identify the mallards, geese, American coots, mews, and other fowl in the pond. Stay to the right on the path, heading toward the exit gate. Just before the gate, continue to the right to the Primitive Garden. Take the looped boardwalk past ferns, gingko, cycads, conifers, moss, and other plants. At the end of the loop, make a left and then a right, exiting via the Eugene L. Friend gate.

    Go straight ahead on the crosswalk to the blacktop path on the other side. Make a right, walk about 100 feet, and make a left on Tea Garden Drive. A few hundred feet east of here is the entrance to the Japanese Tea Garden.
     
  11. sometimesiwonder

    sometimesiwonder

    Joined:
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    Tour the Japanese Tea Garden, exiting near the gate you entered. Make a left and continue past the former Asian Art Museum and the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum; both buildings are closed for construction. A crosswalk leads south to the Music Concourse, with its gnarled trees, century-old fountains and sculptures, and the Golden Gate Bandshell. Turn left at the closest of the fountains and head east toward the bronze sculpture of Francis Scott Key.

    Turn left at the statue and proceed north through two underpasses. At the end of the second underpass, you'll have traveled about 2 mi. If you're ready to leave the park, take the short staircase to the left of the blue-and-green playground equipment. At the top of the staircase is the 10th Avenue and Fulton Street stop for Bus 5-Fulton heading back downtown. If you're game for walking ½ mi more, make an immediate left as you exit the second underpass, cross 10th Avenue, and make a right on John F. Kennedy Drive. After approximately ¼ mi the Rose Garden is on your right. Continue west to the first stop sign. To the left is a sign for Stow Lake. Follow the road past the log cabin to the boathouse.

    From Stow Lake it's the equivalent of 30 long blocks on John F. Kennedy Drive to the western end of the park and the ocean. If you walk, you pass meadows, the Portals of the Past, the buffalo paddock, and a 9-hole golf course. You can skip most of this walk by proceeding west on John F. Kennedy Drive from the stop sign mentioned above, making the first right after you walk underneath Cross-Over Drive, and following the road as it winds left toward 25th Avenue and Fulton. On the northwest corner of Fulton Street and 25th Avenue, catch Bus 5-Fulton heading west, get off at 46th Avenue, walk one block west to 47th Avenue, and make a left. Make a right on John F. Kennedy Drive.

    By foot or vehicle, your goal is the Dutch Windmill and adjoining garden. A block to the south, wind up with a microbrew at the Beach Chalet.

    Timing

    You can easily spend a whole day in Golden Gate Park, especially if you walk the whole distance. Even if you plan to explore just the eastern end of the park (up to Stow Lake), allot at least two hours.
    Copyright © 2006 by Fodors.com, a unit of Fodors LLC.
    All rights reserved.

    Wine Tasting 101

    If one of your reasons for visiting the Wine Country is to learn about wine, your best friend should be the person who is pouring in a winery tasting room. The people who do this are only too happy to share their knowledge. Though wine bars and shops abound, the best way to learn about wines is to visit the wineries themselves. True, you'll get to taste only one product line, but because most wineries make 5 or 10 or even more types, you can make a lot of headway after visiting one or two wineries.

    Why do people make such a big deal about tasting wine? Because it's the only way to learn the differences among varieties of wines and styles of wine making. Contrary to the cartoon image, tasting wine is by no means an effete exercise. As long as you don't act pretentious -- say, by tilting your glass with your pinkie finger in the air -- you won't look silly.

    So how do you go about tasting wine? You start by looking at it. Usually the pourer gives you between 1 and 1½ ounces of each wine you try. You can hold the glass by the stem or by the bowl; the former grip keeps the wine from heating up, but the latter is a good idea if the tasting room is so crowded you fear getting jostled. If you can hold the glass to the light, all the better. You're looking for clues to the grape variety as well as to the wine's age. Connecting the color with the wine grape is part of the sensory experience and is likely to help you remember the aromas and flavors better. As for age, remember that red wines pale with time, whereas white wines get darker.

    Sniff once or twice to see if you smell anything recognizable. Next, swirl the wine gently in the glass. Aerating the wine this way releases more aromas. (This step works with just about every type of wine except the sparkling kind.) Don't be afraid to stick your nose in the glass. The receptor nerve cells in your nose can detect every scent and forward them to the brain's olfactory bulb. Those cells tire quickly, however, so be sure to assess the aromas as quickly as possible.

    At this point, it is time to taste. Although smell plays an enormous role in taste memory, so can "mouth-feel," or the weight of the wine on your tongue. Is it light or watery? Is it rich like milk? Mentally record these impressions, along with any other tactile sensations such as smoothness or silkiness. Hold the wine in your mouth for a few seconds to give your taste buds a chance to pick up as many flavors as possible. Wines carry an almost infinite range of flavors, from butter to olives, mint to chocolate, pineapple to vanilla, or cherry to blackberry. If you can still perceive flavor well after you've swallowed the wine, you can say it has a long finish. And you can be assured that it's a wine you will remember.

    -Marty Olmstead
    Copyright © 2006 by Fodors.com, a unit of Fodors LLC.
    All rights reserved.

    What's Free When

    Admission fees add up. However, if you visit San Francisco at the right time of the month (and you don't mind larger-than-usual crowds), you can sail through many turnstiles without ever opening your wallet.

    Always free are the Cable Car Museum, Creativity Explored, Fisherman's Wharf's Musée Mécanique, Fort Point, the Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitors Center, the Randall Museum, the galleries at the San Francisco Art Institute, the SFMOMA Artists Gallery at the Fort Mason Center, Strybing Arboretum, the Tattoo Art Museum, and the Wells Fargo Bank History Museum.
     
  12. sometimesiwonder

    sometimesiwonder

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2007
    Messages:
    7
    Free sights in Chinatown include the Chinese Culture Center, the Kong Chow and Tin How temples, and the Golden Gate Fortune Cookies Co., where free cookie samples await. Free tours of City Hall or the San Francisco Public Library are an option. The Octagon House doesn't charge admission, but it does encourage donations. If you don't want to head inside, consider a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge or a free tour of Sutro Heights Park.

    Third Monday: Contemporary Jewish Museum noon-6.

    First Tuesday: Asian Art Museum 10-5, Cartoon Art Museum 11-5 (pay what you wish), de Young Museum 9:30-5:15, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 11-6, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 12-5.

    Third Tuesday: Legion of Honor 9:30-5:15.

    First Wednesday: California Academy of Sciences 10-5, Exploratorium 10-5, Museo Italo-Americano noon-7, San Francisco Zoo 10-5.

    First Thursday: Chinese Historical Society of America Museum and Learning Center noon-5.
    Copyright © 2006 by Fodors.com, a unit of Fodors LLC.
    All rights reserved.

    Sweet Painted Ladies

    Bright, cheerful, and sturdily proud, San Francisco's Painted Ladies are wooden (mostly redwood) Victorian homes built in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They provide the perfect grace notes of exuberance for a metropolis that burst onto the scene as capriciously as did the City by the Bay. Though viewed as picturesque antiques these days, the homes, about 15,000 of which survive, represented the height of modernity in their time.

    Made possible by the newly created streetcar and cable-car lines -- not to mention money from the gold and silver rushes of the 1800s -- the Painted Ladies had indoor plumbing (the later ones electricity, too) and other modern touches, like porcelain bathroom and kitchen fixtures and machine-tooled wood detailing. The older Victorians downtown perished in the 1906 earthquake and fire. But west of Van Ness Avenue, where grand mansions were dynamited to halt the fire's spread, and in the Haight, the outer Mission District, and Noe Valley, sterling examples remain.

    Were the Painted Ladies always as brilliantly hued as they are today? Apparently so: accounts from the late 1800s mention bright, even "garish" colors. Some writers attributed this to the city's carefree attitudes, others to the desire of San Franciscans to create a visual reality as different as possible from that of the East Coast cities from which many of them had come.

    Three main Victorian styles emerged in San Francisco. The architecture of Renaissance Italy's palaces informed the Italianate style, characterized by Corinthian porch columns, tall and narrow doorways, and slanted bay windows. (The bay window was invented in San Francisco, where the standard lot is only 25 feet wide, to take advantage of water views.) The Stick style employs wood strips as ornamentation -- as opposed to floral and other patterns -- and squared-off bay windows, which let in even more light than slanted bays. It evolved into what came to be known as the Stick-Eastlake style, with faux gables, mini-mansards, and other embellishments adding a playful quality to the basic Stick look. If you see a home with a rounded turret or other curvy elements, it's probably a Queen Anne, the third major San Francisco style. Angled roofs, lacy detailing, and jolly bits of froufrou -- arching portals, wedding-cake trim, rounded shingling -- enliven Queen Anne homes.

    There's plenty of overlapping of these styles. Many Italianate houses built in the 1870s but remodeled in the 1890s, for example, acquired Queen Anne touches. The Atherton House daffily combines the Stick-Eastlake and Queen Anne styles. And you'll find Gothic, Tudor, and Greek Revival Victorians in much smaller numbers.

    To view the quintessential strip of Victorians, head to Alamo Square and look east toward downtown. The Queen Anne homes -- 710-720 Steiner Street -- in the foreground, which have been painted and photographed numerous times, are known as Postcard Row.

    -Daniel Mangin
    Copyright © 2006 by Fodors.com, a unit of Fodors LLC.
    All rights reserved.

    Cable Cars to the Rescue

    Gaze up from the base of Nob Hill or Russian Hill, and you won't have trouble figuring out why the ASPCA became an early supporter of Andrew Smith Hallidie's proposal to add cable cars to San Francisco's mass-transit mix. Conductors of horse-drawn streetcars heading up these and other peaks in the 1850s and 1860s screamed at and fiercely whipped the animals, vainly encouraging them to muster the strength to halt their slides back down to the base.

    The "sorrowful plight" of the horses may have been one of Hallidie's inspirations, but he was also in the business of selling wire cable. He was the first person to manufacture it in California, beginning during the gold rush. Hallidie, a Scotsman, had come to California seeking gold. He didn't find much, but he did strike it rich selling his cable and building suspension bridges and mine conveyances. The technology for cable cars had been used for decades in mines, but it was Hallidie who successfully applied it to an urban environment.

    Drop by the Cable Car Museum on Nob Hill to see how simple Hallidie's system, eventually employed by more than a dozen cities around the world, is. Four sets of cables -- one for each of the streets (Powell, Hyde, Mason, and California) on which the cars now travel -- spin on huge powerhouse wheels, making a continuous circuit beneath city streets.

    To put a car in motion, the conductor operates a handgrip, the end of which grabs the cable, allowing the car to move along with the cable. When the conductor releases the grip, the car comes to a halt. Brakes are also involved when the vehicle is on an incline.

    San Francisco's system dates from 1873, when Hallidie demonstrated his first car on Clay Street. It's said that no one was brave enough to operate the car back down Nob Hill, so the inventor took the helm himself, guiding the car safely to the base of what's now Portsmouth Square at Kearny Street.

    Historians have pointed out that without cable cars the city's hills might well have been leveled, or at least reduced in height, as happened in Manhattan and other urban areas that expanded before the cars were invented. As it turned out, the cars made previously uninhabited or sparsely populated crests a magnet for the wealthy. The rich folk on Nob Hill built their own line, the California Street leg, in operation to this day, to bring them to and from the Financial District.

    The heyday of cable cars was the two decades after their introduction. At the dawn of the 20th century, 500 cable cars zipped along a network of more than 100 mi. Today a few dozen cars travel on three lines, and the network covers just 9½ mi. Most of the cars date from the 1800s, though the cars and lines had a complete overhaul during the early 1980s and the cables are replaced every three to six months. Hallidie, who was considered a civic hero in his day, fittingly has his name on the Hallidie Building, an innovative skyscraper built in 1918.

    -Daniel Mangin
    Copyright © 2006 by Fodors.com, a unit of Fodors LLC.
    All rights reserved.

    When to Go to San Francisco

    You can visit San Francisco comfortably any time of year. The climate here always feels Mediterranean and moderate -- with a foggy, sometimes chilly bite. The temperature rarely drops below 40°F, and anything warmer than 80°F is considered a heat wave. Be prepared for rain in winter, especially December and January. Winds off the ocean can add to the chill factor, so pack warm clothing. North, east, and south of the city, summers are warmer. Shirtsleeves and thin cottons are usually fine for the Wine Country.

    Festivals and Seasonal Events

    Jan.

    The East-West Shrine Game takes place at Stanford Stadium (PHONE: 800/227-8881, www.shrinegame.com), 25 mi south of San Francisco in Palo Alto.

    Jan.-Feb.

    The Chinese New Year celebration in San Francisco's Chinese community, North America's largest, lasts for two weeks, culminating with the Golden Dragon Parade. Contact the Chinese Chamber of Commerce (PHONE: 415/982-3071, www.chineseparade.com).

    Jan.-Apr.

    Whale-watching can be enjoyed throughout the winter, when hundreds of gray whales migrate along the coast. Contact the Oceanic Society (PHONE: 415/441-1104 or 800/326-7491, www.oceanic-society.org) for details.

    Mar.

    On the Sunday closest to March 17, San Francisco's St. Patrick's Day celebration includes snake races and a parade through downtown.

    Apr.

    The Cherry Blossom Festival (PHONE: 415/563-2313), an elaborate presentation of Japanese culture and customs, winds up with a colorful parade through Japantown.

    The San Francisco International Film Festival (PHONE: 415/561-5000, www.sfiff.org) draws scads of film buffs eager to catch the premieres the festival brings to theaters across town.

    May

    Thousands sign up to run the Bay to Breakers Race (PHONE: 415/359-2600, www.baytobreakers.com), a 7½-mi route from bay side to ocean side that's a hallowed San Francisco tradition.

    May

    The Cinco de Mayo Festival (PHONE: 415/826-1401), held on the Sunday closest to May 5, is celebrated in the Mission District with much fanfare, including a vibrant parade, Mexican music, and dancing in the streets.

    Carnaval (PHONE: 415/826-1401), held in the Mission District over Memorial Day weekend, includes a parade and street festival.

    June

    The Haight Street Fair (PHONE: 415/661-8025, www.haightstreetfair.org) turns this neighborhood into even more of an outdoor party than it usually is, with live music, crafts and food booths, and crowds of revelers.

    June

    The North Beach Festival (PHONE: 415/989-2220), held every Father's Day weekend, transforms Washington Square Park and Grant Avenue into an Italian marketplace with food, music, and entertainment.

    June

    The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Parade and Celebration (PHONE: 415/864-3733 or 415/677-7959, www.sfpride.com) winds its way from the Embarcadero to the Civic Center on the third or fourth Sunday of the month.

    June-Sept.

    The Stern Grove Festival (PHONE: 415/252-6252, www.sterngrove.org), held over 10 weekends, hosts free concerts (from classical to jazz to blues) in a lush, shaded grove of redwood and eucalyptus trees with a natural amphitheater.

    July

    The Fourth of July Waterfront Celebration celebration, at Crissy Field in the Presidio, includes family festivities beginning in mid-afternoon and a fireworks display at 9.

    July

    The Cable Car Bell-Ringing Championship (PHONE: 415/673-6864, www.sfmuni.com) is on the third Thursday of July at noon in Union Square.

    Sept.

    A La Carte A La Park (PHONE: 415/383-9378, www.eventswestca.com) is an opportunity to taste food from the city's best restaurants in the lush environs of Golden Gate Park.

    Sept.

    The San Francisco Comedy Day Celebration (PHONE: 415/831-2700) brings the Bay Area's top comedians to Golden Gate Park for a riotous afternoon of laughs, puns, and one-liners.

    Sept.

    Opera in the Park (PHONE: 415/864-3330, www.sfopera.com) hits the high notes in Golden Gate Park on the Sunday after Labor Day.

    Sept.

    The San Francisco Blues Festival (PHONE: 415/979-5588, www.sfblues.com), on the Great Meadow at Fort Mason, is held on the third weekend of September.

    Sept.

    Celebrate the Bard during the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival (PHONE: 415/422-2222, www.sfshakes.org) with free Shakespeare performances in Golden Gate Park starting on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend and continuing for five weekends.

    Sept.-Oct.

    More than 700 San Francisco artists open their studios to the public during San Francisco Open Studios (PHONE: 415/861-9838, www.artspan.org), held over a series of weekends.

    Oct.

    Beginning the second weekend of the month, Fleet Week celebrates the navy's first day in the port of San Francisco with a Blue Angels air show over the bay.

    Oct.

    On the Sunday closest to Columbus Day, a parade through North Beach kicks off the Columbus Day celebration celebration (PHONE: 415/434-1492).

    Oct.

    The always popular Reggae in the Park (PHONE: 415/383-9378) draws spirited crowds of reggae lovers to Golden Gate Park for two days of music in the outdoors.

    Oct.

    On the 31st, San Francisco celebrates Halloween with a flair all its own, when boisterous, bedecked crowds parade through the Castro and Civic Center until the wee hours of the morning.

    Oct.-Nov.

    Jazz artists from around the country perform all over the city in the San Francisco Jazz Festival (PHONE: 415/398-5655, www.sfjazz.org).

    Dec.

    The San Francisco Ballet's rendition of The Nutcracker (PHONE: 415/865-2000, www.sfballet.org) is an elaborate, memorable production.

    Dec.

    The annual Sing-It-Yourself Messiah (PHONE: 415/864-6000) takes place at Davies Symphony Hall during the first week of the month.
    Copyright © 2006 by Fodors.com, a unit of Fodors LLC.
    All rights reserved.

    Spas of Every Stripe

    When your body says "no more," day spas provide the necessary indulgences, including pampering wraps, scrubs, facials, manicures, pedicures, and, of course, massages. If you want more than one treatment, ask about combination packages. Here are a few spa you might want to check out.

    Traditional sit-down Japanese showers and communal bathing are two out-of-the-ordinary features of Kabuki Springs & Spa (1750 Geary Blvd., Japantown, San Francisco, CA, USA. PHONE: 415/922-6000, www.kabukisprings.com). The renowned $120 Javanese Lulur Treatment includes a combination massage with jasmine oil, exfoliation with turmeric and ground rice, yogurt application, and a candlelight soak with rose petals. Men and women are welcome every day for private treatments, but call ahead regarding communal bathing schedules; the baths are coed only on Tuesday.

    La Belle Day Spa (233 Grant Ave., between Post and Sutter Sts., Union Sq., San Francisco, CA, USA. PHONE: 415/433-7644, www.labelledayspas.com) also offers the latest and greatest in clinical and medical treatments that combat wrinkles, broken capillaries, and spider veins using Botox, laser, and V-beam treatments.

    The ultramodern Nickel Spa (2187 Market St., at 15th St., Castro, San Francisco, CA, USA. PHONE: 415/626-9000, www.nickelspa.com) caters exclusively to men. The spa specializes in body treatments (such as the "love-handles" wrap), massage, manicure-pedicure, and back- and ear-waxing. Customized facials are creative: one treats jet lag, another treats the effects of too much partying.

    The serene and luxurious Nob Hill Spa (1075 California St., Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA, USA. PHONE: 415/345-2888, www.huntingtonhotel.com), at the Huntington Hotel, has 10 treatment rooms, a eucalyptus steam bath, a sauna, and a gorgeous infinity pool that overlooks the city through a glass wall. After taking a yoga or toning class, go for a customized massage or signature treatment (such as the green-tea body scrub).

    Champagne greets your arrival at the tres chic Remede Spa (125 3rd St., at Mission St., SoMa, San Francisco, CA, USA. PHONE: 415/284-4000, www.remede.com) at the St. Regis Hotel, where all treatments incorporate a line of high-end French skin-care products. Follow a custom facial and indulgent hot-stone massage with a body bronzing and exfoliation, then show off your new look in the hotel's swank bar.

    The elegant but casual Spa Radiance (3011 Fillmore St., between Union and Filbert Sts., Cow Hollow, San Francisco, CA, USA. PHONE: 415/346-6281, www.sparadiance.com) specializes in facials and draws the occasional celebrity. Try a vitamin-and-oxygen treatment, or the "super-duper" series -- a deep-pore cleaning followed by dermabrasion. A full-service menu has other options, including a 20-second spray-on tan and a manicure or pedicure with warm lavender-and-rose milk.

    Spa Seven (2358 Pine St., near Fillmore St. , Pacific Heights, San Francisco, CA, USA. PHONE: 415/775-6546, www.spaseven.com), set in a lovely former home in the Upper Fillmore shopping district, integrates holistic health with traditional spa services. The spa caters to a broad range of ages, offering teen facials and firming-and-lifting treatments.

    Splash (747 Market St., 4th fl., between 3rd and 4th Sts., Downtown, San Francisco, CA, USA. PHONE: 415/633-3990, www.thesportsclubla.com), at the ultraposh Four Seasons Hotel, has a long menu of massage and spa services, as well as top-notch facilities. Indulge in sports treatments (including some tailored to golfers and runners), Reiki, reflexology, or body wraps, then relax in the sauna and steam rooms before lunch in the terrific café.
    Copyright © 2006 by Fodors.com, a unit of Fodors LLC.
    All rights reserved.

    Where to Get a Chocolate Fix

    The Mayans considered chocolate sacred. San Franciscans are not far behind in their adoration of this complex confection. Connoisseurs from around the United States insist on using Scharffen Berger chocolate when making a soufflé, and order San Francisco-made sweets from upscale retailers such as Dean & Deluca and Neiman Marcus. A visit to San Francisco is an opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the factory of these favorite chocolate makers.

    One of San Francisco's first chocolate manufacturers, Domenico Ghirardelli started making chocolate in California in the mid-19th century. Although production of their chocolate has since been moved across the bay, you can still visit the original factory, where you can purchase their confections and order an eight-scoop hot fudge sundae at the adjacent soda fountain.

    Scharffen Berger began making its world-renowned product in 1997, when a former winemaker and a colleague who had recently visited a chocolate maker in Lyons, France, teamed up to concoct chocolate by artisanal European methods. Reserve in advance to tour the factory, housed in a brick warehouse in Berkeley. Though their specialty is dark chocolate ideal for baking, they also make popular items such as glacé apricots dipped in bittersweet chocolate.

    Joseph Schmidt Confections opened their small shop in the Castro in 1983. You can still shop here for their trademark egg-shape truffles, as well as elaborate seasonal sculptures that have earned Schmidt the title "the Rodin of chocolate." And because such works of art deserve better than a paper bag, chocolates can be packaged in hand-painted papier-mâché boxes.

    Michael and Jacky Recchiuti take a different approach at Recchiuti Confections, established in 1997. Traditional French techniques are used to infuse chocolates with unusual flavors from around the globe. Chocolates subtly flavored with ingredients such as star anise and pink peppercorns, and caramels infused with rose geranium oil are delicate and complex.

    French confectioner Jean-Marc Gorce of XOX Truffles has won over San Francisco foodies and everyday chocoholics alike with his 27 varieties of the sweet treat. In 1998 he and his wife opened their first shop, a bright little storefront in North Beach suffused with the smell of their many liqueur-flavored truffles. There they even make two unusual vegan varieties, containing soy milk rather than cream.

    -Sharron Wood
    Copyright © 2006 by Fodors.com, a unit of Fodors LLC.
    All rights reserved.

    Best Hotel Bars

    San Francisco's hotel bars are as diverse as the hotels they occupy, running the gamut from chic to staid. Here are a few of our faves:

    Big 4 Bar. Dark-wood paneling and green leather banquettes lend a solidly masculine feel to the old-guard bar at the Huntington Hotel, where the over-thirty crowd orders Scotch and Irish coffee, not mojitos and cosmopolitans. To accompany your whiskey, try potpies or Irish stew. The Huntington Hotel, 1075 California St., Nob Hill, CA, USA. PHONE: 415/474-5400.

    Redwood Room. Originally opened in 1933 and updated by über-hip designer Philippe Starck in 2001, the Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel is a San Francisco icon. The entire room, floor to ceiling, is paneled with the wood from a single redwood tree, giving it a rich, monochromatic look. The gorgeous original art-deco sconces and chandeliers still hang, but bizarre video installations on plasma screens now also adorn the walls. The place gets packed on weekend evenings after 10 PM, when a line of young scenesters forms outside the hotel. For maximum glamour, visit on a weeknight. Clift Hotel, 495 Geary St., at Taylor St., Union Sq., CA, USA. PHONE: 415/929-2372 for table reservations; 415/775-4700.

    Ritz-Carlton Lobby Lounge. Tassled peach draperies, plush carpeting, and glittering crystal chandeliers decorate the serene and ever-so-civilized lobby lounge, an ideal spot for a quiet nightcap. A harpist plays during high tea (about 1-5:15), and a jazz pianist performs in the evening. Unlike most hotel bars, the mood is quiet and understated, and the lighting fairly bright -- a big plus if your eyesight isn't what it used to be. 600 Stockton St., at California St., Nob Hill, CA, USA. PHONE: 415/296-7465.

    Seasons Bar. The walnut-panel walls, inlaid cherrywood floor, and elegant furnishings of the tiny lobby bar capture the aesthetic of the coolly minimalist Four Seasons Hotel. Discreet staff members in dark suits serve cocktails and salty nibbles. A piano player entertains Tuesday through Saturday evening in the adjacent, larger lobby lounge, where you can relax on overstuffed sofas and chairs. Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco, 757 Market St., between 3rd and 4th Sts., SoMa, CA, USA. PHONE: 415/633-3000.

    St. Regis Hotel. Slate-gray sofas and rich zebra-wood walls cocoon you in the intimate and clubby lobby lounge at one of the city's top luxury hotels. 125 3rd St., between Mission and Minna Sts., SoMa, CA, USA. PHONE: 415/284-4000.

    Tonga Room. Since 1947, the Tonga Room has given San Francisco a taste of high Polynesian kitsch. Fake palm trees, grass huts, a lagoon (three-piece combos play pop standards on a floating barge), and faux monsoons -- courtesy of sprinkler-system rain and simulated thunder and lightning -- grow more surreal as you quaff fruity cocktails. The weekday happy hour (5-7 PM) includes a $7 buffet of Pacific Rim finger foods (there's a one-drink minimum). Fairmont San Francisco, 950 Mason St., at California St., Nob Hill, CA, USA. PHONE: 415/772-5278.

    W Café and XYZ Bar. Floor-to-ceiling blue velvet draperies, black-and-white terrazzo floors, and a thump-thump sound system set the aggressive see-and-be-seen tone of the lobby bar at the W Hotel, where a DJ spins hypnotic beats Tuesday through Saturday evenings. Escape the ogling crowd by heading upstairs to the tucked-away XYZ Bar. W Hotel, 181 3rd St., at Howard St., So/Ma, CA, USA. PHONE: 415/777-5300.

    -John A. Vlahides
    Copyright © 2006 by Fodors.com, a unit of Fodors LLC.
    All rights reserved.

    Quintessential San Francisco

    The peculiarities of San Francisco's natural setting -- its steep hills towering over the bay -- define city life. You'll experience these inadvertently as you go about your visit, but by digging in a bit deeper you'll appreciate what makes San Francisco a city unlike any other.

    The Bay

    It doesn't matter how long you've lived in the city: catching sight of sunlight dancing on the bay as you crest the hill or the Golden Gate Bridge vanishing and reemerging through the summer fog can still make a San Franciscan's heart swell. San Franciscans often gravitate toward spaces with views of the water, especially the shoreline promenades of the Embarcadero and Marina, lounges like the Top of the Mark, and parks that cling precariously to the hillsides. On a sunny day, though, simply hopping the ferry to Oakland or Sausalito and enjoying a beer among commuters is an inexpensive but exquisite pleasure.

    The Hills

    Driving the hills in San Francisco is like riding a roller coaster, as you creep up on the crest of a hill where you can't see the street coming up to greet your front tires until the very last second. For the largest number of steep hills, head to Russian Hill. Filbert Street is one of the city's steepest; the drop east from Hyde Street has a great view of Coit Tower. From Green and Jones streets, head north on Jones for a gravity-defying two-block drop and a view of Alcatraz framed between the high rises. If the gradient of streets on Russian Hill, Nob Hill, and Potrero Hill intimidates you, let someone else do the driving -- a cab ride down California Street and a cable car ride down Hyde Street can be just as hair-raising, and you'll be free to enjoy those dazzling bay views to boot.

    Hidden Lanes and Stairways

    Nothing will make you feel more like a true insider than turning the corner of a perfectly average street and finding yourself in a hidden garden lane. San Francisco is full of these lanes and alleyways and stairs. Some of these you might stumble upon, such as the well-marked steps up to Coit Tower and Maiden Lane near Union Square. Macondray Lane, on Russian Hill, is a gem, worth seeking out for its lovely gardens. Also on Russian Hill, the Vallejo Steps stretch two taxing blocks from Jones Street to Mason Street.

    Green Spaces

    With its hills and fresh air, its myriad parks and waterfront promenades, San Francisco is an outdoor-person's dream. Golden Gate Park, with more than 1,000 acres of trails and fields, is especially popular with cyclists and inline skaters. Less famous but equally accessible is the Presidio, with almost 1,500 acres of hilly, wooded trails and breathtaking views of the bay and the Pacific. Within the Presidio, Crissy Field is a 2-plus-mile swath of recently restored marshlands. Dog owners and families with small children love its easy paths and access to the sandy shore of the bay, and everyone appreciates the splendor of the Golden Gate Bridge up close and personal.
    Copyright © 2006 by Fodors.com, a unit of Fodors LLC.
    All rights reserved.

    Dim Sum Many Ways

    Dim sum is the Chinese version of a smorgasbord, only the food comes to you instead of you going to it. In San Francisco, delicacies range from chicken, shrimp, or barbecued pork dumplings to the more exotic shark fin dumplings, crispy taro turnovers, and deep-fried chicken feet glide by, and you simply choose the dishes that appeal to you. Each costs around $2 to $4 per three-serving container, and you can go for just a small snack of one dish (there is no minimum order required) or a full meal of several dishes, costing around $10 per person.

    Tiny no-service dim sum shops abound at every turn throughout Chinatown, some with two or three tables in the back and some with take-out counters only. You can grab some food to eat outdoors in Portsmouth Square or to take back to your hotel. For the full dim sum experience, settle into one of these restaurants.

    Step through a round, gold-tile entrance into the garishly fancy New Asia (772 Pacific Ave., Chinatown, San Francisco, CA, USA. PHONE: 415/391-6666). Inside this cavernous space, dim sum is served weekdays 9 AM-3 PM and weekends 8:30 AM-3 PM. For a more genteel (and more expensive) experience try Kan's Restaurant (708 Grant Ave., Chinatown, San Francisco, CA, USA. PHONE: 415/362-5267), where dim sum service starts at noon, a tuxedoed host seats you at tables with white tablecloths and red velvet chairs under crystal chandeliers, and dim sum is brought around on trays instead of carts. There's also an extensive menu of dishes besides dim sum.

    -Andy Moore
    Copyright © 2006 by Fodors.com, a unit of Fodors LLC.
    All rights reserved.
     
  13. brindle

    brindle

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2002
    Messages:
    3,520
    If you're into wood working or kitchen knives the Japan wood worker is a must visit.
    http://www.japanwoodworker.com/page.asp?content_id=2896 1731 Clement Ave, Alameda

    Oh yea the Top of the Mark might be fun too!
     
  14. eggplant43

    eggplant43 A True Heart and Soul - Gone But Never Forgotten

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2001
    Messages:
    17,198
    If you like Italian food, there is none better than the "North Beach Restaurant". A good place to check out dining is the Chronicle Food and Wine section. That is the San Francisco Chronicle.

    If you want some beautiful country, not far away, check out Muir Woods.

    For shopping; Ghiradelli Square (near the Wharf).
     
  15. brindle

    brindle

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2002
    Messages:
    3,520
    Hi Bruce
    When did you move? I guess I missed much.
     
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