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The best Hotels, Restaurants, Shopping, Art, Cultural Attractions, and just plain Fun Stuff to do and see in San Francisco, California.
HOTELS: SAN FRANCISCO
If you’re a fan of Japanese pop culture, check into the new Hotel Tomo in Japantown. Anime cartoon murals splash the boutique’s 125 rooms. A shabu-shaburestaurant—think Japanese fondue—adjoins the lobby. Rooms from $139. 1800 Sutter St., 415-921-4000
The 252-room Argonaut Hotel, occupying a warehouse at Fisherman’s Wharf, has a lock on location. Rooms blend loft style with nautical touches. The San Francisco National Maritime Historical Park operates a visitors center in the lobby. Rooms from $289.
The Fairmont San Francisco, a Nob Hill classic, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Vintage features range from the marble-columned lobby to the Polynesian-themed Tonga Room. The hotel also offers two free podcast tours. Rooms from $259. 950 Mason St., 415-772-5000
RESTAURANTS: SAN FRANCISCO
Indulge in duck confit with candied kumquats at Jardiniere, a bi-level restaurant
Slurp cream-topped Irish Coffee at the long wooden bar of the Buena Vista Cafe, near Ghirardelli Square. In 1952, then-owner Jack Koeppler asked travel writer Stanton Delaplane to help him recreate the whiskey-filled coffee served at the Dublin airport. You won’t find better—even in Ireland. 2765 Hyde St., 415-474-5044
Colorful Taqueria Cancun in the Latino-inflected Mission District offers hefty burritosal pastor (seasoned pork) and spicy salsa. 2288 Mission St., 415-252-9560
Homemade pop tarts and organic egg frittatas await at hipster Foreign Cinema, an easy walk from the BART public transit station. 2534 Mission St., 415-648-7600
Phone ahead to get the password that admits you to Bourbon and Branch, the Deco-decored, Prohibition-era-inspired speakeasy in the Tenderloin district (the address is disclosed when you call). Mind the house rules and opt for a couple of fingers of Rittenhouse 21 Year; Cosmos are prohibited. 415-673-1921
Catch a set at Jazz at Pearl’s, a class act now run by acclaimed vocalist Kim Nalley. The room’s a Hollywood-heyday throwback under a glittering chandelier. The candlelit cabaret tables are assigned by the maitre d’. Seriously swinging shows start at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. (P.S. There’s a two-beverage minimum.) 256 Columbus Ave., 415-291-8255
SHOPS: SAN FRANCISCO
Browse the lively stacks at City Lights Bookstore on Columbus at Broadway in North Beach. Peter D. Martin and Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti founded
Enter the Ferry Building Marketplace for a savory graze among the many food shops and stalls. The airy, restored building also hosts a twice-weekly Farmer’s Market. Procure Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam cheese, an Acme Bread baguette, Mastrelli Deli’s salami, and Frog Hollow peaches for a scenic wharfside picnic. One Ferry Bldg., 415-693-0996
ART: SAN FRANCISCO
Explore the ins and out of the M. H. de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. The 1895 art institution’s new home—one that’s covered in perforated copper skin—opened in 2005. Inside, stellar American paintings span colonial to modern periods; outside, a twisting observation tower overlooks the city beyond. 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr., 415-750-3600
Walk the Mission with an art guide to search out the sprawling murals that make the streetscape a colorful canvas. The nonprofit Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitor Center leads 1:30 p.m. weekend tours to more than 70 vibrant murals painted by both professionals and amateurs in a six-block walk. 2981 24th St., 415-285-2287
CULTURAL/HISTORIC: SAN FRANCISCO
Rise with the sun and glory in the iconic Golden Gate Bridge with a stroll across the 70-year-old suspension expanse. To avoid getting stranded or doing the round trip (one way is 1.7 miles), take a cab to the Marin County side and walk toward the city amid the sweeping cables and soaring towers.
Taxi to Chinatown for the 10 a.m. Wok Wiz Chinatown Tour run by author Shirley Fong-Torres. The tour discusses the community’s immigrant history, prowls the aisles of herbal and tea shops, visits a Buddhist temple, and watches a calligraphy artist at work before the main event: a seven-course dim sum lunch. 650-355-9657
Stroll the lush yet sprawling Golden Gate Park, beginning at the tranquil Japanese Tea Garden, next door to the museum. Spring for a cup of oolong and a fortune cookie amid the bonsais. Next walk east to the 1879-built Conservatory of Flowers, where the tropics thrive under glass.
Depart Pier 33 on the 9 a.m. Alcatraz Cruise to get to the famed island prison before the crowds. The former home of Al Capone and “Birdman” Robert Stroud just debuted a 45-minute audio tour, “Doing Time.” The track offers tales by former prisoners and guards to cell house visitors. Book the cruise in advance. 415- 981-7625
FUN STUFF: SAN FRANCISCO
Ascend two city landmarks by taking the pedestrian-only, garden-shrouded Filbert Steps that climb Telegraph Hill. Once atop, hit Coit Tower, a 210-foot-high memorial filled with vivid 1930s realist murals for panoramic city views from the top. Descend to town via the Greenwich Stairway through terraced gardens. Telegraph Hill Blvd.at Greenwich St. or Lombard St., 415-362-0808
Relax and recharge in Japantown at the Kabuki Springs and Spa. Start with a much-deserved sauna and steam, then move on to an invigorating plunge in the cold pool followed by a soak in the hot pool. These traditional communal baths are open to men and women on separate days, with co-ed Tuesdays. 1750 Geary Blvd., 415-922-6000
Dangle off the side of a classic cable car—the Powell-Hyde line begins near the Buena Vista Caf—as you crest Nob Hill. Look back for stunning bay views. Transfer to the less crowded California Street line for a downhill run through the Financial District toward Embarcadero at the end of the line. $3 per ride
Sample the wacky side of the city with a seat at the long-running musical Beach Blanket Babylon in nearby North Beach. In the show, Snow White searches for her Prince in a series of pop culture spoofs showcasing outrageous hats—think a 10-foot portable San Francisco skyline as headgear—at the giddy cabaret. Tickets $25–$78. 678 Green St., 415-421-4222
Hop on one of the brightly colored F-line streetcars that ply the Embarcadero waterfront. Though cable cars are the stars in San Francisco, these vintage reconditioned streetcars are understudies that threaten to steal the show. The four-mile line runs from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Castro in downtown.
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