On June 14, 2013Katie Sweeney answered the question:When it comes to tours, San Francisco has plenty to offer. Perhaps the most infamous is the tour of Alcatraz Island. Since it is one of San Francisco's top attractions, book tickets for Alcatraz in advance. The self-guided tour is fascinating. Each guest is given a pair of headphones and an easy to use device that plays a narrative with voice over from original Alcatraz inmates and guards. It takes you through the prison and provides detailed information on what it was like to live and work on Alcatraz. The whole tour lasts about two hours.
To get a more intimate view of San Francisco's varied neighborhoods, I recommend taking a walking tour. City Guides has a wide selection of tours from the Japanese Tea Garden to Fisherman's Wharf to the Palace Hotel.
If you're a foodie looking to experience San Francisco's tremendous culinary offerings, sign up for an Avital Tour. You can eat your way through Little Italy in North Beach or sample the amazing cocktails of Union Square.
On June 14, 2013Katie Sweeney answered the question:Many tourists arrive in San Francisco and are surprised to find that the weather is cold, windy, and foggy. If you end up in the city on a blustery afternoon, head indoors and enjoy one of the following activities.
The Ferry Building is the perfect spot to have a leisurely meal. Walk around the stalls and check out all the merchants have to offer, from artisanal cheese at Cowgirl Creamery to hand made ceramics at Heath. Pull up a chair at Boulette's Larder and order lunch made in a truly California style with seasonal and local produce. After, grab a seat at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant where you can sample and purchase a variety of excellent California wine.
Golden Gate Park might seem like an unlikely place to go to on a cold day, but there is a trio of interesting indoor sights. The first is the De Young Museum. Currently there are a variety of exhibits to check out such as Objects of Belief from the Vatican and a selection of map prints from the Anderson Collection. If art isn't really your thing, go to the California Academy of Sciences. Located across the park from the De Young, this museum is filled with fascinating kid-friendly exhibits on animals, habitats, and earthquakes. There's even an albino alligator named Claude! The last spot on your tour of Golden Gate Park is the Conservatory of Flowers. With it's fragrant blooms and lush tropical plants, this indoor greenhouse will transport you to another place.
On May 31, 2013Katie Sweeney answered the question:One of the great things about San Francisco is that it's incredibly easy to get out of the city and enjoy the day elsewhere. In every direction, there is something wonderful to see and do.
Cross the Golden Gate Bridge to the North bay and you can explore the shops and restaurants of Marin and Sausalito. Want to hike or go on a bike ride? You can do this, too. There's the Marin Headlands and Highway 1 that takes you out to Stinson Beach and Tomales Bay. Head further North and you'll hit wine country in Sonoma and Napa.
When you cross the Bay Bridge, you'll end up in the East bay which is home to the University of California at Berkeley and the Oakland Athletics and Raiders. If you're into drinking, check out St. George Spirits in Alameda, where day tours are offered. This company is known for it's one of a kind vodka, gin, and absinthe.
In the South Bay, you can visit Stanford University or check out the wineries of Saratoga. Head further South and you'll end up in Monterey which has world renowned golf courses, wonderful shopping, and a stunning aquarium.
On May 31, 2013Katie Sweeney answered the question:Fisherman's Wharf is one of San Francisco's most touristy areas, but it's definitely worth it to make a trip down to the waterfront. The wharf is home to San Francisco's fishermen — many are third and fourth generation natives — and plenty of seafood can be found around the docks. The streets are littered with old-school restaurants like Alioto's, which has been around since 1925, and Scoma's, which was founded over 40 years ago.
If you're looking for Dungeness crab, you can find it aplenty at Fisherman's Wharf. San Francisco's famous white clam chowder is also prevalent. Boudin Bakery, which specializes in classic sourdough and is credited with mass marketing the bread bowl (for clam chowder), is located on Fisherman's Wharf. Pick up a loaf or two of bread and watch as the bakers prepare their signature sourdough.
The Buena Vista Cafe is another must visit in Fisherman's Wharf. The Irish coffee, a quintessential San Francisco warm cocktail that combines whiskey with coffee and slightly sweetened cream, was first created at the Buena Vista. Their version of the Irish coffee is so good, I dare you to have just one!
On May 30, 2013Katie Sweeney answered the question:San Franciscans love their festivals. During the summer, you can find a festival on practically every weekend. Each neighborhood celebrates with a street festival all their own; these include the Union Street Fair, the Fillmore Street Fair, and the Folsom Street Fair. Holidays, like Chinese New Year and St. Patrick's Day, also have their own special festivals. The following festivals are my personal favorites.
The Stern Grove Festival takes place every Sunday in the summer. It's a series of free concerts that are incredibly fun to attend. Pack a picnic and a blanket and get ready to enjoy a beautiful performance from local organizations like the San Francisco Symphony or the San Francisco Ballet.
The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival takes place the first two weekends in October. This free event brings thousands of bluegrass fans to Golden Gate Park.
SF Chefs is a food festival that celebrates the San Francisco culinary industry. Taking place the final weekend in July, SF Chefs offers a variety of delicious events, a massive tasting tent in Union Square, and culinary competitions and seminars
The Zinfandel Advocates and Producers annual tasting takes place the final weekend in January. Known as ZAP, this festival is a wine lover's paradise. I recommend the Thursday night culinary event that pairs the city's top restaurants with a different winery for a truly magical food experience.
Outside Lands is San Francisco's biggest music festival. It takes place in Golden Gate Park, the second weekend of August. It's not just a series of amazing concerts though, Outside Lands also has a serious lineup of food, wine, and beer.
On May 30, 2013Katie Sweeney answered the question:Walk the main neighborhood streets of San Francisco and you'll discover a variety of wonderful little book stores. Perhaps the biggest and most well known is Chronicle Books. The San Francisco publishing house has made its name with delectable cookbooks, crafty DIYs, and distinctive stationery. While you can find the books Chronicle publishes in practically every bookstore, when in SF, it's worth it to take a visit to one of their flagship boutiques. There's three: one at the Metreon, another on Union Street in Cow Hollow, and a final one downstairs from their corporate headquarters on Second Street in South Beach.
Book's Inc. is another favorite book shop with locations throughout San Francisco. It's the West Coast's oldest independent bookseller and often hosts fun and interactive events with authors.
City Lights in North Beach is a famed bookstore and literary landmark. They also publish books in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics. City Lights was founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1953 and is a place that book lovers are sure to enjoy.
On May 30, 2013Katie Sweeney answered the question:Although San Francisco doesn't have Broadway, there are plenty of places to catch a theater production in the city. Your best resource is the website San Francisco Theatre. It's a one stop shop for showtime information, ticket prices, and play details. The major theaters — Curran, Orpheum, Golden Gate, and the Cow Palace — are all featured. Musicals are generally shown at the Curran, Orpheum, or Post Street theaters.
San Francisco's premiere theater company is A.C.T. or the American Conservatory Theater. This company puts on a variety of productions from Greek classics like Elektra to modern sensations like Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. During the holiday season, their rendition of A Christmas Carol is not to be missed.
Another great theater company that's located in the East Bay, but is worth crossing the Bay Bridge for, is the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. This Tony Award winning regional theater has helped send seven show to Broadway in the past seven years. The theater is small and intimate which means there isn't a bad seat in the entire house.
On May 28, 2013Katie Sweeney answered the question:San Francisco is a food lover's city and there are plenty of local artisanal chocolate shops to enjoy. The biggest and most well known chocolatiers are Ghiradelli and See's Candies. Ghiradelli Sqaure is home to the famed chocolate and ice cream shop, but you can pick up squares of their delectable chocolates all over the city and even at the airport. See's has several stand alone shops throughout the city and a box of their classic chocolates are a regular gift during the holiday season. If you're looking for chocolates by a cult San Franciscan producer, you can't go wrong with TCHO or Charles Chocolates. Both offer delicious confections in a variety of flavors that range from modern classics, like salted caramel, to inventive favorites like crystallized ginger. The best place to stock up on a variety of local chocolates is Fog City News. The magazine shop is located in the heart of the financial district and has hundreds of premium chocolate bars.
On May 28, 2013Katie Sweeney answered the question:Walk along San Francisco's Embarcadero Street and you'll come across countless ferry companies boasting the best tours of the bay. However, you can't go wrong with Golden Gate Ferry. Operated by the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District, the Golden Gate Ferry lines are what locals take to go back and forth between the north bay and San Francisco. There are three ferry routes that cross the bay and each lands in a different location: Sausalito, Larkspur, and Vallejo. During commute hours, the ferries run about every thirty minutes; during non-commute hours, the ferries run roughly every hour. All three depart from San Francisco's beautiful Ferry Building. Head to the market building early, so you can sample some of the delicious food from local artisans like Cowgirl Creamery, Boccalone Meats, and Blue Bottle Coffee. Each ferry has a small snack bar with basic drinks, but do note that none of them accept credit cards. All of the ferries have outdoor and indoor seating and offer spectacular views of the city, both bridges, and Alcatraz and Angel Islands.
On May 28, 2013Katie Sweeney answered the question:There is no shortage of wine country near San Francisco. The most well known area is north of the city in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Most wineries in Napa, such as Domaine Carneros, Stag's Leap, Opus One, Hall, and Trinchero Estates, charge a tasting room fee that ranges from $10-30. Many also require an appointment for tasting, so research the wineries you would like to visit before leaving San Francisco. Wine tasting in Sonoma is a little more relaxed with fees being less expensive. Walk around the main square and sample wine at Envolve, then head a little out of town to Ravenswood, Sebastiani, or Four Corners. East of San Francisco is the Livermore Valley, home to the beautiful Wente vineyards and golf course. South of San Francisco you'll find wine country in Monterey, Carmel, and Saratoga. Other areas known for wine, like Lodi and Murphys in the Sierra Foothills, are about two hours away from the city.
On May 21, 2013Katie Sweeney answered the question:The best skiing in Northern California is arguably found at Lake Tahoe. Located roughly three hours north of San Francisco, Lake Tahoe is home to seven ski resorts: Kirkwood, Alpine Meadows, Heavenly, Sierra, Northstar, Mt. Rose, and Squaw Valley. Combined, there are over 100 lifts located in Tahoe and many of the mountains have stunning views of the lake.
My favorite place for skiing in Tahoe is at the Northstar Resort. Northstar has 93 ski trails spread across 3,000 acres of land, snow sports, and summer activities like golfing and mountain biking. Also, the Ritz-Carlton and its luxurious restaurant Manzanita, are located in the middle of the Northstar mountain. The hotel has many wonderful amenities for avid skiers.
Tahoe is accessible by plane as the nearby international airport at Reno serves over 170 flights per day. Due note that during the winter season, on peak holiday weekends, the traffic getting to Tahoe from San Francisco can get pretty bad — plan accordingly.
On May 21, 2013Katie Sweeney answered the question:Union Square, in the heart of downtown San Francisco, is a great place for fine jewelry shopping. There are plenty of big name jewelry stores like Tiffany and Co., Bulgari, and Cartier. There are also department stores such as Neiman Marcus, Macy's, and Saks Fifth Avenue that have a wide selection of fine jewelry. However, if you're looking for a one of a kind piece made by a local jewelry designer, head to the Gallery of Jewels on Post Street.
A San Francisco chain, the Gallery of Jewels offers a curated assortment of limited-edition jewels made by Bay Area artisans. From stone pendents on delicate chains to dazzling dangling sapphire earrings to stacked golden rings, the Gallery of Jewels has something for everyone. The Gallery of Jewels also has special promotions that run throughout the year, so plan on making your purchases accordingly. For example, from June 28 - July 14, 2013 is their Endless Love Bridal Event. The ring extravaganza features collections by both local and national designers.
On May 21, 2013Katie Sweeney answered the question:From the Legion of Honor to the Exploratorium, San Francisco has it's fair share of exceptional museums. Although the majority of them charge some sort of admission fee, the best museums are open once a month for free. The aforementioned Legion of Honor is free every first Tuesday of the month as is the de Young museum in Golden Gate Park. The Exploratorium is free only five days a year: on September 29th Engineering Day, October 13th Founder's Day, February 2 Groundhog Day, March 14th Pi Day, and Mother's Day. The Conservatory of Flowers is free on the first Tuesday of the month as is the Contemporary Jewish Museum and the Yerba Buena Center for Arts. The Asian Art Museum is free on the first Sunday of the month. In 2013, the California Academy of Sciences is free on one Sunday per quarter and also June 2, September 29th, and December 8. Also worth noting: the SFMoma is closing on June 3, 2013 for a three year renovation.
On May 21, 2013Katie Sweeney answered the question:Although San Francisco is not known for being a super fashion city, there are plenty of local clothing boutiques to choose from. MAC or Modern Appealing Clothing has been around since 1980. It has two locations and offers an assortment of clothing for both men and woman by international designers like Dries Van Noten and Comme des Garcons, as well as featured Bay Area designers. Azalea in Hayes Valley is a wonderful little shop that has its own collection of clothes along with a selection of contemporary designers like Alexander Wang, Nudie, and Acne. Therapy is a local chain that offers festive women's clothing, such as printed dresses and playful tops, at affordable prices. They have nine different locations and a home store in the Mission District. Another boutique chain beloved by San Franciscan women is Ambiance. It has four locations in different neighborhoods, and each store is filled to the brim with clothes in every color, style, cut, and price imaginable.