If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to
wear some flowers in your hair eat a lot of good food, see the sights, and take it all in. The city, one of the most expensive to live in the U.S., is a hub of activity (hello, Silicon Valley and startups galore), but it also features some of the best restaurants and bars with a low-key atmosphere. Here, a guide to some of the best things to do in San Fran.
Where to Stay
There are a TON of options when it comes to staying in the city, but if you're looking for a bit of a respite, I recommend the (newly redone) Laurel Inn in Pacific Heights/Presidio Heights. The boutique hotel is one of my favorite stays in the city, with Jonathan Adler-esque rooms to great staff who go above and beyond—from helping you find the best restaurant to keeping an eye out for your uber (true story)—to the pastries and coffee in the morning and cookies in the evening.
The neighborhoods surrounding the hotel are quiet and walkable, featuring some amazing homes (hello, curb appeal in Presidio Heights) and the hotel is only a short walk from the Lyon Street Steps, which will give you a beautiful view of the city. You can continue the walk to the iconic Palace of Fine Arts Theatre and the marina and take in the sights, or head the other way in a quick Lyft or Uber (or a 30 minute walk) to Alamo Square Park for a view of the iconic Painted Ladies—yes, Full House style.
Where to Eat and Drink
San Francisco has one of the best food scenes, IMO (and many other people's opinion, tbh). Here are just some of my favorites:
1. Holy Mountain: One of my favorites for a cocktail (or three), this bar is located above the Thai/Asian fusion restaurant Hawker Fare (which is also delicious, btw, so check it out), and features cocktails named for dictators and, ahem, controversial world leaders. (Try the delicious Drumpf, made with mezcal and prickly pear, or the Papa Doc Swizzle, made with pineapple rum and lime.)
2. Upcider: A gastropub that features hard cider from all around the world. A perfect spot for grabbing some drinks at happy hour (or late-night bites).
4. Dosa: Some of the most delicious Indian food. Literally, that's all you need to know. (It has two locations, FYI!)
5. Trick Dog: Delicious craft cocktails on a rotating menu await you here (some examples: drinks inspired by Pantone colors, local mural artists, and the Chinese New Year). It is, quite simply, whimsical and fun without being too much of a thing, drawing in locals and tourists alike.
6. Californios: This Michelin-star eatery with an award-winning chef features upscale takes on Mexican cuisine that are A++++ and worth every penny. (Save your pennies.) Reservations are hard to come by (the restaurant only seats around 30), so book in advance!
7. Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing Company: This brewhouse and restaurant in up-and-coming Dogpatch features awesome in-house brews and BBQ. Want to keep the good vibes going? Head down the street to Dogpatch WineWorks for a tasting in their tasting room (weekends only).
8. Smuggler's Cove: Kitschy and over-the-top, this not-so-secret speakeasy features tiki cocktails that are worth the wait in line. (And there will be a wait, so get there early). With 200 types of rum and 75 different cocktails, it's one of the few times you can say that one of the most popular places is worth the hype.
9. Marianne's: Located next to The Cavalier (check in with the hostess there), this 70's-inspired bar is themed after the Rolling Stones' album cover for Beggar's Banquet and named for British rock icon Marianne Faithfull. It's chic and fun and the perfect setting for making a lot of
bad great decisions.
What to Do
If it's your first time to San Francisco (or, let's be honest, your 534th), a stop to look at The Golden Gate Bridge is a must. Head to the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre and the Lyon Street Steps for a spectacular view of the city, then stop by Smitten Ice Cream for a sweet treat. Relax in Alamo Square Park to live your Full House dreams and see the famous Painted Ladies, or head to Dolores Park for a true San Francisco experience, complete with the Truffle Man (before he leaves!) and some of the best (illegal) mixed drinks sold by vendors. Not that I've bought them, or anything. A trip to Alcatraz Island is also an awesome adventure, while a trip to Chinatown is a must.
1. Do not be fooled by the map. While something may *appear* close by (and totally feasible to walk), the hills in the city are NO JOKE. Trek out at your own risk, or ask a local the best way to get there.
2. Pack layers. Where you are in the city will affect the temperature drastically, and you'll want to have a jacket for the shade, near the water, etc.—yes, even in summer. San Francisco summers are notoriously chilly.
3.Book the tour. Alcatraz Cruises is the official ferry for tours to Alcatraz. Make sure to book in advance (at least two weeks). Once on the island, there are guided tours by the park service staff.