The Concise and Opinionated Guide to the City
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(All included info could be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Nothing new to report on travel during this very slow-moving pandemic. In anticipation of a future trip to one of our wonderful “Clued In” cities, scroll down. There’s a multitude of posted info and photos here (expressly about San Francisco) to get excited about when travel does resume. We’ll keep you posted!
Restaurants beginning to reopen – April 2021
There’s a glimmer of hope for California’s restaurants, shuttered for weeks during the worst of the pandemic scare. While dining is allowed in outdoor areas only, we are happy that things in San Francisco are beginning to come around. Hopefully we’ll have even more good news to report next month. Baby steps, we know.
Taxi Clues for San Francisco – March 2020
Since some travelers are looking to avoid crowds and mass transit this spring, we’re providing at-a-glace info regarding official taxi cabs in the City by the Bay. While certainly not as inexpensive, a taxi will make you feel more confident and get you where you’re going in style. And if your party is more than a single rider, it can be a great value. We don’t love San Francisco taxis and haven’t found them to be very reliable. If you don’t want to use Uber or Lyft, you might not have a choice though. For that reason we’re offering a few tips below.
- Official city taxi cabs are yellow.
- Call 415-333-3333 for a taxi pick up, or simply hail one (with its roof light on) right on the street.
- Rates are currently $3.50 to start and then 55 cents for each 1/5 mile.
- Tips are expected but don’t need to be more than a dollar or two (within the city). If you’re taking a taxi to or from the airport, the driver’s tip should be at least 12% to 15% of the total fare, especially if he/she assists with any luggage.
- A maximum of four people are allowed in a taxi, although a child age 7 or under can legally sit on someone’s lap. Due to space constraints, the fourth person will have to sit in front with the driver.
- When taking a taxi from one of the area airports, make certain it’s an official taxi at a taxi line. Never accept an unsolicited ride from anyone.
- There are no fixed rates to and from the SFO Airport and the city center so expect to pay the metered amount. It will run about $45 to $50 which includes an “airport exiting fee.”
Our San Francisco NTK – February 2020
Every so often, we like to add a Need-to-Know for our favorite cities. With a new year and new decade upon us, it’s time to mention some of the concerns visitors may have about planning a trip to the City by the Bay… Yes, the city is battling a high homeless crisis but it will probably not affect your visit. The main problem is centered in the Tenderloin and North Beach neighborhoods, not in Union Square or Nob Hill. Sure, you’ll see a few beggars in the streets near Union Square, but no more than you would near Times Square in NYC. How to stay safe? Avoid the seedier areas of town and stay at a hotel in an upscale area. Has this problem affected tourism? Seemingly not. Tourism in San Francisco in 2019 hit a record high. (As touted in our Clued In San Francisco, Brenda’s French Soul Food remains our favorite restaurant but as it is located on the edge of the Tenderloin, you should take a taxi or car service to get there and back.
Taste wines like an expert at Uncorked SF – January 2020
Wine and Northern California are almost synonymous and there’s no better time to taste them in the city center than late January. This year, the folks at Uncorked festivals will be holding a wine party in Fort Mason Festival Pavilion where ticketed participants will have the opportunity of trying more than two-hundred vintages of wine and bubbly. There’s a variety of entry levels to choose from but all include musical entertainment and foods to purchase. This is a great event so check it out if you’ll be in San Francisco on January 26th. Their website can be found here.
Where to enjoy an amazing holiday dinner – December 2019
We love having a meal that we can really sink our teeth into, and in San Francisco that means the Brazilian steakhouse, Fogo de Chao. This fun place is perfect for carnivores and is open on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and even New Year’s Eve. If a full Churrasco experience is your idea of a fabulous holiday meal, then book a table soon!
See Hamilton at the Orpheum Theatre – November 2019
If you think you have to come to New York (and spend a fortune) to see the hit musical, Hamilton, think again! The Broadway production is being performed nightly at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre -with full, unobstructed seats going for $75 to $149. Since we’re focused on sending our readers to great performances during the upcoming holiday season, we can’t think of a better entertainment when visiting the Bay area. Grab your tickets soon for the best selection of dates. So fun!
Experience creepy arcade machines – October 2019
Our recommendations for San Francisco in autumn would normally include music events or new restaurants, but our new series of “Bored In” travel books have inspired us to go in a stranger direction this year. Below is one of the unusual things you can do that will be included in the upcoming Bored in San Francisco–Awesome Experiences for the Repeat Visitor:
If you find old-fashioned, coin-operated mechanicals from arcades and carnivals-past as unsettling as we do, you won’t want to miss the city’s Musée Mécanique museum on Pier 45. This huge, family-owned collection is super spooky, yet somehow fun for the whole family. Find Laffing Sal, or try to win an arm wrestling match with a mechanical man. Too weird! It’s definitely not your typical S.F. sight.
It’s the start of the social season in San Francisco – September 2019
There’s a lot going on in the City by the Bay this month so if you’re planning to visit during the fall season, snag a ticket soon to a concert by the San Francisco Philharmonic led by the incomparable Michael Tilson Thomas. Whether you’re an fan of orchestral music or not, a performance in this amazing hall is an impressive experience. As of this posting there are still seats available!
In addition, the amazing San Francisco Giants will be playing their final games of the baseball season this month. A game at Oracle Stadium always makes for a thrilling evening, and its gorgeous location right on the bay makes it even better. As of this posting, tickets are still available.
Stay at a wooded lodge, right in SF – August 2019
For a different kind of hotel experience in San Francisco (when compared to the ones around Union Square) check out the newly renovated Lodge at the Presidio. It’s located right in the forested Presidio National Park itself and boasts incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge. When you stay there you’ll be in the city but definitely won’t feel like you’re in the city. We think it’s the perfect accommodation for those who are into nature, park walks, and cycling. (And if you do crave a bit of city life or just need to get to a particular restaurant, don’t worry…a free shuttle is offered. Fabulous!
In focus: The Ferry Building – July 2019
The San Francisco Ferry building with its famous clock tower is a veritable icon of the city and the perfect place to visit during the long days of summer. It boasts an incredible food hall with restaurants, shops, and food stalls galore. In addition there are craft and flea markets held on its outdoor plaza making it a popular place in the Embarcadero neighborhood. A Farmers Market is also held there on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 2pm, and on Saturdays from 8am to 2pm. Now more of a historic landmark than an actual ferry terminal, this structure from 1898 has been beautifully renovated. The Great Nave that was once the baggage handling area is now the shopping mall and you can find everything from the famous (and very delicious) sourdough bread to gourmet ice cream, food artisans, cheesemongers, and freshly made empanadas. See the full list of vendors here and try not to drool. If you have time, enjoy a lip-smacking lunch at The Slanted Door, our favorite Thai restaurant in the city.
Where to enjoy a romantic picnic in San Francisco – June 2019
Now that summer has arrived you may want to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors rather than be inside a cramped restaurant. Now, there are a lot of great picnic spots in SF so we’re focusing on one that is decidedly romantic. We think you just can’t beat enjoying a packed lunch on the grounds of the Shakespeare Garden inside Golden Gate Park. Grab some sandwiches lovingly made on a Dutch Crunch roll (yes it’s famous) at the Arguello Super Market located at 782 Arguello Blvd. at McAllister Street. They sell wine too but be careful here, you need to choose a beverage in a plastic container because glass bottles are not allowed in Golden Gate Park. It’s a bummer, we know… Once you have your food, walk south one block and you’re in the park! By the way, if you prefer to get your picnic food at a café inside the park, you have plenty of options. We love the one at the deYoung Museum and they are happy to pack it “to go” for you. If you find the Shakespeare Garden is being used for a wedding when arrive, don’t worry… you’ve got another three miles of green park in which to choose another spot.
Carnaval San Francisco – May 2019
Visitors to San Francisco at the end of May will have the opportunity to attend the 41st annual Carnaval San Francisco. This two day festival will be held on Saturday, May 25th and Sunday, May 26th on Harrison Street between 16th and 24th Streets and will have an elaborate parade at 9:30am on Sunday which will boast an amazing procession of multicultural floats and performers. Experience global cuisine, international music, dance, crafts, and other activities on every single street corner. This free event will have the Grammy-winning band Los Tigres del Norte as its headline act performing at 3pm on Saturday in the Mission District’s Calle 24. For more details visit their website.
In Focus: Where to brunch in San Francisco – April 2019
April and May bring sunshine and moderate temperatures to the bay area so why not make a celebration of it by enjoying a really delicious brunch… for us that means a leisurely couple of hours with friends and loved ones at Brenda’s French Soul Food but since we’re always touting it, we thought we’d feature somewhere else this month…
Brunching is a popular thing in San Francisco, almost a local requirement, and that means there are many great places offering up that special weekend meal. We like Nopa (named for its location north of the SF panhandle) because of its head-turning cocktails and diverse, top-notch menu which literally offers something for everyone. Try their oven-baked eggs or custard French toast and feel that hangover just melt away. Nopa serves brunch on both Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30pm to 2:30pm; reservations are necessary.
In Focus: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park – March 2019
This month we’re featuring local sights that are lesser-known but which are a must-see in our very opinionated view. In San Francisco, that means the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. It’s not off the beaten track or anything… more like hiding in plain sight. This thirty-four acre park encompasses an actual maritime museum, green space, bay beach, docks, and ships –and all are just a stone’s throw from the famous Fisherman’s Wharf. Literally. Thousands of visitors to the city by the bay have undoubtedly noticed those historic tall ships docked right there in the water at the end of Hyde Street and never realized that you can board them! For us, they are the highlight of this extraordinary park. Board them and explore at your own pace and learn tons about the maritime history of San Francisco. Details about all the sections of the maritime park can be found in our Clued In San Francisco.
In Focus: Free Walking Tours – February 2019
To really delve into the detailed history and less-common sights of San Francisco, we encourage you to try one of the organized free walking tours sponsored by the the SF Library. These are great because you can decide at the last minute to take one as there is no pre-booking required. Just show up at the designated time and place and find your guide. These locals will fill the tour with great stories and little-known facts. How is it free, you may ask? They simply ask for a tip/donation at the end of it and you give what you think it was worth. Unlike other free walking tours, the guide does not keep the money. All proceeds raised will go directly to help fund the SF Library! Find out more through this handy link: SF Walking Tours
In Focus: Where to shop the sales – January 2019
Like many cities across the U.S., San Francisco puts its best designer items on sale after the holidays and begins presenting its spring collections. If you’re visiting San Francisco in January and have the urge to do some shopping (or just want to come home with one really special item) now is the time. The most famous shopping area in San Francisco is Union Square, where Post Street meets Powell Street. This neighborhood offers up the city’s best (and most expensive) boutiques, as well and several large department stores. For those who are unfamiliar with San Francisco, this means that the best shopping can be found right next to the historical city center. This may be helpful to know even if you don’t plan on hitting the boutiques… being aware of this type of location also tells you precisely where a city’s most desirable area is. That’s usually where you’ll also find some of the best hotels, and some top-notch restaurants too.
In Focus: New Year’s Eve in San Francisco – December 2018
The city by the bay does New Year’s Eve right, with many restaurants offering up special menus and celebration cocktails all night long. By 11pm, locals are already heading over to the famous, water-side Ferry Building for the free and fabulous fireworks display. There’s a downhome feel about it all, and once you’ve joined the fun you’ll feel as if you should be part of it every year. If more of a party is what you’re after, snag a ticket to any of the larger clubs, bars, and discos, especially in the Castro and Union Square neighborhoods. And be sure to make dinner reservations now because the best places will be high in demand.
In Focus: Fun on the bay – October 2018
Fall is quite mild in San Francisco and if you’re planning a visit there, remember to get out on the water. We have two suggestions that are sure to delight! Our fave, the infamous Rocketboats, offer a thrilling high speed thirty minutes in the bay while listening to some good ol’ rock and roll. Our other suggestion is more calm but no less thrilling… join the Golden Gate whale-watching cruise (and see more sea animals than just whales!) Note: these events are seasonal and only run from May through October 28th. CHeck out the links above for all the details.
In Focus: Chocolate – September 2018
The annual Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival is one of San Francisco’s best loved events and will be held this year on September 8th and 9th from noon to 5pm. If you’re not into sweets, you’ll be happy to know that the festival pays homage to California wines as well. The two-day event features demonstrations by renowned pastry chefs, an ice-cream eating contest, gourmet tastings, Ghirardelli samples, a silent auction, and entertainment. There are tickets offered for this event; one is for the chocolate tasting and all events, and the other is to enter the wine tasting pavilion. Head over to Beach Street to join the fun.
In Focus: The Alise San Francisco – July 2018
This summer we’re featuring some of our favorite hotels and in San Fran that means the The Alise. Located in a historic building on one of the original streets of the city, this modern design-hotel presents a lovely contrast of the centuries. Comfortable, spotless rooms with European duvets and handy valet parking is just the beginning. They offer complimentary bicycles, WiFi, and pineapple cupcakes– which in our opinion puts this hotel over the top. Located just a block or so from all the great shopping of Union Square, The Alise is also near a major cable car stop. We can’t say enough about it, but we can mention that they have a fitness center and heartily welcome dogs. Now that’s a friendly hotel!
In Focus: A summer visit to San Francisco – June 2018
Rumor has it that August is actually the bay city’s coldest month of the year (due to the unusually-shaped land mass and its effect on weather patterns.) Well, we’re not 100% sure on that interesting fact but what we do know is that San Francisco is a very popular summer vacation spot. If you don’t plan ahead you’ll miss out on the best things to do! Obviously we recommend our Clued In San Francisco ebook because the quick info, honest opinions, and live links make planning a breeze.
What exactly might you miss out on? Well, most importantly you’ll miss out a the boat visit and self-tour of Alcatraz Island and its vintage penitentiary. The idea of visiting this place as part of your vacation may or may not be high on your wish list but remember that it is our #1 sight to visit and we don’t give that position away easily. YOU MUST EXPERIENCE IT! Even the most lady-like person in your group will love the island with it’s gorgeous flowers, nesting seagulls, and yes- even the prison tour- because it is more like a theatrical event. As for seasickness going over there? Non-existent. The boat ride is so fast there’s no time to get sea sick! Book your boat and tour time weeks in advance on their handy website. Oh and while your at it, make sure to reserve a table for a glorious dinner and Brenda’s French Soul Food. Some things are worth a bit of planning!
Important info: May 2018 changes in Clued In San Francisco
Yes, here we go again… the start of the summer holiday season in San Francisco inevitably brings an increase in prices at some of its best loved sights, especially at those who kindly resisted increasing their prices last time around. As this rarely happens at the end of the year (when our Clued In Travel Books receive their annual updates,) we thought we’d take a moment here to highlight a few current corrections to our 2018 edition:
The fabulous Aquarium of the Bay has raised its prices to Adults $26.95 / Children $16.95 / Seniors $21.95 / Family group $75.00. If you’re considering a visit there, check out their online info regarding the upgraded shark feeding tour, where you get to feed the sharks yourself!
Also, the live link we indicated for Pearl’s Deluxe Burgers has changed since they launched their brand new site! Check it out here and then go and grab one of the best purgers you have ever had in your life.
In Focus: Special Event/ April-May 2018
San Francisco may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about where to celebrate Cinco de Mayo (May 5th, Mexico’s victory day) but it’s actually very festive. In true street-fair fashion, the city will rock the holiday on Valencia Street (between 21st and 24th Streets) in the Mission District from 10am to 6pm. This family-friendly event will feature live music, performances, food, and a pop up beer garden!
In Focus: The Fairmont San Francisco – February 2019
There are thousands of hotels in San Francisco but none are as famous and recognizable as The Fairmont. This palatial beauty atop Nob Hill began its construction at the glorious turn of the century but suffered many close calls. As it neared completion in 1906, the infamous San Francisco earthquake and fire struck the whole of the city. Most of the mansions on Nob Hill fell, but the Fairmont miraculously survived the quake. The great fire that followed 24 hours later, however, did its damage to the Fairmont. The hotel needed to be rebuilt and so it’s owners hired the famous architect Stanford White of New York City; his style and talent were a perfect match for the task at hand. But before White could begin, he was murdered while dining on the rooftop of the old Madison Square Garden. The Fairmont’s owners finally settled on Julia Morgan, the first woman graduate of the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.
If the hotel’s exterior looks familiar to you, it could be because it has been featured in many movies and TV shows. We just love it and believe it will provide you a very memorable stay in San Francisco. It offers 600 guest rooms and luxury suites, including one very famous 6000 sq ft (!) Penthouse Suite. Centrally located, it boasts the only spot where each of the city’s cable car lines meet. If you don’t end up staying there, pay it a visit and treat yourself to a pineapple cocktail in the hotel’s über-famous Tonga Room in the basement. As they say at The Fairmont, “Tiki and dine!”
In Focus: Valentine’s Day is just different in SF
Even though Clued In San Francisco is the newest edition in our travel series, it already seems to us that we’re always blogging about some rather unusual events there. It’s true that they do things a bit differently in SF, but really? A huge pillow fight on Valentine’s Day? Wow, now that’s original! If you’re planning a visit there on Cupid’s favorite day then why not check it out. We think it might be the perfect way to spend the evening, especially if you and your loved one have unresolved issues, communication problems, or general hostility that you need to unleash. It’s probably better than going to an expensive romantic dinner and then trying to fake how you’re both so in love… of course, it’s also great for singles who don’t want to sit home without a date. Whatever the case, it’s free and probably good for a laugh! Last year’s fight was dubbed “Feathers of Fury.”
2018 info: It’s not official, it’s not sponsored, it’s not city-approved per se, but when 1,000 plus people show up every year for a pillow fight, there’s usually a pillow fight. Here’s how it goes down– When the famous clock tower next to Justin Herman Plaza (on the Embarcadero) strikes 6pm, get your pillow in the air and just go for it. Okay, there are a few tips and rules…
No hitting anyone who doesn’t have a pillow/ No hitting people with cameras on/ Bring a mask or bandanna to cover your mouth so you don’t choke on flying feathers/ Synthetic pillows without feathers are okay too/ Bring a garbage bag to help with clean up afterwards/ The event is always tentative; there could be 1,000 people or zero people -or the police could shut it down. Good luck!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from San Francisco, 2017!
The city by the bay just loves a good holiday celebration and proves it by holding no less than three separate, simultaneous tree-lighting ceremonies. Enjoy the season by going Christmas shopping at Union Square or Pier 39, have an amazing seafood meal at Farallon, and ride a cable car up to Nob Hill for a Christmas cocktail at Top of the Mark. With so much to see and do there, from its unique museums to its elegant concerts, your holiday visit is sure to be extra special!
In Focus: Brenda’s French Soul Food – November 2017
The holidays are nearly upon us and that always means catching up with family and friends whom you may not get to see much during the year… For those lucky enough to live near San Francisco, or happen to be there on a visit, why not have a fun, memorable, and affordable breakfast reunion at one of our favorite restaurants, Brenda’s French Soul Food. There you can indulge (and share) culinary greatness in the form of beignets, omelettes, French toast, and a perfectly crispy pork belly served with an egg atop creamy cheddar grits. They open daily at 8am and serve breakfast until 3pm which provides plenty of time for everyone’s schedules to coincide.
Your October NTK (2017)
October in San Francisco is chock full of fun and three of our favorite fall events don’t even cost a cent for admission! On the 21st don’t miss the always frenetic Wharf Festival which boasts live music, street performers, craft vendors, food vendors, a chowder contest, kids’ rides, ship tours, and even fireworks over the Embarcadero. It runs from Jefferson to Taylor streets. Click the link for more info! San Francisco’s Wharf Fest
While the festival is going on, there will also be the Golden Gate Bridge Swim. Watch swimmers dive into the frigid waters of the bay at Fort Point Beach and cross to the other side in a 3K competition. Brrrrrrr. Want more info? Click on Golden Gate Bridge Swim.
On the following weekend, (October 27th , 28th , and Halloween night) who can resist the costumed Halloween Pub Crawl. Enjoy drink specials at multiple bars -okay, the costume is actually optional but where’s the fun in that? Get details at San Francisco Halloween Pub Crawl.
And that’s your Clued In San Francisco October “Need To Know!”