The huge hotel Westin St Francis on Union Square has five outside glass elevators that afford the most amazing views of the city. And it's all free! Walk through the lobby and take an elevator to the 32nd floor. Exhilarating.
Hotel Westin St Francis, at Union Square
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Hotel Westin St Francis, at Union Square
See my photo: www.flickr.com/photos/bryceedwards/134703108/
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A real relic of the golden 60s. The Red Vic is an old Victorian Hotel and is run (or was a couple of years ago) by Sami Sunchild.
All rooms are individually themed (we stayed in the Children's Playground) and breakfast is a communal affair where guests are encouraged to talk to each other - a novel concept.
Set right in the heart of the Haight with all its history behind it and a promising future. The Haight is a great place to stay with some great bars and a fantastic Mexican eatery knocking out some of the fattest burritos I've conquered.
Take a trip around the bay in a small boat. Walk along the seafront toawards the Golden Gate Bridge from Fishermans Wharf. Along the harbour there are many smaller ex-fishing boats. These are much better than the larger ferry-like boats available. Not only are they cheaper, the trip is longer and much more personal. You even get to go under the Golden Gate Bridge, which you don't in the larger ships.
Walk along Fishermans Wharf towards the Golden Gate Bridge.
A fantastic view of San Francisco, along with all the bridges, down to the Dumbarton, as well as much of the entire Bay Area, can be had from the top of the Oakland Hills, on the opposite side of the Bay.
You'll need a car, for this, and it's a bit out of the way, but, to get there, go east, across the Bay Bridge, and follow the signs for Highway 24. Continue about 5 miles, up and through the Caldecott Tunnel; then, take the first possible exit, get back on the freeway going west, and immediately take the exit for "Fish Ranch Road". Go to the end of the ramp, and turn rignt; then, go up to the first stop sign (four way stop), turn left, and drive about 1/4 of a mile. The road will bend to the left, and you'll find yourself looking down on one of the most stunning views of the San Francisco Bay Area you'll likely encounter outside of an aircraft. At sunset it's simply gorgeous!
When you're ready to leave, just follow the road down; and, when faced with a stop sign, always turn downhill (mostly right, but there's a left at the bottom, just before you're returned to the Highway 24). Once you reach 24, just follow the signs back to the Bay Bridge, and San Francisco. You might also stop at Yerba Buena/Treasure Island for a more close up view of the skyline.
Top of the Oakland Hills on Tunnel Road.
Yank Sing is one of San Francisco's best Chinese dim sum restaurants. Makes the annual San Francisco Chronicle's Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants list.
Its Rincon Center atmosphere is more upmarket than Chinatown restaurants, since it appeals to nearby Financial District workers.
Before or after you eat, look at the murals of California history by Anton Refregier in the old Rincon Post Office Annex. A few of them don't whitewash the Golden State's turbulent labour and ethnic past.
Rincon Center, 101 Spear St. (at Mission St), Embarcadero/South of Market;
tel: (415) 957-9300; open: only for dim sum/lunch;
A great late afternoon/early evening walk up Grant Avenue starting at Market Street and ending at Coit Tower. You start in the heart of downtown but soon transition to Chinatown and then the Italian North Beach district before ending with panoramic views of The City and The Bay.
Stop at local establishments Tosca (www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/tips/7859) for an Irish coffee, Cafe Macaroni (www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/tips/7860) for dinner, then catch some live blues at the Saloon (www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/tips/7858) - Perfect!
Start at Grant Ave and Market Street.
An intimate little Italian restaurant with cheesy decor but great food and bags of character. The upstairs has a ridiculously low ceiling with pasta stuck to it! I heartily recommend the gnocchi with gorgonzola cream sauce.
59 Columbus (at Jackson) in North Beach;
tel: (415) 217-8400
A low-key 40s-style cocktail bar that specialises in killer Irish coffee (the bar staff make them in batches by lining 30 glasses up along the bar). Also noteworthy for having only opera on the jukebox. A hidden gem that never seems really busy and has a great casual atmosphere.
242 Columbus Ave (between Broadway & Pacific) in North Beach;
tel: 415 986 9651
A great no-frills old timey bar with live blues (the excellent Johnny Nitro and the Doorslammers are the house band - Fridays and Sundays).
The place has an authentic neighborhood feel about it and is a great stop on a walk up Grant from Market to Coit Tower (see www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/tips/7862). Warning: Strange things will happen and people will dance!
1232 Grant Ave, near Grant and Broadway, North Beach;
tel: (415) 989-7666;
San Francisco has some fantastic graffiti. The best is possibly found in the Mission District, and is normally quite political. Just wander around and you'll see a fair bit of it.
This is one of the photos I've taken of SF graffiti:
Just off Fisherman's Wharf there are a couple of platoons that've been taken over by basking seals. They sunbath, swim, fight and generally provide a surprisingly entertaining show.
I took this photo:
Great hotel, and really, really central. It's where Alfred Hitchcock filmed Vertigo, which adds to the ambience a bit. Very reasonably priced and you get loads for your money. Staff are cheerful and helpful. I had a superb three nights
940 Sutter Street;
tel: (415) 885 6800
For the best local rock and punk bands head to this little bar at the base of Potrero Hill. Friendly, alcohol-fueled, huge patio, cheap beer. Cover charge varies from $5-7 depending on night and bands. Everything starts late, the first act crawling on to the stage about 10pm. Thai food available earlier in the evening.
1600 17th St. (at Wisconsin), on the 22 bus line; tel: (415) 503 0393
Housed in the Palace of Fine Arts, this hands-on science museum is ideal for families (or a cheap date). There is loads to see and do, and almost all of the exhibits are interactive.
3601 Lyon Street, San Francisco (in the Palace of Fine Arts);
tel: (415) 561 0399; www.exploratorium.edu
Right beside Powell Station on Market there is a little hut selling tickets for the old cable cars. If you buy a one-day or multi-trip MUNI ticket you can ride on the old trams, buses and new trams operated by MUNI. Saves walking up all those hills! I think it was $11 a day but well worth it if you are on foot.
May also be available in nearby shops.
Time Out is terribly keen on this place - I don't know why. It's in a dodgy area of Little Saigon in the Tenderloin. The decor and vibe are supposed to be retro-hippy; in fact, it feels like a motel in Arizona c1978, and not in a good way. Yes, there's a pool, but it's for posing around and is too small to swim in. And the help-yourself breakfast is penny-pinching. Avoid.
601 Eddy St; tel: (415) 776 1380;
I was suffering from hepatitis A when last in San Francisco, and would have been even unhappier had we not ended the stay at the St Francis. The beds are fantastically comfortable and the views from the top floor enviable: with a pair of binoculars you can survey half the city. In other respects it tends towards the corporate, but there are plenty of more interesting restaurants nearby.
335 Powell Street; tel: (415) 397 7000;
Great for dogs and humans alike. 360 degree view from this centrally located gem. Bring your walking shoes as you might be tempted to explore some more! It also overlooks the kid-friendly neighbourhood of Bernal Heights. I'll leave that up to you to check out.
1 Andover Street, San Francisco
Cocktail bar and restaurant that has a Pacific island theme. The band plays on a boat that drifts out into the lagoon to a mock storm complete with rain. As fabulously tacky as it sounds.
Fairmont Hotel: 950 Mason Street (there's an entrance off California Street);
tel: (415) 772 5278;
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