The ding of a cable car cutting through morning fog – where else but in San Francisco? It’s a diverse municipality where neighborhoods are authentic and distinctive.
Getting around: Getting to downtown San Francisco has never been easier on BART ( www.bart.gov/schedules/bystation), the Bay Area’s rapid-transit system. Out of the airport, simply hop on the Air Tram to the International Gate, where you’ll find the entranceway to BART. $8.65 (per person) secures passage directly into the downtown hotel district. Wheels on the BART train can be squeaky and loud, so bring your MP3 outfitted with noise-canceling ear buds.
Where to stay: The posh Union Square area is centrally located and loaded with inexpensive transportation options. It also has three Personality Properties hotels ( www.personalityhotels.com). Their Hotel Diva marries old San Francisco with a stylish, new contemporary vibe. The Kensington Park Hotel offers European styling – a tight yet efficient use of space. The Hotel Union Square is steps from the upscale department stores, and their rooms are surprisingly quiet considering the traffic on the street. Another option in the area: the 1,024-room Parc 55 Wyndham ( www.parc55hotel.com).
Dining out: The signature clam chowder at historic John’s Grill ( www.johnsgrill.com) is considered tops in all of San Francisco. With some of the most succulent and mouthwatering steaks around, it is not the place to be starting a vegan diet. Note: The 106-year-old landmark is mentioned in novelist Dashiell Hammett’s famed “The Maltese Falcon.”
Parallel 37 Restaurant ( www.parallel37sf.com), tucked inside the swanky Ritz Carlton Nob Hill, is famous for its Art Deco setting and ever-pleasing cocktails. Bix Restaurant ( www.bixrestaurant.com) harkens to that time when nights smoldered and jazz was in full swing. It’s one of the city’s best places for crabcakes, hand-cut steaks and old-fashioned cocktails.
Palio d’Asti ( www.paliodasti.com) is the next best thing to dining in Italy. The wood-fired pizza is delicious; the entrees top-notch. This trattoria is affordable, busy and has great atmosphere. Service tends to be slower, but the food is worth the wait. The casual Fog Harbor Fish House ( www.fogharbor.com) offers breathtaking views of the bay and features fresh-caught Alaskan halibut, sea bass and mouth-watering prime rib. Enjoy Fog City Diner ( www.fogcitysf.com) for the laid-back morning vibe for an incredible Sunday brunch.
Definitely do: Club Fugazi hosts “Beach Blanket Babylon” ( www.beachblanketbabylon.com), with an over-the-top cast of bubbly and spirited characters.
Tower Tours’ Napa & Sonoma Wine Country Tour ( bit.ly/1c8aWUk) is an exceptionally picturesque guided drive that’s a sure bet for wine enthusiasts. Sample the tastes, sights and sounds of the North Beach area on the Little Italy Walking Food Tour ( bit.ly/1sSiW2s).
Take the “Behind the Scene” tour at of the Aquarium of the Bay ( bit.ly/1lS8ty0), a Pier 39 mega-attraction.
Hop aboard Hornblower Dinner Cruise’s San Francisco Belle for a tranquil, romantic and unforgettable dining cruise ( bit.ly/1ostkO7). Spectacular imagery awaits as you witness the evening fog that envelops the bay’s port of Sausalito.
Chose the Adventure Cat sailing crew ( www.adventurecat.com) for an evening of raucous fun and dramatic views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Gale-force winds tousle the hair; sea splash will invigorate your core. However, the ship does have an inside cabin for those wanting to remain warm and fuzzy.
Vanek lives at Lake Norman: flying-standby.blogspot.com.
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