Error message

Lingotek profile ID 4 not found.
Acquerello vc_michelincontent_acquerello_supplied_acquerello1_1280x640
Courtesy of Acquerello

Acquerello

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
Acquerello
This two-star Michelin restaurant has perfected the culinary concept of simple elegance

Since 1989 Acquerello has set the standard in San Francisco for classic Italian fine dining. Located in the Nob Hill neighborhood, the restaurant is known for its wonderful food, professional service, and incredible Piemonte-focused wine list—a rare combination that has led to a busy reservation system and numerous awards, including two Michelin stars.

The dining room exudes traditional, old-world refinement, with its vaulted wood-beam ceilings and dramatic flower arrangements that practically eliminate the need for other adornments. The food is the main attraction here, and Executive Chef Suzette Gresham is an expert in creating sophisticated dishes that convey simple elegance.

Restraint means that you have hit on something that is so delicious that it needs very little other stuff,” she says. “You have to know when to stop, so when someone is eating that dish, they realize that there’s something very special.”

Starting with exceptional ingredients—and knowing which techniques to use when preparing them—is also essential. “You try to find a way to make a dish shine,” Gresham says.

Acquerello’s Prix Fixe Menu includes both classic Italian dishes and contemporary interpretations of Italian flavors. Diners choose between three, four, or five courses, which may include Liberty duck cured under red wine pomace; Swiss chard and mushroom raviolo with brown butter and Balsamic vinegar; or perhaps olive-oil-poached ocean trout with butternut squash and pancetta.

The Seasonal Tasting Menu takes a more modern approach with inventive creations like grilled firefly squid with broccoli and saffron consommé; squab- and cabbage-filled cannelloni with morel mushrooms; and baked bufala milk ricotta with summer squash, cherry tomato, and basil. Each course is expertly paired with a different Italian wine.

Dessert is a celebration in itself, with house-made chocolates and delicate macarons offered each night. If your tastes lean toward the savory, opt for a tableside visit from Acquerello’s exquisite specialty cheese cart.

Reservations may be made up to three months in advance (the further ahead you plan, the better). Formal attire is requested, with jackets suggested for men, and while the gorgeous food presentations may tempt smartphone shutterbugs, patrons are asked to leave their electronic devices in pockets and purses. Part of the experience at Acquerello is simply to enjoy the moment.

Acquerello screen_shot_2019-07-05_at_9.51.27_am
Suzette Gresham Is a Chef Who Leads by Example
Gresham has been at the helm of two-Michelin-starred Acquerello for nearly three decades.
San Francisco, California
Ryan Killackey

Northern California

Spotlight: San Francisco

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
58
December
Average (°F)
Dec - Feb
67°
High
48°
Low
Mar - May
73°
High
51°
Low
June - Aug
83°
High
60°
Low
Sept - Nov
82°
High
53°
Low
Acquerello Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 4.12.46 PM
You're #AlwaysWelcome Here
San Francisco is always open, always inviting and you're always welcome. #AlwaysWelcome
Acquerello Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 11.40.23 AM_0
Golden State of Mind: Pioneer of Food - Corey Lee
San Francisco food pioneer Corey Lee finds inspiration - and a little Zen - in Northern California's diverse landscape.
Acquerello SabrinaYves_VideoImage
Golden State of Mind: Pioneers of Art - Sabrina Buell and Yves Behar
See how couple Sabrina Buell and Yves Behar have defined creativity and indulgence in San Francisco and beyond.

It may measure less than 50 square miles and have a population that doesn’t even crack a million, but San Francisco justly ranks as one of the greatest cities in the world. Famous for grand-dame Victorians, cable cars, dynamic diversity, a beautiful waterfront, and a soaring crimson bridge, the “City by the Bay” truly has it all. Trend-defining cuisine ranging from Michelin-starred dining aplenty to outrageous food trucks; world-renowned symphony, ballet, theater, and opera; plus almost boundless outdoor adventures, San Francisco justifiably stands out as one of the ultimate must-visit cities on any traveler’s wish list.

The hardest part may be deciding where to go first. (Well, that and packing for the city’s famously unpredictable weather.) Golden Gate Bridge Park is one of the most iconic spots in the city and has spectacular views; from there, walk or bike over the span to Marin Headlands. Or stay on the San Francisco side and stroll over to the San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts, the Presidio, or Lands End, a rugged, windswept playground where you can watch for whales and check out the ruins of the Sutro Baths. 

Fisherman’s Wharf beckons with its seafaring vibe and amazing seafood restaurants; look out across the water and you’ll see another fascinating destination not to be missed, Alcatraz Island. The bustling plazas of Union Square and Ghirardelli Square offer shopping and more great dining options. The city’s patchwork of distinct neighborhoods—the Mission District, Chinatown, North Beach, Haight-Ashbury, Nob Hill, and so many more—offer endless diversions both day and night.

Read on to learn more about what to do in this beautiful, historic, and thoroughly enchanting city.

 

Acquerello Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 4.12.46 PM
You're #AlwaysWelcome Here
San Francisco is always open, always inviting and you're always welcome. #AlwaysWelcome
Acquerello Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 11.40.23 AM_0
Golden State of Mind: Pioneer of Food - Corey Lee
San Francisco food pioneer Corey Lee finds inspiration - and a little Zen - in Northern California's diverse landscape.
Acquerello SabrinaYves_VideoImage
Golden State of Mind: Pioneers of Art - Sabrina Buell and Yves Behar
See how couple Sabrina Buell and Yves Behar have defined creativity and indulgence in San Francisco and beyond.
Acquerello vc_harrypotterandthecursedchild_supplied_hpatccsf08_matthewmurphy_1280x640
Photo By Matthew Murphy

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
See the smash-hit play, the eighth adventure in J.K. Rowling’s epic series, during its extended run in California

San Francisco’s Curran Theater has been transformed into a wild wizarding world that now hosts one of the most acclaimed plays in history: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The two-part drama is the eighth adventure in the Harry Potter saga and the first to be presented on stage.

Since its July 2016 opening at London’s Palace Theatre, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has garnered 25 major U.S. trophies, including six Tony Awards, and 24 major U.K. awards including nine Olivier Awards.

In Cursed Child, Harry Potter fans will see many familiar and beloved names mixed in with a new generation of characters. The story unfolds 19 years after the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final novel in J.K. Rowling’s literary series. Grown-up versions of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Draco Malfoy, and Hermione Granger send their kids off to study at their alma mater, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Harry, now a harried employee at the Ministry of Magic, tries to downplay his rock-star wizard status as his adolescent son, Albus, squirms under his father’s shadow and struggles to fit in at Hogwarts. When Albus gets mixed up in a time-travel scheme gone awry, all wizarding hell breaks loose. Spells are cast, curses are inflicted, and wand battles send people and objects flying through the air.

Jack Thorne wrote the Cursed Child script based on a story written in collaboration with director John Tiffany and novelist J.K. Rowling. Because of the play’s epic length—more than five hours of running time—it’s split into two parts. Audience members buy separate tickets for Parts One and Two, which can be seen in the same day or on separate days. 

Tickets are on sale for San Francisco’s production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child through June 20, 2020 at HarryPotterOnStage.com and in-person at the Curran Theater box office. Prices range from $59-199. A limited number of discounted tickets are available by lottery through the Friday Forty program at TodayTix.com or the TodayTix app. The play is suitable for ages 10 and up.

 

Acquerello vc_michelinseries_quince_supplied_squidzucchinipinenutsaffron42669443044_1280x640
Courtesy of Quince

Quince

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
Quince
This celebrated San Francisco institution continues to surprise and delight diners

When Chef Michael Tusk and his wife Lindsay opened Quince in 2003, critics and diners raved about the elegant atmosphere, the flawless service, and, most of all, Tusk’s beautifully executed French-Italian cuisine. While the couple could have stuck with their original concept and continued to attract crowds, they chose a path of evolution and innovation that has earned Quince three Michelin stars and the devotion of San Francisco restaurant-goers.

Quince was first located in the city’s Pacific Heights neighborhood but in 2009 the Tusks moved the restaurant to a larger, even-lovelier space in Jackson Square, bathed in soft light from gorgeous Murano chandeliers. The following year, they opened the more casual Cotogna (“quince,” in Italian) next door, which features rustic Italian fare.

Having two restaurants adjacent to each other called for differentiation, so Chef Tusk—a veteran of Stars restaurant in San Francisco (now closed) as well as Chez Panisse and Oliveto in the East Bay—moved toward a more modern approach at Quince which combines Italian flavor profiles with a refined, French-style dining experience.

Quince’s multi-course tasting menu is a showcase for seasonal ingredients from Northern California, including produce grown in collaboration with Marin County’s Fresh Run Farm. “The inspiration for creating any dish is nature and getting outside,” Tusk says. “I’ll go out and jot down a list of everything that I find to be special in that particular season.”

The nightly changing tasting menu may include delicacies such as canapés topped with caviar, avocado, and Sicilian pistachios; black cod with Monterey Bay squid and saffron; or tortelli pasta with celeriac, artichoke, and black truffle. The meal always ends with an unforgettable selection of tiny pastries and sweets from the mignardises cart.

While Quince is celebrated for its artful presentations and creative use of ingredients, Tusk is careful to avoid unnecessary manipulation. “Flavor is the No. 1 factor, before any of the innovation comes in,” he says. “This has provided a kind of spark for the cuisine that has allowed us to tell more of a story.”

Given its three-Michelin-star status, Quince is deservedly one of San Francisco’s hottest special-occasion tables, so it pays to plan ahead. Reservations can be made up to three months in advance for the Main Dining Room as well as the Salon, which offers a smaller, five-course version of the daily tasting menu.

Acquerello screen_shot_2019-07-05_at_10.15.18_am
Michael Tusk Redefines Farm-to-Table In Northern California
The chef/owner of three-MICHELIN-starred Quince shares how Fresh Run Farm inspires his cooking.
San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts grounds

San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts
See the Marina District’s over-the-top palace, surrounded by hiking trails, museums, art galleries, and restaurants

The Palace of Fine Arts is an extravagant neoclassical icon—a faux palace surrounded by an idyllic pond, its reflective surface graced by snow-white swans. It’s one of San Francisco’s most popular spots for wedding photos and has appeared in countless fashion layouts and Instagram shots.

The Romanesque structure was designed by architect Bernard R. Maybeck for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, a world’s fair that celebrated the Panama Canal’s opening—and gave San Francisco a chance to shine after its devastating 1906 earthquake. The Palace’s domed rotunda, filled with more than 12,000 works of art, was one of dozens of monuments, temples, and pavilions constructed for the nine-month-long expo.

When the grand affair ended, all structures except the Palace were destroyed. San Franciscans couldn’t bear to tear down their glorious tribute to the arts, but since it was built to be temporary—made from plaster, wood, and burlap—the structure slowly crumbled. In the early 1960s, a wealthy philanthropist donated money to save the decaying ruins by recasting them in more enduring concrete. Today’s Palace duplicates the original, with a soaring colonnade and bas-relief urns, domed ceiling with allegorical paintings, and Corinthian columns topped with female figures draped in togas, their weeping faces turned away to symbolize “the melancholy of life without art.” The Palace’s 1,000-seat theater, added in 1970, hosts cultural events, live performances, film festivals, and theater productions year-round.

Marvel at this Beaux-Arts wonder, then head over to the woodsy parklands at the next-door Presidio, which served as an Army post until 1994 and is now a National Park. Ride the free shuttle bus or just use your feet—24 miles of trails lead to scenic overlooks, many showcasing the glorious Golden Gate Bridge.

In a city full of must-see architecture, the Presidio Officer’s Club is a gem. With adobe walls dating back to 1776, it’s San Francisco’s second-oldest building and houses a history museum and Arguello Restaurant, a bistro run by award-winning chef Traci Des Jardins. Nearby, visit the Walt Disney Family Museum or let the kids burn off energy at House of Air, a trampoline park in an aircraft hangar. View the public art at Tides Converge, a nonprofit workspace with two community galleries. Down the hall, Café RX serves authentic Latin American pupusas and tamales, or if it’s not yet noon, Sessions at the Presidio nails the perfect outdoor-patio brunch with its cardamom beignets, avocado toast, and Belgian pancakes.

Acquerello vc_greatrestaurantssanfrancisco_supplied_afarmedia_poi0198_alsplace_lc3749_1280x640
Courtesy of Visit California

7 Great Restaurants in San Francisco

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
7 Great Restaurants in San Francisco
The culinary options here are vast and varied, ranging from Michelin-worthy spots to a place that showcases Spam

Cala

San Francisco prides itself on its Mexican food, so when chef Gabriela Cámara moved from Mexico City to open Cala in 2015, it was both a show of confidence and a nod of respect. The celebrated chef behind Mexico City’s legendary Contramar, Cámara opened her first American restaurant in a warehouse-like former sound studio just off the main commercial thoroughfare in Hayes Valley. The restaurant’s abundant greenery—creeping kangaroo vines and a statuesque fiddle-leaf fig tree—makes guests feel as if they are dining on a patio somewhere decidedly more tropical than San Francisco. Cámara’s food uses ingredients familiar to Mexican food devotees, but she prepares them in unexpected ways, to extraordinary results. She serves a whole fire-roasted sweet potato, for example, with a stack of warm, house-made tortillas and a scoop of salsa negra—an extra-rich mole infused with bone marrow. Pro tip: Do not miss the trout tostadas with chipotle, avocado, and fried leeks. One order probably won’t be enough, so put in for two as soon as you sit down.

Lazy Bear

Chef David Barzelay wants to invite you to a dinner party. As with most successful social engagements, the host graciously introduces himself at the door, promptly offers guests a glass of punch, and encourages them to mingle with the 39 other lucky souls who were able to nab a spot at this nightly foodie fete. Lazy Bear is another player in the “don’t call it a restaurant” game: instead of taking reservations, 40 tickets are up for grabs for each event (there are two per night), and diners are treated more like party guests in a home than customers. But what makes Barzelay’s concept so innovative—and enjoyable—is the laid-back vibe. Two long communal tables fill the dining room, and as at the wedding of old friends, guests get up between courses to chat with each other or peek into the surrounding open kitchen. It’s an appropriate graduation for a chef who developed a cult following with his roving underground pop-ups. And beyond the conviviality, there’s the food, which is the real life of the party—and the reason Lazy Bear nabbed a Michelin star in 2016. There’s no menu, and Barzelay himself describes the inventive dishes—such as dry-aged squab with blueberries, chanterelle mushrooms, and sumac—to diners.

Liholiho Yacht Club

If you’ve never tried Spam, the canned cooked meat product, Liholiho Yacht Club is the place to finally take the plunge. Ask your server for the Spam musubi, slices of grilled Spam set atop a ball of sticky rice and wrapped in nori. Chef Ravi Kapur’s dishes are a playful mash-up of fresh California cuisine and the culinary traditions of his native Hawaii. To experience the full range of what the restaurant offers, order the Ohana table tasting menu, which features such favorites as duck liver toast with jalapeño and pickled pineapple alongside continent-hopping dishes like Cornish game hen katsu, with Japanese curry and daikon kimchi. And don’t forget the international language of cocktails—Liholiho’s bar program has made ordering all those fun island-themed concoctions a delicious proposition. One sip of the Pineapple Dance, made with plantation pineapple rum, Cynar, and freshly squeezed pineapple and lemon juices, and you may be inspired to do a little hula in your bar stool.

Eight Tables by George Chen

In China, the most exclusive way to enjoy a meal isn’t at an upscale restaurant. Shifan tsui, which translates to “private chateau cuisine,” is the practice of inviting small groups of guests to enjoy elaborate meals prepared by personal chefs. This is the concept behind Eight Tables, the distinctive dining experience located—both literally and metaphorically—at the very top of China Live, the ambitious culinary and cultural destination by restaurant mogul George Chen. While anyone can wander into China Live, access to Eight Tables is spectacularly guarded. Guests are met at a metal gate on Vallejo Street then whisked away (occasionally by rickshaw) to a private elevator that opens to a room set with eight tables. Waiters wear three-piece Ralph Lauren suits and blue Hermes ties, and the procession of the meal’s 10 courses is only matched in pomp and circumstance by the mad-scientist cocktails from the bar. The gin-based Lily Pond features “forest water,” made by juicing sour grasses into cucumber water. It is served in a delicate white bowl with a single nasturtium floating on top. The tasting menu changes regularly, but such decadent ingredients as caviar, lobster, and foie gras are regular fixtures.

Al's Place

As far as culinary origin stories go, it’s hard to beat Aaron London’s. As a rebellious teenager in Sonoma, he taught himself to cook in his family’s home kitchen. Flash forward a decade and he’s at the helm of his own pioneering restaurant—one that was named the best in the country in 2015 by Bon Appétit. Fruits and vegetables take center stage at Al’s Place, but London’s approach expands on the California cuisine of previous generations. Instead of preparing ingredients simply to stand on their own, London takes them through their paces. The fries, for example, take four days to prepare, while the season’s freshest offerings show up in unexpected ways: peach mayonnaise accompanies perfectly tender asparagus spears. But while London is known for being meticulous, the vibe of the dining room is laid back. Staff dress casually in a style befitting the neighborhood (plenty of kitchen-appropriate clogs and sleeves of tattoos) and are friendly, knowledgeable, and free of pretension. Pro tip: Show up early and join the loyalists and super fans who wait in two lines—one for those with reservations, one for walk-in guests—and then find out for yourself what a four-day fry tastes like.

Tartine Manufactory

In 2002, pastry chef Elisabeth Prueitt and her husband, bread baker Chad Robertson, opened Tartine Bakery in San Francisco’s Mission District. Ever since, crowds of locals and tourists have lined up outside the artisanal bakery for country bread, morning buns, and croque monsieurs. In 2016, the couple expanded by opening Tartine Manufactory—a coffee shop, bakery, restaurant, and bar rolled into one—in a light-filled corner of the massive Heath Ceramics building. The Los Angeles–based design studio Commune collaborated with San Francisco architect Charles Hemminger to build out the 5,000-square-foot space, and the aesthetic is equal parts modern Scandinavian, rustic Japanese, and sunny Californian. All day long, the casual Manufactory turns out ingredient-first dishes: for breakfast, coddled eggs served with trout roe, horseradish, za’atar, and grilled bread; for dinner, California halibut crudo with kiwi, leeks, puffed rice, mint, and cilantro. The wine list includes a mix of local producers plus notable varietals from France, Italy, and Germany. The food presentation is as attractive and innovative as the space, and Prueitt and Robertson see the restaurant as a natural extension of their close collaborations with local farmers, artists, other chefs, and winemakers.

The Progress

Husband-and-wife team Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski first gained recognition for State Bird Provisions, a game-changing, dim-sum-meets-California-cuisine restaurant that was supposed to be a temporary stand-in while they worked to open their larger space a few doors down. The couple picked up a prestigious James Beard Award for that effort. So if State Bird was their warm-up, it’s no surprise that their follow-up act, The Progress, has been a wild success. The space wows at first sight with its barrel ceiling and curved walls wrapped in simple wood slats. The Progress is three years old but has something new to offer on each visit, from the food (grilled Monterey abalone served with a butter flavored with ramps, yuzu, and seaweed) to the rotating works by local artists on the walls. Brioza and Krasinski recently changed the format from a prix fixe menu of family-style dishes to an à la carte experience, which is better for the casual, lively atmosphere. Plus, now you don’t have to share your pork and kimchi ravioli.

In Partnership with Afar.

Acquerello vc_ca101_fiveamazingthings_sanfrancisco_sfmoma_videostill_1280x640_0

5 Amazing Things to Do in San Francisco

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
5 Amazing Things to Do in San Francisco
The City by the Bay packs an impressive amount of eclectic cultural charm into just 46 square miles

A lifetime in San Francisco wouldn’t be enough to see the city’s countless wonders. That’s why we’ve selected experiences that everyone from the first-time traveler to the frequent visitor will love. Here’s where to shop, eat, stay, and explore in the Golden City. 

Stay at The Fairmont San Francisco

Named for the railroad barons (“Nobs”) who built their mansions in the area, Nob Hill is one of the most high-end neighborhoods in San Francisco. At its pinnacle sits the historic Fairmont San Francisco, a stunning expression of early 20th-century opulence. Channel your inner blueblood and relax among marble columns, crystal chandeliers, and giant gilded mirrors. The penthouse suite, which takes up the entire eighth floor, boasts a two-story circular library, a vaulted billiards room, and even a secret staircase that once facilitated dalliances between President John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. 

Explore SFMOMA

It’s easy to get lost in the SFMOMA in a wonderful sort of way. The largest modern art museum in the world houses more than 33,000 pieces by the likes of Jackson Pollock, Paul Klee, and Andy Warhol. The space itself is impressive, and every inch of the structure is in a sense an exhibition. The rippling white fiberglass exterior invokes rolling fog while the innovative restaurant In Situ faithfully reproduces dishes from famous chefs around the world.

Shop in the Mission District

The Mission District is worth a visit if only to see this artsy neighborhood’s vibrant outdoor murals. Once you’re there, stop inside any of the dozens of independent boutiques and eateries. Fuel up with a banana cream cupcake from Wholesome Bakery before browsing for urban camping supplies at Alite Outpost or creative gifts at the women-owned design collective Gravel & Gold.

Discover the Ferry Building

Beaux arts–inspired grandeur, locally sourced food, creative merchants, and killer views of San Francisco Bay—the Ferry Building is like a microcosm of the city itself. Stroll through the Great Nave to explore outposts of some of the Bay Area’s most interesting vendors. Be sure to sample some Mt. Tam cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, try a few bluepoints on the half shell at San Francisco Fish Company, recharge with a siphon pour from Blue Bottle Coffee, and shop for handcrafted tableware at Heath Ceramics. 

Eat at The Slanted Door

A meal at The Slanted Door is really all about the windows. Floor-to-ceiling walls of glass showcase sweeping views of the bay. Chef Charles Phan’s take on contemporary Vietnamese cuisine has made this restaurant one of the city’s most popular for more than two decades. Try favorites like shaking beef, cellophane noodles, and imperial rolls. 

Health Ceramics
Courtesy of Visit California

Top Shopping Options in San Francisco

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
Top Shopping Options in San Francisco
Discover refined ceramics, upscale fishing gear, and local fashion at these detour-worthy stores

Health Ceramics

If you eat in enough casually cool restaurants in California today, you’ll notice some familiar aesthetic tropes: potted succulents in the corner, watermelon radishes on the menu, and Heath Ceramics plates on the table. Heath has an unparalleled California heritage: Potter Edith Heath founded the company in 1948 and opened a factory in Sausalito in 1959 that’s still going strong. The company designs, manufactures, and sells highly functional goods for the home, most notably tableware and tile. The couple that now owns Heath—Catherine Bailey and Robin Petravic—have brought it into the modern era, in part by staying true to the brand’s craft roots. Today, they sell directly to customers from this Mission Creek location, at a small outpost in the Ferry Building, and in the original Sausalito store. At the Mission Creek complex—the building was once an industrial laundry—shoppers can view the factory floor and see how tile is shaped and fired in the massive kilns. The glazed platters and bowls for sale—in such classic Heath colors as moonstone (blue), persimmon, and French grey—make for great gifts and classic San Francisco souvenirs. Don’t miss the Heath newsstand in the front of the building, which sells a vast selection of international magazines.

City Lights Books

Camp out in the basement of this North Beach institution, the Beat’s former clubhouse, and try to think of a time when scandal came in the form of a book of poetry. Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and the obscenity trial that followed put this three-story independent bookstore and publishing house on the map. More than 60 years later, the shelves are better organized and smoking has been banned on the premises, but the spirit remains the same. Readings, lectures, and meetings are still held four or five nights a week in the poetry room, and the publishing arm of City Lights still puts out about a dozen titles a year. And don’t forget about the books. From lesser-known independent titles to collectors’ editions, City Lights has it all. Limited-edition signed copies of Van Morrison’s lyric book Lit Up Inside were a recent hot ticket, selling for $100 and some old-school deal making: The shop wouldn’t take orders online—Van fans had to place their order over the telephone or come into the shop. Talk about revolutionary.

Lost Coast Outfitters

Fly fishing may not be top of mind while walking through San Francisco’s Financial District, but fantasies of casting in crystal clear rivers and commencing the day around a campfire are sure to materialize once you step inside Lost Coast Outfitters. The upscale sporting goods store specializes in top-of-the-line fly fishing gear, but shop owner George Revel has an eye for provisions that tug at the inner outdoorsman in all of us, such as indestructible Yeti coolers, leather-trimmed duffle bags from Filson, and classic Simms flannels in timeless red-and-black check. The grand historic Beaux Arts building only adds to the appeal, as does the 300-plus-bottle whiskey collection hidden behind a wall of waders and waterproof booties. Pro tip: Inquire about joining the exclusive Tin Cup Society to gain access to speakers, casting clinics, expeditions, and curated gear packages.

Freda Salvador

There are a few contemporary boutique brands poised to put San Francisco on the fashion map. Freda Salvador shoes have become the “it” footwear for a subset of effortlessly cool creative women. Editors and designers can be spotted sporting the brand’s modestly heeled modern loafers, mules, boots, and sandals, which come in gorgeous colored leathers and satins. The shoes are all designed in Freda Salvador’s Sausalito studio by cofounders Megan Papay and Cristina Palomo-Nelson, and fabricated in a tiny family-run factory in Elda, Spain. Quality is paramount, as is wearability, but it’s the styles that have truly set the brand apart. The San Francisco flagship on Fillmore Street attracts a ladylike version of the obsessed sneakerhead—Freda fetishists who collect new styles like playing cards.

Cuyana

“Fewer, better things” is this fashion brand’s motto, and you will be tempted to toss out everything in your closet once you run your fingers over Cuyana’s silk striped tees, poplin button-downs, leather bags, and simple cashmere crewneck sweaters. These luxury basics are all crafted by artisans around the globe and are timeless in design—Cuyana truly intends for its pieces to last a lifetime. Its retail space may be located in the heart of bustling Union Square, but its second-floor location, accessed via elevator, is easy to miss. Once upstairs, customers get a glimpse of what a life with less could look like—the space was designed by Lauren Nelson Design to look more like a stylish live-work loft than a store, with Eames chairs and floating wood shelves sparsely styled with impeccable objects. A few choice items hang on each clothing rack—a literal representation of the brand’s “lean closet” philosophy. Cuyana will even help customers get started: With each purchase there is the option to receive a reusable bag to fill with items “that aren’t helping you live your most beautiful life.” Drop it in the mail with the included prepaid shipping label and your items will be donated to women in need through the nonprofit organization H.E.A.R.T.

In Partnership with Afar.

Bikers at the Golden Gate Bridge

5 Amazing Things to Do at the Golden Gate Bridge

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
5 Amazing Things to Do at the Golden Gate Bridge
See San Francisco's most iconic structure from every angle—by foot, bicycle, boat, and more

With its gently curved cables and deep orange hue, the Golden Gate Bridge is a total showstopper. Yes, it’s beautiful to behold, but the bridge’s charms are more than skin (or a coat of paint?) deep. On your next trip to San Francisco, try these creative ways to enjoy the bridge and the surrounding area.

Stay at Cavallo Point

The story of Cavallo Point is even older than the Golden Gate. Before the bridge’s construction, the army established Fort Baker as a military base in an effort to fortify the bay. Today, the lovely colonial revival buildings have been transformed into a resort replete with understated luxury. Guests can enjoy morning yoga, evening wine receptions, guided hikes, cooking classes—and, of course, the stunning views.

Cruise San Francisco Bay

The poet Dylan Thomas once wrote, “You wouldn’t think such a place as San Francisco could exist. The wonderful sunlight...the great bridges, the Pacific at your shoes.” Experience all three wonders at once with a boat tour around the bay. The Red and White Fleet is great for a simple voyage, while San Francisco Bay Boat Cruises hosts the area’s only floating wine tasting. Hornblower Cruises, meanwhile, hosts a variety of seated dinners, brunch buffets, and glamorous parties. During spring and summer, take one of the company’s Alive After Five happy-hour cruises, which offer up cocktails and small plates as the ship glides past the bridge, Alcatraz, and other city sights

Explore the Golden Gate Recreational Area

Standing in bustling Union Square, it’s hard to imagine that expansive, untouched public lands are a few short miles away. The Golden Gate Recreational Area protects an astonishing 82,027 acres of land stretching from Silicon Valley to Tomales Bay, and some of its most beautiful spots are right around the Golden Gate. Hike to a hidden beach by way of the 1.7-mile Tennessee Valley Trail, see ruins of the Sutro Baths at Lands End, or get your heart rate up with a hike through the hilly headlands.

Recharge at the Round House Café

The Round House Café makes good on the promise of its name with 360-degree views from the wheel-shaped restaurant’s window walls. The Art Deco building, which opened in 1938, is your very last chance to grab a bite on the city side of the San Francisco Bay. Fill up on the massive hot dogs covered in slaw, California-style salads, or the ever-popular chowder in a bread bowl, which sells out nearly every afternoon.

Ride over the Golden Gate Bridge

Just shy of two miles long, the bridge makes for a thrilling but super-manageable bicycle ride. If you’re coming from the city, Golden Gate Bridge Bike Rentals and Blazing Saddles both offer rentals and tours for every size cyclist, while Sausalito Bike Rentals is your best bet if you’re coming from Marin. Wheel Fun Rentals (which has two locations in Fisherman's Wharf) offers an audio-guided bike tour that uses GPS technology to give you info on your exact location. Whichever way you travel, make sure to stop at Fort Point for the ultimate bridge selfie.   

 

Acquerello vc_ca101_videothumbnail_fiveamazingthings_goldengate_1280x7202_0
Golden Gate Bridge: 5 Amazing Things
San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is an absolute showstopper. We show you how to experience the bridge from all perspectives, including waking to stunning views at the historic and luxurious Cavallo Point.
Acquerello vc_wheretodrinknowinsanfrancisco_supplied_afarmedia_poi0226_pacificcoctail_lc4528_1280x640
Courtesy of Visit California

Where to Drink Now in San Francisco

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
Where to Drink Now in San Francisco
Craft cocktails and master mixologists are all the rage in the City by the Bay. Here are a few places you need to consider

Pacific Cocktail Haven

It’s almost as if Kevin Diedrich is hiding in plain sight. The expert barman used to command the bars at BDK, Jasper’s, and Burritt Room before opening up Pacific Cocktail Haven, his own tiki-inspired bar near Union Square, which serves up reasonably priced cocktails to locals and tourists alike. Add to that the low-key interiors, and you might think he’s out to prove that all that really matters are the drinks. And his drinks really matter. Cocktail connoisseurs slip in to Pacific Cocktail Haven alongside disoriented tourists, ask Diedrich to mix them something special, and head to the quiet back room, away from the glow of neon above the bar. And they know that if they see Diedrich duck out from behind the bar, he’s probably heading to the basement for three different freezers of specialty styles of ice, including spears, shavings, and custom branded Pacific Cocktail Haven rocks. The latter show up in drinks like the Miso Old-Fashioned, a mix of miso-butter-infused Bacardi rum, Pommeau, and bitters. In the know or not, everyone gets the good stuff here. Showy bowls of punch like the Pimm’s Explosion may be crowd-pleasers, but with Pimm’s No. 1, Beefeater, ginger beer, fresh strawberries, cucumber, and mint, what’s not to love?

Bar Agricole

Is Bar Agricole the best bar in the city? It’s certainly in the top five, based on the groundbreaking cocktail program developed by bartender and owner Thad Vogler; the award-winning architecture and interior design by local favorite Aidlin Darling; and a daring menu centered around produce from nearby organic and biodynamic farms. Vogler used to bartend in Tokyo, and his obsession with Japanese precision shows. You’ll see influences of that in the hand-cut ice cubes he uses, and in Agricole’s glassware and aprons (all from Japan). The bar stocks a limited selection of 20 or 30 spirits, almost all small batch, and with a special focus on rum. Come for drinks, come for dinner, or come for brunch: the midday menu highlights include ricotta doughnuts with quince marmalade and a chicory salad with fuyu persimmon and house-made vinegar. Pro tips: In winter, book the private dining room (nicknamed the Grotto) for a seated, though still laid-back, dinner for up to 32 people; for an outdoor event, Bar Agricole’s covered and heated patio is perfect for larger, more casual groups. For lessons in liquor, check out the private spirits tastings that Vogler offers through IfOnly.

The Riddler

With the rise of the craft cocktail, sometimes it can feel as if the bubbles have been left behind, which is what makes the Riddler such an effervescent addition to the San Francisco scene. It’s a wine bar with a laser focus, offering more than 100 champagnes by the bottle and dozens of sparkling wines by the glass. The vibe is posh and playful inside the charming Hayes Valley building, which dates back to the 1800s. The ceilings were gold-leafed by the artist Caroline Lizarragara and the back bar is lined with vintage champagne buckets and glassware, including Zalto Burgundy stems and hand-cut Belarusian crystal coupes. Oh yes, and caviar. The menu is overflowing with it, from a generous scoop atop the signature tater tot waffles to an indulgent serving of Kaluga Hybrid on house-made potato chips with crème fraîche and chives.

True Laurel

If chef David Barzelay’s Michelin-starred restaurant Lazy Bear is the dinner party, True Laurel is the after-party. Barzelay opened this cocktail bar just a few blocks from Lazy Bear, and while it’s touted as a drinking establishment, it’s hard to ignore the stellar food disguised as bar bites. And unlike Lazy Bear, which requires a hard-to-come-by ticket to get in, to score a spot at True Laurel, simply walk through the door. Barzelay teamed up with spirits-whisperer Nicolas Torres to oversee the bar program, and the cocktails go head-to-head with the food. Original, exotic concoctions such as the A-Dilla, which marries aquavit with makrut lime leaf, coconut, passion fruit, pomegranate, and dill, is just as complex and satisfying as the hen-of-the-wood mushrooms with a sour cream–allium dip. And while the entire experience is currently still first come, first served, keep an eye on the bar’s eerily analog website (or better yet, follow it on Barzelay’s preferred medium, Twitter) to find out when the eight-seat cocktail tasting bar, which is sure to be stocked with rare bottles, will start taking reservations.

Sightglass

San Franciscans take their coffee seriously. Very seriously. The authenticity and provenance of beans matter to customers, and as a result, third-wave coffee companies abound here. Sightglass is one of the best independently owned and operated roasters. Brothers Justin and Jerad Morrison helped reinvent and redefine the city’s café scene when they opened their flagship SoMA brick-and-mortar coffee shop in 2011, adding lots of warm wood and matte Carrera marble to a warehouse space. Come for perfect cortados, pour-overs, and kouign-amann pastries, and watch the roasting process in the open space. Buy beans to bring home: Its single-origin offerings from Kenya, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Colombia all stand out. Sightglass also sells an assortment of brew-it-at-home coffee accoutrements, from Japanese wood-handled kettles to chlorine-free filters. Don’t miss the affogato bar on the second level. Pro tip: True coffee geeks should call ahead to see about hour-long cupping classes (think winetasting for coffee). Sightglass also has shops on Divisadero Street, in the SFMOMA, at the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market, and in the Mission District.

San Francisco Proper Hotel

The San Francisco Proper Hotel is the hottest new hotel in town. The reason why? International grande dame of maximalism, designer Kelly Wearstler, revamped a down-and-out tourist hotel deep in the heart of the city, and established the Proper as a magnet for trendsetting visitors and locals. When guests arrive at the 131-room hotel and step inside the flatiron building, they’re treated to Wearstler’s signature pattern-on-pattern aesthetic. In the ground floor lobby, Wearstler sets the mood with salon-style seating areas using richly reupholstered vintage furnishings and Cubism-inspired paintings. Michael Adams, formerly of Central Kitchen, oversees the hotel’s main restaurant, Villon. And while the Proper isn’t the place for those looking for a Zen retreat, it is the place to order a Fifi the Flea cocktail (Tequila Ocho Plata, Ancho Reyes, Ancho Reyes Verde, grapefruit, honey, vanilla, lime, smoked salt) at Charmaine’s, the stylish rooftop bar. Between the fire pits and the bird’s-eye view of Market Street all the way to the bay, it’s no wonder the Proper has become the destination to see and be seen.

Liholiho Yacht Club

If you’ve never tried Spam, the canned cooked meat product, Liholiho Yacht Club is the place to finally take the plunge. Ask your server for the Spam musubi, slices of grilled Spam set atop a ball of sticky rice and wrapped in nori. Chef Ravi Kapur’s dishes are a playful mash-up of fresh California cuisine and the culinary traditions of his native Hawaii. To experience the full range of what the restaurant offers, order the Ohana table tasting menu, which features such favorites as duck liver toast with jalapeño and pickled pineapple alongside continent-hopping dishes like Cornish game hen katsu, with Japanese curry and daikon kimchi. And don’t forget the international language of cocktails—Liholiho’s bar program has made ordering all those fun island-themed concoctions a delicious proposition. One sip of the Pineapple Dance, made with plantation pineapple rum, Cynar, and freshly squeezed pineapple and lemon juices, and you may be inspired to do a little hula in your bar stool.

Tartine Manufactory

In 2002, pastry chef Elisabeth Prueitt and her husband, bread baker Chad Robertson, opened Tartine Bakery in San Francisco’s Mission District. Ever since, crowds of locals and tourists have lined up outside the artisanal bakery for country bread, morning buns, and croque monsieurs. In 2016, the couple expanded by opening Tartine Manufactory—a coffee shop, bakery, restaurant, and bar rolled into one—in a light-filled corner of the massive Heath Ceramics building. The Los Angeles–based design studio Commune collaborated with San Francisco architect Charles Hemminger to build out the 5,000-square-foot space, and the aesthetic is equal parts modern Scandinavian, rustic Japanese, and sunny Californian. All day long, the casual Manufactory turns out ingredient-first dishes: for breakfast, coddled eggs served with trout roe, horseradish, za’atar, and grilled bread; for dinner, California halibut crudo with kiwi, leeks, puffed rice, mint, and cilantro. The wine list includes a mix of local producers plus notable varietals from France, Italy, and Germany. The food presentation is as attractive and innovative as the space, and Prueitt and Robertson see the restaurant as a natural extension of their close collaborations with local farmers, artists, other chefs, and winemakers.

In Partnership with Afar.

Acquerello VC_Questionnaire_AyeshaCurry_Supplied_Ayesha-Blue-Dress-Solo-1-Caroline-Egan-_Coeur-de-La-Photography_1280x640
Caroline Egan/Coeur de La Photography

CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Ayesha Curry

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Ayesha Curry
San Francisco chef and NBA wife Ayesha Curry shares her California favorites

When she’s not courtside at a Golden State Warriors game, cheering on her two-time MVP husband Stephen, Ayesha Curry is probably busy working on her multi-faceted culinary career that includes a new cookbook, The Seasoned Life; a Food Network show, Ayesha’s Homemade; and her upcoming line of cookware, created in nearby Solano County. Below, the lifestyle expert and mother of two dishes out some of her California favorites.

Where do you live? East Bay in San Francisco

Why there? My husband Stephen plays for the Golden State Warriors so the San Francisco Bay Area has been our home for the past eight years. We live in the East Bay and absolutely love it. It’s family-friendly, has great schools, and is in a central location.

Who or what is your greatest California love? Dub Nation! If you’ve ever been to a game at Oracle Arena (also affectionately called the “Roaracle” Arena), you know that Warriors fans are some of the most passionate, loyal fans around. It’s a community I’m so grateful to be a part of.

What is the biggest misperception about Californians? That we’re all bad drivers!

What is the stereotype that most holds true? People view Californians as very eco-conscious, which I definitely think holds true—particularly in the Bay Area.

What is your favorite Golden State splurge? As someone whose passion is food, I feel so fortunate to live in a place with such incredible restaurants and some of the most talented chefs in the world. My favorite splurge is sushi. Some of my go-tos include PABU and Ozumu.

Time for a road trip—where are you going? Time off in my house is difficult to come by with everyone’s busy schedules, but luckily Napa Valley is just a short drive away. It’s one of my favorite places to enjoy some downtime with friends and family.

If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? I’m a firm believer in gathering everyone together for meals. It’s a time to unplug and reconnect, and make memories with the ones you love. It’s a theme I’ve embraced in my restaurant, International Smoke, where every dish is served family-style and is perfect for sharing. My decree would be to dine family-style, whether at home or dining out!

Best California song? E-40 “Choices (Yup)” Warriors Version

How would your California dream day unfold? My dream day would begin with wine tasting in Napa, followed by a picnic lunch at Crissy Field overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. The day would end with dinner prepared by my favorite Bay Area chef, Michael Mina.

Acquerello vc_waltdisneyfamilymuseum_supplied_mickey-mouse-dolls-and-merchandise-c.-1930s-photo-by-jim-smith-c-the-walt-disney-family-museum_1280x640
Jim Smith/©The Walt Disney Family Museum

Walt Disney Family Museum

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
Walt Disney Family Museum
Dive deeper into the life and impact of the man behind the global empire

Walt Disney’s daughter Diane founded The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco’s Presidio to explore the life, career, and times of her father—but it also offers a compelling look at the art of animation and how Disney’s work has shaped pop culture.

Located in a former barracks building at the Army-post-turned-national-park, the 40,000-square-foot museum houses interactive galleries, education classrooms, a Fantasia-themed theater, plus a shop and café.

The museum is primarily focused on the visionary behind the cultural institution. “Guests are consistently impressed with the experience of Walt’s personal story, and as part of the museum experience we allow visitors to embrace the opportunity to learn about him as a man and as an innovator, versus solely as a brand,” says museum spokesperson Victoria Rainone.

Indeed there are 10 galleries devoted to the life and work of Walter Elias Disney, including ones devoted to his boyhood and artistic development in Missouri; his nascent Hollywood studio in the 1930s (and his invention of “storyboarding”); and special projects like his patriotic films during World War II and the nature documentaries he produced in the 1950s.  

The museum also stages long-run exhibits, like shows about the pre-digital artistic process that created Pinocchio, or Disney’s innovative collaboration with Salvador Dali. It also offers classes for visitors (some just two hours, some intensive full days) on animation technique and technology, like how to “animate” sadness by drawing the eyes, mouth, and even head shape. The theater does screenings, such as Winnie the Pooh shorts, full-length films (including live-action Disney classics like The Absent-Minded Professor), or “deep cut” Disney cartoons from the archives.

While the museum seems, in some ways, geared toward grown-up Disney super-fans, art-loving kids will be easily drawn in too. “The Museum’s learning centers provide plenty of hands-on activities for young visitors, as well as various screenings of classic Disney films, with different screenings depending on the week and month,” says Rainone. “The goal the Museum's educational programming is to nurture the next generations of creative talent while inspiring them to embrace their imagination.”

Find the best one-of-a-kind apparel, furniture, and unique gifts from artists and designers at San Francisco’s biannual festival

For California visitors who want to take home a one-of-a-kind piece of the state, look no further than San Francisco’s...

A view of the crowd at West Coast Craft
Courtesy of West Coast Craft
Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea_4
“For works from the 1960s to the 2000s, SFMOMA has one of the most important collections in the world.”
Ruth Berson, deputy museum director, SFMOMA
Acquerello SF_GGB_TS_1280x642_sized
Thomas H. Story/ Sunset Publishing

Golden Gate Bridge

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
Golden Gate Bridge
See one of the world’s most famous landmarks, spanning an elegant bay

With towers soaring 746 feet/227 meters into the sky, its span arcing across the mouth of San Francisco Bay, and all of it painted bright red-orange, the Golden Gate Bridge is, quite simply, amazing.

It’s pretty easy (and free) to walk across the bridge itself, or to explore the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center, which offers a colorful look at the bridge’s history, as well as the original 12-foot stainless-steel “test tower” used in 1933.

You’ll learn, for starters, why a bridge called “Golden Gate” is in fact orange. It’s generally accepted that the mouth of San Francisco Bay—the narrow strait that the bridge spans, was named Chrysopylae (Greek for “Golden Gate”) by early explorer John C. Fremont. (Captain Fremont thought the strait looked like a strait in Istanbul named Chrysoceras, or “Golden Horn.”) So it makes sense that the bridge is named after the expanse of water that it crosses. But what about that crimson color? Call it an unexpected surprise. When the steel for the bridge was first installed in place, it was only covered with red primer. A consulting engineer liked it, suggested the color be kept, and helped develop the bridge’s final paint color.

"The Golden Gate Bridge is, quite simply, amazing."

Technically, that color is “International Orange,” but whatever it is, it’s an eye-grabber, whether you’re driving, walking, or pedaling across the 1.7-mile/2.7-kilometer span. Note that it can be a bit nippy and windy on the span, especially when the fog slips in (especially common in summer), so dress in layers, and bring a hat or flip up a hood to keep your head warm. Bike rental companies abound (two favorites are Blazing Saddles and San Francisco Bicycle Rentals); most bikes come equipped with detailed route maps showing you where to ride from San Francisco across the bridge to idyllic towns, such as Sausalito and Tiburon, in neighboring Marin County. (For extra fun, catch a local ferry to get back to the city.)

There’s a nice gift shop and a café at the south (city) end, and paths let you wind down to historic Fort Point, completed in 1861 as a military outpost to protect the gate before there was a bridge. Look up for a remarkable view of the bridge’s underbelly, a spectacular network of massive girders, enormous columns, and impressive cables.

Acquerello stoopidtall
Richie Trimble's Stoopid Tall Bike
Dreams are never stupid, but as Richie Trimble proved on the streets of San Francisco, sometimes they are Stoopid Tall. Watch him ride his 15-foot bike across the Golden Gate Bridge!
God took the beauty of the Bay of Naples, the Valley of the Nile, the Swiss Alps, the Hudson River Valley, rolled them into one and made San Francisco Bay.
Fiorello La Guardia
A cable car in San Francisco
Tai Power Seeff

Cable Cars

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
Cable Cars
Clang up and down the city’s signature hills

San Francisco’s cable cars, a.k.a. streetcars, aren’t just an entertaining way to sightsee around this up-and-down city; they really function as public transit too. Hanging onto the outside (yes, the outside) of one of these clanging trolleys, chugging through Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, and other city neighborhoods—well, it doesn’t get much more San Francisco than this. Just count how many package- and computer-toting locals climb on and hop off as you ride. In summer, lines can get long at the turnaround at Powell and Market Streets, especially for the Powell-Mason Cable Car line. This can provide a good opportunity to see cars arriving and getting turned around on the massive turntable, but if you want a shorter wait, you can get just as good a ride on the quieter Powell-Hyde Cable Car line, or you can board a car at any of the en-route stops.

For a fascinating look at how the historic cars have crisscrossed the city since 1873, visit the free Cable Car Museum, where you can see three antique cars from the 1870s and gain an understanding of how the cables that power the cars actually work. 

Fares are available as a single-ride ticket ($7), or via 1-, 3-, and 7-day passes. Single-ride (one-way) fares must be paid in advance of boarding at the terminus. Fares may be paid on-board to the conductor at all other stops. You can also purchase fares via the free MuniMobile app; the cable car lines start operating at 6:30 a.m. and close just after midnight, 365 days a year. A downloadable map of the cable car routes is available on the Market Street Railway site.  

Insider tip: Transfers from buses or metro lines are not accepted on the cable cars.

 

 Tadich Grill, San Francisco
Thomas J. Story/ Sunset Publishing

Dining in San Francisco

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
Dining in San Francisco
Taste world flavors with hyper-fresh ingredients

In San Francisco, ingredient-driven menus reign supreme. With some of the nation’s best produce at their fingertips, chefs in the City by the Bay create edible magic, often changing menus nightly to reflect what’s freshest and tastiest that day. Many chefs work closely with local farms and food purveyors to get exactly the ingredients they want. Early-morning trips to one of the city’s year-round farmers markets are part of the routine for these wizards of the kitchen. Special-occasion fine-dining restaurants, many sprinkled with Michelin stars, abound, like the smooth sophistication of triple-starred Quince, Benu, Atelier Crenn, and Saison, and the double-starred Coi, Acquerello, and Lazy Bear.

Or course, Michelin stars are not a prerequisite to having a memorable dining experience. Lively, crowded, and innovative options line the streets of the Mission District, particularly along Valencia Street. At Fisherman’s Wharf, where seafood is king, a bowl of cioppino (an Italian-American “catch-of-the-day” stew made with Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish) is an absolute San Francisco must. Scoma’s has been serving it up on Pier 47 for over half a century. Another long-time seafood favorite is Tadich Grill, near the Embarcadero. And the Union Square area has long been a destination for both high-end eats (Campton Place and Morton’s Steakhouse come to mind) as well as numerous more inexpensive options.

Inexpensive options are easy to find, too: consider the many Asian restaurants in the Richmond neighborhood, where along Clement Street you’ll find outstanding Vietnamese at Pho Hyunh Sang, and Burmese cuisine at Burma Superstar and B Star Bar. In the same neighborhood, there’s Jijime for Korean and Jiangnan Cuisine for Shanghainese. Visit the Mission for their famously cheap and gargantuan burrito joints, or track down food trucks serving up nearly every kind of food imaginable at gatherings sponsored by Off the Grid. San Francisco also has more than its share of excellent places to eat where the view is as good as the food.

For one-stop you’ll-definitely-find-something grazing, walk (slowly) through the Ferry Building Marketplace, where permanent booths sell local delicacies like crusty sourdough (Acme Bread) and artisanal cheese (Cowgirl Creamery), and sit-down restaurants, like Charles Phan’s celebrated Slanted Door, offer amazing food and waterfront views.

If you’re alive, you can’t be bored in San Francisco. If you’re not alive, San Francisco will bring you to life.
William Saroyan
This four-day event embraces San Francisco’s global status by keeping the flavor super-local

Revel in the flavors of the ultimate foodie city as San Francisco’s premier chefs—many of them movers and shakers in the sustainability movement—strut their stuff at the...

Acquerello VC_EatDrinkSF_Supplied_EDSF2015_GrandTasting_GammaNine_1_2827_686x885_0
Courtesy of Eat Drink SF
Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea

San Francisco Bay Loop

subtitle
Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco
Tai Power Seeff

Fisherman’s Wharf

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
Fisherman’s Wharf
Get your fill of seafood, sourdough, sea lions, and souvenirs

One of the most visited neighborhoods in the city, San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf has earned its popularity thanks to one thing more than any other: a wide array of restaurants, right on the water, serving up fresh-from-the-ocean seafood. And yes, there really are fishermen there. Bobbing at the docks are a handful of weathered boats, and they still chug out to catch Dungeness crab, scallops, halibut and other seafood in and around the bay, as they have for over a century.

Want to witness it all happening, with all five senses? Early risers can watch them unload their catch at Pier 47, nicknamed Fish Alley. Or sleep in and just sample the catch: Try fresh crab cooked in steaming cauldrons set up on sidewalks here—cracked crab dipped in melted butter and paired with a fresh loaf of local sourdough is a delicious San Francisco tradition. And if you like buying kitschy souvenirs (who doesn’t need a “can of fog” or a foam crab-claw headdress?) then you have found your mecca in Fisherman’s Wharf.

"Stroll to Pier 39 for more seafood eateries, shops, street performers, and the area’s noisiest residents: a barking and bellowing throng of sea lions."

Other attractions—the San Francisco Dungeon, with its spooky take on San Francisco history, and the antique arcade games at Musée Mécanique are fun diversions too. At the San Francisco branch of Madame Tussaud’s, you can plot your own virtual jailbreak: Its escape-room experience Alcatraz: The Breakout challenges guests to think their way out of the legendary prison. The rest of the popular wax museum features likenesses of movie stars, historic figures, and Bay Area royalty such as Jerry Garcia, Steph Curry, and Mark Zuckerberg. 

Stroll to Pier 39 for more seafood eateries, shops, street performers, and the area’s noisiest residents: a barking and bellowing throng of sea lions who have turned some of Pier 39’s floating docks into a sea lion beach party. Knowledgeable aquarists from Pier 39’s Aquarium of the Bay are on hand 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily (weather permitting) to answer questions about the hefty pinnipeds (bulls can weigh nearly half a ton).

Ferries to Alcatraz and Angel Island State Park are based at Fisherman’s Wharf’s Pier 33 and make a wonderful day trip for families. Kids also love exploring the historic ships and the USS Pampanito, a World War II submarine, all part of the National Maritime Museum (at nearby Hyde Street Pier). If they’ve still got too much energy, have them work it off on a walk east along the beautiful, bay-hugging Embarcadero to The Exploratorium hands-on science center at Pier 15. Finish this perfect day with double scoops at Humphrey Slocombe ice cream at the adjacent Ferry Building Marketplace.

Insider tips: There are several parking lots and garages nearby; most Fisherman’s Wharf businesses open around 9 a.m. and remain open until at least 10 p.m.

 

 

 

Bird's eye view of Union Square, San Francisco

Union Square

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
Union Square
Discover downtown San Francisco’s land of luxury

Union Square, the elegant plaza circled by tall palm trees in roughly the middle of San Francisco’s downtown, is a bustling gathering place that also serves as a hub for California luxury shopping. Walk streets bounding the square to jot down your anything’s-possible wish-list of finds at Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Bulgari (as wells as major retailers such as Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, and Nike). Slip into the sultry Clock Bar, in the Beaux Arts–style Westin St. Francis, to clink martini glasses and compare notes. Anyone longing for a European vibe will feel right at home strolling the narrow, boutique-lined, almost-pedestrian-only Maiden Lane (car-free from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.). It’s just off the square, and is home to Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, as well as cafes that set up little tables right on the street. Just south of the square, on Market Street, you’ll find Westfield San Francisco Centre, the city’s upscale, indoor shopping mall.

Of course, all that shopping can be exhausting. Union Square makes it easy to recharge: the square has plenty of sunny benches for relaxing. Or order an espresso and a flaky pastry at upscale Emporio Rulli, with pleasant outdoor seating under market umbrellas right in the square. World-class restaurants are clustered near the square as well—make a reservation at Akiko’s Sushi Restaurant, Bouche, or the Michelin-starred Campton Place, three of the high-end standouts. If you are on a tighter budget, try Dojima Ann for Japanese comfort food, or have a classic American diner experience at the Pinecrest Diner.

Come on Sundays to include champagne brunch in the lavishly luxurious Garden Court of the Palace Hotel (top spot for local doyennes spoiling their grandchildren), which is just one of many destination-in-themselves hotels in the area. During the holidays, Union Square transforms into a wintry, family-filled charmer, with an ice-skating rink and little ones staring up at an enormous Christmas tree—and glittering shop windows all around.

Insider tip: If traveling to Union Square by car, plan your tip with the help of this parking and street map of the area.

 

My San Francisco on her seven hills is smiling, beside an opalescent sunset sea.
George Caldwell
The Yoda statue that watches over San Francisco's Presidio
Tai Power Seeff

The Presidio

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
The Presidio
Find rich history, great food, and Yoda in this expansive San Francisco park

Wrapping around the north end of San Francisco, the Presidio, a 14,491-acre park that’s part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is an outstanding destination for families, adventure seekers, history buffs, and anyone else who likes to relax on the edge of one of the most beautiful bays in the world. First, there are the beaches (and how many major cities have several beaches?).

Southwest of the Golden Gate Bridge, there’s Baker Beach, with a wild feel and amazing views. Be warned, though: It’s clothing optional, particularly on its north end. Crissy Field, the sandy stretch on the Presidio’s northeast corner, attracts families, water-loving dogs (they’re okay off-leash here), and kite-boarders and wind-surfers. Golfers can hit the links at one of the oldest courses on the West Coast, the Presidio Golf Course. Splurge on a stay at one of the two historic hotels onsite, the Inn at the Presidio, or the Lodge at the Presidio. And just inland from Crissy Field is the grandiose Palace of Fine Arts, originally built for the 1915 Pan-Pacific Expo, now home to an intimate theater.

Hiking and mountain-biking trails loop through the heavily wooded park, and are a wonderful way to see evidence of the Presidio’s past life: From 1846, before California was even a state, until 1994, it was an active U.S. Army base. Today, the more than 790 buildings that once housed personnel and fulfilled other needs of the Army serve as excellent examples of military architecture through the years. Thanks to preservation efforts, many of them have been handsomely converted into open-to-the-public destinations, including justly popular restaurants such as Sessions at the Presidio, Presidio Social Club, and The Commissary. Also taking up residence is the Walt Disney Family Museum, which focuses on the personal history and brilliance of the man behind the mouse. It’s definitely not Disneyland, in case the kids get overly excited, but more for grownups.

Another notable site: the Letterman Digital Arts Center, which is part of the Lucasfilm empire. Though the buildings are generally closed to the public, you can give your regards to the Yoda statue, in the campus’s main courtyard.

 

Building fronts in San Francisco's Chinatown
Mike D/Flickr

Chinatown

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
Chinatown
A vibrant Asian hub in the middle of the city

Like a trip to China without the 12-hour flight, San Francisco’s Chinatown makes you feel like a time traveler: in a blink you go from the suit-and-tie orderliness of the city’s financial district to the largest Chinatown outside of Asia (and the oldest in the U.S.), with crowded sidewalks filled with Cantonese and Mandarin chatter, overflowing food stalls, dim sum restaurants, and mysterious-looking shops. It’s a trip in every sense of the word, and probably as close as you can get to Asia without a passport.

While it’s fine to stick to Chinatown’s main artery of Grant Street, a shopping thoroughfare lined with markets and trinket and jade shops (the latter especially clustered around the Chinatown Gateway at the neighborhood’s southern end), strike out onto quieter streets to find even more surprising discoveries. Here are eight worthwhile destinations and activities; for an even more in-depth experience, consider joining a guided walking tour, such as All About Chinatown walking tours or food-centric Wok Wiz.

 

Chinese New Year Festival & Parade

Time your trip to coincide with Lunar New Year (typically in late January or February, to match the lunar calendar) for a real treat: the Chinese New Year Festival & Parade. First started in 1860 to commemorate the homeland of the city’s booming population of Chinese immigrants (drawn to San Francisco during the Gold Rush), the event—now the largest Chinese New Year celebration outside Asia—includes fireworks, floats, lion dancers, drummers, and the crowning of Miss Chinatown.

Chinese Historical Society of America

Inside the landmark Chinatown YWCA building, designed by architect Julia Morgan in 1932, the museum does a knockout job with exhibits and programs related to Chinese culture and Chinatown history. You can find out about various Chinatown events here as well. Admission is free.

Tin How Temple

Go back in time in the century-old Buddhist temple, housed in a four-level apartment building, where locals pray, burn incense, and get their fortunes read. A donation is requested.

Hop Hing Ginseng Company

Feeling lethargic? Let the helpful proprietors of this long-respected Chinese apothecary recommend revitalizing teas and tonics prepared with dry herbs, or buy their famous ginseng and other herbs by the pound.

R & G Lounge

Chinatown’s restaurants are one of the district’s main attractions; this one is a long-time favorite beloved for its high-quality signature Cantonese dishes. Notable favorites include tender glazed spare ribs, and delicate salt-and-pepper Dungeness crab.

Vital Tea Leaf

Sample the many brews served at this tea bar and shop, which has three locations. It’s filled with an extraordinary variety of teas, with intriguing blends such as baby chrysanthemum and ginger pine, as well as more traditional green, white, and oolong teas.

Ming Lee Trading

This old-timey grocery and de facto candy and snack emporium seems to carry everything from litchi gummies and green-tea Kit Kats to dried and salted fruits, noodles, and spices.

Golden Gate Bakery

If you’re in the market for fresh dan tat, the traditional Chinese egg-custard tart with a flaky, buttery crust, then make a beeline to this amazing bakery. Don’t be daunted by lines; the treats are worth the wait.

The Wok Shop

The best thing about a visit here is witnessing owner Tane Chan in action as she whirls from one customer to the next, chatting, laughing, and helping to select the best wok for each shopper.

Insider tips: Most of Chinatown’s shops open around 10 or 11 a.m. and close around sundown. Visit sfparkingguide.com for information about where to park in Chinatown.

 

The Castro in San Francisco
David A Lee

LGBTQ Travel in San Francisco

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
LGBTQ Travel in San Francisco
Experience a Rainbow of Events

The City by the Bay, known for its liberal, alternative lifestyles, is one of the best-known areas in the world for LGBTQ. In the Castro, a rainbow flag flaps in the wind above colorfully painted crosswalks, making one big statement: San Francisco welcomes the LGBTQ community with open arms. There are more than 60 gay bars and clubs, and although the Castro serves as the epicenter of LGBTQ culture and nightlife, gay-friendly businesses are sprinkled citywide—frankly, it’s the norm here. Learn more about the remarkable role the city played and is playing in the gay movement at the GLBT History Museum, or on a guided “Cruisin’ the Castro” historical walking tour. 

Every June is Pride Month, which culminates on the last weekend when up to a million visitors flock to the city for the annual (and outrageous) San Francisco Pride celebration. Taking place in front of City Hall at Civic Center Plaza—a location steeped in LGBTQ history– the festivities include live music and comedy on a main stage, plus cabaret, a Country-Western Dance Corral, a Leather Alleycarnival, and, pretty much everywhere you look, elaborately costumed performers. Keep your eyes open for celebrities—the celebration has become a real see-and-be-seen opportunity. The main event, of course, is Sunday’s parade, which begins at Market and Beale streets and ends near the Civic Center. If you’re in town during Pride Month, also check out a screening or one of the many events hosted by the Frameline LGBT film festival.

Attending the world’s largest LGBTQ gathering can present a few challenges; check out some tips on how to get the most of it. If you are new to the city’s gay scene, BadlandsLookout, and Twin Peaks Tavern are legendary haunts, and The Parker Guest House, the Hotel WhitcombJoie de Vivre Hotels, and the W are just a few of the city’s gay-friendly hotels. 

A note to parents: There are plenty of pride events that are family- and kid-friendly going on in San Francisco during Pride Month. Directly opposite the Asian Art Museum right around the corner for them Civic Center, the annual Family Garden event offers the perfect venue for kids to celebrate diversity with arts, crafts, face-painting, and more; kids are also encouraged to participate for free in the San Francisco Frontrunners Pride Run. You can also check the events calendar at Habitot.org and the Pride with Our Families page at ourfamily.org.

Insider tip: When planning a visit to San Francisco during Gay Pride Month, be sure to book well in advance, as accommodations fill up quickly.

 

Golden Gate Park in San Francisco
Tai Power Seeff

Golden Gate Park

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
Golden Gate Park
Spend a day or more in the city’s urban gem

Gardens, glades, quiet lakes—Golden Gate Park is the emerald heart of San Francisco, a classic city park where everyone, from first-time visitors to go-every-weekend locals, finds something amazing to see or do. The park’s cultural hub is in its northeast corner, surrounding a broad concourse featuring fountains and a band shell. On the north side is the de Young Museum, showcasing a world-class collection of classic art from around the world. Take the elevator to the top of the museum’s eye-catching, asymmetric tower (admission to the tower is free) for a spectacular view of the whole park, as well as the city, bay, and Pacific Ocean.

Opposite the de Young is the equally impressive California Academy of Sciences, home to a planetarium, aquarium, living four-story rainforest, and natural history museum under an undulating living roof. It’s a quick stroll to the Japanese Tea Garden, always lovely but especially breathtaking in spring when cherry trees and azaleas bloom. Other treasures abound, easily discovered by bike (rentals are available along Stanyan and Haight Streets on the east side of the park; be sure to get a lock too). Stroll among the colorful plantings fronting the giant glasshouse that’s home to the Conservatory of Flowers, explore the botanic gardens (great for birds as well as plants), and look for the surprising herd of American bison in the park’s northwest end.

If you’re not into cycling or strolling, there’s a free shuttle on weekends and major holidays, with stops throughout the park; if you are visiting by car, there are several areas where parking is available. However you travel, you’ll see locals everywhere—playing tennis, picnicking, jogging, rowing across little Stow Lake, and horseback riding on broad paths. San Franciscans seriously love their park.

Insider tip: Going to the park with a particular activity in mind? The park’s collection of maps can show you where ot picnic, see flowers, or play with your dog.

 

A fire pit at Ghirardelli Square
Tai Power Seeff

Ghirardelli Square

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
Ghirardelli Square
A former chocolate factory serves up fun

The stately brick buildings in San Francisco’s impressive 1895 Ghirardelli Square, the original site of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory (previously a woolen mill), are now the home of a stylish collection of shops and restaurants, plus the luxe Fairmont Heritage Place hotel. One of the most pleasant places to stroll and shop in the city, it also has the distinction of being the first successful adaptive reuse project of its kind in the country.

Wind through passageways and across plazas to visit an assortment of boutiques and gift shops, or relax with bay views from a selection of restaurants such as the Cheese School of San Francisco, a café, cheese shop, and cheese school; The Pub BBQ, McCormick & Kuleto’s Seafood & Steaks, and Pico Latin Street Food. Before you go, check out the square’s calendar of upcoming events.

If you have kids with you, you probably have one destination in mind more than any other: the original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop. The line can be out the door but don’t worry—it moves fast. Soon you’ll be facing the staggering menu of sundae choices: Will it be the family-size “Earthquake”? (Eight scoops, eight toppings, bananas, whipped cream, almonds, chocolate chips, and cherries.) Or maybe have a “Gold Rush” (vanilla ice cream with hot fudge and peanut butter throughout). Afterward, get in a round of mini golf at Subpar Miniature Golf, where the holes all feature miniature San Francisco landmarks.

The square’s business hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day; there is a parking garage on Larkin St. between North Point and Beach St.

The Geary Theater, San Francisco
Tai Power Seeff

San Francisco Nightlife

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
San Francisco Nightlife
Reasons Not to Sleep in the City by the Bay

In San Francisco, there are few quiet nights, and though bars and clubs may call it quits at 2 a.m., the city makes sure you stay busy until closing time. For those seeking more refined forms of entertainment, San Francisco boasts an outstanding symphony, classic and contemporary ballet, and numerous opera companies. There’s also a thriving theater community, most notably the American Conservatory Theater, which presents classic and new works at The Geary Theater, near Union Square. Broadway road shows always stop in San Francisco; check the schedule for SHN, which presents most works at the impressive Orpheum Theatre, on Market Street. City Arts & Lectures offers intriguing conversations with celebrities, stars, and global movers and shakers. Attend an open-to-the-public gallery show, or a special museum night.

For rowdier fun, there are rock concerts at the Great American Music Hall and the legendary Fillmore, indie bands, R&B and hip-hop at smaller venues like the Bottom of the Hill, Amnesia Beer & Music Hall, and Slim’s, and open mic nights at Hotel Utah Saloon. The dance club scene thrives with such favorites as DNA Lounge, the Cat Club, and Raven Bar. And nightlife wouldn’t be complete without a bit of hopping around the city’s bevy of bars, from upscale establishments with craft cocktails (like Bourbon & Branch and The Alembic) to longstanding neighborhood watering holes (The 500 Club, Zam Zam, Vesuvio) where you can go elbow to elbow with the locals. San Francisco is also home to some of the most renowned tiki bars in the state; get the full rum-soaked south-seas experience at the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar, Smuggler’s Cove, and Pagan Idol.

Insider tip: The Bay Area is one of the state’s hot spots for craft beer; be sure to keep an eye out for local brews on tap.

 

A streetcar in San Francisco
Tai Power Seeff

Getting Around San Francisco

Acquerello vca_maps_sfbayarea
Getting Around San Francisco
Boats, bikes, streetcars, and more

There’s no lack of transportation options in San Francisco, but it’s important to plan ahead and pick the best route for your destination. Downtown, North Beach, and Fisherman’s Wharf are easily walkable. The city’s local MUNI buses, trolleys, and streetcars travel citywide, and are an economical and safe way to get around—just know you may need to wait a bit at your stop.

Here’s a look at all the ways to get around San Francisco:

 

Underground BART System

The underground BART metro system is a great way to travel within and beyond San Francisco, with routes  south to San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and east to Oakland, Berkeley, Pleasanton, and other communities. 

Bus System

San Francisco’s MUNI bus system is extensive and economical. Tip: If you plan to use public transportation, consider getting a CityPASS; it allows three days of unlimited Muni bus and cable car rides, plus admission to the California Academy of Sciences, a Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure, Aquarium of the Bay, and either SFMoMA or The Exploratorium

Cable Cars

Clanging cable cars are always fun, but have a fairly limited system—best if you want to travel between the waterfront and Union Square. A downloadable map of the cable car routes is available on the Market Street Railway site. Fares are payable per trip, or via a 1-, 3-, or 7-day pass, or a CityPASS (see above).

Streetcars

The “F Market and Wharves” historic streetcar, which runs along the Embarcadero, is a popular tourist route, with stops for Fisherman’s Wharf (at Embarcadero and Stockton), the Ferry Building (at Market and 4th Street), and for Oracle Park (home of the Major League’s Giants baseball team) at Don Chee Way and Steuart Street. A downloadable map of the F-line and E-line streetcar routes is available on the Market Street Railway site.

Bike Share

For do-it-yourself exploring, try one of the innovative and inexpensive bike systems available like Ford GoBike. Sign up for a low-cost 24-hour or 3-day membership, or a single ride. Then use your Clipper Card or the Ford GoBike mobile app to unlock a bike at the nearest station (scattered all over the Bay area, from San Francisco to East Bay to San Jose), and return it to any station. Healthy, inexpensive, car-free—not bad.

Taxis and Rideshares

Taxis are concentrated downtown and of course rideshares are available everywhere; while they can often be the fastest way to get around, fares can quickly add up.

Train

Caltrain connects San Francisco with San Jose and points in between, and heads as far south as Gilroy.

Ferry

To travel north to Marin County, hop aboard a Golden Gate Transit ferry to ride to Sausalito, or a Blue and Gold Fleet ferry to Tiburon.

Guided Tours

Guided tours are another fun way to explore without having to drive. Some tours use traditional vans or buses, while others employ more unusual modes of transport. Climb aboard a vintage fire engine to explore the city with San Francisco Fire Engine Tours, and even cross the Golden Gate Bridge. You will definitely notice the stares and smiles.

 

Insider tips: A reloadable Clipper card, available at transit ticket offices and many Whole Foods Market and Walgreens stores, is a convenient way to pay your fares on all major Bay Area transit systems. You can find a searchable map of the various cable car, metro, and bus lines on the San Francisco Mass Transit Association (SFMTA) site.