There’s more to bay area than piers and painted ladies
By Anastasia Hendrix
There’s an undeniably cool vibe throughout the Bay Area these days — from the startups in Silicon Valley to the natural aesthetic grandeur of the Marin Headlands, having a wonderful time is virtually guaranteed whether you go for a weekend jaunt or an extended holiday.
At the heart of it all is the place where countless hearts have been left over the years, the city of San Francisco. The best part about visiting The City (as it’s called among locals) in July and August is that those are famously chilly months, providing a welcome respite for visitors from warmer climes.
It can be tempting to stick to tourist attractions such as Alcatraz and Pier 39, but venturing into less-frequented areas will bring many rewards, even if you have just a few hours. Here’s a look at some of the locals’ favorite recommendations.
WHERE TO STAY
Taj Campton Place: Fashion lovers adore this jewel-box hotel for its elegantly appointed rooms and proximity to the city’s most luxurious boutiques, including Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Hermès. 340 Stockton St. tajcamptonplace.com
Four Seasons: It’s no wonder that this Market Street marvel has received the highest Forbes Travel Guide rating for the last 15 years. Highlights include expert concierge services and MKT Restaurant and Bar, the place to see and be seen. 217 Stevenson St. fourseasons.com
Inn at the Presidio: This cozy spot, tucked inside a National Historic Landmark at the Presidio, has just 22 rooms. Most have fireplaces; all share a distinctive, retro charm. The surrounding 300-acre pine and cypress forest makes it feel as if you’re a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city. 42 Moraga Ave. innatthepresidio.com
WHERE TO EAT
Ferry Building Marketplace: Arguably one of the city’s most famous landmarks, this transportation hub has been transformed into an upscale arcade offering artisanal foods and an exceptional Farmer’s Market on Saturdays (and Tuesdays). One Ferry Building. ferrybuildingmarketplace.com
State Bird Provisions: The current darling of the epicurean set, the menu at this chic hot spot changes often. Dishes are served dim sum style and many feature quail — the “state bird” of California. 1529 Fillmore St.; statebirdsf.com
Benu: Chef Corey Lee, formerly of The French Laundry, and his equally accomplished team consistently serve an outstanding tasting menu described by the New York Times as “worth a plane ride” to experience – such as fried river eel, with lily bulb and pepper leaf. 22 Hawthorne St. benusf.com
La Taqueria: Perhaps the best known of the many taquerias in the Mission District famous for its mission-style burritos — overstuffed with meat, beans, guacamole and salsa. Be sure to check out the incredible array of homemade hot sauces, too. 2889 Mission St.
WHAT TO DO
Shopping: Union Square has an impressive roster of the world’s top retailers, but Hayes Street offers independent clothing boutiques and specialty shops like True Sake (which carries more than 90 varieties of the drink and was the first dedicated sake shop outside of Japan) alongside eateries and coffeehouses. Hayes Street between Franklin and Laguna; hayesvalleyshop.com
Golden Gate Park: Rent a paddleboat at the Stow Lake boathouse or rent a two- or four-person surrey and explore the many treasures of this urban park, which is home to de Young Museum, California Academy of Sciences, the Conservatory of Flowers and the Japanese Tea Garden. goldengatepark.com
The Presidio: The former U.S. Army post turned national park site is more than just a beautiful setting for photos and bicycle rides. The Disney Family Museum is a must-see for animation aficionados and Star Wars fans will enjoy seeing the iconic Yoda fountain at the Letterman Digital Arts Center. Converted biplane hangars have become homes for a trampoline park, a climbing wall and batting cages. For those looking for relaxation, the zen SenSpa is a haven of tranquility. presidio.gov
SAN FRANCISCO MUSEUM OF MODERN ART: Reopened in 2016 after a three-year expansion, the building (renowned architecture firm Snøhetta) is as noteworthy as the featured exhibitions. Public art fills the surrounding grounds, and admission 18 and under is free. The exhibition “Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed,” will be featured through Oct. 9, and will then travel to The Met Breuer and the Munch Museum in Oslo. 151 Third St.; sfmoma.org
CITY HALL: With four floors of white marble interiors, gilt exterior detailing, this building is a testament to form and function. Many movies have been shot here, including “Dirty Harry” and “Indiana Jones.” Tours are available but you can also stroll through on your own during business hours. 1 Dr. Carlton B Goodlett Place. sfgov.org
GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE: No visit is truly complete without a stop at this vermillion, seven-mile-long suspension bridge, declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The Bay Bridge is also worth seeking out at night to view the LED light installation, which is visible on the western span’s vertical cables, with randomized sequences. goldengatebridge.com