Two international airports serve the area, offering a great choice of airlines and competitive flight prices to San Francisco (SFO) and Oakland (Oak) for a weekend getaway or layover en route to another destination. Virgin America is the hot ticket that has brought luxury back into the experience of flying.
The Joie de Vivre hotel group has an impressive line of boutique hotels starting at an eye-opening price of $89 – a rate rarely found in major cities – particularly when it feels as if you’ve arrived at your own chic pied-à-terre.
A late afternoon arrival is perfect timing to catch the sunset and rising moon on the promenade and patios facing the water at the San Francisco Ferry Building. Originally the intersection and transportation hub of Maritime interests, the rich architecture of the Ferry Building Marketplace is now the center of some of the finest food purveyors in the city.
Blue Bottle Coffee is ideal for an espresso or organic micro roasted coffee. Visit Miette for pastries that send you straight to the Right Bank in Paris. Mariposa Baking Company is a fantastic gluten-free alternative.
San Francisco is legendary for its literary roots. The Book Passage is an independent bookstore in the Ferry Building that honors renowned authors famously associated with the city a la Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg – as well as cutting-edge writers of the present. Monthly literary salons, seminars, and three summer writing conferences cultivate your visit to this bookstore where you will always experience the fabulous gestalt of great new finds.
Before dinner, travel the wine regions of the world while wine tasting at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant. Discover the unexpected in this intricately curated list of wines. The option of tasting 2oz. pours allows you to explore a remarkable spectrum of flavors and styles of wine. Appetizers include regional artisan cheeses and the best Coppa this side of Italy.
Dining is an art form in San Francisco. The Slanted Door is an innovative Asian-fusion restaurant just a few doors away, with a stupendous view of the water and the vibrant lights dotting the Oakland Bay Bridge. Prepare yourself for an experience that is so outstanding, you’ll feel like you’re having a culinary hallucination.
Can you even visualize Organic Chicken Claypot with caramel sauce, Thai chili, and fresh ginger? Or Wood Oven Roasted Day Boat Red Snapper with jicama-blood orange slaw, and cucumber-lime dipping sauce?!
The sommeliers’ are spot on in their wine recommendations. It’s as if they have the clairvoyant ability to discern everything you love in a wine. They combine that with the acumen to pair each course with precision for a perfect outcome. Book ahead, because the word is out that this is a mind-bending and palate-enlightening exploration for the intrepid.
Awaken in the morning and have breakfast at the Ferry Building Farmers Market. It’s world known, and locally worshipped. You’re likely to be mingling next to some of San Francisco’s most famous chefs who shop here to customize their seasonal menus. Graze through gracious samples of artisan cheeses, preserves, and decadent specialties like Capay Canyon Ranch Butter Toffee Almonds that taste like a bite-size version of sticky toffee pudding.
After that, catch a leisurely ferry ride over the Sausalito. You’ll get the vantage point of a 360° view of the S.F. Bay area – Angel Island, Berkeley, Golden Gate Bridge, and yes – Alcatraz Island.
Alcatraz is the infamous home of Al Capone and other notorious gangsters who received “housing assignments” at this maximum-security federal penitentiary. Tours are available allowing you to become immersed in the rich history of the island that dates back to the Civil War, and to one of the most influential protests to ensure the rights of Native American Indians.
At first glance, Sausalito can have a kind of tchotchke vibe, but dig deeper, and there’s much more to be found. Antiques and artists are on the back streets at the bases of the hills. A walk north along Bridgeway leads you to the Bay Model Visitor Center with hands-on exhibits to observe and learn about tidal actions, currents, and ecology. The 3-D hydraulic model of the San Francisco Bay and Delta areas is impressive.
Live like a local while reclining under the pergola at Bar Bocce. Give a game your best shot while sipping excellent wines by the glass, and gazing at the sailboats moving by at brisk and languid paces. All of the menu items are unique and impressive. Salt Cod Fritters with Very Zesty Citrus Aioli and a salad of Dungeness Crab, Sunchoke, Avocado, Bacon & Blood Orange are a great start.
SF Weekly and SF Gate are fantastic online sources to survey the latest entertainment and dining options for the evenings, and days for that matter. The music scene in the city is diverse, theatre is often cutting-edge, and unique special events are happening every weekend.
Sunday is a great day to slow the pace before you head out of town, and absorb some more of the culture that represents part of the pulse of the city.
North Beach is just a 20-minute walk from most of the major hotels. Classically known for its Italian influence, the blocks in the neighborhood are punctuated with espresso bars.
City Lights is equally ubiquitous as a legendary bookstore and symbiotic literary home of great thinkers and writers from virtually every discipline. Their common bond is a reputation for turning a discerning eye on life. It’s also considered the epicenter of the anti-authoritarian Beatnik movement of the 1960s.
The elegant Asian Art Museum and the SF Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) are both another easy 20-minute walk, this time in the direction of Union Square. The museum galleries at SFMOMA have expansive high ceilings and space that accentuate the modern art and fascinating rotating exhibits. Caffè Museo elevates the stature of museum dining with a great menu.
If you haven’t had a chance to catch a ride on a streetcar yet, the intersection of Powell and Market just below Union Square is one of the starting points. The Powell line provides interesting and panoramic views, some of which are archetypes from Hollywood movies like The Rear Window, Bullitt, and MILK.
Step off at the other end of the line and you’ll find yourself at Fisherman’s Wharf, ready to linger over a ubiquitous bowl of San Francisco clam chowder, sourdough bread, and locally brewed Anchor Steam beer.
48hrs in San Francisco. Every hour savored. It’s only a matter of time before you’ll be planning your next trip back.