The Fairmont San Francisco
Historic Cable Cars
Pier 39, San Francisco
Scoma's Restaurant, San Francisco
Victorian Home Walk, San Francisco
Who doesn't love a road trip? Toss in a few good friends and you have a recipe for a great time.
Only in San Francisco
Discount packages and passes, links to everything you could want to know in San Francisco...this is the official Visitors Bureau.
WHERE TO STAY
The Orchard Garden Hotel
$ / $
Room rate plus parking
The Orchard Garden's ideal location allows you to stroll through Chinatown, which is just around the corner from the hotel's entrance. You may jump the historic cable cars for shopping at Union Square, Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont, dinner on the wharf, or any other myriad of options in San Francisco.
Special touches like a European buffet breakfast (including rich coffee, croissants, ham, cheese, fresh fruit and pastries) and complimentary Town Car service to take you to the Financial District weekday mornings are included. For a real pajama party, opt for connecting rooms...but just try to stay awake once your body hits the Egyptian cotton linens and feather-down pillows. Aveda bath products, thick cotton robes, and evening turndown service are the amenities every woman needs to rejuvenate. And whether you want to stay in touch with the office or email the kids at night, WI-FI is included in the room.
Opened in November 2006, what really sets this hotel apart from others, however, is their commitment to being San Francisco's 'greenest' hotel. If allergies are a problem for you, you'll appreciate that the hotel is 100% tobacco free and only chemical-free cleaning products are used. (Read more about their 'green' status on the website.)
WHERE TO EAT - UNION SQUARE
Fairmont Hotel's Laurel Court - Afternoon Tea
Gilded and elegant is the setting for this grown-up version of childhood memories spent sipping 'tea' with dolls and teddy bears. Traditional tea sandwiches, scones with Devonshire Cream and lemon curd, pastries and yes, champagne. Add Beluga Caviar served with chopped egg, capers, creme fraiche, and toast points for delicious indulgence.
Some may remember this grande dame as the 'star' of the 1980's TV series "Hotel," starring James Brolin and Connie Sellecca. Fully restored to her turn-of-the-century grandeur, the Fairmont San Francisco epitomizes graceful living.
*2009 Update: This establishment has closed*
Small plates, big plates...you decide. After gathering a following for their small plate portions, they've added entree-sized menu courses. Chefs Louis Maldonado and Seth Bowden prepare hearty selections such as beef and lamb, or lighter choices of sashimi, ravioli and snapper--dressed with frothy sauces and fresh herb purees. But don't be tempted to pass on the house french fries, served with zaatar and harissa aiolis, or you'll be missing a huge treat!
As with the food, the upscale (yet casual) atmosphere does not disappoint. Ask to be seated near the kitchen for the best seat in the house: an opportunity to watch the chefs design their irresistible edible art.
WHERE TO EAT - WHARF
A trip to San Francisco without dinner on the Wharf is like...well, it's just wrong! Scoma's celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2005, as well as claimed the award "best clam chowder in the country" from Newsweek Magazine. (You can read about all of their other awards on their website.) But most importantly, it's a local's favorite; just ask a cab driver.
Of course, this is the place to go for fresh seafood, as Scoma's has its own fishermen. But if you have a meat eater (or vegetarian) in the bunch, he will find entrees such as Bolognese or Vegetable Risotto and Broiled Aged Prime Filet Mignon. Just try to read the menu without salivating!
It's a bustling atmosphere, even mid-week when most restaurants on the wharf are near empty. Portions are large, so ask your seasoned waiter (many have been with Scoma's for more than a decade) for his recommendation.
To find Scoma's, you'll have to be a bit tenacious. Find Joe's Crab Shack on Jefferson Street, then look toward the water. It's located on Pier 47.
WHAT TO DO
Victorian Home Walk
When I inquired where I might find San Francisco's Painted Ladies, I drew some pretty odd responses. Isn't that how everyone refers to San Francisco's old Victorian homes? These tour guides knew exactly what I was inquiring about and, for a reasonable fee, will provide you with a guided tour of Pacific Heights' colorful row houses and famous mansions. You'll even have an opportunity to tour inside a period "Queen Anne" Victorian. It's an easy walk and a great opportunity to stretch your legs!
Shop Union Square
You'll find all of your favorites here including Bloomingdales, Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Saks. Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Bahama, and Williams-Sonoma are in the same neighborhood as are The Gap and The Levi's Store. You'll also find the Cheesecake Factory set among bistros, grills and cafes. If you are on a budget and in a hurry, head to the lower level of Macy's Cellar where you'll find a grand food court including Wolfgang Puck Express and Boudin. Bonus: It's just a short walk from The Orchard Garden Hotel.
Take in a Play
When traveling to the San Francisco Bay Area, be sure to check with Terry at Golden Gate Group Tickets for discount tickets to the best in local theatre, such as Menopause The Musical, or the hilarious comedy-improv show, How We First Met, where someone in the audience becomes the star. 415-668-0525
Tour the City
Without the kids in tow, this is your chance to sign up for a tour of Chinatown or a walking and nibbling tour of San Francisco's neighborhoods. Or, you may just want to take some time to hit the highlights of the City that the kids wouldn't necessarily enjoy such as The Conservatory of Flowers at Golden Gate Park.
Combine this Trip with a Visit to the Napa Valley
Click on the link above for our suggestions on what to see in the Napa Valley.
Room Rate Key
Rooms Begin At / Room Described
$ - under $199
$$ - $200 - 299
$$$ - $300 - 399
$$$$ - $400 - 499
$$$$$ - $500 and up