While I’ve been lucky enough to explore cities all over the world, my heart is always in San Francisco. With it’s stunning scenery including the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, story-book Victorian homes, cable cars, vibrant parks, hip neighborhoods, world-class dining, independent boutiques, impressive museums and innovative industries attracting people from all over the world - the City by the Bay checks all the boxes for a dream destination. It’s the friendliest little big city with an eclectic mix of architecture, walkable neighborhoods (the steep hills are great for your glutes), and it’s easy to navigate whether on foot, public transportation, Uber or Lyft. So grab your layers - unpredictable weather varies from sunshine to a blanket of “Karl the Fog” - lace-up your kicks, and go experience San Francisco’s spirit...
Until recently, San Francisco’s hotel scene was surprisingly lackluster for a city with it’s global appeal. But today, landmark and luxe hotels have been refreshed, and contemporary, swank, boutique places like the Proper Hotel, are hot on the scene. Below are a mix of both.
Cavallo Point 601 Murray Cir, Sausalito. This is the spot to enjoy the gorgeous views on the other side of the Golden Gate bridge. It's lovely to sit on the cafe porch and enjoy a nice meal following a spa service.
Hotel Drisco 2901 Pacific Ave. This elegant 1903 Edwardian boutique hotel in the heart of the Pacific Heights neighborhood is a charming spot to enjoy the quintessential San Francisco experience.
Hotel Vitale 8 Mission St. You and your pet are welcome to this hipster boutique hotel with prime views of the Embarcadero Waterfront and across the street from the famous, (and one of my faves), Ferry Building.
Huntington Hotel 1075 California St, Nob Hill. Part of San Francisco’s historic “big four” hotels, this classic hotel has been a long time favorite in the city. Beautiful views, nice spa, and a lovely dining room that makes you feel like you’ve transported back in time.
Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel 999 California St. This landmark hotel is part of San Francisco’s “big four” hotel group located at the very top of Nob Hill. It’s famous bar, Top of the Mark, serving locals and celebs since 1939, boasts stunning panoramic views of the city and the Bay from the 19th floor.
Proper Hotel San Francisco 45 McAllister St. This is a newer addition to San Francisco located near downtown and known for their posh decor and rooftop bar. With deep colors and rich textures, designer Kelly Wearstler takes a warm, romantic approach to the design of this 131-room Beaux-Arts hotel that is credited with adding new energy to the city’s Mid-Market area.
The Palace Hotel 2 New Montgomery St. A beautiful hotel in the heart of the financial district and Market street, this is the place to stay to be close to all the action. Be sure not to miss holiday happy hour in the lobby - this grand space is all decked-out in sparkling splendor.
The Ritz Carlton 600 Stockton St. Classic luxury hotel with San Francisco charm located in prestigious Nob Hill. Indulge in personal wellness at the new Spa L’OCCITANE by the Bay. Return your skin to its youthful glow (yes please!) with the Immortelle Divine Secret anti-aging facial.
Eat & Drink:
While this seven square mile city might be small, it packs a punch with a variety of innovative cuisine and incredibly talented chefs. SF has been a foodie’s paradise for decades, and has set many of the country’s food trends. I have enjoyed so many amazing dining experiences here, it's hard to compile into one short list. It seems like something new is opening all the time! I recommend getting reservations when you can but be prepared to wait at the bar for a table. The attire at most restaurants here is a bit on the casual side and (as always) I recommend ordering at least one thing that sounds unique.
As Quoted 3613 Sacramento St, Presidio Heights- Hip, minimalist eatery serving organic American fare with dairy-, gluten-, nut- & soy-free options. Great for lunch or a coffee, I love their tumeric ginger latte and the Chinese chicken salad.
Cala 149 Fell St. A few blocks away from the Hayes Valley theater district, this is a great place to grab dinner before a show. Be sure to try the trout tostadas, and the baked sweet potato.
Cotogna 490 Pacific Ave. Located in San Francisco’s historic Jackson square, Cotogna is the place to go for rustic Italian with a daily changing menu.
Dandelion 740 Valencia St, Mission. Small-batch chocolatier offering handmade candy bars & brownies, cocoa beans & educational classes. Be sure to get a s’more for the little ones (or yourself).
Flour + Water 2401 Harrison St. Located in the heart of the Mission district, this Italian restaurant with Northern Californian flair is serving up the most fresh and unique pasta in SF. Tasting menu highly recommended. If you have the time, sign-up for a pasta making class.
Leo’s Oyster Bar 568 Sacramento St. Tucked away in the Financial District this restaurant makes you feel as if you transported into a tropical tiki bar. Leo’s is known for their oysters but be sure to try the lobster roll, shrimp toast, and tater tots.
Liholiho Yacht Club 871 Sutter St. California Hawaiian food, fun atmosphere and great cocktails located in the Polk Gulch neighborhood. Be sure to order dessert.
Mister Jiu’s 28 Waverly Pl, Chinatown. High-end Chinese cuisine with a California accent in a restored historic space with high style. If you can’t get a seat in the dining room, enjoy appetizers and an artisan cocktail at the bar. My favorite is “Prosperity” a yummy mix of vodka, lotus, lemongrass, passion fruit and egg white with a “yin & yang” design on top.
Marlowe 500 Brannan St, SOMA (South of Market) neighborhood. Stylish & lively option serving Californian comfort food in a hip & sprawling space that was meant to evoke an elevated butcher shop. While there are vegetarian options, Marlowe is known for it’s meat dishes, in particular, the tasty Marlow Burger. Check out the private patio space, decorated with herbs and other greenery and warmed by heat lamps that make it comfortable year-round.
NOPA 560 Divisadero St. A cool open atmosphere restaurant located one block from Alamo Square park, perfect for dinner or brunch on the weekends. Known for their farm to table Californian menu and unique cocktails.
Petit Crenn 609 Hayes St. Seafood heavy tasting menu only, one of SF’s most talked about restaurant in Hayes Valley.
ROOH 333 Brannan St #150. Located in SOMA, this Indian-inspired restaurant and cocktail bar is a must visit. I left unable to decide what was the best dish!
Slanted Door 1 Ferry Building, Embarcadero. Ah, the views! And the sleek, minimalist interiors invite all eyes to focus on the incredible views of the Bay. This is the place for delish Vietnamese food. I often bring out of town visitors here and the menu and atmosphere never disappoint.
Spruce 3640 Sacramento St, Laurel Heights. Posh dining experience in the charming Laurel Heights neighborhood with lots of boutique shopping options nearby. Perfect to celebrate a special occasion. The plush interiors are so cozy, be prepared to stay awhile…
State Bird Provisions 1529 Fillmore. An adventurous must dine restaurant located in Lower Pacific Heights, be sure to order the state bird. AND, make reservations far in advance.
The Cavalier SF 360 Jessie St, Downtown. Hotel Zetta's British-themed brasserie delivers gastropub bites & colonial cocktails in clubby digs.
The Progress 1525 Fillmore St, Japantown. Same restaurant group as State Bird, The Progress is all family style a la carte serving up some unique dishes. Good for large groups.
Zuni Cafe 1658 Market St, Hayes Valley. One of the most famous and emblematic of San Francisco, this legendary French/Italian eatery is a must. You really can’t order wrong here, but be sure not to miss their famous bread salad, roast chicken and towering shoestring fries. It’s all good - the food, the vibe, the glass-encased triangle of a room - Zuni is always on my list!
ANINA 482 Hayes St. Casual hipster island-inspired bar serving up unique cocktails in the heart of Hayes Valley.
Bourbon and Branch 501 Jones St, Tenderloin. Old speakeasy bar that will transport you to the Prohibition era, be sure to find the password to access a secret room inside. Reservations recommended.
Charmaine’s 45 McAllister St. Downtown. Set 120 feet above buzzing Market Street, this is one of the few, and one of the best, rooftop bars in the City. Cozy-up with blankets around the fire pits and enjoy high-end bar bites and inventive, delish cocktails with names that are mostly midcentury musical references, nodding to songs by the Hollies, Tina Turner and Nat King Cole. This stunning view has the beacon of Salesforce Tower at its center. Be prepared to stand in line for entry, and seating is first-come, first-served. Including at the fire pits.
Novela 662 Mission St, Downtown. Literary-themed bar with drinks named after characters, located in the Financial District. The first time I discovered Novela, I felt like I had been transported to a cool, unique and upscale lounge that was all about books and booze - what could be better?! Very modern and upbeat bar, great happy hour menu and skilled batch mixologists and punch on tap. (Why not?!)
The Riddler 528 Laguna Street. Chic, sexy and upscale Hayes Valley champagne bar boasting over 100 Champagnes by the bottle, accompanied by fun snacks like caviar and free popcorn. So fun for a girls’ night out, or date nite drinks before dinner. The name comes from a female-created process of “riddling” Champagne, the space has overtly feminine vibes, and many of the collaborators are women.
Trick Dog 3010 20th St, Mission. Part of the Flour + Water restaurant group, this charming bar with a moody, cool vibe is located in the Mission district and is the perfect spot to grab a drink while waiting for your table next door at Central Kitchen or Flour + Water.
Central Kitchen 3000 20th St, Mission. Californian fare made with local ingredients & modern techniques in a lively setting with a pretty patio.
Flores 2030 Union Street, Marina. This vibrant California Mexican cuisine in the Marina District, is the perfect spot for large groups and delicious cocktails, perfectly perched in the hub and high energy of Union Street.
Outerlands 4001 Judah St. The best place to grab brunch in the Sunset district, you cannot order wrong! Be sure to get the delish fresh bread for the table.
Park Tavern 1652 Stockton St. Across from Washington Square Park in the historic North Beach neighborhood, this gorgeous restaurant is a must for brunch. Enjoy fresh pastries, a variety of fancy “toasts,” oatmeal raisin pancakes from the griddle, and a variety of mouth-watering savories.
Tartine Manufactory 595 Alabama St. I always love lunching in this airy space with its chic bakery/restaurant in an industrial part of the Mission District. The menu is amazing, and you cannot resist their fresh baked bread and inventive desserts.
I alway carve out time to shop and hunt for treasures in every city that I visit. And in San Francisco, there are options for shopping as diverse as the city itself. Whether it’s the stylish shops in the Marina, the fancy home decor shops on Sacramento street, chic California-style boutiques on leafy Fillmore street, the cozy district of Hayes Valley, vintage shops on the Haight, or the big luxe brands of iconic Union Square, San Francisco offers days of retail therapy.
Anthem Home 3274 Sacramento St, Laurel Heights. This stylish shop carries a range of antique and contemporary furniture, lighting & decorative accessories.
City Lights Books 261 Columbus Ave., North Beach. When we have a date night in North Beach, my husband and I always make time to pop into this iconic indy bookstore and SF institution. Founded and still owned by Beat Generation poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, this bookstore is one of the nation's independent greats.
Clare V. 344 Linden St, Hayes Valley. This airy shop with a Parisian aesthetic offers just the right selection of stylish handbags and accessories.
Dish Boutique 541 Hayes St, Hayes Valley. I recently scored a fitted and flared blazer and bold patterned silk blouse at this local favorite that carries a variety of labels including Ulla Johnson, Mother, Lady & the Sailor and Rag & Bone.
Flora Grubb Gardens 1634 Jerrold Ave. Located by the Dogpatch neighborhood, this is a must see for plant lovers. Enjoy a cup of coffee from Ritual Coffee Roasters inside, and stroll around this green oasis taking in the garden treasures, or try out your green thumb at the serve-yourself potting bench.
Found by Maja 3484 Sacramento St, Presidio Heights. Step inside this lovely shop with one-of-a-kind new and vintage finds and art from around the globe.
General Store 4035 Judah St., Sunset District. This is the original eclectic shop (the second location is in Venice Beach, LA) of curated treasures from local California artisans. I love the stunning and unique jewelry selection!
Heath Ceramics 2900 18th St, Mission. Mainstay factory and retail store selling timeless designs of tiles and colorful ceramic kitchenware and home goods, plus the perfect pairing of coffee and a newsstand. (Other Heath locations are in the Ferry Building and nearby Sausalito).
Hudson Grace 3350 Sacramento St, Presidio Heights. A chic outpost for classic and modern tableware, including plates, glasses, cutlery, linens & candles. I always find unique and simply beautiful hostess gifts here.
March 3075 Sacramento St, Pacific Heights. Gallery-like storefront stocking unique culinary supplies, tables, serving pieces & gourmet ingredients.
Marine Layer, 2209 Chestnut St. I love the comfy, soft t-shirts in this popular California-style shop for men and women.
Miette 449 Octavia St, Hayes Valley. Modern, cheerful, and pretty in pink, Miette is San Francisco's most charming pastry shop and always delicious.
Sue Fischer King 3067 Sacramento St, Pacific Heights. An elegant shop for classic & modern home goods from dish ware to flatware to linens, plus jewelry, books and bath items. Their product displays are fabulous.
Two Skirts, 2124 Chestnut St. I discovered this chic, boudoir-like boutique with my sister years ago. I love the mix of independent designers and high-end favorites, and never walk out empty handed!
Unionmade Women, 4035 18th St., Dolores Heights. A high-quality urban-chic shop with casual clothing, timeless shoes and handbags displayed in a minimal, bright space.
Union Square 333 Post St, Downtown, This bustling downtown landmark is the city's largest shopping district where you will find all the luxe brands and stores -- like Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Barney's New York, William Sonoma’s flagship store, Tiffany & Co., Gucci, Louis Vuitton and more. So satisfy your inner fashionista, or grab a coffee and window shop in this legendary area.
Westfield San Francisco Centre 865 Market St, Downtown. A 9-story mall with a dome-covered atrium is a shopper's dream with a movie theater and a variety of 170 shops and restaurants including Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's, H&M, Jimmy Choo, JCrew, Burberry, Zara...my teen girls love it!
See & Do:
While your entire stay in the City by the Bay could be consumed by eating, there is so much to do in this pretty town! Plenty of museums to wander, performing arts to indulge in, and parks to explore. Throw in a few quintessential San Francisco tourist treats like riding the cable cars to Lombard Street, dubbed “the crookedest street in the world,” and you are all set…
Asian Art Museum 200 Larkin St, Civic Center. This gem houses one of the most comprehensive Asian art collections in the world, with more than 18,000 works of art in its permanent collection, some as much as 6,000 years old. I love the welcoming atmosphere of this beautiful and intimate space.
Cable Cars The San Francisco cable car system is the world's last manually operated cable car system. The cable car routes are the Powell-Hyde line, the Powell-Mason line and the California line. Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines stop at the Cable Car museum. Be sure to look ahead at what line works for you to explore different areas of the city, and ordering tickets ahead of time is best during the high season.
California Academy of Sciences 55 Music Concourse, Golden Gate Park. The California Academy of Sciences is a research institute and natural history museum that is among the largest museums of natural history in the world, housing over 26 million specimens. It’s great to take kids here and they will love climbing up to see the “living roof.”
de Young Museum 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, Golden Gate Park. This fine arts museum is a gem in the heart of Golden Gate Park and is the 5th most visited art museum in the country and has been a popular destination for 100 years.
Ferry Building 1 The Embarcadero, I always love visiting the historic and lively Ferry Building in the Embarcadero. Whether it’s to grab a bite at the eateries, enjoy a coffee and watch the ferry boats come and go, or pick up the freshest ingredients at the Farmer’s Market, this is a destination not to miss. The certified farmer’s market is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Saturday boasts a large selection of vendors.
Fortune Cookie Factory 56 Ross Alley. Cozy little spot in Chinatown and fun for kids!
Giant’s Game 24 Willie Mays Plaza, SOMA. Cheer for the home team at the picturesque Giant’s Stadium located right on the water.
Golden Gate Park With more than 13 million visitors each year to Golden Gate Park, it is one of San Francisco's greatest treasures. Be sure not to miss a game of our beloved team.
Japanese Tea Garden 75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr. A popular feature of Golden Gate Park, originally built as part of a sprawling World's Fair, the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894.
Lombard Street This famously crooked street, dubbed “the crookedest street in the world,” features 8 hairpin turns & landscaped flowerbeds in front of beautiful Victorian mansions. Fun to ride a cable car to visit this quintessential SF landmark in the gorgeous Russian Hill neighborhood.
Off the Grid A fun mobile food truck festival in the Presidio every Sunday during the summer. Also, year round in multiple locations, check the website for more information!
Painted Ladies Steiner St & Hayes St. Picture perfect place to view SF’s classic pastel Victorian homes with the city scape backdrop. Relax across the street at Dolores Park for an afternoon of enjoying one of the most photographed locations in San Francisco.
SF MoMa 151 3rd St, SOMA. SFMOMA holds an internationally recognized collection of modern and contemporary art, and was the first museum on the West Coast devoted solely to 20th-century art.
SF Performing Arts Scene Whether it’s the symphony, the opera, ballet or live theater you desire, you will discover that San Francisco offers it all. Hit shows traveling from Broadway to SF can be found on stage at the Orpheum Theater or the Golden Gate Theater. The War Memorial Opera House is home to the SF ballet, https://www.sfballet.org/ or if you are seeking a night at the City’s gorgeous Opera House, check out the San Francisco Opera https://sfopera.com. Websites for each organization offer helpful tips on dining, parking and for purchasing tickets.
Nob Hill Spa 1075 California St, Nob Hill. Perfect place for peace and relaxation at the indoor pool.
Some notable destinations within driving distance of San Francisco include the quiet seaside town of Sausalito (25 min), Marin (30 min), the sprawling Marin Headlands has Golden Gate Bridge views, trails and the 1855 Point Bonita Lighthouse. North Marin are the giant redwood trees of Muir Woods National Monument. Another dream day trip is to head north to the world-famous, gorgeous wine country of Napa (1 hour 30 min).