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Three Perfect Days: San Francisco

Home to tech mavens, foodies, counterculture types and newcomers from all over the globe, America’s hilly, fog-shrouded Golden Gate is a city unlike any other.

Author Matthew Thompson Photography Erin Kunkel

The boat to Alcatraz

Picture 1 of 16

DAY THREE | Today, you’re in the St. Regis (1), a sleek luxury hotel just off Union Square. From your high-rise room trimmed with creamy marble and bamboo, you peer down at the roof of the Museum of Modern Art and throw on some athletic gear. Time to go biking.

After picking up a mountain bike from the Bike and Roll (2) rental shop on Columbus Avenue, you head down to the Bay and follow the bike path west through the dunes. You pass a strip of marinas and zipping kiteboarders out on the choppy surf, then take the Long Avenue switchback up until it intersects with a second bike path, and make a beeline for the bright red turrets of the Golden Gate Bridge (3). Riding over the bridge is exhilarating, with the wind hitting you in furious bursts. The view from the middle, with San Francisco Bay spread out beneath you, from Alcatraz to the Bay Bridge to the grassy hills of Marin County, is spectacular. As you come down the far side, follow signs to Sausalito, a sleepy town of shops, galleries, and cafés nuzzled into the north end of the bay. It’s a long ride down, but don’t worry about having to climb back up. You can take a ferry from the center of town straight to Fisherman’s Wharf.

Drop off your bike and change back at the hotel. Anchor and Hope (4), just two blocks away, is a foodie-friendly seafood restaurant that provides exciting twists on seafood and comfort dishes. Try the apple ginger cured salmon tartare followed by a gourmet fi sh sandwich.

Back outside, hop the F streetcar down to the arty Mission District and amble down Valencia (5), the main thoroughfare. Browse through a legion of cool art shops, bookstores, galleries and bars. Be sure to detour down Clarion Alley to take in the incredible street art that spills across its walls and garages.

Grab dinner at Beretta (6), at the corner of Valencia and 23rd. This Italian eatery specializes in gourmet cocktails—you try the Old Pretender, a citrusy blend of scotch, Drambuie and fortified white wine. For food, you go for the eggplant caponatina, a decadent warm salad made with olives, pine nuts, onions, tomatoes and burrata cheese. You follow it up with a delicious, creamy risotto.

You make your way north through the Mission and then cut across Dolores Park to the Castro. Historically a bastion for the city’s thriving gay community, this neighborhood has recently seen an influx of young families and yuppie singles. You’re just in time to catch a film at the Castro Theatre (7), a magnifi cent old movie house that specializes in cult classics and midnight schlock. Be warned: The audiences can get pretty raucous, which is part of the fun.

Afterward, you wander into the night, through the wildly diverse crowds, to the F streetcar. As you ride back to the hotel, it’s hard not to feel like this is the very heart of San Francisco: the seamless union of art, culture and public transportation—all etched, indelibly, into the side of a hill.

3 Responses to “Three Perfect Days: San Francisco”

  1. Jean Nelson-Dean Says:
    April 11th, 2011 at 11:31 am

    We just returned from our second trip to San Francisco with our kids. I wish I had seen this article before we left. Though we did many wonderful things, I would have had a few more great ideas. I am saving it for next time. What a great city! Everyone loves it from the tween, teens, and my husband and I.

  2. Sheila Krotz Says:
    May 4th, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    I love the 3 day series, but I felt as though you missed the mark with your recommendation of the Buena Vista Cafe; it is not well liked by the locals and there are so many better places to eat in SF! You did make a good recommendation with Beretta, though.

  3. sharon waller Says:
    January 27th, 2015 at 2:29 am

    You forgot to mention Boudin Bakery and Ghiridelli Square, a must when in SFO. Try a side trip to the Walt Disney Family Museum at the Precidio. A little expensive but well worth it for the Disney in us all.

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