San Francisco, CA - Jim Flynn's BestWeekends

San Francisco, CA

San Francisco, CA Overview

Immortalized in the Tony Bennett song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” the City by the Bay is a charming destination unlike any other in the country. Known for its steep rolling hills, cool summers, fog and landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Alcatraz and Chinatown. San Francisco is also famous for its sour dough bread, cioppino, dim sum and the hard to find Pacific fish, abalone.

The Gold Rush of 1849 brought rapid growth making San Francisco the largest city on the West Coat at the time. The 1906 Earthquake and fire destroyed nearly ¾ of the city. According to Wikipedia “After the war, the confluence of returning servicemen, significant immigration, liberalizing attitudes, the rise of the beatnik and hippie countercultures, the sexual revolution, the peace movement growing from opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War, and other factors led to the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement, cementing San Francisco as a center of liberal activism in the United States.” Wikipedia

Popular areas of the city
Chinatown- Located in downtown San Francisco, it is the largest Chinatown outside Asia and the oldest in North America. Upper Market – Also known as The Castro, Upper Market is considered one of the best places to live in the city with palm tree lined streets and lots of bars, restaurants, and cafes. Union Square – Located downtown San Francistown, Union Square is a top tourist destination famous for great shopping and entertainment, luxury stores, bars, restaurants, and cafes. The plaza is home to an amphitheater and stone pedestal built for street performers. Fisherman Wharf – This ocean-side neighborhood on the city’s northern waterfront is the most popular tourist area of the city with spectacular views of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. Historic buildings, hotels, restaurants, and shops make this a must see area for visitors. South of Market – Near Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf, South of Market is known locally as SoMa. It is home to Oracle Park, where the San Francisco Giants play and it is also a huge center for art with the Museum of Modern Art and the International Art Museum of America. Nob Hill – Nob Hill is an affluent neighborhood that was home to the Big Four railroad barons’ mansions. It also features the beautiful Grace Cathedral and The Cable Car Museum

San Francisco is only about an hour from the Sonoma and Napa wine regions which makes for an ideal side trip.

When To Go

Temperatures are mild throughout the year, averaging in the mid 60’s. December-March average 8 days of rain.

Getting There

San Francisco is accessible from virtually anywhere in the U.S by air into San Francisco Airport. It is about 45 minutes from the airport to downtown.

The City is about a 6 ½ hour drive from Los Angeles and is one of the most beautiful drives in the country along the coast, through Santa Barbara, Big Sur and Carmel.

Getting Around

Public transportation is plentiful; buses, taxis, subways, cable cars and street cars. Uber was created here in 2009.

Things To Do

Just 40 minutes from San Francisco is a golfer’s paradise at the Ritz Carlton, Half Moon Bay. Water views from every hole at the Ocean Course, a traditional Scottish design, or try the parkland-style Old Course, with cypress-lined fairways and an oceanside 18th hole.

“The highlight of San Francisco running is the myriad options around the Golden Gate Bridge: starting at the Embarcadero, over Fort Mason, along Crissy Field, toward the GG Bridge, and across it. There’s also great running in the Presidio, and down to Lands End and over to Ocean Beach. Golden Gate Park is one of the country’s great urban parks. We’ve also mapped out several terrific SF neighborhood routes, including Twin Peaks, Nob Hill, Sea Cliff, and Noe Valley. For a gorgeous destination run, take the ferry to Angel Island.” See options

Lots of options but these are the best:
Golden Gate Whale Watching

  • Humpback whales May-November
  • Gray whales December-May
  • Harbor seals, dolphins, porpoises, and abundant sea bird colonies
  • Views of the Golden Gate Bridge and gorgeous shorelines

San Francisco Sailing Co – Sunset Cruise – Two hour sunset cruise. Coast along as you spot out Alcatraz, the Sausalito shoreline, and the Golden Gate bridge, all with a drink of choice in your hand.

ACsailingSF – Day Sail – Sail on an 84-foot yacht once used in America’s Cup. This 2 1/2-hour tour takes visitors through the bay for a close-up view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Sausalito city front, among other sights. What’s more, participation is encouraged, meaning tourgoers can help the crew hoist and trim the sails and steer the yacht.

Fishing Booker offers a variety of options for fishing from San Francisco.

Professional Sports
San Francisco is home to the baseball Giants and Oakland Athletics, the Golden State Warriors basketball, the 49 Niners football, the San Jose Sharks in hockey and the San Jose Earthquakes in soccer.

Aquarium of the Bay –
300 feet of clear acrylic tunnels holding 700,000 gallons of Bay water.

Asian Art Museum
One of the world’s most comprehensive collections of art and objects from the Asian continent. 6,000 years of human history. Paintings, sculptures, furniture, textiles, and armor originating from Turkey, China, India, Japan, the Philippines and other Asian cultures.

California Academy of Sciences
An aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum, and a world-class research and educational program. Rainforest and a coral reef ecosystem are special features.

de Young Museum
27,000 works of American art from the 17th through 21st centuries, modern and contemporary art, photography, international textiles and costumes, and art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
33,000 modern and contemporary artworks, with a special emphasis on photography.

The Walt Disney Family Museum
Dedicated to the life and work of Walt Disney. Narrated exhibits in Walt’s own voice that feature early drawings, cartoons, movies, music, listening stations, more than 200 video screens, and a spectacular model of Disneyland.

The Arts
War Memorial Performing Arts Center
This facility is home to three staples of the performing arts scene; Davies Symphony Hall, the Opera House and Herbst Theater. Both the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Ballet perform in this space in alternating seasons. Next door, Davies Symphony Hall is home to the world renowned San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

SHN Orpheum Theatre
The Orpheum Theater is San Francisco’s home for Broadway productions. The building’s facade resembles a 12th-century French cathedral.

The Curran Theatre
Part of the theater scene since 1922, the Curran has just completed a major restoration and renovation.

American Conservatory Theater
Since 1967 the nationally renowned American Conservatory Theater has hosted the the likes of Clark Gable and Marlene Dietrich. Their new theater, The Strand, hosts smaller cabaret and theater productions in a small, intimate, 283-seat space.

SF Jazz
San Francisco state-of-the-art jazz performance center. The 35,000 square-foot, three-story transparent structure with 100 performances a year.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater
The Yerba Buena Center’s 700+ seat theater features dance, music and dramatic programs.

SF Playhouse
This is a small, intimate playhouse with only 199-seats.

ODC Dance
ODC is a modern dance company housed in an intimate 170-seat brick-walled space that features dozens of annual performances and workshops. public outreach.

Magic Theatre
The Magic Theatre is known for producing bold, innovative plays that have gone on to success in Los Angeles, New York and abroad.

Great American Music Hall
Spectacular, ornate, 470 seat Tenderloin venue. Known for its opulent style and extraordinary elegance, the Great American Music Hall (GAMH) is one of San Francisco’s most picturesque music venues.

The Chapel
Converted mortuary, The Chapel is the West Coast home for New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who occasionally perform in residence. The venue includes a converted chapel with a 40-foot-high arched ceiling and separate mezzanine, where shows take place, as well as an 85-seat restaurant and outdoor patio.

The Fillmore
One of San Francisco’s most legendary music venues, hosting the likes of Tom Petty,  the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Intimate 1,315 capacity.

The Warfield Theatre
“The Warfield,” an amazingly ornate venue opened in 1922 for vaudeville performers. Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead Louis Armstrong, david Bowir and more have performed here.

Oracle Park
Giants baseball stadium, overlooking San Francisco Bay, has hosted Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Metallica, Lady Gaga, and The Eagles.

Cow Palace
Another legendary venue that has hosted acts like Elvis Presley, The Jackson 5, The Rolling Stones, and Nirvana. The Beatles played the opening night of their first U.S. tour here in 1964, and the indoor arena was the final stop of their second U.S. tour in 1965.

Bottom of the Hill
A 350 seat neighborhood welcoming everything from rock-a-billy to funk with a special penchant for indie rock.

The Saloon
San Francisco’s oldest bar, in the heart of North Beach that hosts top-notch blues musicians nightly

There are lots of tour opportunities with those below some of the most popular. We’re big fans of Dylan’s Tours, run by well trained locals. These mini-bus tours can include Muir Woods (the redwoods), the city, Alcatraz, Yosemite, wine country and more. Public and private tours.

Here’s some other options:
See the city sights in a three hour tour that has 15 points of interest…all in the comfort of a vintage Volkswagen bus. Vantigo.

Local Tastes of the City Tours – North Beach/Little Italy Walking Food Tour
Samples of the neighborhood’s best pizza, pastries, coffee, chocolates and more are all included in the cost of the tour.

San Francisco Movie Tours – San Francisco Movie Sights City Tour
This tour highlights all the top filming locations including “Full House,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Ant-Man.”

Edible Excursions – Ferry Building Food Tour and Alcatraz Excursion
Combines two of the city’s most iconic landmarks; the Ferry Building Marketplace and includes tastings of artisan cheese, bread and chocolates and followed by a cruise to Alcatraz and a self-guided tour through its historic prison.

GoCar San Francisco
See the city in a three wheeled, GPS guided car that provides directions and historical and cultural commentary.

San Francisco Zoo & Gardens is a 100 acre preserve located in the southwestern corner of the city.

Dont Miss

*A cable car ride
*Irish Coffee at Buena Vista
*Drinking wine at Murray’s Circle
*A trip through Sausilito
*Oysters with a bridge view at Waterbar
*Cioppino at Tadich Grill or Scoma’s

The Best Of...

Of course all our lodging recommendations offer breakfast, but here are some unique alternatives:
Sears Fine Foods.
Legendary Swedish Pancakes. The corned beef hash and eggs are pretty good too and they serve cocktails with breakfast!
St Francis Fountain.
As much for the atmosphere as the good food. “SF’s oldest diner” where “you’ll be transported back to the days of the neighborhood soda fountain and corner candy shop”
Kate’s Kitchen
Cozy spot with a very unique menu ie French Toast Orgy.

The views, the food and the service make Epic Steak a great brunch choice. I love the vibe at Zuni Café and if you can resist the famous roast chicken have the goat cheese frittata or the burger. Foreign Cinema is another great choice. Open air courtyard, House made “Pop Tarts” and slow cooked brown sugar bacon that is to die for.

Balboa Café. Wonderful casual, old school spot. Wood paneling, wood bar, wood lockers that are now refrigerators behind the bar. Fresh squeezed OJ and Grapefruit juices. Great tomato soup with pumpkin seeds and delicious deviled eggs. Outdoor seating.
Waterbar. Great views, oyster bar, outdoor seating, excellent food
Zuni Café. Wonderful neighborhood spot famous for its roast chicken.
Tadich Grill. 162 years old. Great old-school restaurant that is still worth the visit
Kokkari Estiatoria. Fantastic Greek restaurant in a wonderful setting.

Needless to say, we couldn’t try all the burgers in San Francisco, but you won’t be disappointed in Gott’s Roadside, Balboa Café, 4505 Burger & BBQ, Marlowe and Monsieur Benjamin

Two old school deli’s are the best places for sandwiches, Lucca Deli from 1929 and Molanari Deli from 1896.

SAN FRANCISCO FOODS – Some Invented, Some Adopted
egendary Italian-American dish was invented in San Francisco and usually contains Dungeness crab, shrimp, squid, scallops, clams, mussels, and fish. Here’s where to enjoy the best versions; Sotto Mare, Tadich Grill, Scoma’s
Sourdough Bread.
Another SF invention. Boudin Bakery is San Francisco’s oldest continuously operating business, and it still uses the sourdough starter that dates back to 1849
Irish Coffee
No visit to San Francisco is complete without a visit to Buena Vista, the Irish Coffee mecca at the end of a trolly run.
Dim Sum
Dim sum is a Chinese selection of small bites of a wide variety of steamed and fried dumplings, buns, and rolls, assorted vegetable preparations, and other savory small-plate offerings and dessert treats. Yank Sing is the best.
Swedish Pancakes.
The specialty at Sears Fine Food since 1938
San Francisco Travel has published a post on the best SF breweries. You can read it here.

Oyster Bar
There are three excellent oyster bars that we recommend; Hog Island Oyster Co,
Anchor Oyster Bar,  and the Water Bar which has amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Wine Bar
Even though Sonoma and Napa are only an hour away, you may not want to devote that much time away from the city. Thankfully, there are a number of tasting rooms and wine bars right in town.
Chateau Montelena Tasting Room
Highly acclaimed wines that beat the French in the famous “Judgment of Paris” Not to miss. In the Westin St Francis Hotel.
Jax Vineyards
Features Jackson family’s Calistoga vineyard served on a happy hour-only schedule around the patio fire pit.
JCB by Jean-Charles Boisset
Opulent tasting lounge in the Ritz Carlton featuring wines from California and French wineries.
Winery Collective
Offers two dozen limited-batch vintners located throughout California. Argonaut Hotel.
Press Club
A subterranean wine bar featuring a selection of biodynamic and organically sourced California wines, hard-to-find varietals, Champagne, and beers

I like my cocktails with a view. Here are the best in SF
Bar 5 at Coqueta. Michael Chiarello’s James Beard Award-nominated Spanish restaurant on Pier 5
Cityscape. 46 stories up in Union Square. 360 degree views of the City. Artisan cocktails and small plates.
Park Chalet. Good food, house brewed beers, good wine list, views of Pacific and Golden Gate Park.
The View. Top of the Marriot Marquis. Perfect place for sunset.
Top of the Mark. Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel. Been there 80 years. A bit touristy, but great view and live music.
Waterbar. Spectacular bridge views, solid cocktail and wine list, oyster bar and very good food.
Bourbon & Branch. No view, but very cool actual speakeasy from the ‘20s

After Dinner Fun
See our music and wine bar sections above, plus
Feinsteins at the Nikko. Swanky nightclub offering cabaret and American songbook performances
Martuni’s. One of the great piano bars where locals and tourists can stand up and sing any night of the week. Great fun.
Johnny Foley’s. Dueling pianos fulfill guest requests.
Nice piano music also at Bix Supper Club.
Punchline SF is San Francisco’s oldest and most popular comedy club.
Cobb’s Comedy Club is the sister club to Punchline. Same type of acts, but where Punchline is smaller and intimate, Cobb’s is a larger venue seating 400.

Special Things

Rent a car and drive the Pacific Coast Highway down to Big Sur. It is one of the most breathtaking trips you will ever experience. Have lunch above the clouds at Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn.

Where To Stay

Casa Madrona, Sausilito, CA

OVERVIEW Just across the Bay from San Francisco is the charming seaside town of Sausilito, filled with wonderful shops, cafes and art galleries. If you want to escape the rigors of a big city, yet be close enough to get there when you want, Casa Madrona

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Cavallo Point, Sausilito CA

OVERVIEW Leave it to the government to appropriate a setting so amazing, but that’s what happened at Fort Baker, an army post created in 1866 for the defense of the San Francisco Bay. Located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, the views of the bridge…

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Fairmont Heritage Place, San Francisco

Four Seasons, San Francisco CA

OVERVIEW Just steps away from the popular Union Square shopping area of downtown San Francisco lies the inimitable Four Seasons Hotel. It may not look like much from the outside, as it is simply another building hiding indiscriminately among the skyscrapers in the financial district, but…

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Where To Eat


Bix is a throwback to the days of the old supper club. It would have been called “swanky” back then. It’s a place for ice cold martinis, cool jazz and meeting people. Tucked down an alleyway, it almost feels like you’ve come upon a speakeasy. The two story venue has a main floor and a…

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Opened by acclaimed chef/owner Nancy Oakes in 1993, Boulevard is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. The restaurant has received local, national and international accolades, including The James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in California and Outstanding Restaurant in the United States, as well as the Filiale des Etats-Unis in France. Housed in…

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Gary Danko

Gary Danko is one of the most award winning restaurants in San Francisco. It has garnered Five Stars from Forbes, Four Diamonds from AAA, a Michelin Star and has also earned several James Beard Awards, including Best New Restaurant, Best Service and Best Chef – California. The restaurant has also been awarded the Wine Spectator…

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Kokkari Estiatorio

Close your eyes and breathe in the scents of oregano, a wood burning fireplace and fresh flowers. Your mind takes you to a small Greek Island and an intimate taverna. This is Kokkari Estiatorio.  Wood beamed ceilings, colorful pottery, flower vases and hardwood floors complete the picture. Candles and shaded table lamps cast a golden…

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State Bird Provisions

State Bird is one of the most unique and fun places to dine that we have ever encountered. Not surprising, it is one of the toughest reservations to get in town. The restaurant has garnered accolades from Bon Appétit Magazine and the James Beard Foundation. They have earned a Michelin star, and Zagat even named…

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Tadich Grill

Tadich Grill is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in California and the third oldest in  the United States.  Their servers average 33 years in the industry and 16 years at Tadich Grill. It’s quite incredible that a restaurant that is 174 years old has maintained its popularity and reputation through all those years. Tadich Grill…

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The House of Prime Rib

Originally opened in 1949, the House of Prime Rib continues to be a San Francisco favorite for its 21 day dry aged beef. There’s only one thing on the menu – prime rib, in a variety of sizes. (well, they do have a daily fish catch) Served with a tossed salad, mashed or baked potato,…

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Zuni Cafe

Zuni Café is a warm and inviting restaurant with soft lighting, big picture windows, a copper bar, a roaring wood fired oven and piano music. The interior is kind of rustic chic divided into intimate rooms on multiple levels. It is a favorite of foodies near and far and is also on GQ’s list of…

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