Weekend Escape | San Francisco | RTX Traveler Magazine

San Francisco is the cultural and commercial center of Northern California and one of the most popular cities in the country for travelers. The Bay Area is known for its cool summers, steep hills, blanketing fog and unique architectural, cultural and historic landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, Alcatraz Island, Cable Cars and the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, among many others. Just outside of the city, seaside towns like Sausalito and San Rafael are well worth a visit while the Muir Woods National Monument and the wineries of Napa and Sonoma make a delightful and memorable day trip.

San Francisco skyline and Bay Bridge at sunset, California

Getting There: The San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is the main hub for international and domestic visitors coming to the Bay Area. Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) is the fastest, easiest and most economical way to get from the airport to the city and is also the best way to get around the city.

Day 1

GH_SquareGrab breakfast at the historic Cliff House and then explore the Sutro Baths before a hike along the coastline’s Land’s End trails for stunning views of the Pacific and the Golden Gate Bridge. Next, head over to Ghirardelli Square, original home of the country’s longest continuously operating chocolate manufacturer. Grab lunch at one of the restaurants in the beautifully resort factory complex and don’t miss out on dessert from the square’s namesake store. For a fantastic sunset view, head over to Coit Tower, where you can conquer the famous Telegraph Hill steps, or take the No. 39 bus to the tower, where stunning 360-degree views of the city can be seen from the observation deck. End the day at nearby North Beach, the city’s Italian neighborhood and also the historic center of the beatnik subculture from the 1950s and 60s. Check out Gigi’s Sotto Mare Oysteria & Seafood for dinner followed by drinks at Vesuvio, which hasn’t changed much since it was frequented by Jack Kerouac and the like in the 60s.

Conservatory of Flowers, San FranciscoDay 2

It can take weeks to take in all of the attractions at Golden Gate Park, so get started early to hit some highlights in just a few hours. The Japanese Tea Garden and the Buffalo Paddock next to Spreckles Lake are two must-see attractions, while kids love the Koret Children’s Corner. The east end of the park marks the start of the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, the epicenter of the hippy culture. Along with the homes of the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Jefferson Airplane, check out iconic shops like Amoeba Music or one of the many vintage clothing stores. Grab lunch at Magnolia Pub & Brewery, which carries the laid back hippie vibe served with artisan cheeses, house-made sausages and signature sandwiches as well as more than a dozen house brews. If you prefer to have someone else guide you through the trippy scene, check out the Haight Ashbury Walking Tour or the Magic Bus San Francisco tour. For a change from hippies to hipsters, head to the Mission District for the afternoon and evening. Wander down side streets and alleyways as much as possible to see amazing murals. Visit Mission Delores, the city’s oldest structure. Check out the works at Creativity Explored, a studio and gallery for artists with developmental disabilities and grab a casual dinner at El Farolito. End the night with a birds-eye view of the city lights on Twin Peaks, the second highest point in the city.

Day 3

stock-photo-4634257-muir-woodsWhile there’s plenty in the city to see, it’s well worth a day trip to some of the nearby areas, exploring wondrous nature and charming towns or sipping world-famous wines. The charming bay side city of Sausalito just across the Golden Gate Bridge is home to a vibrant and eclectic community of waterfront dining, shopping and unique houseboat communities. After a stroll around Sausalito, head to the serene redwoods of Marin County’s Muir Woods, where 6 miles of trails lead through a forest of redwoods more than 250 feet high and 400 to 800 years old. A bit further north, the rolling hills of Napa and Sonoma are a wine lover’s dream, with vineyards dotting the countryside that range from small tasting rooms operating out of a converted garage to impressive estates whose labels you might recognize. Consider taking a bicycle tour, the Napa Valley Wine Train or a wine trolley.

San francisco Hyde Street Cable Car CaliforniaDay 4

Start of your final day with a free walking tour of Nob Hill, one of the city’s swankier neighborhoods to marvel at the hotels, mansions and other famous landmarks. Then traipse over to the country’s oldest and largest Chinatown. Walk through the iconic Dragon’s Gate up Grant Street and stop in the many shops and galleries along the city’s oldest street. See why everyone loves the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory and enjoy a dim sum lunch at the three-story R&G Lounge or the Great Eastern restaurant. End your stay with a visit to the Ferry Building Marketplace, a piece of San Francisco’s history that is now a favorite place for both locals and visitors to find artisan foods and ingredients from fine cheeses to fresh fish. Grab dinner at DELICA or one of the other small restaurants or cafes that serve cuisine representing the quality and cultural diversity of San Francisco’s best chefs.

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