San Francisco VacationGolden Getaway
San Francisco is the quintessential family getaway – a perfect blend of cosmopolitan and eco-chic. Stroll, bike, hike or cable-car through the streets – refueling at gourmet restaurants along the way – and by the time you get back home, you’ll realize that Tony Bennett sung the truth: You left your heart in San Francisco.
Good for: Hot mamas, cool daddy-os and their trendy little hipsters.
- Cooking with Chef Jayne at the Cavallo Point cooking school
- Delving into the mystery-box challenge at the Children’s Creativity Museum
- Dining on Chef Sobel’s “spontaneous tasting” at Michael Mina’s RN74
- Sampling stinky cheeses and extra-virgin olive oil at the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market
- Shuddering at the cell door clanks at Alcatraz
Suggested stay: 5 days
What to know: When the little ones beg for a ride on the cable car, skip the long lines to and from Union Square and hop on the California line from California and Market to the Chinatown hilltop. The crowd is far less daunting and the ride far more interesting.
Exploring the Embarcadero
Discover San Francisco’s diversity with a stroll along the Embarcadero. Start your day at the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market, where you can sample the local cheeses at Cowgirl Creamery. Throw in a fougasse from Acme Bread Company, some Stonehouse olive oil and a bottle of wine from the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant and you have a picnic lunch that rivals the best cafés of Paris.
After lunch on the pier (and a bit of people-watching), walk the waterfront toward Fisherman’s Wharf, and check out the street performers, sea lions, kitschy shops and interactive 7D Experience. Continue to Pier 45 to see the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, a fully-functioning WWII Liberty Ship, which you can tour daily, and, if you’re lucky, catch one of the exclusive bay cruises.
For a unique adventure, take the ferry to Alcatraz. To fully appreciate the cellhouse and gardens, a guided tour is a must, as is an advance booking. If you like to wander at your own pace, the Cellhouse Audio Tour, narrated by former inmates and correctional officers, is eerily fantastic, with tales of daring escape attempts and scary clanks of slammed cell doors.
For a creative outlet, head to the Children’s Creativity Museum, where the whole family can engage in multimedia play time. From the mystery box challenge to dress-up karaoke to stop-motion claymation, there’s something for everyone.
Budding scientists love the panoptic view of the universe at the California Academy of Sciences. Explore everything from the stars to the sea – and if you’ve ever dreamed of camping out with an albino alligator, this is the place to do it, at a family sleepover. Afterwards, relax with a glass of wine at the Exploratorium’s Seaglass Restaurant, while the kids tinker, probe and analyze their way through the entertaining galleries.
Wine & Dine
San Francisco can perhaps lay claim to the term “foodie” more than anywhere else in the world. Celebrity chefs set the bar deliciously high, and our top picks include Michael Mina or Fleur de Lys. More casual, but equally delicious are RN74 and Burger Bar. Bon appétit.
In Union Square, peruse San Francisco classics like Gump’s and Wilkes Bashford, along with traditional luxury purveyors, including Hermes and Bulgari. But for something really special, check out the quirky bookshops, boutiques and markets of North Beach, Pacific Heights and the Valencia Street corridor. In Chinatown, the best shops (and even a fortune cookie factory) are tucked away in the alleys, so be sure to go beyond the tourist emporiums on the main drag.
After a day in the city, escape across the Golden Gate Bridge to Cavallo Point and enjoy an elegant dinner at Murray Circle, followed by refined imbibing at Farley Bar or outside by the fire pits. The historic eco-luxe lodge provides the opportunity to “rough it” in a national park and even cook your own food at the gourmet cooking school. Awaken to spectacular views and enjoy a morning brew on your patio, followed by yoga and nature walks. Plus, the kids can play at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, while Mom gets pampered at the Healing Arts Center & Spa. Top off the visit at Mercantile, with phenomenal regional crafts, so you can take a bit of San Francisco home with you.
(Photos courtesy of Cavallo Point)