San Francisco: an off-the-beaten-path adventure
● By Megan Wiskus
Something about crossing the Bay Bridge and seeing the SF skyline come into view instantly energizes. As we drove along the Embarcadero, windows down, fog rolling in, I couldn’t help but be reminded just how vibrant the seaside city by the bay is—and how lucky we are to live less than two hours away.
Though day trips are doable, let’s face it: San Francisco is an adult playground, with its myriad of bars, restaurants and bustling boroughs. In other words, it’s way more fun to stay a night or two, so you can fully embrace the excitement.
Sited on Fisherman’s Wharf, with easy access to the waterfront, Ghirardelli Square and North Beach, and just steps from a cable car turnaround, sits the recently rebranded and newly opened Hotel Zoe. Besides her prime location and pet-friendliness, she impresses with so much more—from amenities like a welcome beverage upon arrival (#roseallday on my visit) to fruit-infused water in the lobby and coffee/tea service every morning, plus complimentary bikes and Wi-Fi.
The yacht-inspired décor is clean and contemporary while still feeling cozy, and each of the 221 rooms is teeming with soft, muted tones; Lather bath amenities; courtyard or city views; beds that’ll have you sleeping on cloud nine; and all the creature comforts of home. After a long day of sightseeing or evening of imbibing, Zoe is a welcome respite.
425 North Point Street, San Francisco, 415-561-1100, www.hotelzoesf.com
Borrow one of Zoe’s bikes and head to Golden Gate Park for a visit to the California Academy of Sciences, a natural history museum that houses over 26 million specimens and serves as a perfect day date for you and your plus one. The journey via two wheels adds to the adventure and will provide you with a new perspective on the city—all while reminding your legs just how hilly it really is here. If you need to take a breather, there are plenty of places to take a pit stop (I recommend Café de Casa for an acai bowl, and Pacific Height’s Fillmore Street for shopping, drinks or a scoop of Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero ice cream from Salt & Straw). Once you arrive at the Academy, don’t miss the albino alligator named Claude, pterosaur flight simulator and living, four-story rainforest. Tip: Every Thursday from 6-10 p.m., the Academy hosts “Nightlife”; where, for $15, you get admission to the 21 and over after-hours party that includes music, dancing, cocktails and entertainment.
Though it holds the title of being the highest natural point in San Francisco, it seems that locals and tourists alike haven’t caught wind of Mount Davidson yet. I suggest driving there on your way in or out of town, as parking is plentiful and free. Though situated in the city, the 40-acre park transports you away from the urban jungle and into a forest of fresh air fun. Start from the bus stop (or simply type “Mount Davidson” into your phone’s GPS) and head up the trail—through the mist-filled forest, grassland and coastal shrub—until you reach the 103-foot concrete cross that sits high and mighty at the trail’s peak. Featured in the movie Dirty Harry, this secret slice of San Francisco provides plenty of photo (and exercise) ops.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
- If big city driving makes your palms sweat, don’t fret. Megabus, an inexpensive (as low as $1 one way) bus service, departs daily from East Sacramento and drops riders at downtown San Francisco’s Caltrain Station. From there, hop in an Uber, use your own two feet, or take public transportation to your final destination. The double-decker coaches are clean, comfy, offer free Wi-Fi and—from my experience—are always on time.
- Hungry for a taste of local fare? For Cuban sandwiches and a totally ‘grammable interior, check out Media Noche in the Mission; for imaginative Chinese eats (think Kung Pao Pastrami or Matcha and Squid Ink Noodles) in the same ‘hood, visit Mission Chinese; and for the tastiest toast that’ll ever hit your lips, journey to Trouble Coffee Company and ask for the “Build Your Own Damn House.”