The Fairmont San Francisco Celebrates 100 Years!
Reminiscent of Hearst Castle, The Fairmont's Gilded Lobby Greets Guests in Style.
Coit Tower from the Crocker Suite at The Fairmont
The Cable Car Museum
Coit Tower Offers one of the Best Views in San Francisco
The View off Fisherman's Wharf
Fresh Steamed Shellfish can be enjoyed on Fisherman's Wharf
Take a Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge
Lombard Street - "The Crookedest Street!"
Explore the Giant Redwoods at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
A city like none other, there are few places that evoke romance by mere thought like San Francisco. And yet, family fun--including free stuff--is just as easily accessible in the City by the Bay.
Where To Stay
Fairmont San Francisco
When the tourists are swarming Pier 39, hop aboard San Francisco’s famous cable cars to the top of Nob Hill, where you’ll be welcomed by tranquil civility at the City’s landmark hotel property: The Fairmont San Francisco.
This is the place Tony Bennett crooned about when he debuted “I left my Heart in San Francisco” in the hotel’s Venetian Room in 1962. Designed by architect Julia Morgan, known for her work at Hearst Castle, The Fairmont opened in 1907. In celebration of the 100th Anniversary, guests are invited to stay and enjoy “The Deal of the Century.”
An $85 million renovation was completed in 2001, restoring the historic icon to its original Edwardian grandeur. The gilded lobby is reminiscent of the famous castle, with domed ceilings, marble floors, and overstuffed furniture. The familiar white structure graces Nob Hill, conveniently located at the only intersection of the City’s cable car lines—making it accessible to major area attractions within minutes.
Many baby boomers will recognize the Fairmont from its starring role in the long-running series, “Hotel,” with James Brolin and Connie Sellecca. A favorite backdrop for Hollywood filmmakers, it is best known for its appearance in “Vertigo.” And what was it that Sean Connery demanded for his help in “The Rock?” A suite at The Fairmont.
An upgrade to the two-room Crocker Suite offers magnificent views of San Francisco, spanning from the Golden Gate to well beyond the Bay Bridge. The in-room telescope encourages guests to focus in on the City’s landmarks: Alcatraz, Coit Tower, The Ferry Building, and Fisherman’s Wharf.
The White House of the West--which has housed U.S. Presidents, heads of state and celebrities--becomes reachable for all when rates for a deluxe room may dip into the low $200’s.
Insider’s Tip: You can access the hotel off California Street from the side door. A coffee bar, restrooms, and access to the main lobby are just inside.
Where To Eat
Laurel Court in the Fairmont Hotel
The elegant, domed ceiling dining room welcomes weary travelers and delivers quality exceeding even the highest expectations. Awaken to an amazing breakfast buffet of artisan cheeses, salmon Eggs Benedict, almond croissants, sticky rolls, chicken apple sausage, fresh fruits, aromatic coffee, and cooked to order eggs.
Afternoon Tea in Laurel Court is a local's tradition, served with champagne and a choice of caviar. In the evening, the tables are set to stage entrées of filet mignon with roasted vegetables and sautéed scallops in a rich lobster crème sauce. If you are lucky enough to arrive before 8:00 pm on Friday evenings for Sushi Friday, the chef prepares nigiri sushi and specialty rolls in the Laurel Court Bar.
If starting your breakfast with lemon soufflé pancakes with raspberry syrup and toasted pine nuts appeals to you, walk across California Street to the Stanford Court Hotel’s restaurant, Fournou’s Ovens, just to the left of the Court. Home made chicken apple sausage is a breakfast ‘standard,’ for this restaurant, as are several choices of frittata, eggs benedict, hash and scrambles.
One of the most popular eateries on Pier 39, and for good reason. This is one chain that has managed the impossible: to combine great food, an incredible view of the San Francisco Bay, happy staff, and a fun theme that even adults can’t resist! The menu provides all sorts of choices, from land lover’s burgers to the Seafood Catch with five different types of seafood. A favorite of Gump regulars is the Shrimper’s Net Catch, a choice of ¾ or 1 ½ pound garlic or Cajun peel & eat shrimp buckets. But as Forrest advices, “Leave room for dessert,” because That Chocolate Thing and the Key Lime Pie are not to be missed!
Insider’s Tip: Bubba Gumps is located on the second floor of Pier 39 toward the back. Bypass the crowded first floor of the pier by immediately heading to the second floor. Follow the deck to the right, through what appears to be an interior hallway, and you’ll find Bubba Gumps as you exit the ‘hall.’
Ferry Building Marketplace
Just east of Fisherman’s Wharf is this beautifully restored mecca for foodies. Taste the local vintage at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, shuck oysters at Ferry Plaza Seafood, nibble on caviar at Tsar Nicoulai Caviar or slurp gelato at Ciao Bella Gelato. An excellent spot for a quick and scrumptious breakfast, but not the place to count calories! You’ll also find area information and tours, flowers, and farm produce from Sonoma.
Things To Do - Tours
Blue & Gold Fleet Tours
This is cooler than can be described. Wander freely around the island or through the prison on a self-guided tour. On the audio tour, you’ll receive a headset and listen to Alcatraz prisoners share their stories. “The Birdman of Alcatraz” (1962), “Point Blank” (1967), “Escape From Alcatraz” (1979), “Murder in the First” (1995), and “The Rock” (1996) were a few of the films shot at Alcatraz. Have someone take your photo in prison or explore the west coast’s oldest operating lighthouse. Brave souls may wish to sign up for the best tour in San Francisco-- the night tour.
“…that climb halfway to the stars” There are three main lines that run through San Francisco, and riders may purchase either one-way tickets or day passes. Be sure to visit the
Cable Car Museum
(below). The cable car operators could be referred to as San Francisco’s ambassadors, as they are often happy to provide verbal directions to their passengers.
Insider’s Tip: A 3-day metro pass, which includes access to the Cable Car system, will easily pay for itself. One- and seven-day passes are also available. If you are staying at the Fairmont, you’ll find the nearest place to purchase them is at the sundries shop at the Stanford Court Hotel.
Guided Walking Tours
Free guided City Walking Tours are available through the Library. Locals will take you around on history, architectural, legend and lore tours, lasting one and a half to two hours. Check the web site for the tour schedule or pick one up at the San Francisco Public Library or the San Francisco Visitors Center in Hallidie Plaza (Powell at Market).
San Francisco Fire Engine Tours and Adventures
Riding the Big Red Shiny Mack Fire Engine, you’ll depart from the Cannery at Fisherman’s Wharf. This 75-minute tour will take you through the Presidio, to Fort Point at the base of the GG Bridge, and over the Bridge.
Then you’ll drive through Sausalito, a beautiful little village with fabulous views of San Francisco. Traveling through the pretty streets of Union Street, you’ll return to the Cannery.
These “painted ladies” grace the streets of Pacific Heights, San Francisco’s most prestigious neighborhood. Begin your tour at Jackson Street near the northwest corner of Alta Plaza Park. The apex of the tour is at the Broadway bluff between Webster and Lyon Streets.
Things To Do - City Sights
Cable Car Museum
Now this is really awesome. In this working powerhouse, get a first hand look at how the cable car system has worked in San Francisco for the past 125 years. Cables for all three lines run through the Cable Car Museum on Mason & Washington. (An easy walk downhill from the Fairmont Hotel.) Visitors may observe the sheaves and cables running the cars either from above on the main floor of the museum or through windows below ground. Cable Car souvenirs of all sorts, from jewelry to brass bells, may be purchased in the museum’s gift shop. Authentic vintage San Francisco street signs are also available. (The shop no longer sells cable car passes.) The museum is open free to the public.
Dedicated to the City in 1933, the observation deck of this monument offers amazing views of San Francisco. It is located on Telegraph Hill.
One of San Francisco’s most popular destinations, this entertaining walk takes you past mounds of fresh seafood choices. Many of the dishes available at these restaurants have been passed down through generations of native Italians and San Franciscans. Adjacent to Pier 39.
Fort Point National Historic Site
This landmark has been seen in many movies including, “Vertigo” (1958), “Point Blank” (1967), “Foul Play” (1978), “The Presidio” (1988), and “Bicentennial Man” (1999). In real life, it began existence in 1861 to protect San Francisco Bay and was used again for that purpose during WWII. Between 1933 and 1937, the fort was used as the base of operations during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. Take a tour and you’ll experience the life of a soldier, both in the fort and at the cannon bases. A great place for kids and adults to let off some steam. Make a reservation to take part in the pier crabbing or a canon-loading demonstration. Or
sign up for the candle light tour. Located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge.
This popular destination offers shopping, waterfront dining, galleries and visitor information. Historic walking tours take place on weekends during the summer months when docents dress up in Victorian garb and pass out samples of Ghirardelli chocolate. It’s a short walk (uphill!) from Fisherman’s Wharf and the cable car stop. Be sure to indulge in the famous Ghirardelli Hot Fudge Sundae!
Golden Gate Bridge
You can walk, bike or drive over the bridge. A toll is collected on the southbound lane for motor vehicles. You can purchase souvenirs at the Gift Center, which is located on the southeast side of the Golden Gate Bridge Toll Plaza. There are two great photo ops. The first is just before heading over the bridge northbound. (It comes up very quickly, and the parking lot is just off to the left.) The second is on the north side of the bridge immediately after crossing over. Turn left at the second exit (Alexander Avenue). While it appears on the map that this is a major highway, the route across the bridge is actually heavily congested. It’s well worth the effort, but be prepared.
No phone listed
This street gets its claim to fame for being the ‘world’s crookedest street’ with its nine hairpin turns. It’s a street lined with lovely homes, landscaped with beautiful flowers, and alive with tourists. The best photo ops are from the bottom, at Leavenworth Street, looking up.
Street performers, cable cars, sea lions, shopping, dining, a magic carpet ride, a carousel, and The Great San Francisco Adventure playing on a giant screen. So much to do! Adjacent to Fisherman’s Wharf.
In 1776, the Presidio was established by the Spanish and taken over by Americans in 1846. In 1989 the Army closed the base and the National Park Service opened it to visitors in 1994. One of the most famous movies filmed at the Presidio was, “The Presidio” (1988). Stroll around the grounds and through many of the buildings.
Next, head over to Union Street and get some of the best coffee in the City. Walk among these gingerbread Victorians turned art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants.
Things To Do - Park & Rec Areas
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
This park encompasses 74,000 acres of land and 1,250 historic structures, the largest urban park in the world. It’s actually about 2 ½ times the size of San Francisco! With sweeping vistas of San Francisco Bay and miles of trails, there’s so much to explore in the park. You’ll find listed a few of the highlights.
Golden Gate Park (Part of the GG National Recreation Area)
This section of the park encompasses over 1,000 acres. In the southeast corner of the park, ride the 1912 Herschell-Spillman carousel. There’s also horseback riding, paddle boating and a 9-hole golf course.
Things To Do - Performances
Golden Gate Park Band Concerts
Sundays at 1:00 pm, April through October
Things To Do - Museums
California Academy of Sciences
Explore the stars in the planetarium or the underwater world in the aquarium. Experience an earthquake at the Natural History Museum. Programs for families.
Explore the human body; play with the stuff that makes dough stretchy; and build a zoetrope, spectroscope, telescope or solar system.
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
This shipyard floats six impressive historic vessels including the 1886 square rigger Balclutha which measures 300 feet in length. Over 100 small crafts are on view including The Mermaid, the one-man sailboat that carried a solo voyager across the Pacific from Japan in 94 days.
Wells Fargo History Museum
Hop aboard the stagecoach and get a glimpse of gold nuggets, working telegraphs and mining tools. Find out how the bank dealt with Black Bart and other stagecoach robbers.
Things To Do - Retailers
Basic Brown Bear Factory
This is a real working teddy bear factory where you can tour and make your own bear. Located in the Cannery.
On Your Way Home
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Yes, it's a bit out of the way if you are traveling back to Santa Clarita on I-5, but it is well worth the stop. If you only have an hour, take the Redwood Grove Nature Trail, a 0.8 mile trail. This is a wheelchair (and stroller) accessible loop walk that begins near the Visitor Center. One of the tallest trees in the park, the Statue of Liberty, is about 280 feet tall and over 17 feet wide. You'll find it about halfway through the loop.
Tip: For crystal clear photos, you'll need your tripod, but it is well worth the effort!