By Ryan Lewis
The bell of a cable car rings through the air as cyclists whiz past you, on their way to work against a backdrop of rolling hills and the surrounding Pacific waters. A blanket of fog gently rolls away to reveal Victorian row houses of every color surrounded by parks populated with families enjoying picnics and groups of friends taking in views of skyscrapers in the distance. You’re in San Francisco: the city that has inspired countless songs, literary icons and cultural movements; where poets, tech entrepreneurs and environmentalists sit alongside each other in cafes that roast their own coffee beans and serve tomorrow’s culinary crazes. Known as an epicenter for innovation, the storied city is constantly evolving, making it impossible to experience in its entirety, even on the most liberal of time frames.
Year after year, the continuous shifts bring travelers to the area’s diverse neighborhoods, attractions and businesses that pride themselves on being at the forefront of cool. Whether you seek epicurean exploration, artistic enrichment, a little retail therapy or a simple change in scenery, San Francisco surpasses expectations with its ever-expanding options for spending the time. On the following pages, Loews Magazine invites you to spend three days traversing the town’s signature sites and trending hot spots.
No stay in the city would be complete without a stroll through Fisherman’s Wharf, a wide-ranging mix of shops, restaurants and attractions sprawled out over a colorful section of old fishing piers. Catch an early morning cab or an F-line trolley to beat the crowds.
This popular area is where you’ll find some of San Francisco’s staples (enjoy clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls from Boudin, snack on fresh chocolate from Ghirardelli, say hello to the local sea lion population), but you will definitely want to save time for two unique activities: a tour of Alcatraz Island and some time in the Musée Mécanique.
Boats for the tour of Alcatraz leave from the wharf, although you’ll have to book reservations online a few weeks in advance to secure a spot (alcatrazcruises.com). The audio tour is a must on this fascinating jaunt through the history and lore of the closed federal penitentiary. The ride to the island and back doubles as a harbor cruise with dazzling views of the skyline and Golden Gate Bridge. Musée Mécanique, a peculiar and unique arcade of old penny show machines, is located just behind Boudin, near the USS Pampanito. A private collection of more than 300 pieces makes up the interactive museum, which offers free admission. The machines can be played for a quarter or two, including such favorites as the working carnival and the legendary Laffing Sal.
As crowds start to roll into the wharf, travel inland to the Mission District, home to countless murals and community artworks that pay homage to the neighborhood’s Latino heritage and independent art roots. Start at either the 16th or 24th street BART station and navigate through Clarion Alley, Balmy Alley and 24th Street east of Valencia Street for glimpses of these unique pieces. For more in-depth examination, the Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitors Center hosts guided mural walking, biking and bus tours on weekends or by private appointment during the week. The nearby South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood is also home to Electric Works and SOMArts, both great places for local arts events on Friday evenings.
After indulging your artistic side, indulge your palate with coffee, sweets or craft beer (or all three). Philz Coffee on 24th Street hand-pours delicious coffee that’s become a sensation. Although you’ll likely encounter a line at Tartine Bakery & Cafe and Bi-Rite Creamery, they’re both well worth the wait for masterful baked goods and artisanal ice cream, respectively. The establishments are near Mission Dolores Park and its namesake, a massive church that’s one of California’s historic Catholic missions.
Just a couple miles east of Mission Dolores Park, Anchor Brewing calls Potrero Hill home. Reserve a place on the brewery tour a month in advance, then enjoy generous samples of beer on tap and a history lesson about one of America’s oldest craft breweries. If you miss out on the tour, the new Southern Pacific Brewery, back in the Mission, features a spacious industrial location with an indoor garden, great food and a spread of house-brewed beers.
This part of town also hosts four of the city’s most beloved restaurants. Choose between Delfina and Foreign Cinema: The former is known for pizza and pasta while the latter has a romantic patio (along with classic films projected on a large brick wall once a month). Or, a short cab ride will bring you to Bernal Heights, where you’ll find Ichi Sushi + NI Bar and The Front Porch. Ichi showcases in-season, sustainable catches. Sit at the counter, where chef Tim Archuleta prepares “omakase” dinners (meals made up of a series of plates selected by the chef). The Front Porch, on the other hand, serves up comfort food with a cozy ambience.
After dinner, sample some of the city’s best cocktails and nightlife. The Mission’s Hog & Rocks features an inventive menu of craft drinks and candlelit seating. In Bernal Heights, head to either Rock Bar for bourbon concoctions or Iron & Gold for its swanky vibe.
After all of that walking on Friday (and maybe one too many Manhattans at Hog & Rocks), you may not want to travel far for breakfast. Fortunately, Loews Regency San Francisco Hotel houses a decidedly elegant yet casual restaurant, Brasserie S&P, that’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The modern menu is San Francisco cuisine at its finest.
After breakfast, partake in some sightseeing on wheels. Various bus tours run across the city, and since you can hop on or off at any stop all day, they’re convenient for customizing your stops and time frame.
If you prefer to tour San Francisco via car, steer your own way through the 49-Mile Scenic Drive. This clearly marked route will take you by all of San Francisco’s major landmarks and over all of its famous terrains. It can be as a quick as a couple of hours or last the entire day, depending on your preference. From Loews Regency San Francisco Hotel, start in the Financial District and head north, winding through the bustle of Chinatown, past Coit Tower and Lombard Street, then into the Presidio, a park that’s part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, for a photo opportunity in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. When you reach Ocean Beach, stop for a quick cliff-side milkshake and fries at Louis’ Restaurant. You can walk off the calories with a climb down into the Sutro Baths and Lands End trail just below. Hop back in the car and continue past the beachfront into Golden Gate Park, where you can veer a little off the markers for a stop at the famous, expansive grounds. Grab a parking spot near the de Young Museum or California Academy of Sciences. The de Young houses an eclectic mix of modern and classic works while the academy’s living rainforest exhibit, planetarium and massive walk-through aquarium offer interactive learning (and fun). End your drive with views from the top of Twin Peaks, the geographic center of San Francisco, which also happens to be the city’s perfect lookout.
If the drive hasn’t taken all day, you may want to reserve a couple hours to decompress at The Spa inside Loews Regency San Francisco Hotel. Designed as a tranquil urban retreat, the wellness destination’s calm, contemporary atmosphere is the ideal place for a little relaxation. The Spa offers treatments from head to toe, and the state-of-the-art fitness center’s moredern equipment rounds out the focus on total-body wellness.
After some time rejuvenating, slip into stylish attire for a night out on the town. San Francisco’s culinary powerhouses Gary Danko and Boulevard are fine-dining standouts; but be sure to make reservations far in advance. While award-winning chef Danko’s namesake is known for artful surroundings, theatrical presentation and a decadent tasting menu, Boulevard will complicate your decision on where to dine. Located inside one of the oldest buildings in San Francisco (that notably survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire), the restaurant’s sustainable menu is designed to impress any dinner date.
For a meal that’s equally delightful while deliberately dressed down, head to Nopa in the Western Addition. The “urban rustic” eatery has attracted attention for its famous country pork chops, wood-fired burgers and an array of thoughtful vegetarian dishes. Don’t leave without sampling the cinnamon caramel sopaipillas, a take on the famous South American fried pastry dessert.
Be sure to leave room for a nightcap at Churchill or Blackbird, two popular bars in the nearby Castro district. Both watering holes are frequented by diverse crowds and serve up specialty cocktails in an intimate setting. Churchill’s impressive interior and exterior are constructed from wood reclaimed from a 100-year-old Canadian bar, giving it a mid-1900s, World War II-inspired theme. Blackbird is a lounge for those who prefer a livelier atmosphere, as it tends to draw large crowds later in the evenings.
Waking up at 7 a.m. on Sunday may feel like a tall order, but breakfast at Mama’s on Washington Square is well worth the effort. Since it’s just a nice walk or quick cab ride from the hotel, aim to reach this city institution by 7:30 at the latest to be among the first wave of guests. Then, enjoy legendary breakfast specialties including the eggs Benedict and omelet specials. When appetites are satisfied, stroll through neighboring Washington Square Park’s quaint shops and Saints Peter and Paul Church. This gorgeous cathedral famously provided the setting for Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio’s wedding photos and was also featured in “Dirty Harry,” starring Clint Eastwood.
Slip into nearby North Beach to experience more of San Francisco’s rich arts scene and cultural history. The Beat Museum is a small but provocative look into the lives and work of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and their lively band of contemporaries that popularized the Bay Area’s thriving jazz and poetry scene of the 1950s. You can walk in their footsteps by browsing (and maybe catching a poetry reading) at City Lights Bookstore before grabbing a snack and drink at Vesuvio Cafe, both popular gathering places of the storied era, and both chock-full of historic photos and memorabilia.
Dinner options are numerous in North Beach, which is also San Francisco’s Little Italy. Chinatown is also just a 10-minute walk away. One of the largest Chinese communities outside of Asia, it spans more than 20 blocks of restaurants, shops and attractions like the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, where you can watch cookies being made by hand, and even take home a bag or two.
Nearing the end of your last day, you’ll have experienced some of the city’s best, but your short trip has only been a sample. End the evening with craft cocktail at 15 Romolo, and toast to a speedy return to the City by the Bay.
Now open in the Financial District, Loews Regency San Francisco Hotel is the latest hotel to join the Loews Hotels & Resorts portfolio. Located on the top 11 floors of the 345 California Center tower, all guest rooms and suites feature contemporary design and spectacular views. Guests can expect the personalized service and anticipatory amenities provided by all Loews Hotels & Resorts, while experiencing the best that this singular city has to offer thanks to a central location and a knowledgeable staff.
The hotel’s on-site restaurant, Brasserie S&P, serves fresh California cuisine while the bar’s extensive gin collection, homemade tonics and comprehensive wine list ensure a perfect pairing for any palate. Guests can also book some time at The Spa, an elegant space designed for rejuvenation with private suites for individuals or couples; and the fitness center is open 24 hours for guests’ convenience.
For business or special occasion travelers, the range of meeting and event services are available in a stylish environment—the hotel’s event space is the highest in the city, located on the 40th floor.
For more information and reservations, visit loewshotels.com.