San Francisco

Follow our insider's guide to exploring cafes, coffeehouses, and Chinatown.

San Francisco - Best Urban Trek

Thayer Allyson Gowdy

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If ever there was a city made for walking, San Francisco is it. Whether up, down, or around its hills, you can hardly go wrong with any direction you choose. And all that exercise makes indulging in everyday pleasures a pastime of choice. Think custom lattes at the corner java joint, catching fly balls at Pacific Bell Park, and ferry rides across the sparkling bay. Top it off with a memorable meal and wine at a neighborhood cafe, and you'll be ready to go native.

 Best Alfresco Act 
A beloved Bay Area tradition since 1938, the Stern Grove Festival (19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard, 415-252-6252) draws thousands of fans for free classical, jazz, and ethnic music concerts every Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m., mid-June through August. Performances, which range from the San Francisco Ballet to the sizzling Latin sounds of Los Lobos, take place in a lush meadow surrounded by eucalyptus, redwood, and fir trees which serves as a natural amphitheater. Bring lunch and a blanket or reserve one of the shaded picnic tables. And to make a day of it, enjoy a pre- or postconcert hike through the park's wooded trails.

 Best Reason to Get Wet 
Sailboats dominate San Francisco's stunning harbor, but one of the best ways to get out on the water is in a kayak. For a gentle ride around the Golden Gate Bridge, catch up with Sea Trek (Schoonmaker Point, Sausalito, 415-488-1000; $65 for a half-day ride). You'll paddle the five-mile-long waterfront of Richardson Bay. Watch harbor seals, cormorants, pelicans, and herons play as you check out Sausalito's houseboats, which flaunt a funky hodgepodge of architectural styles.

 Best Farmers' Market 
The Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market (Embarcadero and Green streets, Saturdays 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m.) holds near-religious status among the San Francisco food cognoscenti. Diehards show up just after dawn to buy fresh produce and meats. How to begin a morning visit? Wrap your hands around a steaming cup of café au lait and then stroll among the stalls, which overflow with edible delights. Bundles of fresh herbs and flowers perfume the air; flats of berries glimmer in the sunlight. Sampling is encouraged, so try some of the artisanal cheeses or just-baked breads.

 Best Sweet Spot 
Linger over lunch or dinner at the modern industrial - styled Citizen Cake Cafe (399 Grove St., 415-861-2228) in Hayes Valley. While pizzas and salads make for tasty noontime options and dinnertime brings heartier fare, the cafe's real draw comes at the end of the meal, when diners can enjoy splurges like individual molten chocolate cakes, freshly made granitas, or mojito parfaits.

 Best Japanese Day Spa 
After trekking the formidable San Francisco hills, find relief for aching muscles at Kabuki Springs and Spa (1750 Geary Blvd., 415-922-6000), an Asian-inspired day spa with a calming Zen atmosphere. A typical visit starts with a soak in the Japanese-style hot pool followed by a steam, sauna, cold plunge, or shower. Follow that with a shiatsu massage or a facial or body treatment. Kabuki provides bath products, chilled cucumber face cloths, and freshly brewed tea.

 
A popular neighborhood restaurant and wine bar, Eos (901 Cole St., 415-566-3063) is celebrated among locals as much for its wine list as for its sparkling Asian fusion cooking. Eos offers wines from around the world, with a special emphasis on little-known Californian and Alsatian vintages, which complement dishes like Thai-spiced grilled bread salad and tea-smoked Peking duck breast. Diners can choose from among 400 bottles, or taste up to 40 selections by the glass. Wine flights, priced at $18 - $50, offer special tastings from a particular region, winery, or importer.

  

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