How to Spend the Perfect Weekend in San Francisco

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One of the most scenic cities in the world and a nearly unbeatable weekend getaway, San Francisco provides visitors with a wealth of culture, distinctive neighborhoods for every taste and superb restaurants ranging from seafood to Italian to Asian delights. Incredible shopping venues, frequent street fairs and an electrifying nightlife await weekend warriors as well.

  • Spend an afternoon in Golden Gate Park, one of the prettiest urban parks in America and a bastion of appealing attractions as well. Of particular interest is the newly reconstructed deYoung Museum, focusing on American creations, and the nearby Japanese Tea Garden, an oasis of koi ponds, pagodas, Asian statuary, a teahouse and a cool gift shop; additionally, flower fans will not want to miss the fantastic Conservatory of Flowers.

  • Just off the center of the park's eastern end you'll find Haight Street, a colorful throwback to the "Summer of Love" and always alive with fringe-dwellers, street musicians, cool shops and affordable eateries. Parking can be a nightmare here on weekends, so if you've already found a spot in Golden Gate Park you might want to hold onto it and brave the short walk.

  • Have a fine dinner and unforgettable night out in North Beach, an Italian neighborhood built around the main thoroughfare of Columbus Avenue, which begins at the base of the Transamerica Pyramid building and runs diagonally to the northwest. Among the countless dining options, the Stinking Rose-an oasis for garlic-lovers-is kitschy but worthwhile, and for a lively tavern that will instantly become one of your favorites, stop by the Savoy-Tivoli on Grant Street.

  • Spend some time in Fisherman's Wharf, overrun with tourists but still a fun stop for its views of the bay, souvenir shops and seafood, then walk west to Ghirardelli Square, an attractive shopping plaza home to the famous Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. During your stroll, make time for the Buena Vista-a locally legendary tavern famous for creating the Irish coffee; limit yourself to two or you may never leave!

  • Make sure to at least take a walk through Chinatown, one of the largest Asian communities in America and a boisterous enclave of authentic produce markets, peerless restaurants and offbeat gift shops. If you're in the neighborhood during lunch or dinnertime, the Empress of China on Grant Avenue provides sumptuous and sophisticated cuisine-and incredible views of the San Francisco skyline-from its top-floor location.

  • For a unique perspective on the city and the entire Bay Area, take a stroll out on the spectacular Golden Gate Bridge, particularly appealing in fair weather. Keep in mind the span is almost two miles across, so unless you're up for a hearty hike, turn around at midpoint; the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, on the "city side" of the bridge, offers peerless picnicking and pleasant people-watching.

  • Have a wild night out in the city's South of Market (SoMa) district, where trendy taverns and wild nightclubs abound. During the day, the neighborhood is best-noted for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), a marvelous modern structure highlighted by Ansel Adams's photographs and paintings by everyone from Matisse to Pollock.

Tips & Warnings

  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is about 20 minutes south of the city and is served by numerous major airlines.
  • It's smart to bring "layers" of clothing when visiting San Francisco as even a summer day can become windy and chilly in a hurry.
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