The best things to do in San Francisco for an amazing trip.

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October Weather in San Francisco

June 15th, 2015 · Weather

muir woodsSeptember and October are ideal months for visiting San Francisco if you desire good weather during your stay. October tends to be just a slight bit chillier than September with a tiny chance of rain compared (compared to dry September) but the two months are very similar. There are great events to enjoy in the Bay Area in October including a few of the biggest outdoor festivals of the year. The windiness of the summer months has calmed down and the accompanying biting chill has dissipated. Often there is also a drop in hotel prices in San Francisco during the fall months so you can enjoy the beautiful weather and big events at an affordable price.

The average low temperature in San Francisco in October is 55 degrees. The average high is 69. There is a slight drop in temperature as the month carries on, so the average high at the beginning of October is closer to 72 degrees while the average high at the end of the month hovers around 66. The average lows drop similarly. There is typically very little wind in the city during this lovely month, and although there is an average of one inch of rainfall each October, it’s statistically unlikely that it will rain during your stay. All-in-all October tends to be a predictable month weather-wise. You should still bring a windbreaker and a scarf because you just never know what a day will be like in San Francisco but for the most part you can be comfortable in average autumn clothing.

Since the weather is so nice, October is a terrific month to enjoy outdoor activities. In fact, the most popular October event is the free outdoor music festival Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. It’s one of the most popular free things to do in San Francisco, and the acts include many big names such as Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Ryan Adams, Roseanne Cash, Dwight Yokam and Bela Fleck. If your music tastes trend towards electronica instead of folk then perhaps you’d prefer Treasure Island Music Festival.

Of course, music isn’t all that you can see outdoors in San Francisco in October. One of the year’s most popular events is Fleet Week, when you can head down near Pier 39 to enjoy ship tours and air shows. Perhaps you are more literary than military; October is the month for Litquake, which features over one week of reading/ writing performances and culminates in the LitCrawl where you can stroll from venue to venue to see a variety of spoken word acts. And it’s worth it to head out to Ocean Beach to check out the amazing creativity in the annual LEAP Arts sandcastle contest.

In addition to all of these larger events, there are smaller neighborhood festivals that will allow you to enjoy the good weather in different neighborhoods through the city. The month kicks off with Fiesta on the Hill in Bernal Heights and Castro Street Fair, continues with Union Street’s Wine Walk and North Beach’s Italian Heritage Festival and comes to a close with Potrero Hill Festival. If you want to see a number of different neighborhoods and happen to be a runner, October is also the month of the Bridge to Bridge 7K and 12K races and the Nike Women’s Marathon.

What if the weather does happen to turn chilly for a bit or you just need an indoor activity that will allow you to sit down and rest those feet that can get tired from all of the walking down on San Francisco trips? There are plenty of indoor events in October as well. A few examples are the San Francisco Dance Film Festival, Yerba Buena Arts Night, the Vintage Couture Ball, and Sundance Stampede (an LGBT country dance festival).

Traveling to San Francisco in a month other than October? Check our average San Francisco temperature chart to see what the weather will be during your visit.

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September Weather in San Francisco

June 15th, 2015 · Weather

cable carsIf there is a best month to visit San Francisco then it’s arguably September. The throngs of tourists have begun to empty out and the streets are a little more empty for navigating but there are still plenty of fun activities to enjoy and the weather is the best for enjoying them. There can’t be said to be too many hot days in San Francisco but the sunniest are typically in September of each year, when it doesn’t ever seem to rain and everyone wants to get outside.

The average low temperature in San Francisco in September is 57 degrees. The average high is 70. While this may not sound particularly warm to people who live in climates, the combination of slight humidity and bright sunshine makes it comfortable against the skin. It’s cool enough, especially at night, to be a relief for travelers who hail from the Southwest United States and other places that have been boiling hot for the preceding months. Unlike during the summer months, you won’t experience much in the way of wind when you visit San Francisco in September. It’s just nice and comfortable.

That said, San Francisco can change from moment to moment (and neighborhood to neighborhood) so don’t get caught without a few layers to change into just in case the wind does pick up for a bit. If you’re walking around near Pier 39 or Golden Gate Bridge, the breeze of the bay can feel chilly at times, even in sunny September. If you’re up on top of Twin Peaks where the wind never stops whipping, you’ll be glad to have a windbreaker wrapped around you as you enjoy the sweeping views. A light jacket, a scarf and a pair of good closed-toe shoes should be enough to keep you warm during this early autumn month.

Pack your sunscreen since there is less cloud cover in San Francisco in September. You might want to spend some time at the beach while you’re here. Remember, though, that even when the sand is nearly blistering, the waters of the Pacific Ocean are pretty cold. Most people want to wear a wetsuit if they’re going into the water. It’s a great time to head out on the water in a boat though. Whale watching, sailing, bay cruises and even ferry rides over to the North Bay or East Bay can all be terrific activities during a September San Francisco vacation.

Speaking of the surrounding Bay Area, this is one of the few times of year when the temperatures in San Francisco tend to match those that are further inland. The summers in San Francisco are much colder than the surrounding Bay Area while the winters tend to be warmer. In September, however, the difference isn’t so drastic. From San Jose to Napa, you’ll find that day trips and weekend getaways are just a slight bit warmer than the city proper during the hottest times of September days.

Of course, you don’t have to leave the city to enjoy yourself. There are many interesting annual events that occur in September. San Francisco is a city that is well-known for its unique architecture and you can learn a lot about it from Architecture and the City – a month-long architecture and design festival that includes walking tours and other events. If you enjoy the performing arts, your options are varied since September includes the opening performances events of the San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Symphony, the two-week live theater event known as SF Fringe Fest, the weekend of Bay Area Blues Festival and also Opera in the Park and free comedy day.

 

Looking for something you can’t do anywhere but San Francisco? There is the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival, the Chinatown Autumn Moon Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival over on Treasure Island or the famous leather fair on Folsom Street. There truly is a little bit of something for everyone here in San Francisco and September will not disappoint you with its calendar of events! On a budget? Check out Free Things to Do in San Francisco.

 

Thinking about traveling to San Francisco during some other month of the year? Check our average San Francisco temperature chart to see what the weather will be during your visit.

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7 Most Romantic Getaways Within 60 Miles of San Francisco

June 27th, 2014 · Activities

Have just a day or two to escape from the city and do something really special? There are many special destinations in the surrounding area that provide a perfect getaway for romance. Rent a luxury car, head out of town and enjoy time with your partner. Here are our top seven picks for dreamy day trips and whimsical weekends:

1. Mud Baths and Wine Castles in Calistoga

castello di amorosa

Calistoga is a city in Napa County, the romantic wine country north of San Francisco. It’s filled with things to see but isn’t quite the tourist trap that Napa proper is. Located about two hours drive from the city this is one that you can do in a day or with one overnight stay. If your time in Calistoga is limited then start with a wine tasting tour at Castello di Amorosa and end with a couples mud bath.

Castello di Amorosa (which translates to Castle of Love) is a stunning castle winery built in this century but designed to be a perfect replica of an Old World castle from seven or eight centuries ago. When you take the tour you’ll learn that old bricks from historic buildings were brought over from Europe along with custom masons skilled in working on old buildings in order to make sure that this castle feels truly real and not like a cheesy Disneyland version of a castle. Tour through the many layers of caves and end with a wine tasting. Add a chocolate pairing to your wine tasting for an extra aphrodisiac.

castello di amorosa

As for the mud baths, Calistoga is home to natural hot springs that are put to use in several spas in the area. Couples can sit side-by-side in their own mud tubs, relaxing into the healing heat in a private room, ending with a shower, relaxation in a Jacuzzi and a warm body wrap rest. Of course, there are other couples’ spa treatments as well for those who don’t find mud baths romantic.

If you have more time during your trip, it’s worth it to check out the Petrified Forest of California, the downtown shopping on Calistoga’s main road and some of the other vineyards and wineries.

2. Beaches of Big Sur

Enjoy a stunning scenic drive south along the coast to this overnight getaway destination. Big Sur is located just past the tourist hot spots of Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. Those locations are also popular couples’ destinations but if you go just half an hour further from Carmel you can get a more intimate experience. That’s about 3 hours drive from San Francisco. Stay in a cabin in the redwoods, picnic on the beach and stoke the fires of your relationship.

The main thing to do in Big Sur is to enjoy the wilderness (and each other of course). There are a number of state parks where you can go hiking. You’ll also want to spend time on the beaches. While you’re there, keep an eye out for the beautiful semi-precious jade stone, which can be found naturally on many of the Big Sur Beaches. Also make sure to check out McWay Falls, a short drive south of the main village of Big Sur, where you can see stunning waterfalls drop eighty feet into the Pacific Ocean. There is only one other spot on the entire US Pacific Coast where a waterfall drops into the ocean (at Alamere Falls, north of San Francisco).

3. A Day in Half Moon Bay

beachAlso located south of San Francisco on the coast but not as far of a drive as Big Sur, Half Moon Bay makes for a great romantic day trip. Enjoy a meal at the beautiful Moss Beach Distillery (but hold each other close because this destination is reportedly haunted!) Take a horseback ride on the beach at sunset. Look for grey whales off of the coast of Gray Whale Cove State Beach (or even book a whale watching tour.) Cap off the evening with a drink at one of the local wineries or breweries. And if you can’t bring yourself to head back home at the end of the day, there are plenty of romantic bed-and-breakfasts to choose from here.

4. Art and Nature in Mendocino

Another coastal town that has some great bed-and-breakfast options is Medocino, but this one is north of San Francisco instead of South and it’s far enough away that you should plan an overnight stay. You have the option of driving the four-hour route up the coast or taking Highway 128 through the majestic redwoods.

Medocino is known as an artsy town so if you enjoy art galleries and studio tours then it’s a particularly favorite spot. Sprinkle your day with stops at the cute local cafes, bistros and intimate restaurants. There’s a lot of beautiful nature here as well, including gray whale sightings off of the coast during the months of February- April. And make sure to spend some time together at Mendocino Botanical Gardens, offering more than 40 acres of gardens on the seaside.

5. Thunder Valley Casino

If you’d love a romantic getaway to Last Vegas but can’t steal away for quite that long then your next best bet is a stay at Thunder Valley Casino. Stay up all night partying with your partner playing slots and table games at this 24/7 casino. Like any good casino you can enjoy dining, lodging, entertainment and spa services all on site. There are nine restaurants to choose from as well as five additional bars and lounges. And if you need to get out of the casino hubbub for a bit consider golfing at Whitney Oaks Golf Club just fifteen minutes down the road.

6. Wine Tasting and White Water Rafting

Enjoy the thrill of an adrenaline rush with your lover by going white water rafting together in nearby Auburn, located about two and a half hours away from San Francisco in the Greater Sacramento Area. Rafting takes place on the American River. There are many different guided tour options available, including at least one that combines rafting with wine tasting!

Auburn is a small town, the highlight of which (other than rafting) is Old Town Auburn. You’ll find cute shopping options, seasonal street fairs and farmers markets, and several restaurants to enjoy with your sweetie. There are a few lodges and inns. Auburn is located on the Placer County Wine Trail, a series of family-run boutique wineries. You can find lodging in any of the other small towns on the trail as well.

7. Harbin Hot Springs

Seeking an experience in nature that’s a little bit more on the lowkey side? Look no further than the Harbin Hot Springs retreat center. This clothing optional center has natural hot springs pools, sunbathing, yoga sessions, massage and other bodywork and a variety of different workshop options including sensual couples’ workshops. (Plan in advance for workshops as schedules vary.) Harbin is located in the midst of beautiful nature, with meadows and groves and hilly hikes all around. Lodging includes rooms, cottages, cabins, and camping so there is something for everyone. There’s an on-site restaurant that offers romantic fireplace meals prepared with local organic foods. Harbin Hot Springs is located about two hours drive north of San Francisco (inland, not coastal).

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Enter the Dungeon.

June 17th, 2014 · Fisherman's Wharf

Dungeon San FranciscoSan Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf now has a great new attraction to give you a bit of a horrifying scare, and learn about the history of the City.  The new San Francisco Dungeon is filled with interactive, live-actor exhibits to share the history of the city in a creative and engaging way.  It’s a semi-horror experience to let you have fun, be a little bit scared, and learn about San Francisco.  Some of the exhibits include:

  • Gangs of San Francisco:  Thugs and hoodlums control commerce in San Francisco and demonstrate all of the “creative” ways they motivate their customers…. and debtors….
  • Court Room of San Francisco:  Crime and punishment with no mercy.  Check out a real courtroom with the hilarious crimes and punishments to teach a real lesson…
  • Miss Piggott’s Saloon:  Crazy and fishy business in a San Francisco saloon.  Watch out for what may be a trap door in the floor!

The dungeon features intricate period costumes designed in the UK and assembled in San Francisco by local costumer, Wee Scotty.  The actors get to enjoy amazing sets by Daniels Wood Land Inc., using beautifully-crafted reclaimed wood.   You’ll see scary folks with captivating make-up artistry led by MAC Pro Cosmetics.

You can see from the example rooms, that your (approximate) $19 ticket price will give you quite a creative day.  With the new Dungeon located right in Fisherman’s Wharf (the only one in the USA or North America), it’s a great option and particularly for bad weather days.  Have you checked out the Dungeon, what did you think?

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How about a horrifying campout experience?

June 16th, 2014 · Activities

Via ThemeParkAdventure.com

What if you could immerse yourself in a horror experience that you are living; in the dark; overnight?  A new concept in truly scary entertainment is “The Great Horror Campout” which is headed for the San Francisco area July 11 and 12 at the Alameda campground near Pleasanton and many other cities soon.  For a cost of approximately $140-$200 for a 2-4 person group, you can stay overnight with your breakfast covered — and have truly “one hell of a scary night”.  Some of the things you will experience would be:

  • A hideous scavenger “Hell” hunt — where the hard to find items may be hidden in (thankfully replica) human body cavities; dirt; bushes; or only by convincing scary participants to give up the goods.  The scavenger hunt is challenging; scary; and a main event of the campout.
  • The Homestead obstacle course where you crawl on your hands and knees through very authentic replicas of dead people, animals, and other body parts drenched in blood and imitation bodily fluids (we hope!!!).
  • Monsters roam the grounds, randomly terrifying participants and maybe even grabbing their food while they try to eat.
  • And of course they show horror movies on the big screen.

It’s a unique and scary event that is like no other.  You’ll be scared, but hopefully not harmed.  Campers may shout the safe phrase “I WANT MY MOMMY!” to put an end to any nightmare.  Participate at your own risk!!!  An excellent and detailed review of the event is found here.

ONLY THE DAWN WILL SAVE YOU.

 

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New Sports Wax Figures at the SF Wharf: Jeremy Lin and Gabby Douglas!

June 16th, 2014 · Activities, Fisherman's Wharf

Although the wax museum at Fisherman’s Wharf is pretty darned touristy — your next visit will include some great new sports figures being added for this summer.

Jeremy LinJeremy Lin is known for his global fan club “Linsanity” and currently plays basketball for the Houston Rockets.  Jeremy led an amazing winning streak for the New York Knicks which brought him into the public limelight.

Gabby Douglas

Gabby Douglas was a member of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team at the 2012 Summer Olympics and won gold medals in both the individual all-around and team competitions.  She is also the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to become the individual all-around champion.

Madame Tussauds in San Francisco is at 145 Jefferson Street in Fisherman’s Wharf and tickets are approximately $19 per person for all ages.  The museum hours are 10am to 7pm daily.

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3 Great Restaurants for your San Francisco Trip

March 10th, 2014 · Uncategorized

Here are three great restaurants to try out on your next trip to San Francisco.  After our visit to all three, we wanted to share these ideas.  Let us know what you think!

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Tacolicious  

Expect to wait in a long line to be seated at this casual Mexican restaurant. Once seated, they do offer you chips and salsa. I wasn’t too crazy about the chips- they were on the thick side. The salsa on the other hand, tasted fresh and yummy. On our visit, we tried the kale salad, 4 different tacos that were all delicious, and we shared a pitcher of margarita! The kale salad tasted fresh and delicious. It was perfectly balanced using a cider-cumin vinaigrette. The salad was big enough for two people to share. Then on to the tacos…we had the fried rock cod, shot-and-a-beer braised chicken, traditional carnitas, and their taco of the week. All were delicious in their own way. The pitcher of margarita de la casa was tasty and strong. Over all, we were happy that we decided to go to Tacolicious. We came a little later in the evening so we didn’t have to wait long for a party of 2. We also enjoyed the loud music playing which made the ambience better.

Limon Rotisserie

We came here on a Saturday night and much to our surprise, they were able to seat us within 45 minutes! Needless to say, we felt fortunate to not have to wait too long. We started out with the house made red sangria and the pisco sour. This was the best sangria I’ve had in a while. The pisco (Peruvian brandy) sour was tasty as well. On this visit, we ordered a whole chicken – pollo a la brasa – which came with 3 different delicious sauces. It was a lot of food, leaving us with some leftovers to take home, but I can’t complain about that! Along with the chicken, we had the yuca fries and the tacu tacu. The yuca fries were good but cut on the thicker side. They had minimal flavor beyond the flavor of yuca itself. The tacu tacu was flavored rice, an interesting side dish but not spectacular. If I were to come back, I would like to try the vegetable salteados.

 Mission Beach Café

Don’t get me wrong, the food is delicious but I’m just not sure it was worth the 1 hour 15 minute wait to be seated. There is no calling ahead (for brunch) for this restaurant – you have to come and put your name down on the clipboard that is hanging in front by the door of the restaurant. We decided to walk around since we were pretty far down on the list. When we came back, we had to wait some more. After noticing a few patrons walk into the restaurant and out with coffee cups and pastries, we realized that we could have had their coffee while waiting to be seated. I only wished they had told us about this.

On this visit, we had the lamb hash and the MBC scramble. Both entrees were good. The lamb hash was topped with two overeasy eggs. It was a little rich, but I polished off the whole plate. The MBC scramble was good and it came with a side of brunch potatoes. The brunch potatoes were cooked perfectly – a little crunchy on the outside, just right on the inside and full of flavor. We wished we had ordered a side of bacon as we caught a glimpse of it coming out of the kitchen and looking crispy.

The experience would have been better had the wait time not exceeded the dining time, but overall, we were happy with the brunch.

 

By:  Florinda Davis, Copyright JL7 Ventures LLC

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10 Best San Francisco Date Spots for a $0 Budget

March 8th, 2014 · Activities

You don’t have any money but you don’t want to stay home bored. Luckily there are lots of great things that you can do in San Francisco without spending a penny. Here is our roundup of the ten best free San Francisco date spots.

1. Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park BBQ BarbequeYou can spend an entire day in Golden Gate Park without seeing all of its magic and you don’t have to spend a cent. You can walk hand-in-hand amongst the beautiful trees. You can spread a picnic blanket out and take a nap on a sunny day. You can play Frisbee or ride your bike.

In addition to all of these regular park activities, here are some other free options in Golden Gate Park:

  • Take the elevator up to the tower lookout at DeYoung Museum for a great aerial view of the park. No charge if you’re not going to the rest of the museum. When you exit DeYoung take a moment to enjoy the beautiful view of the living green roof across the way on the top of the California Academy of Sciences.
  • See the buffalo roam. The wild bison lounge about in their enclosure in the center of the park for you to see at no charge.
  • The free gardens. The rose garden, the garden at the windmill, the AIDS Memorial Grove and the flowers planted on the outside of the Conservatory of Flowers are all beautiful bits of nature to see at no cost.

There are also some activities in the park that normally have a fee but can be free if you go on the right day and time. Some examples:

  • DeYoung Museum offers free admission to all regular exhibits on the first Tuesday of the month. This museum is also always free to children under age 12.
  • The California Academy of Sciences is free on selected Sundays quarterly throughout the year. There are also free neighborhood days for San Francisco residents. Check the website for exact dates.
  • The San Francisco Botanical Garden is always free to San Francisco residents. It’s free to everyone early in the morning (7:30 – 9) and is also free the second Tuesday of each month and selected holidays. This is a beautiful date spot.
  • The Conservatory of Flowers is free on the first Tuesday of each month.
  • The Japanese Tea Garden is free if you enter before 10am on Monday, Wednesday or Friday.

If you plan in advance, there are also a lot of fun free events to enjoy in Golden Gate Park. Perhaps the most popular of these is the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass music festival each October.

2. Other San Francisco City Parks

Golden Gate Park is the largest and most famous of all of the parks in the city but there are plenty of other parks here to enjoy on a free date. Dolores Park is a popular sunny spot for picnics as well as free outdoor summer movie nights. Washington Square Park, Alta Plaza Park, Alamo Square, Duboce Park and Lafayette Park are just a few of the other city parks that make great date spots. See our guide to great SF Parks here.

3. San Francisco City Beaches

San Francisco’s beaches aren’t the first pick on the list because it’s often so cold on the coast here. However, if you wear the right layers and enjoy walking along the beach then these can be terrific spots to spend the day without spending any money. Go to Ocean Beach to do the longest walks along the coast. Try Baker Beach if you want an edgy date at a clothing-optional section of beach. Go to Aquatic Park or Crissy Beach for brave wading in the bay. If you’re at Aquatic Park on the first Saturday of the month check out the free Sea Chantey Sing-Along about the historic ships at nearby Hyde Street Pier.

4. Union Square

san francisco february weather

Photo By: JC Cristobal

This city square right in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District has a lot to offer, not the least of which is some great free people watching. In the winter months you can see the big Christmas tree and watch people ice skating on the temporary rink (including the free Drag Queens on Ice annual performance). Summer evenings are a great time to catch free outdoor movies. Other performances happen at lunchtime and in the early evenings throughout the year. And even when nothing formal is happening there is usually a street performer or two playing music in the square. Take your camera and go around to the four corners of the square to take pictures with your sweetheart at each of the San Francisco heart art sculptures.

5. San Francisco’s Street Fairs

There is at least one street fair each month in San Francisco and usually many more (especially during the summer months when you can hardly go a weekend without one!) If you can avoid the temptation to spend money on artisan wares and overpriced food then these can be fun people-watching, music-listening date spots. Note that a few of the annual street fairs (San Francisco Pride, How Weirde Street Fair) do have by-donation fees, though payment is generally not required for entry.

6. More Free Museum Days

As mentioned above the museums in Golden Gate Park offer free days at various times throughout the month. So do most of the other museums in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most of the museums have their free day either the first Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday of the month but these do vary from place to place. If you mark your calendar you can fill a good chunk of any month with free dates to see art, science and other smart exhibits.

7. San Francisco Art Gallery Openings

And speaking of art, don’t forget all of the free San Francisco art gallery opening events that take place throughout the year. The annual month-long SF Open Studios is a great opportunity to see artists at work in their spaces. Other free events include the First Thursdays Free Gallery Art Walk and the North Beach First Fridays Art Crawl, plus of course there are individual gallery openings all of the time.

8. Free Sunday BBQs

In an effort to get you in their doors in the hopes that you’ll buy drinks there are several places in San Francisco that offer free grub. On Sundays get the free BBQ at Malotov’s in Lower Haight or Bender’s Bar & Grill in the Mission. Check SF Fun Cheap for other similar free food deals throughout the week.

9.  Stairway Walks

tiled stepsThere are some beautiful, unique stairways in San Francisco, many of which are remote and romantic. The Filbert Street Steps, the 16th Avenue Tile Steps, and the Lyon Street Steps are all popular choices but a quick search online will turn up many, many more options for your romantic walking pleasure.

10. The Local Library

Many people forget about all of the amazing things offered through the local library system. Nearly every day you can attend something interesting for free at the main San Francisco library or one of the city’s many branch libraries. These include lectures, film screenings, art shows, various classes and more. Additionally, the library hosts SF City Guides, which are free walking tours all around the city every day of the week.

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Best New Year’s Eve Parties in San Francisco

December 23rd, 2013 · Activities, New Years

New Year's EveDecember 31st is an annual milestone in our lives, and there’s something for everyone this New Year’s Eve in San Francisco. From fireworks exploding over The Bay to all-night revelry, we’ve compiled our favorites:

Fireworks over San Francisco Bay

San Francisco launches fireworks over the Bay, between the city’s jewel, the Golden Gate Bridge and the strikingly long Bay Bridge at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday.  Some of the best places to see the fireworks are:

  • All along the Embarcadero from Mission to Folsom
  • Pier 14
  • Treasure Island.
  • Twin Peaks
  • Grandview Park at Moraga and 14th Avenue

Party People

Some of the best parties this year are at our favorite hotels, which makes it easy to avoid an unsafe drive home!  ;-)    Check out the revelry at:

  • Palace Hotel – NYE International Ball, Tickets priced $85-$150
  • Westin Saint Francisco Hotel – Passport to the World, Tickets $125-$700
  • Fairmont Hotel – Cirque NYE, Formal Attire and Tickets $50-$150
  • Hotel W – W NYE 2014, Tickets $90-$175

Kick Back with Bowling and Drinks

Lucky Strike San Francisco will host a New Year’s Eve Party from 10:00 PM – 1:00 AM. Guests can bowl, enjoy Lucky Strike’s rustic comfort food and delicious drinks, and dance the night away with their resident DJ spinning tunes. Lucky Strike San Francisco will make New Year’s Eve an unforgettable experience with party favors, a complimentary champagne toast, and balloon drop with game cards and cash dropping from the ceiling as guests countdown to 2014 at midnight.  Tickets priced $60-$100 with online options here.

Of course, as with nearly all cities on NYE, hitting the town means paying big for entry almost everywhere. If you’re a drinker but are on a budget, and still feel the need to see in the New Year at one of the city’s parties, consider choosing an all-inclusive events; i.e. where your ticket includes alcohol. This way you’ll know what your maximum costs are once you’ve bought the ticket.

If anything, be sure not to miss the free fireworks over the Bay. The city lights up at midnight, the multi-colored sparks illuminate the Bay and a collective countdown and cheer reverberates from the ocean to the hills.   Whatever you choose to do – be safe, smart and never drink & drive.    Taxi info here and towncar info here.

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Chinatown with Open Eyes

December 17th, 2013 · Chinatown, Travel Apps

best dim sum in san franciscoThe last time I was in Chinatown, I was hungry. And I knew exactly what I was looking for: delicious, meat or seafood stuffed dumplings could solely curb this craving. I pulled out my phone and located the nearest-by joint with high reviews and let’s also filter by affordable price tags—this was just a snack I should clarify, as I had a nice and rather expensive dinner planned for later that evening.

Delicious Dim Sum was the name that came in first on my search and it met all the aforementioned requirements. I made the decent down the steep sidewalk, traversing one half block and there it was on my left. I hopped right in and gazed through the glass display at the mouthwatering options. Glistening, plump, and just a little transparent, the dim sum dumplings were just what I had in mind. “So, which are your most popular?” I asked. The lady responded but I didn’t understand her – I gathered this would be one of those point-to-what-you-want and use-theatrical-facial-expressions types of situations, though that didn’t throw me off as I happen to be decently talented in this department.

dim sum in chinatownThe ordering was underway, pointing and nodding in full-swing, but I really had no idea what I was filling my to-go container with. How do I know which of these dumplings swaddled succulent bits of pork, and which bundled something not-so-pleasing to my personal palate? Labels or a menu would have been helpful. Actually, labels in English, were what I was missing. There was a hand-written menu on the wall above the dumplings, but on top of not understanding spoken Chinese, I don’t know how to read it either.

chinese translation app
Since this lovely dim sum visit, I’ve stumbled upon an app that would have made this experience a lot less like a game of Russian roulette. It’s called Waygo, and is free to download from the iPhone App Store. If you point your phone camera at any Chinese script, the app will translate the words to English, so next time I won’t accidentally order chicken feet.

Thankfully, everything turned out to be tasty and satisfying that time around, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t eat anything that I hadn’t had before.

But Delicious Dim Sum isn’t the only spot in Chinatown where this straightforward app would prove sidekick-worthy. There are plenty of little shops and mini-markets where I could see this app coming in handy. I remember a handful of occasions where I could have used a personal translator in my pocket. In particular, shopping in a Chinese medicinal shop trying to make sense of one label or another, eventually giving up and walking out empty handed.

Since Chinatown is a major tourist attraction in San Francisco, hosting more visitors annually than the Golden Gate Bridge, Waygo is a practical and easy tool to add to the pack-list for those planning a trip. For those San Francisco natives, Chinatown frequenters, or those planning a vacation to China itself, all the more convenient instant translation could be.

The idea for Waygo came about as CEO & Co-founder, Ryan Rogowski, was working in China, building mobile games. While in the process of learning the language but also needing to translate quickly and easily, he conceptualized this tool that could look up characters by simply pointing a phone camera at the text. Beyond helping someone in a similar state of learning Chinese, he realized that a tool like this could help any traveler in any country see with new eyes.

Here’s more information about Waygo and downloads for iOS.

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