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

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Human Powered, Eco-Friendly Rides

March 6th, 2013 · San Francisco Tours

San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf area is a destination for a large majority of visitors, and many take advantage of the historic streetcar service along the Embarcadero.  The distance is enough for a very vigorous walk, but the streetcar is much more convenient.  Increasingly however, visitors find that the Muni public streetcars to *leave* Fisherman’s Wharf are consistently overfilled and with very long lines.  We’ve seen this personally and had similar feedback from many other San Francisco visitors.


The good news is that there is a fun way to get from the Wharf (or any San Francisco destination) along the Embarcadero, including AT&T Park for Giants baseball!   Pedicabs are “human-powered” carts that take you around the City at rates that are generally similar to a taxicab.  The difference is that you get fresh air, some useful advice about the City, and help out someone to stay in shape and make some extra money.  It’s a unique and fun way to see the City, and particularly convenient along the Embarcadero’s stretch from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Ferry Building and on to the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park.

Pedicabs can also offer tours, and provide friendly information on San Francisco, while enjoying an eco-friendly ride.  The typical cost to go from Fisherman’s Wharf to Embarcadero Center is approximately $20 for 2 adults.  The maximum a pedicab can safely carry is two adults and two children.  After that, you need a 2nd pedicab.  Typical areas for the pedicabs are along the Embarcadero – and you can also ride to most major hotels throughout Union Square, Chinatown, and around the City.

One of the cooler companies to try out (all pedicabs are not the same) is Golden Gate Pedicabs.  Look for them around the Ferry Buiding and Wharf or better yet, pre-reserve a ride so you won’t have to wait at 415-777-6999.

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City Guides – San Francisco’s Best Walking Tours

March 1st, 2013 · San Francisco Tours

What if you could get a tour of San Francisco – from a real resident – and (mostly) free?  It sounds too good to be true but that is exactly what San Francisco’s City Guides provide.  City Guides shares detailed walking tours of San Francisco neighborhoods and the only cost is a totally voluntary donation.  Tours are scheduled almost every day, throughout the day.   Some of the most popular tour locations (there are over 30 walks to choose from) include Coit Tower, Ferry Building, the Japanese Tea Garden, North Beach, Chinatown, and the historic Palace Hotel.  With an emphasis on San Francisco’s rich history back to the Gold Rush days, these tours are a step above the relatively generic tours offered by most bus companies.

You don’t even need to reserve these tours – just show up at the meeting spot, unless you have a group of 8 people or more.  Larger groups (8 or more people) require an advance reservation to maximize the quality of the tour.  Tours are a combination of the popular San Francisco landmarks and off-the-beaten-path “secrets” of San Francisco.  The typical tour lasts 1.5 hours to 2 hours.  These are walking tours, so be ready for healthy exercise – rain or shine.  The one thing not allowed on the tour is your dog, cat, or gecko lizard!   Pets are not a part of the City Guides tours, please leave them at home during the tour.  City Guides is a non-profit part of the San Francisco Parks volunteers, and there are over 200 active guides that can show you the best of San Francisco.

Past visitors to City Guides tours RAVE about the passionate tours, the tour guides who truly LOVE San Francisco, and the high level of detail in the tours.   SF Travel is a huge fan of City Guides and a strong supporter of their mission to inform visitors and locals on the history, beauty, and unique sights in San Francisco.

Interested in other San Francisco tours?   Check out the complete SF Travel guide to tours here.

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Kung-Fu Hustle: San Francisco Style

February 26th, 2013 · San Francisco Tours

One day per week, you can enjoy the most vigorous and unique tour to reach San Francisco’s Coit Tower.  San Francisco’s Shaolin Chinese Center offers a weekly opportunity to walk and jog from Chinatown up to the heights of Coit Tower views.  This cardio workout includes stops for Tai Chi, breathing exercises, and meditation and some of the most scenic spots in San Francisco.

You’ll need to be in reasonable physical shape, as the hills and stairways up to Coit Tower can be quite steep.  The hustle portion is just one mile of the 1.5 hour tour priced at $15.  The walk / jog tour includes sweeping views of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz, North Beach, and Chinatown.   Each tour concludes with compliemntary fresh fruit at the center in Chinatown.

Shaolin is San Francisco’s premier kung-fu school and the weekly walk to Coit Tower is a unique event not to be missed.   Learn more on all of the tours across San Francisco with SF Travel.

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Dylans Tours – San Francisco Reviewed.

February 26th, 2013 · San Francisco Tours

There are a multitude of tour companies offering paid tours of San Francisco, from huge bus operators down to individuals who will meet you for a walking tour.  Choosing the best tour company is never easy for your special trip to San Francisco.  One tour company that we recommend checking out is Dylan’s.  Dylan’s Tours is truly a family-owned business owned by two brothers who are both native San Franciscans.  The tour options include bicycle options, which are a great combination with the guided tours.  The primary tour is $65 for 10am to 3pm (5 hours).  You can be picked up in the North Beach or Union Square neighborhoods in a small bus that seats up to 14 passengers.  The tour includes Muir Woods which is an additional $7 entrance fee (not to be missed!).  The tour includes many of the best spots to see in San Francisco in a whirl-wind visit – with some stops ranging from 5 minutes up to a full hour:

  • Muir Woods
  • Painted Lady architecture homes of Alamo Square
  • Neighborhoods:  Mission and Castro Districts, Plus Marina District, Haight Street, and Pacific Heights
  • Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito

If you are in a hurry with limited time, a similar tour with a subset of stops is just two hours for $50 and includes a free bike rental.  One of the primary differences of the shorter tour is eliminating the trip to Sausalito and Muir Woods (over the Golden Gate Bridge) in Marin County.

Dylan’s also offers private tours with a 3 hour minimum at $80/hour for up to 5 riders.  Reviews of the private tours are very positive and can be a great option for a family that wants to customize the visit.  You can rent bikes for $22 per day, which is one of the lowest costs in San Francisco, or $7 per hour.  Bikes include many add-on conveniences, including locks, helmets, maps, and a carrying pouch.

Overall, people very much like Dylan’s tours based on feedback from real customers.  With so many tour companies operating from huge to tiny size – Dylan’s offers personalized service in a medium-sized company that has great feedback from customers.

Learn more on every tour that San Francisco has to offer with San Francisco Travel.

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Tastes of the City Tours – Reviewed

February 25th, 2013 · San Francisco Tours

Choosing where to have your culinary experiences can be one of the toughest decisions you have to make while on a trip to San Francisco. Luckily, the Local Tastes of the City Tours has taken the guesswork out of deciding on meals and snacks for you so each flavor and dish can simply be savored.

These excursions cover a few city blocks and allow guests to the city to be lead around by season foodie experts, sampling an array of delicious local specialties along the way. For instance, get started over a freshly roasted cup of coffee, indulge in some freshly baked bread then have a sample of award-winning chocolates. Options for culinary neighborhood exploration include Chinatown, Little Italy and customized night tours that blend together the best stops of the day adventures. No need to worry about lunch of dinner afterwards, as the hearty food and drinks during the tour are all included and very satisfying.

Not all culinary tours of San Francisco offer the wide array of options and possibilities that Local Tastes does. It can be easy to take the tourist route and settle on the most popular restaurants, but these excursions challenge visitors to brush shoulders with residents and support local artisans who have a penchant for pastries and other delights, With this leisurely style and wealth of information, taking one of the tours can be the ideal avenue to indulge when wanting to try a little bit of everything in this flavorful city.


Learn more on every tour that San Francisco has to offer for your unique tastes, at SF Travel.

, Copyright SFTravel LLC

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Top San Francisco Places to Enjoy on Saint Patrick’s Day

February 20th, 2013 · Holidays in San Francisco

saint patricks day san francisco

San Francisco is a mecca of fun events for St. Patricks Day. There’s something here for you whether your style is kissing the Irish at a local pub or visiting the historic St. Patrick’s church in the heart of town.

The San Francisco St. Paddy’s Day Parade

The most popular St. Patrick’s Day event in San Francisco is, of course, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival. The theme of the 2012 parade is Irish San Francisco: Past, Present and Future – and there’s a lot of history to celebrate considering that this year marks the 160th anniversary of this parade! The parade starts at 2nd street and market at 11:30 in the morning on St. Patrick’s Day and continues to Civic Center Plaza. The plaza itself is where the festival takes place. It runs from 10 – 5 and includes music, food and traditional Irish arts and crafts. Entry to the festival is free and all are welcome.

Other Top Picks for a San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day

  • St. Patrick Historic Church. St. Patrick’s is a Catholic Church in the SoMA with a regular mass but it’s also a historic attraction worth peeking into regardless of your religious affiliations. The beautiful green and gold decor and large stained glass windows are awe-inspiring. There is a small display at the entry of the church explaining the history and architecture of the building since it was first created in the mid-nineteenth century. This church also hosts a special St. Patrick’s Day dinner and dance.
  • Crossroads Irish-American Festival. This is actually a month-long festival celebrating Irish-American heritage with a variety of different events. 2012 marks the ninth year of this event with activities beginning on March 3rd. There are no specific events on St. Patrick’s Day itself but there is an open mic on March 15th and a poetry reading on March 22nd as well as all of the other Irish celebration options throughout the month.

Best Irish Pubs in San Francisco

There are numerous Irish pubs in San Francisco and every single one of them is a jam-packed place of fun on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s tough to choose one but some of the best San Francisco Irish bars are:

  • Ireland’s 32. This bar has been serving up pub grub and drinks for thirty years and shows no signs of slowing down. It’s a little out of the way from the usual tourist crowd so you’ll find mostly locals here enjoying the happy hour deals, live music and other events offered here. A great place for a high-energy St. Patrick’s evening.
  • Kennedy’s. This off-the-wall bar in North Beach combines an Irish pub with Indian food dining. It sounds weird but it’s a really fun place that is also very popular with the locals and you’ll find plenty of people hanging out around the pool tables here on St. Patrick’s Day. From here it’s not a far walk to the bars on Grant Street; a popular choice there on St. Patrick’s Day is Maggie McGarrys.
  • The Irish Bank. If you want to go to a bar and restaurant that has a traditional Irish pub feeling then you’ll want to find The Irish Bank which is located in an alley in the Financial District. You’ll get to enjoy a little bit of history on display here while you celebrate the holiday. It’s a busy place on St. Patrick’s Day since it’s located not so far from the parade activities.
  • The Plough and The Stars. If you want to get down and dance to some traditional Celtic music for St. Patrick’s Day then your best pick is this hot spot, frequently voted a best San Francisco Irish bar. There is music here almost every night with a special event on St. Patrick’s Day itself.
  • Napper Tandy. The Mission is always a popular neighborhood for bar hopping. It’s not typically thought of as a place for Irish pubs but there are a couple of good ones down there including Napper Tandy where Irish drinking culture meets a Latin twist in a high-energy fun environment.

Off-the-Beaten Path St. Patrick’s Day

  • Visit the United Irish Cultural Center of San Francisco. This is a place with a wide variety of classes and local events. On St. Patrick’s Day they offer lunch and dinner (traditional corned beef and cabbage) and a space to hang out to watch the Gaelic Games together on TV. The center is located close to Golden Gate Park and just a few blocks from the beach so it gives you a chance to see some sights while you’re in the area.
  • Annual Green Fest Block Party. The Irish Cultural Center also hosts this annual Irish-themed block party at 45th Ave and Sloat Blvd. Hear Irish music, see Irish dancing and enjoy the day near the beach at this family-friendly event. The 2012 event is on March 13th and runs from 11-4.
  • Celtic Music in Berkeley. Take BART across the bay to visit the historic Freight and Salvage Coffee House for a night of traditional Irish music. For 2012’s St. Patrick’s Day the performance is by the Black Brothers from “Ireland’s foremost family of song”. The band includes an Irish step dancer and accordion player as well as a fiddle virtuoso.

The Right Hotels for St. Patty’s Day

If you want to be close to the St. Patrick’s Day parade action then you should choose a hotel near the parade route. Top choices near the beginning of the parade include the Palace Hotel, the St. Regis Hotel and The Westin San Francisco. Top choices near the Civic Center festival include The Hotel Majestic, Queen Anne Hotel and Renoir Hotel.

Are you more interested in being close to the nightlife rather than the daytime action? The Union Square and Civic Center hotels are still good but you might want to also explore your options in North Beach and the Fisherman’s Wharf area. That will put you close to Kennedy’s Irish Pub and within walking distance of the bars on Grant Street. Top choices here include San Remo Hotel, Hyatt Fisherman’s Wharf and The Marriott.

Would you rather be out near the ocean for some of the family-friendly activities? Top choices there include Days Inn at the Beach, Oceanview Motel and Sunset Motel. Another good lodging option on the west side of town is Stanyan Park Hotel. It’s not as close to the beach as the others but puts you in fairly close proximity to the Irish bars in the Sunset neighborhood (such as Ireland’s 32) as well as the west coast family activities. Laurel Inn is another option in this area.

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San Francisco’s Bold Italic

February 19th, 2013 · Reviews, Travel News

What words say and mean are important, but how they are presented with images and beautiful photos truly make them stand out. Such in the case with The Bold Italic – one of the web’s premiere sites for exploring what makes San Francisco tick. With a keen eye for graphic design, illustration and telling one hell of a tale, the approach this melting pot of San Fran culture takes is refreshing and a thrill to dive into. It’s perfect for an audience that appreciates humor, biting wit and bringing attention to the weird and wonderful.

Three aspects in the city are highlighted, including stories shared by locals, crazy events taking place in the area and where to pick up some of the most interesting and well crafted souvenirs and goods. Each category is updated often to ensure everyone is getting the latest information, with each story usually paired with images created by city artists.

Not only can users find fun places to shop, see art, hear music and more, the site offers a rare insight into the small idiosyncrasies that make San Francisco unique. Learn why there is a plastic bag ban throughout the city or how to best blend into the microbrew scene at a neighborhood bar. Besides what to try when traveling, intelligent and fresh contributors offer their takes on the latest news, phone apps and other tidbits to further explore the City by the Bay’s mindset.

While the idea is to mostly appeal to a local resident crowd, sites like The Bold Italic are perfect for travelers who thrive on discovering gems off the beaten path. People can find the top five things to do in San Francisco anywhere, but to truly get a feel for the city and it’s special personality, diving deep through the quips, articles and advice will do a world of good for any adventurous visitor. The spirit of a destination is usually found not in it’s impressive architectural or historical landmarks, but more so in the locals themselves who call it their home. Through The Bold Italic, travelers can immerse themselves in the city and feel as if they’ve already met a group of like-minded friends willing to show them around.

, Copyright SFTravel LLC

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Chinatown Behind the Scenes: The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

January 21st, 2013 · Activities

San Francisco’s Chinatown is a sight to behold. And that’s true even if you’ve lived here a while. Once you get past the trinket shops on Grant Street and the grocers on Stockton Street, you might be wondering how else to tour around Chinatown. Well, it’s time to head for the alleys and stop in at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.

Chinatown’s alleys and side streets offer a not-at-all-hidden alternative to getting around, with colorful traditional Chinatown architecture, Chinese temples, family association halls, and bakeries.  Even though the alleys may only be a block away from the throngs of tourists, they receive little to no foot traffic. You could spend an entire morning wandering through the mellow maze of streets, taking in the ornate ironwork and painted balconies.

Tucked into one of Chinatown’s oldest alleys stands one of the only fortune cookie factory left in San Francisco: the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. A dark, narrow gorge cut between city blocks, Ross Alley was once home to brothels, gambling houses, and billiard parlours. San Francisco Magazine once called it ““ronchiest [sic], most fetid, worst ventilated thoroughfare in Chinatown.”  Turning the corner onto Ross Alley’s grey, slick tunnel , its sordid past feels close at hand…except for the jarring and overwhelming smell of vanilla cookies.

At the north end of the alley, with pagoda-inspired arches along its façade, you’ll see the sign for the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.

If you’re a fan of fortune cookies, you probably already know that they have very little to do with China, and more to do with Japan. Fortune-cookie-adjacent wafers have been found in bakeries outside Kyoto, and many of the first American bakers who’ve claimed to “invent” the fortune cookie were Japanese immigrants.

Yeah, so who actually invented the fortune cookie is quite the controversy! (In addition to being another notch in the San Francisco-Los Angeles city rivalry.) In turn-of-the-century San Francisco, the landscape designer who created Golden Gate Park‘s Japanese Tea Garden, Makoto Hagiwara, began serving “tea cakes” (they weren’t folded but did contain fortunes) to park visitors. Meanwhile, in 1918 Los Angeles, David Jung handed out cookies filled with Bible verses to unemployed men. A few Japanese bakers in Los Angeles around the same time also claim to have invented the cookie. It is still a mystery.

What’s not contested is that in the 1960s, Edward Louis, who ran San Francisco’s Lotus Fortune Cookie Factory on Pacific Avenue, invented the completely automated fortune cookie machine. It not only made the cookies, but used air to blow fortunes into each cookie before folding it.

With the industrialization of the fortune cookie, its popularity took off. Now, more than three billion fortune cookies are made each year, mostly in the United States. The largest manufacturer, Wonton Food Inc in Queens, NY, attempted to market the cookies in China as “genuine American fortune cookies”. They didn’t take off. As the New York Times reported, Chinese reactions ranged from confusion to amusement to “Americans are so strange, why are they putting pieces of paper in their cookies?”

The mystery continued as I faced the large Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory sign. Clearly, I was in the right spot, but I had no idea which unmarked door led to the factory. This is probably because I still had ideas about what a Fortune Cookie Factory would look like – something along the lines of what you’d see on the Discovery Channel. Conveyor belts shuttling sugar and vanilla then batter then wafers through cauldrons and between temperature controlled rooms. Workers in white uniforms. Maybe booties would be involved.

Staring at two possible doorways, I very nearly opted for the one with steps leading down to a fluorescent lit basement, the word “OPEN” scrawled on a piece of paper above the archway.

Luckily, I peeked into the other doorway and a woman sitting at a large black iron press urged me inside. With arms and hands rhythmically folding wafers into the familiar fortune cookie shape, she nodded towards a box of rejects and told me to take some.

I munched away on the flat disks and took in the scene. There are two machines in the factory. Each is cylinder with small iron presses around the circumference — like tiny petals on a hulking sunflower. Each tiny press operates like a waffle iron. A tube drops a dollop of batter onto the bottom iron, the top iron clamps down around the batter, and the machine turns one click. When the iron disk has made one rotation around the cylinder, the cookie is ready and the bottom and top  presses separate to reveal a still-soft wafer. A worker peels the wafer off the press, inserts the fortune, and folds the wafer into the shape of a fortune cookie. She then places it on a special cooling rack to harden.

You can stand there for as long as you like, but taking photos will set you back $.50. Once you’re ready to go, make sure to pick up a bag of fortune cookies to share. I opted for a bag of 6 for $1.

Back in Ross Alley, I leaned up against a brick wall and cracked one open. “You will have a long life.” Uninspired, maybe, but I’ll take it.


 Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

56 Ross Alley, San Francisco, CA

Hours: 9am to 6pm everyday

Admission: Free (but $.50 if you’d like to take photos)

 by Maria/Far Out City. Maria writes about San Francisco and urban travel over at Far Out City. All photos copyright by 2013 Far Out City.

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San Francisco on the Blogs

January 21st, 2013 · Reviews, san francisco

san francisco at nightAs travelers wander on into the new year, the adventure-seekers in San Fransisco continue to flourish and thrive. Bloggers from all over the world are singing praises about this city and write to share their own exciting experiences while checking out the tourist hotspots, relaxing at trendy cafes and blending in with the local outdoor enthusiasts.

Don’t Ever Look Back

It’s not often you get the power and opinion of a dynamic duo in one post. But couple Amy and Kieron in their blog have tackled more than one dozen countries and plan to jet set a lot more in the future from their native home of Australia. When they visited San Francisco, they compiled their favorite things they did and saw as outsiders in this fun city. They recommend a day cruise through San Fran Bay, spending some time in the modern art museum and riding bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge, to name a few.

Thinking Nomads

This blog has found a way to highlight San Francisco’s European flair by pointing out some great hotspots to explore while traveling to this destination. They have especially focused on the city’s classic and elegant culinary delights that mimic styles from countries such as Italy, Spain, France and England. This is done by visiting tea rooms, bustling marketplaces and cozy cafes that all exude a European flair in Fog City.

Easy Hiker

Locals and visitors to San Fransisco can use this handy post written by Debbie for Easy Hiker to scope out their new favorite trails in and around the city. Not only is this area known for urban wonders and landmarks, but there is also plenty of nature to be admired as well. Specifically, she explains a trip on the Canyon View Trail in the Sunol Regional Wilderness, only a few minutes away from the downtown area. Hikers can spot plenty of wildlife and beautiful Californian vegetation.

The Chronicles of Stu

By taking a more visual approach, this post features some amazing shots of Alcatraz taken by Stu the Canadian. He and his partner take a boat over to the old prison and take a classic audio tour while snapping copious amounts of photos. It can give potential future guests a great sense of what to expect on their upcoming trip.

, Copyright SFTravel LLC

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Holiday Decorations Round Up: The Best San Francisco Has to Offer

December 11th, 2012 · Christmas Season, san francisco, Shopping


With temperatures plunging into the 50’s this week, San Francisco is starting to feel downright festive. If you’re looking to get your holiday fix, here are San Francisco’s must-see twinkle light and decoration displays


1. Hyatt Regency Lobby, Embarcadero

Thousands of strands of twinkle lights rain down over the Hyatt Regency’s lounge, along with an impressive Victorian village complete with zoo, amusement park, and, of course, a trolley car to usher the plastic figurines between attractions. If you’re in need of a tranquil oasis to stop and have a hot chocolate or a hot toddy away from the holiday shopping hordes, look no further.

To get there: From Union Square, either walk a mile along Market Street to the Hyatt Regency at Drumm Street and Market Street. Or, hop on a BART or MUNI line from the Powell Street station, two stops to Embarcadero station. The Hyatt will be just ahead on Drumm Street and Market Street.


2. 21st street between Church and Sanchez Streets, Noe Valley

Propped up on a steep hillside in Noe Valley, this house give you the double whammy of some serious creative decorative effort in addition to stunning views of San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, and San Francisco Bay. The main attraction is a 4-story tree, decorated to the nines like a Christmas tree with over sized glittery ornaments and what I can only imagine is thousands upon thousands of lights. And  the crane parked outside hints that the owners still aren’t finished with this one.

To get there: From downtown, take the J-Church MUNI streetcar from the Powell Street or Montgomery Street stations to 21st Avenue. Hop off and walk up the hill for a 1 ½ blocks.


3. Union Street, Cow Hollow

For 23 years running, Union Street has hosted its Fantasy of Lights on or around December 1st. The festivities might last for only one night, but the lights stay up for the rest of the holiday season. This is where you want to go for festive holiday shopping.

To get there: From downtown, take the 45 Union-Stockton bus from the corner of Kearny and Stockton Streets to (Van Ness Street). Hop off and walk west along Union Street.


4. Castro Street between 14th Street and Duboce Avenue, Castro 

The north pole itself exploded all over this massive Edwardian in the Castro. Not an inch of siding, bay window, or railing is spared from the onslaught of lush garland, stalagmites of gold and red Christmas tree ornaments, and a full size Santa Claus making a run for the chimney.

To get there: From downtown, take any of the underground MUNI streetcar lines from the Powell Street or Montgomery Street stations to Castro station. Exit the station and walk north on Castro Street for 3 ½ blocks.


5. Quintara Street and 34th Avenue, Outer Sunset

After a day at the zoo or taking in an early December sunset at Ocean Beach, this house is a fun stop on your way back home. Featuring dozens of glowing candy canes, a squadron of drummer boys, glowing nativity, and every decorative light-up lawn ornament you’ve ever seen. And that’s before we get to the impressive number of lights.

To get there: From downtown, take the L-Taraval MUNI streetcar line from Powell Street or Montgomery Street stations. Hop off at 35th Avenue and Taraval Street. Walk a block to 34th Street, then walk north along 34th Street for 3 blocks to Quintara Street.


6. Westin St. Francies Lobby, Union Square

There are two gingerbread houses on this list. And each is special in it’s own right. The Westin St. Francis, just across the street from the Union Square skating rink, is the most artistic gingerbread house I’ve ever seen. Reaching nearly to the lobby’s chandeliers, this year’s “house” is actually a 1,300 pound gilded chateau, complete with dozens of rooms, 20 turrets, and a small village at its base.


7. The Fairmont, Nob Hill

What The Fairmont’s gingerbread house lacks in glitter dust and turrets it makes up for in sheer size. This is a gingerbread house you can walk through. It took the hotel’s pasty and engineering shops 895 hours to build, with 7,750 individual tiles of gingerbread, 1,250 pounds of royal icing, and 675 pounds of candy. The lobby also features a holiday kids corner, where children can write letters to Santa and drop them off in the mailbox.

To get there: From downtown, walk north on Powell Street for four blocks (it’s a vertical hike) and turn left on California Street. The Fairmont will be to your right.


8. Hayes Street, Hayes Valley

Like Union Street, Hayes Valley hosts an annual Holiday Block Party with decorations lasting the rest of the month. Hayes Valley’s tree-lined streets turn into a technicolor twinkle light display, with most stores opting out of the traditional white-bulbs. It’s an ideal spot to shop for the design enthusiasts in your life under a canopy of holiday cheer.

To get there: From downtown, take any of the underground MUNI streetcar lines from Powell Street or Montgomery Street stations to Van Ness Station. Walk two blocks north on Van Ness Avenue, then take a left onto Hayes Street. 

Did we miss any of your favorite San Francisco holiday displays? Let us know in the comments!

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