Home to tech mavens, foodies, counterculture types and newcomers from all over the globe, America’s hilly, fog-shrouded Golden Gate is a city unlike any other.
DAY THREE Today, you’re in the St. Regis (1), a sleek luxury hotel just off Union Square. From your high-rise room trimmed with creamy marble and bamboo, you peer down at the roof of the Museum of Modern Art and throw on some athletic gear. Time to go biking.
After picking up a mountain bike from the Bike and Roll (2) rental shop on Columbus Avenue, you head down to the Bay and follow the bike path west through the dunes. You pass a strip of marinas and zipping kiteboarders out on the choppy surf, then take the Long Avenue switchback up until it intersects with a second bike path, and make a beeline for the bright red turrets of the Golden Gate Bridge (3). Riding over the bridge is exhilarating, with the wind hitting you in furious bursts. The view from the middle, with San Francisco Bay spread out beneath you, from Alcatraz to the Bay Bridge to the grassy hills of Marin County, is spectacular. As you come down the far side, follow signs to Sausalito, a sleepy town of shops, galleries, and cafés nuzzled into the north end of the bay. It’s a long ride down, but don’t worry about having to climb back up. You can take a ferry from the center of town straight to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Drop off your bike and change back at the hotel. Anchor and Hope (4), just two blocks away, is a foodie-friendly seafood restaurant that provides exciting twists on seafood and comfort dishes. Try the apple ginger cured salmon tartare followed by a gourmet fi sh sandwich.
Back outside, hop the F streetcar down to the arty Mission District and amble down Valencia (5), the main thoroughfare. Browse through a legion of cool art shops, bookstores, galleries and bars. Be sure to detour down Clarion Alley to take in the incredible street art that spills across its walls and garages.
Grab dinner at Beretta (6), at the corner of Valencia and 23rd. This Italian eatery specializes in gourmet cocktails—you try the Old Pretender, a citrusy blend of scotch, Drambuie and fortified white wine. For food, you go for the eggplant caponatina, a decadent warm salad made with olives, pine nuts, onions, tomatoes and burrata cheese. You follow it up with a delicious, creamy risotto.
You make your way north through the Mission and then cut across Dolores Park to the Castro. Historically a bastion for the city’s thriving gay community, this neighborhood has recently seen an influx of young families and yuppie singles. You’re just in time to catch a film at the Castro Theatre (7), a magnifi cent old movie house that specializes in cult classics and midnight schlock. Be warned: The audiences can get pretty raucous, which is part of the fun.
Afterward, you wander into the night, through the wildly diverse crowds, to the F streetcar. As you ride back to the hotel, it’s hard not to feel like this is the very heart of San Francisco: the seamless union of art, culture and public transportation—all etched, indelibly, into the side of a hill.
MATTHEW THOMPSON, a Hemispheres contributing writer, is still waiting for his home state of New Hampshire to get cable cars.
HILL STREET BLUES
THERE ARE OFFICIALLY 43 HILLS IN SAN FRANCISCO. HERE ARE SIX OF THE MOST FAMOUS.
TELEGRAPH HILL, 284 FT.
BETWEEN NORTH BEACH AND THE WATERFRONT, YOU’LL FIND COIT TOWER AT THE SUMMIT IN THE MIDDLE OF A WOODED PARK. WATCH OUT FOR THE FLOCKS OF WILD PARROTS.
NOB HILL, 376 FT.
GUTTED BY THE 1906 FIRE, NOB HILL NOW PLAYS HOST TO A MIX OF LUXURY HOTELS, LIKE THE RITZ- CARLTON, AND THE EVER- ENCROACHING FRONTIER OF CHINATOWN.
RUSSIAN HILL, 294 FT.
A RESIDENTIAL COMMUNITY PERCHED ABOVE GHIRARDELLI SQUARE AND THE BAY, IT’S MOST FAMOUS FOR THE SWITCHBACKS OF LOMBARD STREET, WHICH RUNS DOWN ITS SIDE.
MOUNT SUTRO, 918 FT.
THIS PARCEL OF DENSE EUCALYPTUS FOREST, LOCATED DUE WEST OF THE CASTRO, BOASTS A NUMBER OF WELL-MAINTAINED HIKING TRAILS.
TWIN PEAKS, 904 FT. AND 911 FT.
LOCATED IN THE CENTER OF THE CITY, THESE TWIN HILLS (EUREKA AND NOE) ACT AS A FOG BREAK FOR THE EASTERN HALF OF TOWN. CHRISTMAS TREE POINT, BELOW EUREKA PEAK, OFFERS THE BEST VIEW IN SAN FRANCISCO.
MOUNT DAVIDSON, 938 FT.
THE TALLEST NATURAL POINT IN SAN FRANCISCO, MOUNT DAVIDSON IS MOSTLY PARK SPACE, WITH A GIANT CROSS ILLUMINATED FOR EASTER AT ITS PEAK.
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