By Christine Elizabeth Laprade

Laden with tech-savvy millennials, the most notable startups on the planet, global community-focused entrepreneurs, serious foodies (a true James Beard award mecca), illustrious artists, and fitness enthusiasts, The City by The Bay’s quality of life is a testament to its ethos. Amongst its major draws in 2018 are, legendary landmarks aside, the freshest produce with some of the most talented chefs in the country, jaw-dropping architecture, a buzzing art scene, and a multifaceted nightlife. Check out our top picks to experience SF like a true local.

Views from the Hilton San Francisco Union Square

 

What to Wear

By day, San Fran is as laidback as can be. Think leggings, flats (it’s filled with steep rolling hills after all), and casual wear. Bring a scarf and leather jacket, as the maritime air from the coast brings cooler temps with it. By night: anything goes, as the t-shirt and hoodie-clad techies blend in organically with the Zegna suit and tie types at the local art exhibit or wine bar. Only in San Fran!

 

Where to Stay

For the best location, views, and amenities: Hilton San Francisco Union Square

The vast complex offers the best value in town and hosts a bar, an on-site gourmet convenience store, skyline views, complimentary wifi, a coffee shop, and the excellent Urban Tavern. With modern rooms to boot, in typical SF fashion, the gym is packed by 6 am on any given day of the week, so fitness buffs will be pleased to hear that this gym is state of the art and spacious.

 

The Redwood Room Bar at CLIFT Hotel

A 4-star, sexy & contemporary boutique hotel designed by Philippe Starck: The Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel

The hottest spot in town offers prime views of the famous Reddit HQ, a chic pastel color palette and Instagram-worthy furniture for a total “wow” factor. The Redwood Room, a swanky cocktail bar nestled in the hotel lobby,  draws a stylish crowd, most notably models and top SF-based entrepreneurs. Go ahead and strike a conversation with anyone at the bar for an unmistakably memorable night.

 

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Where to Eat

Visit the Fisherman Wharf:

The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is where it’s at, with its live cooking demonstrations, free baobab energy shots (the city is a phenomenal wellness hub/ pioneer of healthy trends) and kimchi sushi-induced lineups. Being America’s top restaurant city, it’s no surprise that several famous chefs can be seen stocking up on organic and local produce here on the daily. The outdoor food vendors and scenery (hello, sea lions!) make it ideal to eat on a budget. Take a gut shot, feast guilt-free on an impossibly delish vegan donut or grab some mouth-watering chilaquiles from Primavera. For upcoming events or vendor profiles, check out cuesa.org.

A Vegan Dish from Gracias Madre

Discover the city through food

Hands down the best way to discover or explore the best of what San Francisco has to offer. An amalgamation of hip yet traditional joints, murals, tucked away graffiti-covered alleyways, boutiques and host to the boldest flavours in town, Avital Food Tours offers one the very best walking tours in America, according to both Conde Nast and CNN. The fee includes several food samples, artisanal cocktails, the best ice cream, local cheese, and everything in between. Simply stellar.

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

At Flatiron Wines & Spirits one can simultaneously stock up on exquisite artisanal, natural, organic and (very rare) wines, pet the house mascot; an adorable French Bulldog, and taste a selection of stellar Bordeaux Grand Crus for $5 while rocking some thigh high suede stiletto boots and/or a vintage tee shirt. Come as you are, the vibe is welcoming, hip, and electric. An unforgettable gem.

For champagne, the best views in town, and oysters: The Grotto in the harbour. Simply exquisite, chic, a must for sunsets, some afternoon rosé, or a power lunch.

Comfort food in an iconic institution: Capo’s. A speakeasy-like vibe, red leather booths, jazzy music, brick walls, and stellar antipasti and Chicago-style pizza.

For authentic Mexican fare – and 100% sustainable organic plant-based dishes, head over to Gracias Madre in the Mission district. Packed to the brims and excessively popular all day long, especially for brunch. Communal tables, reggae music and open for happy hour – definitely not to be missed.

Historic John’s Grill is one of America’s top 10 restaurants according to Esquire magazine. A fixture on the SF food scene for its prime views of the Golden Gate bridge, but mostly for its selection of seafood and steak cuts. Honchos & high profile politicians galore. The Dungeness Crab is not to be missed, just like the Oysters Wellington, as featured in Gourmet magazine.

Bi-Rite Creamery the lineups prove us right. Enuff’ said.

 

For Glitz & Glamour

Being one of the top income cities per capita in the United States has paved the way for world-class entertainment – and marvelous second-hand stores, but more on that later. A popular option here on any regular Saturday night consists of dressing and looking the part and participating in an “interactive play” set in the midst of the prohibition. The immersive theatrical experience (currently all the rage in the US) is an excuse to have fun, look dapper, and sip a Bubbly Baby in a high-voltage environment. We’re talking a cabaret, an illicit casino, a magician, stage performers, beautiful dancers, and an audience made of (genuine) long pearl necklaces, Mirabella Louboutins, couture frocks and bespoke suits. It’s San Francisco after all, and The Speakeasy is a local institution according to insiders and their social circles. Classy and utterly mind-blowing – a must!

How to Explore

The Museum of Ice Cream is an influencer-favourite and playful on top of making for the best IG pictures one could possibly dream of.

Animal lovers, families, or those on a date will be stunned by the longest and most beautiful underwater tunnel located at Aquarium of the Bay. Think sevengill sharks, rays, river otters, octopuses, and anything from the Californian aquatic ecosystem. At Pier 39.

SFMOMA is an institution in itself, on top of being internationally renowned for its outstanding collection of curated contemporary art pieces.. Nothing but the best of the best. Houses Situ, a James Beard Outstanding Restaurant Design award recipient.

A pro tip for an extra budget savvy stay: the SF CityPASS. The booklet offers deals and considerable promotions to several major attractions, and doubles as a multi-day transportation passport so you can move around aboard, say, a cable car. It offers bike rentals deals and shopping discounts at Bloomingdale’s as well.

 

Where to Shop

Fillmore street near the corner of Pacific Avenue is dotted with regal boutiques such as Le Labo, Atelier Cologne, Kohshi (Japanese incense), and keep-it-to-yourself second-hand shops. Think Tom Ford last season sequin dresses, D&G bustier dresses, LV trunks and Emporio Armani power suits at bargain prices. Located near the CLIFT and the Hilton hotels are all the high-end luxury banners such as Neiman Marcus, Goyard, Chanel, Barneys and the likes. Everlane in the Mission district is the epitome of cool, and so are the small nearby brick and mortar shops on Valencia street.

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