FORBES | SAN FRANCISCO CITY GUIDE, FALL 2019
Is there ever really a bad time to visit San Francisco? Probably not. Which is why an estimated 26 million tourists passed through ‘The City By The Bay’ in 2018 alone. Some moments are better than others, however. Right now happens to be one of them. As the mercury drops across most parts of the country, this often mischievous microclimate of Northern California holds fast to a crisp and steady 65-degree high. And thanks to the completion of the $2.4 billion Transbay Terminal last August–after nearly a decade of construction and delays–downtown is now tied together like never before. Restaurants, public spaces, even hotels in the immediate neighborhood are reinventing themselves as a result. Here’s a guide to help you enjoy it all.
SF’s most recent facelift can best be felt across SoMa–or, ‘South of Market Street’. Atop the new bus terminal is an urban sanctuary unlike any other in the city. Salesforce Park is a massive footprint, more than half a mile in length, holding 600 trees and 16,000 plants arranged into over a dozen botanical zones. Suspended 70 feet above street level, the 5.4-acre public garden is accessed by a free gondola ride and promises to be the Bay’s answer to New York’s High Line.
Underneath the green the local food and beverage scene is flourishing. Inside the transit center, the promise of perpetual foot traffic has attracted some big names: Per Diem–a FiDi stalwart with its seasonally focused California cuisine; Michelin recommend Tycoon; and Acquolina, where homemade pasta will be cooked up in an open kitchen.
During the extended construction the area often felt like, well, a construction zone. But it has quickly evolved from a locale to be avoided into a veritable dining destination. Dozens of hip eateries have set up shop here in a few short years. Town Hall was a notable edition when it arrived in 2015. Now under the shadows of Salesforce Tower, it specializes in elevated takes on southern comfort classics. Country ham and barbecue gulf shrimp is plated alongside jambalaya and crispy fried okra.
Longstanding neighborhood haunts, such as Anchor & Hope – a decade-old fish house and oyster bar with craft beer sensibilities – have finally been rewarded for their patience with prime real estate adjacent to the city’s newest hub. Here the menu has been streamlined to fit the bill. Belly up to the boisterous bar during the afternoon to enjoy one of the best happy hours in town. Angels on horseback, spicy crab dynamite and dollar oysters all arrive alongside pints of local specialties broken down into malt, hops, and sour categories.
Another notable upgrade to the area arrives in the form of the InterContinental (888 Howard St). The 32-story, LEED certified hotel just completed a top-to-bottom renovation of its 556 guest rooms. Suites now offer touch panels with automated curtains and bluetooth compatibilities. Floor-to-ceiling windows reveal unfettered views of the iconic cityscape–spanning from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate. Beds and bathrooms have all been updated as well, increasing comfort levels throughout the stay. Rates rise sharply from $189 for a standard all the way up to $675 for a one bedroom suite.
On the top floors, the property’s 2000 square foot Presidential Suite–starting at $3500 per night–remains the premiere luxury overnight for those who can afford it. The duplex holds two separate private outdoor terraces, each with its own distinct sightlines, and a pair of bedrooms to match. The master suite, with its walk-in wardrobes and stately furnishings, gives guests the feeling that they are literally lying atop the city.
In the lobby, Michelin-starred Luce benefits from a cosmetic makeover–now more of a warm and intimate space than before. But the consistency of the upscale American fare remains true. They’re still serving the best beef tartare in the city; diced Wagyu topped with puffed wild rice and golden yolk. Duck breast, aged on the bone, is another dependable standby, invigorated with sliced apples and delicate lentils.
For those desiring a more compact experience, YOTEL San Francisco opened on nearby Market Street last February. The 203-room property bills itself as the ‘West Coast’s first-ever aviation inspired hotel’. It features 86-square foot ‘Sky Cabins’, with a lofted mezzanine level bed. The focus here is clearly on the technologically inclined Millennial traveler, with high-speed WiFI, adjustable mood lighting, and shared off-lobby workspaces. It’s all designed to drive efficiency, with rates starting at $125 per night. The guest experience receives a first class upgrade with the arrival of a rooftop bar early next year. From 14 stories above, you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of a San Francisco neighborhood that continues to reinvent itself. To millions of annual visitors, it’s looking more exciting than ever before.