Thursday, November 30, 2006

Where to Stay in San Francisco: Part III - Union Square

Union Square is the principal shopping district in San Francisco. If you want to be near Saks, Macy's, Nordstrom, Nieman-Marcus, Bloomingdale's, Gump's, and hundreds of other stores, then Union Square is the perfect location for you to base your stay in San Francisco.

Staying in Union Square also lets you easily access the two Powell Street cable car lines and the F-Line streetcars to go to Fisherman's Wharf. The Moscone Center, where most conventions are held, is an easy 10 to 15 minute walk from most Union Square hotels. In fact, it's usually faster to walk to the Moscone Center than to take the shuttle bus that many conventions provide.

Numerous restaurants are close to Union Square ranging from casual lunch spots on Maiden Lane to the highly rated Michael Minna, Farallon, Masa's, and Fleur de Lys.

Hotels can be found in all sizes and at all prices. If you are on a real budget, Hostelling International has a location at 312 Mason Street. The Westin St. Francis has been gracing the west side of Union Square since 1904. Joie de Vivre Hospitality and Kimpton Hotels have a number of boutique hotels near Union Square. One of our favorites is the pet-friendly Hotel Monaco on the corner of Taylor and Geary Streets. You can bring your pet or, if you don't have one, the hotel will provide you with a goldfish.

If you want to be in the center of things, then Union Square is the place for you. If you want to take a San Francisco tour while staying in the city, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Where to Stay in San Francisco: Part II - Nob Hill

Nob Hill is where many of San Francisco's elite had their homes before the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. The Big Four, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Colis P. Huntington, and Charles Crocker, all lived here. The only surviving pre-1906 structures atop Nob Hill are the Pacific Union Club (formerly the Flood mansion) and the Fairmont Hotel. Both buildings were gutted by the fire, but their shells survived.

Today Nob Hill is home to some of the grand dames of San Francisco hotels. The Fairmont, Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, and Huntington Hotels all sit atop the hill. Just below the Mark Hopkins is The Stanford Court. One block further down the Hill is the Ritz-Carlton. All are luxurious hotels providing top notch service. The Ritz was the top-rated hotel in the recently published Michelin Guide. All of these hotels have many rooms with beautiful views of San Francisco and the Bay.

If you prefer smaller hotels or more modestly priced accommodation, Joie de Vivre Hospitality has three properties on Nob Hill. The Nob Hill Lambourne is just below the summit while the Petite Auberge and White Swan are further down the hill on Bush Street. All are very comfortable and provide a more intimate experience than the large hotels atop the hill.

One of the advantages of staying on Nob Hill is that this is a quiet part of town. You are less likely to be disturbed by street noise here. Also, many rooms have great views. Lastly, you have easy access to all three cable car lines.

The downside of staying Nob Hill is that you are a bit away from San Francisco's sights and activities. While walking TO Chinatown and Union Square is easy, the return trip is a steep climb back up the hill.

If you would like to take a private San Francisco tour that includes a visit to Nob Hill, please call me at (866) 326-4237 or e-mail me by clicking here.

Where to Stay in San Francisco: Part I - Overview

San Francisco is small; approximately 7 miles by 7 miles for a total of 46 square miles. You can walk across the city, from the bay to the ocean, in about three hours. Despite this compactness, San Francisco is quite diverse. Each neighborhood has a unique feel and culture. Choosing the right location for your lodging helps ensure that you will make the most of your visit to San Francisco.

There are a few factors to consider when deciding where you want stay. The principal factor is the purpose of your visit. Whether you are here for pleasure, for business, or to attend a convention will help determine the location that will work best for you.

If you are here for pleasure, what do you want to see and do while you are here? Your answer may help you decide the best part of town for you to stay in.

If you have children, you may want to stay closer to activities they will enjoy.

A car can be a hassle in San Francisco as street parking is tough throughout the city and hotels may charge in excess of $40 per night for parking. Plus public transportation is pretty good and taxis are easily obtained. If you must have a car during your stay in San Francisco, lodging your car needs to be a factor in deciding where you will stay.

Lastly, your budget will determine where you will stay. San Francisco has accommodations ranging from youth hostels to luxurious, five-star hotels.

A hotel, motel, or bed and breakfast can be found in many of San Francisco's neighborhoods. However, lodging is most available in the following parts of San Francisco:
  • Nob Hill, where the wealthy folks lived prior to the 1906 Earthquake and Fire;
  • Union Square, the principal shopping district in the city;
  • Financial District, a great locale if you are here for business;
  • South of Market (SOMA), the area closest to the Moscone Center, where most conventions are held; and
  • Lombard Street, home to motel row, where many modestly priced motels are located.
In subsequent posts, I will discuss the pros and cons of staying in each of these neighborhoods. I'll finish up this series with some lodging suggestions that are outside of these locales.

If you are planning a visit to San Francisco and want some help in selecting your hotel, restaurants, and activities, Blue Heron can help you. For more information, feel free to call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Oldest Building in San Francisco

You can't believe everything you read. The sign outside the Officers Club in the Presidio says it is the oldest building in San Francisco. Yes, there is old adobe in some walls and in the foundation. But the bulk of the building is definitely 20th century.

The oldest building in San Francisco is Mission San Francisco de Asis, more commonly known as Mission Dolores. The original mission was built by the Spanish in 1776, along with the Presidio. The current building is about a block and a half from the site of the first mission building and dates back to 1791. Aside from the addition of electricity and some early 19th century furnishing, the mission looks little different from the way it did when founded. This sturdy building survived both the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes with little damage; although, the more modern parish church next door suffered extensive damage in 1906 and was torn down.

Aside the mission is one of only two cemeteries remaining in San Francisco. (Most cemeteries were removed from the city in the early 20th century to make room for the living. The other cemetery inside the city limits is the military cemetary in the Presidio.) There are many tombstones marking the final resting spot of early settlers and officials. Not marked are the graves of thousands of Native Americans buried in the cemetery and under the adjacent parking lot.

Mission Dolores is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. A donation of $3.00 is requested upon admission. The church is located on the corner of Dolores and 16th Streets.

If you would like to take a San Francisco tour that includes a visit to Mission Dolores, call me at (866) 326-4237 or e-mail me by clicking here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Visit the Newly Restored Grounds Surrounding the Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts was the art museum in the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition. This world's fair commemorated the opening of the Panama Canal, but also showed the world that San Francisco had recovered from the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

The Palace was the only building from the Fair that was allowed to stay in its original location after the fair closed. However, like all the buildings, the Palace was built with little more than chicken wire and plaster. So by the 1950s the Palace was in need of a major restoration. To save the Palace, the original was torn down and a replica was built of concrete. The replica opened in 1967.

Now the replica is in need of restoration. Recently the exterior of the dome was fixed. For the past year, extensive renovation of the lagoon and surrounding grounds was undertaken.

A few days ago, the chain link fence around the grounds came down. The end result is beautiful. No longer do you risk having the walkway crumble beneath your feet as you stroll around the lagoon, which looks great. Instead of green scum on the surface, their are birds swimming in clear water. Recently I saw migrating ducks taking a break in the lagoon.

Now is the perfect time to visit the Palace. Take a relaxing stroll around the colonnade and lagoon. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the lawn. The Palace sits along Lyon Street between Francisco Street and Marina Boulevard in the Marina District.

If you want to include a visit to the Palace of Fine Arts in a San Francisco private tour, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Beat Museum in San Francisco

Most folks seem to know about the 1967 Summer of Love and the hippies in San Francisco. But few remember their 1950s predecessors: the Beats or Beatniks. The latter term was coined by local journalist Herb Caen who said shortly after the Russians launched the first spacecraft, Sputnik, that they may have a Sputnik but we have Beatniks. Or something to that effect.

To inform the public about Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsberg, and other Beat writers is the mission of The Beat Museum. Located in North Beach, this new museum contains a nice collection of books and poems written by Beats and other Beat-related items that may be purchased. There is also a small exhibit of historical photographs and documents that trace the history of the beats in San Francisco.

The Beat Museum is located at 540 Broadway (near Columbus). It is open from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. from Tuesday through Sunday. Admission to the exhibit is $5.00. There is no charge to browse through the items for sale.

If you would like to take a private tour of San Francisco that includes a visit to North Beach, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.