Monday, December 21, 2009

Things to Do on Christmas Day in San Francisco

At this time last year I wrote about things to do on Christmas day.  Here's an updated version of that post.

Visitors to San Francisco during the holiday season often wonder what to do on Christmas Day. Many attractions are closed, but there's still much to do if you're not unwrapping presents with your family.

Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco's number 1 tourist attraction. The walkway is open from sunrise to sunset.

See Lombard Street, the "Crookedest Street in the World." Visitors flock to Lombard Street to see its gardens and curves. Don't forget that two blocks away is the steepest street in San Francisco - Filbert Street.

Explore Muir Woods, where you can see the Coastal Redwoods - the tallest trees in the world. The park is located about 40 minutes north of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Visit The Contemporary Jewish Museum where admission is free on Christmas Day. Current exhibits include "There's a Mystery There:  Sendak on Sendak," "Jews on Vinyl," and "As it is Written: Project 304,805." The museum will be open from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. on Christmas Day.

Ride the cable cars. Travel over Nob Hill on America's first moving National Historic Landmark.

Eat. Many restaurants are open on Christmas Day, including a good number in Chinatown.

Take in a movie. Most movie theaters open around noon. If you are planning to go late in the afternoon or early in the evening, be prepared for crowds.

As you can see, there are a number of things to do on Christmas Day. So there's no need to spend the day in your hotel room.

Happy Holidays from Rick at Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

When taking guests to Monterey and Carmel, I usually stop at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse for a beautiful ocean view. Located about 50 miles south of San Francisco, the lighthouse was built in 1872 and is home to a 1st order Fresnel lens with 1008 prisms. While the Fresnel lens is no longer used, the tower still houses an automated light. Unfortunately, the lighthouse is in need of repair and is closed to the public. However, there are a small museum and gift shop on the grounds that are usually open Fridays - Sundays when the weather is good.

The view of the Pacific from behind the lighthouse is not to be missed. You can see waves crashing upon rocks, harbor seals frolicking in the water or sunning on the rocks, and, if you are lucky, migrating gray whales. In the distance, you can view Año Nuevo Island and Point. When docents are on duty, they usually have binoculars for visitors to use.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse is home to one of Hostelling International's facilities. Here you can enjoy ocean views from their hot tub and stay in private or shared accommodation at very reasonable prices.

If you would like to take a private tour from San Francisco to Monterey and Carmel that includes a stop at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or

Monday, December 07, 2009

Coffee in San Francisco

San Francisco has a rich coffee history going back to the Gold Rush and the founding of Folgers Coffee in 1859 and Hills Brothers in1878. These companies are now parts of large corporations with their connections to San Francisco only a distant memory. Nevertheless, we take our coffee pretty seriously in San Francisco. While there seems to be a Starbucks on every corner, try some of our local purveyors during your visit to the city.

Peet's Coffee was founded by Alfred Peet in 1966 in Berkeley. Peet was born in the Netherlands and was appalled by the quality of American coffee. When he opened his store, he took coffee to a new level. Today, Peet's is a small chain with locations throughout California and a few other states. You can't walk too far in San Francisco without running into a Peet's.

North Beach is home to many coffee houses where you can get excellent espresso drinks. Two of my favorites are Caffe Roma, 526 Columbus Ave. and Caffe Trieste, 601 Trieste. If you are in the market for coffee beans, check out Graffeo Coffee, 735 Columbus Avenue.

Blue Bottle Coffee is known for its small lots of organic coffee. Espresso drinks and individually dripped cups of coffee are available at the cafe at 66 Mint Street (near Fifth and Mission Streets) and the small kiosk at 315 Linden Street in Hayes Valley.

Philz Coffee offers more than 20 varieties of individually dripped cups of coffee. Philz has four locations in San Francisco: the original 3101 Folsom (@ 24th St. in the Mission District), 201 Berry Street (near AT&T Park), 4023 18th St. (Castro District), and 748 Van Ness Avenue (Civic Center)

Ritual Coffee Roasters is just four years old but offers its hand roasted coffee at 1026 Valencia St. (Mission District) and 1634 Jerrold Avenue (Bayview District). There are also independent cafes that serve Ritual's coffee. To find them, visit Ritual's website.

Of course, there are many more coffee roasters in San Francisco. During one of your strolls through the city, stop and sample one of our local brews. If you would like to take a private tour of San Francisco that visits some of our local coffee shops, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or by clicking here.