When it comes to layovers, for the most part you are left to decide between airport mainstays, such as TGI Fridays, that make you feel comfortable. But if you are in San Francisco, the run of the mill chains’ do not cut it here.
If you have a day to stretch your legs, fill your belly and soak up the cultural melting pot San Francisco is a great place to do it. Your palate can travel the world in the city’s 49 square miles. Here are some tips for a quick stay you’ll pick up many more along the way as the locals love to share their favorite places with guests.
On a trip to the Lower Haight, which severs as the more grown up and elegant neighborhood of Victorian homes to the “peace and love” Haight-Ashbury blocks, you will find one of the best beer selections in the world at Toronado. There are Belgian beers here that the Belgians can’t find at home.
You’ve had half your beer now time for some grub, so great over to Magnolia Gastropub or a great burger or ask your bartender to keep an eye on your beer and head next door to for the best sausage sandwich this side of Munich at Rosamunde.
Be prepared to choose between the beer sausage, Knocwurst, duck and fig, wild boar and chicken habanero. Naming all of the toppings would require another paragraph, I’ll just say don’t overdo it if have to get back on the plane before long and the sausage stands on its own without needing too much help. Bring your sandwich back over to Toronado and enjoy the legendary food pairing of sausage and beer at its best. No harm spending the rest of the day there but the legs need to be stretched so take a walk up Haight Street and check out the block that never moved past the 1960s. It is a sight to see and who knows you may run into an old friend. You’ve earned another drink after this experience. Stop by Hobson’s Choice for some rum punch or ChaChaCha for some sangria.
If you stay in the neighborhood for another meal give Prada 22 a try, authentic Puerto Rican food at a great price. The fried chicken and plantains are worth the extra mile you’ll have to run when you get home.
Time to head downtown to Union Square for a well-made cocktail at the The Clift Hotel’s magnificent Redwood Room For late-night action visit Vessel, Infusion or Otis Lounge which are all a stone’s throw from any Union Square Hotel.
If you are an excellent planner or just have good timing the World Champion San Francisco Giants are in town and playing a 1 pm game at AT&T Park.
Daytime baseball is America at its best and at this beautiful ballpark on the bay is in a league of its own. The pre- and post- game options have increased every year since the 11-year-old park opened. Momo’s, Pedro’s and Polo Grounds are few bars where you will instantly feel like you are back at college party with your best friends. So maybe the Giants are not in town, there’s still plenty to enjoy by day in the world’s best adult playground. Start at the Ferry Building at the end of Market Street. You will find the specialty stores offering chocolate, meat, ice cream, mushrooms, olives, cheeses and wines. The scene is busy with many good perches to watch the ferries come in and people watch but my favorite is at Hog Island Oyster Bar and The Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant.
On a stroll or bike ride (you are never far from a placeto rent a bike) you will pass the cruise ship terminal, the Exploratorium, TCHO Chocolate Factory, America’s Cup Boat race headquarters and Pier 39 shops on your way to Fisherman’s Warf. Fisherman’s Warf is somewhat of a tourist destination but fresh seafood can be found on every corner.
When you reach the end of Jefferson Street you have arrived at my favorite place in San Francisco- Aquatic Park and the Dolphin Swimming and Boating Club. It is open to the publicfor $6.50 visitors’ fee. It has been there since 1877 and has extraordinary views of the bay. Seeing the wooden boats and pictures on the wall will give you a sense that the past is still here and that you are now a part of the history.
I hope you have your swim suit, if you don’t there is probably one in the lost and found that you can use, ask anyone walking around to point you in the right.
It may sound crazy to swim in 53 degree water but if you can get through the first minute and a half it will be something you can reflect on the rest of your life.
After your swim it’s off to the sauna where you will receive countless more suggestions of places to eat and stuff to do from the club members warming up. The hardest part will be pulling yourself away so you can catch your flight.
MARC STAUDENBAUR grew up in sunny San Juan Capistrano, California with the swallows. After realizing how great he looked in a speedo, he decided to take up waterpolo and earned himself a scholarship to play at UMass, Amherst. He then found himself traveling North America organizing and marketing sporting events and competitions. As an avid fan of all sports, Marc decided to settle in the best sports capital of the world-San Francisco. Now, in between swimming in freezing cold water, basketball, football, tennis, baseball, and water polo games, Marc fills his time trying to help cure cancer with Aqua Hydrate.
When visiting San Francisco don't forget to cross the bay and taste the wine in NAPA.