Best Things to Do in San Francisco, CA

Friday November 5, 2010 at 12:12 AM | 10 Comments

cable car, San Francisco, California, Nancy D. Brown, trolley

Hop on a cable car and go shopping in San Francisco’s Union Square

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is to The Ferry Building Farmer’s Market – especially on a Saturday morning.  As San Francisco is such a foodie town, I find that this is a great way to see the culture of the Bay Area.  Time for only a drink?  Go to the Burritt Tavern in Charlie Palmer’s Mystic Hotel for a cocktail.

When I crave San Francisco cuisine, I turn to  Californian/French cuisine.  My favorite unknown restaurant is Isa (located on Steiner between Chestnut and Lombard) – serving small tapas style plates with French Cuisine.  Sushi is always a go to in San Francisco. There are many little spots that offer fish such as Kiss Kiss or Sushi Ran in Sausalito.

To escape work go to Chrissy Field for a run along the water towards the Golden Gate Bridge.  Tune out to an iPod or the sound of the fog horns.  Lyon street stairs, a stroll down Chestnut Street or a bike ride to Sausalito are always good escapes. Or, get out of the city and hideaway in Sausalito, walking the docks.

For complete quiet, I can hide away at  the Japanese Tea Garden or rent a paddle boat at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.  Need to relax? Book a massage at Nob Hill Spa and spend the afternoon poolside in the Hotel Huntington’s famed relaxation haven. Why not take a book and head over to the beach at Chrissy Field?

If You Come to San Francisco

If you come to San Francisco, get your picture taken at the top of Mt. Tamalpais overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and the city.  Take your picture on the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, ferrying to Sausalito, enjoying an Irish coffee at Buena Vista Café or hop on a cable car and go shopping in Union Square.

La Taqueria, San Francisco, tacos, Nancy D. Brown, things to do, insider tips

Insider tip: La Taqueria has the best tacos in San Francisco’s Mission District

If you have to order one thing off the menu at Restaurant Out the Door, get the Pork Belly to go, or if you want to really splurge, order the Mac Daddy Mac and Cheese at Fat Angel.

San Francisco is my one stop shop for sourdough bread. Acme makes the best bread and is located in the Ferry Building. If you are in Fisherman’s Wharf, Boudin is a close second.  Fresh produce at the farmer’s market is a San Francisco treat.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I go to Nopalito or La Taqueria on Mission Streeet for the best tacos.

For a huge splurge, I go to Spruce or the new Francis.  Of course there’s Gary Danko or Fleur de Lys.

Photo ops in San Francisco include the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge (at night), Museum of Fine Arts, Lombard Street, and people watching on Haight Street.  There’s also Top of the Mark,  Bay to Breakers race,  the Pride Parade and the Blue Angels in October.

The best vantage points are taken by walking to the top of  Nob Hill.  You can see vantage points of the Bay Bridge, downtown, Portrero Hill, and Pacific Heights.  Not high enough?  Go to the top of the Mark for a full panorama.  Alternatively, walk to the top of Telegraph Hill overlooking the Bay Bridge at night – best for a full moon!

The most random thing about San Francisco is the Totally Illegal Big Wheels race down Vermont Street at 20th and the Gay Pride Parade. Bay to Breakers  is unique – watch the tortillas fly in the air at the start of the race.

San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge, Insider Tips, Things to Do, Nancy D. Brown, travel

An active day in San Francisco involves walking across the Golden Gate Bridge

In San Francisco an active day outdoors involves walking, hiking or biking.  Walking the hills of San Francisco is most certainly an urban hiking experience.  Wander down (or up) the squiggly path of Lombard Street – beats being stuck in a car on Lombard Street.  Rent a bike and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge.

My favorite walking route is Chrissy Field in the Marina or Tennessee Valley in Marin.

San Francisco’s best museum is the DeYoung in Golden Gate Park – it has the largest collection.  SF MoMA is recommended for modern art and the Contemporary Jewish Museum offers a touch of culture that spans beyond Judaism.

For a night of dancing, go to Press Club San Francisco on the weekends for a high class wine tasting and dancing experience that spans beyond the grimy club scene.  Best part?  Top DJ’s spinning house, funk and jazz tunes.

The Press Club is the spot for late night dining.With a late night wine pairing menu with bites including Braised Artichoke and Panzanella Salad and Smoked Salmon and Caviar Blintz with crème fraiche pair expertly with premium wines from the six exclusive wineries located on premise, it is not to be beat.  For more casual fare, Caribbean Pulled Pork Sliders with house made orange fennel marmalade paired with Miner Family Tempranillo and Crispy Three Cheese Pizzetta with fresh mushrooms; fennel, pepperoncini and organic onion paired with Hanna Chardonnay.

To find out what’s going on at night or on weekends, read the San Francisco Chronicle, Daily Candy SF, Urban Daddy, Thrillist, Eater SF and Tablehopper.

You can tell a lot about the Bay Area from visiting Pt. Reyes and dining on oysters at Marshall.  Carried Away Tours can arrange a private, custom tour of this area with highlights including the Bovine Bakery, a local favorite, and even Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese. You can also go horseback riding to the beach in Olema.

In the spring you should attend Bay to Breakers race.

In the summer you should attend the Gay Pride Parade.

In the fall you should visit Sonoma and Napa Valley during the wine harvest.   This is a prolific time to be in the area, and also a major tourist attraction so plan wisely.  Visit Maisonry in Yountville for tastes of cult wines including Uvaggio.  Can’t make it to Napa?  Stop by the Press Club to experience the latest vintages of the wine bar’s exclusive brands including Chateau Montelena Winery- the Calistoga brand that placed California wines on the international stage during Napa Valley’s wine birth more than 30 years ago; Fritz Winery famed for its Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley grapes;  Hanna Winery & Vineyards, a 250 acre estate Sonoma vineyard; Miner Family Vineyards which produces its flagship Oracle – a Bordeaux-style blend; Mount Eden Vineyards, one of California’s first boutique wineries; and Saintsbury, whose California Pinot Noir placed the varietal firmly on the world’s wine map.

In the winter you should go to the outdoor ice skating rink at the Embarcadero Center.  Nothing beats the idea of ice skating under Palm trees.  Chilly?  Stop into Americano Restaurant for a nightcap in the Hotel Vitale only steps away from the rink.

San Francisco, California, Palace of Fine Arts, Exploratorium, Nancy D. Brown, things to do

Don’t miss the Exploratorium by San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts if you have kids

A hidden gem in San Francisco is Sacramento Street for shopping or the rooftop of JAQK Cellars’ headquarters for wine pairing  with a view of the bay.

For a great breakfast treat or espresso, go to Foreign Cinema for the famous Pop Tart!  Philz Coffee’s Philharmonic is the best coffee in town.

Just outside of San Francisco you can visit Tiburon. Have lunch (margaritas and guacamole) at Guaymas Restaurant overlooking the harbor and Angel Island with views of San Francisco.  Take the Ferry to add to the experience.

The best way to see San Francisco is to walk or take the cable car for a true San Francisco experience.

If you have kids, you won’t want to miss The Exploratorium near Pier 15/17 or Golden Gate Park’s buffalos.

What are your favorite things to do in San Francisco?

Article, YouTube video and photos by Nancy D. Brown

Related Post:

Where to Eat Cheap in San Francisco

Briggs and Riley Explore 22″ Upright Carry-on – Travel Gear Review

Friday October 29, 2010 at 12:12 AM | 5 Comments

BRX Adventure Travel Gear

Briggs and Riley, 22" carry on, travel gear review, Nancy D. Brown, luggage

Briggs & Riley Explore 22″ Upright Carry-on Luggage Review

The phrase, “you get what you pay for” certainly applies to the Briggs and Riley BRX Explore 22″ Upright carry on. In fact, the phrase works for any Briggs and Riley luggage gear review. Briggs and Riley luggage is a little more expensive than your big box store brand. However, the “simple as that” warranty can not be beat in the luggage industry. More on the warranty at the end of the post.

BRX geared to adventure traveler

The BRX line is marketed to the upscale adventure traveler. Designed for durability and ease-of-use, Briggs and Riley travel gear is built to withstand the rigors of airline travel. At 7.5 pounds, the Briggs and Riley Explore makes my old Samsonite carry-on look like a portable safe – heavy and boxy.

Spacious, flat packing

The outside handle system allows for spacious, flat packing. I also like the sturdy handles on the top and side of the carry-on, as they make it easy to hoist the luggage into the overhead airline bin. I miss the elastic stretch bands on the compression panels. I can’t fit as many cloths under the compression panels as I can with my Briggs and Riley wheeled upright duffle bag.

Pocket Design

The expandable slash pocket on the outside of the Briggs and Riley Explore 22″ Carry-on was perfect to store my windbreaker, while the front zippered compartment can accommodate a 16″ laptop computer. The easy-access front pockets were perfect for holding boarding passes and reading materials for the flight. However, I had a problem with the placement of the interior zipper compartment on the top of the carry-on bag. While the zip pocket was easily accessible from the outside of the bag, items tended to fall out of the pocket – like my Canon camera charger – when not opened on a flat surface

Simple as that Briggs and Riley warranty

On a recently trip from Norway to San Francisco my Briggs and Riley duffle (yes, that’s how B&R spells duffel bag) performed like a champ. Unfortunately, my luggage was handled rather rough in the customs screening at San Francisco International Airport. My duffle bag skidded to the ground and a wheel axel came loose. I limped my Briggs and Riley bag home and immediately went on line to see how to repair my favorite piece of luggage. I located a Briggs and Riley Authorized Repair Center and drove to Moss Beach, California for some emergency triage. Simple as that – my duffle bag was repaired. The Briggs and Riley repair man even gave me a replacement wheel just in case. How simple was that?

The Briggs and Riley Explore 22″ Upright Carry-on retails for $290 and comes in three colors – Amber, Ocean and Slate.


Make sure to include the address of your destination inside your luggage. If the outside luggage tag is lost, baggage handlers will know where to deliver your luggage should you become separated from your travel gear.

Related Posts:

Briggs and Riley Wheeled Upright Duffle Luggage Review

Lost Luggage Tips

Briggs and Riley supplied me with this luggage gear for review.

Things to See and Do in Norway on Hurtigruten Cruise Ship

Friday October 22, 2010 at 12:12 AM | 5 Comments

Sami natives, Finnmark, Norway, Nancy D. Brown, travel

Native Sami Couple in traditional costumes, Finnmark, Norway

Discover Authentic Norway on Hurtigruten Cruise Ship

If I close my eyes, I can still see visions of pink, red and orange streaks lighting up the Norwegian skyline. It was an August sunset in Bergen that I witnessed aboard Hurtigruten’s MS Midnatsol, my lodging during a six-night cruise along Norway’s west coast.

With its majestic Norwegian fjords and snow capped mountains, Norway is accessible by boat, car, train and plane. However, sailing is my preferred mode of transportation when it comes to discovering Norway. After all, Norwegian Viking ships sailed the North Sea long before Christopher Columbus discovered America.

Hurtigruten – Worlds Most Beautiful Voyage

If you require television, slot machines, craps tables and nightly entertainment resembling Hollywood productions, Norway’s Hurtigruten cruises are not for you. However, if you prefer daily access to stunning vistas, excursions to Trondheim’s Nidaros Cathedral, dining with Norwegian Vikings in Bode or bird watching in Honnigsvag, sailing with Hurtigruten  may be your ticket to discovering authentic Norway.

Take a horseback ride on a Fjord horse in Bergen, Norway

Hurtigruten – A Different Type of Cruising

Unlike super-sized cruise ships bedecked with water slides and climbing walls, Hurtigruten stakes its claim on Norway’s authentic beauty. The cruise typically begins in Bergen, Norway. Fly in early to visit the fish market, Hanseatic Wharf and Edvard Grieg Museum. Minutes from Bergen is the historic Øvre-Eide Farm. Take a carriage ride behind a fjord horse or go for a horseback ride on a Fjord horse.

Art Nouveau Alesund, Norway

Hurtigruten ships are working ships, and by that I mean that they carry cars and packages, as well as passengers. The Hurtigruten makes 34 ports of call and offers shore excursions in many of the ports. On my trip, I disembarked at the Art Nouveau town of Alesund and visited one of several museums, including the Sunnmøre Open Air Museum, with old Norwegian building replicas and a working Viking ship.  Further up the west coast, Trondheim is known for its Nidaros Cathedral and boasts the worlds only bicycle lift.

Adventure Seekers in Norway

Hurtigruten, MS Midnatsol, ship, Norway, Nancy D. Brown, travel

Hurtigruten’s MS Midnatsol – an authentic way to experience Norway

With the world’s largest population of sea eagles, Bodo is also known as the land of the midnight sun, as the sun doesn’t set during summer months. Take an inflatable rubber boat in search of these mighty birds and experience the Saltstraumen, the world’s most powerful tidal current.

It is near Bodo when the Hurtigruten crosses the Arctic Circle and passengers may volunteer to experience a different sort of baptism – see above video.

Samis and reindeer and bears – oh my!

Far in the reaches of Northern Norway, passengers may sip reindeer soup in Finnmark with Sami locals, participate in a Viking feast and see what life was once like in Tromsø at the Polar Museum, where natives hunted seals and Polar bears to survive the long, cold winters.

Vigeland Sculpture Garden, Oslo, Norway, Nancy D. Brown, travel

Vigeland Sculpture Garden in Oslo, Norway is not to be missed

O is for Oslo Opera House

As is the case with Bergen, allow extra time in bustling Oslo, Norway. The Oslo Opera House offers stunning acoustics and the Vigeland Sculpture Garden is not to be missed.

If You Go:

Hurtigruten (800) 323-7436

5100 NW 33rdAve. Suite 255, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33309

Related Posts:

Things to See and Do in Bergen, Norway

Things to See and Do in Alesund, Norway

Things to See and Do in Trondheim, Norway

Things to See and Do in Oslo, Norway

Are Cruise Ships Environmentally Friendly?

I was a guest of Hurtigruten and Innovation Norway. Article, YouTube video and photos by Nancy D. Brown. Fjord horse photo courtesy of Ovre-Eide Farm.

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