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Discover eclectic boutiques in San Francisco, California with Simon Doonan and Jonathan Adler

Insider Escapes

Discover a fabulous mix of offbeat, sophisticated and trendy stores in Union Square, Hayes Valley, and beyond.

Where to Stay

As one of the most walkable cities in the U.S., San Francisco doesn't offer many obstacles to finding a great place to sleep at night. It doesn't matter which neighborhood you're in because you can get anywhere else in the city on foot, by cab, or by cable car.

There are dozens of inns and bed-and-breakfasts located throughout San Francisco. Many are housed in beautiful Victorians built in the late 1800s and early 1900s, while others are less ornate. These accommodations tend to be more personalized than hotels, though some travelers resent the community aspect.

If you would rather stay in a hotel, San Francisco won't disappoint. If you like the water and the street traffic, Fisherman's Wharf is a good place to start. Or, if you prefer fancier digs, try some of the luxury hotels on Nob Hill, which is also centrally located for shopping, dining, and nightlife. Those who like a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, however, might want to scout lodgings in the Pacific Heights neighborhood. You'll find both budget motels and luxury hotels in this area.

What To See

There are several landmarks most people associate with San Francisco: The Golden Gate Bridge, the Italian cafés of North Beach, the beautiful murals along 24th Street, the possible celebrity sightings in Noe Valley. If you're going to get a sense of the real San Francisco, however, you'll have to dig a bit deeper.

The historic Fisherman's Wharf is a classic San Francisco experience, where visitors will find a range of specialty restaurants, famous attractions, unique shops, and breath-taking scenery. The historical look of the Wharf accentuates the northern waterfront area of San Francisco from Ghirardelli Square or Van Ness Avenue east to Pier 35 or Kearny Street.

Union Square is marked as the city's mecca for shopaholics. This shopping area encompasses Macy's, Saks, Neiman Marcus, and Levi's stores along with colorful flower stands and street performers. If you prefer fewer crowds and a greater concentration of local residents, however, check out the Embarcadero Center mall. And check out Fillmore Street shops if you enjoy ritzy boutiques, interesting furniture, and cozy coffee shops. If you can't find what you're looking for on Fillmore Street, check out Jonathan Adler's designs. You can also read more fashion tips from Simon Doonan.

You also won't want to miss the Alcatraz Night Tour (415.981.ROCK for tickets), which provides a more intimate, engaging Alcatraz experience. This tour includes a narrated boat tour around the island, guided tours from the dock to the main prison building, and a variety of special programs offered only at night. The enticing Victorian architecture of Alcatraz not only offers a fabulous sunset silhouetting the Golden Gate Bridge, it also showcases a breathtaking view of the city as night falls. The tour departs Pier at 6:45pm and sells out almost daily.

Where to Eat

During your trip to Fisherman's Wharf, stop by Bob's Steak & Chop House (500 California Street, 415.273.3085) for a delicious bite to eat. The fresh seafood, mouth-watering bread, and extensive wine selection are all reasons to pause here for a meal.

Baker & Banker (1701 Octavia St., 415.351.2500) - a San Francisco restaurant, not a law firm - is also an excellent choice for lunch or dinner. It's reasonably priced, but more importantly, the selection is enormous. This is the place to dine if there are picky eaters in your party, or if you can't decide between seafood and cheeseburgers.

For casual dining, don't miss Frances (3870 17th St., 415.621.3870), a cozy and comfortable bistro with an enticing menu. You might spend a little bit more, but the ambiance is quintessentially San Francisco.

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