There's Nothing Like the Big City

Melissa Barnes

When was the last time you wore heels? The last time you went dancing--other than at a wedding? The last time you ate at a restaurant without crayons on the table? The last time you stayed up past midnight?

San Francisco: It's Worth Climbing Hills For

Street Made for Shopping
Fifteen years ago, Hayes Street (bet. Laguna and Gough) was a run-down neighborhood--now it's a sweet little street lined with unique boutiques: Alabaster carries an exquisite array of housewares, antiques, and art books; True Sake is exclusively devoted to its namesake, Japanese rice wine; and Friend aims to be "an antidote to the sterility of modern design stores." Just around the corner, RAG: Residents Apparel Gallery sells clothing and accessories by more than 60 emerging local designers.

You Gotta Do at Least One . . .
Walk over the Golden Gate Bridge (or rent a bike from Blazing Saddles).

Take the audio tour of Alcatraz--it's engrossing and spooky.

Stroll along Ocean Beach on the western edge of the city: The sand is soft, the surfer dudes in wet suits are sexy, and the waves crash over rugged rocks.

Get a postcard view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the hills by climbing Coit Tower.

Lines at Tartine often snake out the front door, but the pastries at the Mission District bakery--including banana-cream tarts and flaky croissants--are worth the wait.

Shops You Can't Find Everywhere
n: Walking into the store is like entering a design magazine: It's stocked with furniture and modern housewares, like hand-knotted Tibetan rugs, original artwork, and the latest in contemporary European design.

American Rag: The store sells a well-curated selection of vintage clothes, plus cutting-edge fashion and accessories from emerging and established designers.

Jeremy's: Returned, out-of-season, or slightly damaged clothes and runway samples by Chanel, Prada, and Costume National can often be found for up to 70 percent off retail.

826 Valencia: San Francisco's only "independent pirate-supply store," cofounded by author Dave Eggers.

City LightsBookstore: The North Beach landmark stocks an enormous selection of poetry and books about spirituality and progressive politics.

Brand-New Landmark
The top-floor observatory of the new De Young Museum is free and offers a 360-degree view of Golden Gate Park, the bay, and the colorful, hilly neighborhoods spilling in all directions. The museum takes on a party atmosphere on Friday nights, with artist demos, performances, and a cash bar set up in the lobby. A large-scale retrospective of Vivienne Westwood's innovative fashions is showing until June 10.

Pamper Yourself
Enjoying thecommunal bathhouse at Kabuki Springs and Spa costs just $20 and includes warm towels, chilled cucumber facecloths, sea salts, and tea. Massages and other treatments cost extra.

Where to KickUp Your Heels
drinks: Bourbon and Branch is modeled after a 1920s speakeasy, down to an unmarked front door and an unlisted phone number that changes every two weeks, so online reservations are a must.

Outdoor seating: Part biker bar, part beer garden, Zeitgeist is an institution where regulars drink Bloody Marys and beer at picnic tables on the patio.

Till midnight: Great music, attentive bartenders, creative cocktails, a stylish crowd, and plenty of seating--no wonder Rye has a devoted following.

Till 2 A.M.: Pink grooves late-night, thanks to international DJs and a packed dance floor.

Till dawn: Boogie your brains out with boozy bachelorettes and club kids at the Endup.

We Love Brunch
On a scruffy street in the Mission District, Foreign Cinema screens films on a whitewashed wall in the covered courtyard. On the menu (besides art-house movies): oysters by the dozen, homemade organic fig and nectarine "Pop Tarts," and a killer Dungeness crab croque monsieur.

Home Base
Hotel Palomar is two blocks from Union Square and close to the city's top museums. Rooms come with playful touches like video games, alligator-print carpets, and persimmon-velvet pillows Amid the mansions of chichi Pacific Heights, the refined 104-year-old Hotel Drisco is ideal for a laid-back, live-like-a-local getaway. The hotel serves free Napa wine and French cheese one hour a day in the lounge on the ground floor Hotel Vitale, on the Embarcadero waterfront, has bay views and free morning yoga. Costing just $30 more, the Family Studios sleep four.

What's for dinner?
Chef Michael Tusk's intimate Quince has garnered rave reviews for its Italian-inspired dishes--like the tiny, pillowy agnolotti dal plin--made with local, seasonal, and organic ingredients. To snag a reservation, call a month in advance.

Sleek, high-ceilinged Nopa is always buzzing, from the time the after-work crowd descends on the bar until 1 A.M., when the kitchen stops serving California-Mediterranean cuisine.

Try Something New in San Francisco   
Sign up for expert A.J. Ferrari's wine seminars (with samples!) at the VinoVenue tasting room. 686 Mission St., 415/341-1930;

  • Hotel Palomar 12 Fourth St., 866/373-4941,, from $229
  • Hotel Drisco 2901 Pacific Ave., 800/634-7277,, suites from $329
  • Hotel Vitale 8 Mission St., 888/890-8688,, from $279
  • Quince 1701 Octavia St., 415/775-8500, agnolotti dal plin $18
  • Nopa 560 Divisadero St., 415/864-8643, entrées from $12
  • Foreign Cinema 2534 Mission St., 415/648-7600, crab croque monsieur $14
  • Tartine 600 Guerrero St., 415/487-2600,
  • Bourbon and Branch 501 Jones St.,
  • Zeitgeist 199 Valencia St., 415/255-7505
  • Rye 688 Geary St., 415/474-4448
  • Pink 2925 16th St., 415/431-8889,
  • The Endup 401 Sixth St., 415/646-0999,
  • Limn 290 Townsend St., 415/543-5466,
  • American Rag 1305 Van Ness Ave., 415/474-5214
  • Jeremy's 2 South Park St., 415/882-4929,
  • 826 Valencia 826 Valencia St., 415/642-5905,
  • City Lights Bookstore 261 Columbus Ave., 415/362-8193,
  • Alabaster 597 Hayes St., 415/558-0482,
  • True Sake 560 Hayes St., 415/355-9555,
  • Friend 401 Hayes St., 415/552-1717,
  • RAG: Residents Apparel Gallery 541 Octavia St.,415/621-7718,
  • De Young Museum Golden Gate Park, 415/863-3330,, $10
  • Blazing Saddles Five locations, including 2715 Hyde St., 415/202-8888,, bike $7 per hour
  • Alcatraz Island 415/705-1042,, $22
  • Ocean
  • Coit Tower Pioneer Park $4.50
  • Kabuki Springs and Spa 1750 Geary Blvd., 415/922-6000,, 50-minute massage $80
  • VinoVenue tasting room, 686 Mission St., 415/341-1930;
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