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Nob Hill Staff Favorites

Check back frequently to read our staff’s quick picks on where to go and what to do in San Francisco. We don’t want you to miss a thing so we’ll keep you up-to-date on all the fun, enjoyable, delightful things going on. From Wine Fairs to Flower Festivals; from a Film Festival to a Carnavale Parade, we’ve got you covered. We’ll also let you know the latest buzz about our local attractions like Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square and Chinatown to name a few.

  • fortune cookies

    You Will Soon Visit a Fortune Cookie Factory

    May 06, 2019

    Although popularly believed to be a Chinese creation, the fortune cookie was actually conceived and came into being right here in San Francisco. They were invented by Makoto Hagiwara, a Japanese-American who is better known for creating the city’s Japanese Tea Garden. Regardless of their origins, these fragrant and tasty little golden crescents have become the traditional ending to a Chinese repast all over the country. Since August of 1962, the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory has been making custom fortune cookies by hand and from scratch and is one of the few such places left in the U.S.

    They turn out as many as 10,000 cookies daily, and, along with the standard vanilla-almond flavor, they also make them flavored with green tea, chocolate, and strawberry – you can even customize your own fortune! Visitors are welcome to watch the cookie-making process for themselves, as they’re always baked up fresh. It’s a fun and educational experience, and the cookies make ideal souvenirs. Or, you can stock up for those midnight snack attacks with 35-cookie bags to take home – they’re guaranteed to stay fresh for up to three months.    

  • hippie costume

    Hail to “The Haight”

    April 01, 2019

    After becoming famous during the 1960s-1970s as home to the founders, movers, and shakers of America’s counter-culture, Haight-Ashbury remains as one of the city’s most renowned, interesting, artsy, and dynamic neighborhoods. Whether you know it as Haight-Ashbury, the Upper Haight, or “The Haight,” there’s an abundant array of eateries, shops, bars, bookstores, and other retailers that have made their home here. Additionally, a variety of artists, comedians, and musicians perform and display their work at several of the Haight’s venues. Listed here are only a few of our favorites.

    Book lovers will appreciate indie bookstore The Booksmith, along with The Bindery and its cornerstone, The Arcana Project. The Booksmith features over 200 author events annually, and The Bindery offers movie nights, comedy, live music, and author readings. For music, head over to Club Deluxe for cocktails and the coolest jazz around. Browse poster art and three different galleries at the Haight Street Art Center, buy an instrument and learn to play at the Haight Ashbury Music Center, or become a clown, learn to juggle, and how to dazzle on the flying trapeze at the Circus Center.

  • sanfranciscobaycruise

    Cruising Around the Bay

    March 04, 2019

    Want to get a unique perspective of San Francisco from the water? A cruise around the Bay is ideal for sightseeing and learning more about the city. Leaving from the Fisherman’s Wharf area, each cruise offers stunning views of the city’s bridges, shorelines, gorgeous sunsets, and even the infamous Alcatraz Island. For a pleasant all-purpose tour, check out the 90-minute Sunset Cruise. Indoor seating allows you to cruise in comfort and enjoy the breathtaking scenery while sipping cocktails and enjoying light appetizers.

    Or, check out the Bay Cruise, which offers both indoor and outdoor seating for optimal views. Get an up-close view of both area bridges as you cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge on the Bridge to Bridge Cruise. A personal audio guide will enhance your view of Sausalito and Alcatraz and Sausalito as you learn more. Lastly, want the inside dirt on the former denizens of Alcatraz? You’ll want to board the Escape From the Rock tour, a 90-minute cruise that circles the island while your narrator speaks of the scandalous criminals imprisoned there and the famous, and infamous, escape attempts from the Rock.

  • hibiscusflower

    Fascinating, Fabulous Flora

    February 04, 2019

    Helonica, Hibiscus, and Victoria amazonica water lilies, along with a myriad of some of the world’s most amazing plants and flowers, all await you any time of year at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers. From beginning to end, the Conservatory’s five different galleries all represent five different habitats, and each offers an entertaining education in the world’s flora for the entire family. Visit the Aquatic Plants Gallery for pools that simulate the flow of a river, and are home to such specimens as orchids, bromeliads, lotus flowers, and more.

    The Conservatory is one of only four institutions in the country to include a Highland Tropics gallery, home to delicate, high-altitude orchids, ferns, mosses, and other plants whose native habitat is tropical mountaintop forests. The Lowland Tropics gallery features tropical fruits, coffee berries, jasmine, and cacao pods, while rare flowering plants in an array of decorative containers fill the Potted Plants gallery. Also, Rough Tree Fern from New Zealand, flammable Tassel Fern, and Crocodile Fern from the Malaysian Archipelago is only a sample of what is contained in the Conservatory’s West Gallery.

  • sanfranciscostreets

    Hop on a PopWheel

    January 07, 2019

    For one of the most interesting tours of San Francisco, you might want to consider using a PopWheel. Taking a PopWheel Tour is fun and easy - these little conveyances are Mini-Segways, and are simple to learn to ride. The tour instructor will train you in the use and provide you with a helmet. After that, you’ll be off, following your guide through the streets of the Dogpatch neighborhood and the area around AT&T Park. Dogpatch has become the city’s fastest-growing neighborhood, as new housing complexes and large developments multiply around the area.

    Formerly a blue-collar district, artist’s studios and shared spaces are located in former warehouses. Dogpatch Arts Plaza, a brand-new, 8,000-square-foot outdoor space, often entertains crowds with an evening concert, and is only one of the reasons that Dogpatch has been named “the most open and evolving neighborhood in the city.” The fee for this 78-minute tour includes bottled water, Viator brokerage fee, taxes, guide, your PopWheel and helmet, along with photos of you and your group. Gratuities are not included – they are optional but appreciated. Enjoy the ride!

  • Experience the Best of Broadway

    December 03, 2018

    The best shows on Broadway – the Tony winners, the Grammy winners, and the box-office smashes, are all waiting for you right now at any of the SHN’s (Shorenstein Hays Nederlander) three San Francisco Venues. Dying to see “Hamilton,” or “A Bronx Tale?” How about “Mean Girls,” “Hello Dolly,” “Mary Poppins,” “Come From Away,” or “Anastasia?” Want to take the kids to a performance of “Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” or the “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Concert?” All of these, and much more, are a part of SHN’s upcoming performance season.

    SHN is the Bay Area’s premiere company renowned for their direct-from-Broadway productions and additional unique events and shows. They offer spectacular entertainment at three of the City’s loving-restored and distinguished venues: The 2,200-seat SHN Orpheum Theatre, the 2,200-seat SHN Golden Gate Theatre, and Davies Symphony Hall, which is the home of the San Francisco Symphony. For more information about SHN, or any of their exciting upcoming events, click here.

  • An Illuminating Experience

    November 05, 2018

    Illuminate your artistic sensibilities with exhibits of light art by some of the world’s most innovative and renowned international light artists. Featured at various San Francisco museums, no less than of these 10 ingenious displays can be seen at the four venues listed here. First, don’t miss a visit to the Contemporary Jewish Museum to take in “PaRDeS,” a symbolic light installation in the museum’s Grand Lobby. Look up to see artist Dave Lane’s “Lamp of the Covenant,” a dazzling light sculpture measuring 90 feet long hanging from the ceiling. Next, head over to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for three of artist Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light works featured in the SFMOMA’s “Pop, Minimal, and Figurative Art: The Fisher Collection.”

    And, check out the Exploratorium for Leo Villareal’s Buckminster Fuller-inspired “Buckyball.” This brilliant 25-foot illuminated work consists of two geodesic spheres. Lastly, visit the de Young Museum’s Barbro Osher Sculpture Garden to experience James Turrell’s “Three Gems,” an intriguing dome sculpture that changes with external light and weather conditions. Please note that, while the display at the Contemporary Jewish Museum is permanent, others may be exhibited for limited times, so be sure to confirm before your visit.

  • The Presidio: Where San Francisco Began

    October 01, 2018

    From its beginnings as a home for Native Americans, to its control by Spain and then Mexico, to its tenure as a U.S. Army post, the Presidio has a long and fascinating history. Today’s Presidio is a national park, which features a visitor’s center and a museum and cultural center. Miles of trails reward hikers with wildflowers, and other seasonal flora and fauna. The Presidio is a favorite destination for picnickers, Frisbee-tossers, kite-flyers, and nature-lovers. Spectacular scenery is part of the experience here, and it’s a terrific place to catch the colorful beauty of a sunset or sunrise.

    The park also offers loads of free and family-friendly events throughout the year, featuring everything from live concerts, hikes, festivals, and other activities. It’s also reported to be one of the most haunted places in San Francisco, and while it receives many visitors throughout the year, the curious and the ghost-seekers are more prevalent during the Halloween season. Cold spots and ghostly figures have been reported, particularly those of men in older Army uniforms knocking on doors of empty rooms. For more information on year-round events at the Presidio, click here.

  • It’s Time to Discover the San Francisco Opera

    September 03, 2018

    The San Francisco Opera is famous for masterful performances and outstanding productions of every opera from the traditional classics to the bold and avant-garde, and this year’s season is clearly no exception. In addition to the operatic offerings of the season each year, guests can look forward to weekend galas, as well as other lively and entertaining programs, such as “Opera in the Park.” Thanks also to the sponsorship by the San Francisco Chronicle, tens of thousands of opera fans descend annually on Robin Williams Meadow in Golden Gate Park for “Arias al Fresco.”

    Many of the musical selections are sung by the stars of the new season, and all are accompanied by the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. The War Memorial Opera House is the Mecca for those wishing to witness outstanding performances by one of the country’s finest opera companies, with selections that have included Dvorak’s “Rusalka,” Donizetti’s “Roberto Devereaux,” Bizet’s “Carmen,” and Handel’s “Orlando.” For more information, or to purchase tickets, click here.

  • USA Today Awards Snaps to Bay Area Beaches

    August 06, 2018

    When most people think about hitting the beach, San Francisco is not usually the first place that comes to mind. While the City offers stunning scenery, a thriving arts scene, major league sporting events, and some of the best ballet, opera, theater, and symphony performances in the world, the fact that two of the state’s finest beaches are only about 90 minutes away may escape notice. But, with USA Today’s 10 Best California Beaches experts recently selecting Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz as #7 and McClures Beach in Marin County as #8 in the top ten, now is an ideal time to hit the beach.

    McClures Beach is popular with surfers for the intensity of the waves, as well as for those seeking a quiet spot. It’s also within the protected borders of Point Reyes National Seashore. If you’re a wildlife lover, head for Natural Bridges State Beach. Depending on the time of the year, you can see Elephant seals, a variety of shorebirds, otters, and even migrating whales. So, whether you’re in town for a few days or a few weeks, take some time to discover these award-winning beaches.

  • Experience the Excitement of Pier 39

    July 03, 2018

    Discover a variety of sea creatures, set sail on a cruise in nearby waters, check out Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze, and the Musical Stairs – it’s all waiting for you at Pier 39. Indulge your inner child on the famous San Francisco Carousel. Handmade in Italy, it’s decorated with some of the City’s most famous landmarks, including Chinatown, Coit Tower, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Choose from more than 30 beautifully carved and adorned animals to ride, as you listen to the music of the organ and enjoy your view of the promenade.

    Watch and listen to a variety of musicians and street performers in the Entrance Plaza, as well as free daily shows at the Smartwater Stage. Don’t miss a chance to view the area’s beloved sea lions at the Sea Lion Center, and a trip to the Aquarium of the Bay to see over 20,000 additional denizens of the sea. For further exploring, there are numerous types of cruises available, and bicycle rentals on the pier as well. For more information, click here.

  • A Great City for Sports Fans

    June 04, 2018

    With college sports teams, professional leagues, and several major-league sports franchises, it’s no wonder that San Francisco and the surrounding area have such a strong appeal for sports fans. Whether you prefer ice hockey, baseball, soccer, football, basketball, or all of the above, the Bay Area offers exciting games almost year-round. Both the Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers have been scoring touchdowns with fans for over half a century, and, if you’re a soccer fan, be sure to scope out the sharp and swift moves by the San Jose Earthquakes.

    Into ice hockey? Chill out at a San Jose Sharks game. Baseball fans score a home run here with the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s, who are not only two of the finest teams in the nation but are record holders of almost 20 World Series titles between them. The new Chase Center in the Mission Bay district will open just in time to host the 2019-2020 season of the Golden State Warriors, who have reached the National Basketball Association finals on three separate occasions. For tickets to all of the Bay Area’s major sporting events, click here.

  • 6 Fabulous Museums near Yerba Buena Gardens

    May 07, 2018

    Located between Third and Fourth streets and Mission and Folsom Streets in downtown San Francisco, the Yerba Buena Gardens are a marvel of design. A peaceful green island nestled in the heart of San Francisco’s downtown, the park includes a historic carousel, an elegantly-crafted waterfall, a memorial of Martin Luther King, Jr., and beautifully-manicured gardens. However, one of the best reasons to visit the Gardens is their proximity to some of the City’s best attractions, particularly our museums.

    The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is only steps away, via either Howard Street or 3rd Street, along with the Contemporary Jewish Museum on Mission Street. The Museum of the African Diaspora is also located on nearby Mission Street, and The Children's Creativity Museum is easily accessible on 4th Street. Yerba Buena Lane features The Museum of Craft and Folk Art, and kids of all ages will appreciate a visit to the Cartoon Art Museum on Beach Street. For more information on other attractions and events in or near the Yerba Buena Gardens, click here.

  • The Play’s the Thing at the San Francisco Playhouse

    April 02, 2018

    Located in Union Square’s Theater District, the San Francisco Playhouse can best be compared to one of NYC’s Off Broadway companies. Founded by Bill English and Susi Damilano in 2003, the Playhouse has garnered a reputation for both its rapid growth and the consistency and excellence of its productions. It’s an ideal alternative to larger theaters, as it offers the audience a professional theater experience in a more intimate setting. Their goal is to provide an inspirational and creative space for theater lovers to come together with actors, writers, directors, and designers to create and honor the works presented.

    The Playhouse is also a nurturing environment for both new and established playwrights, as evidenced by one of their most recent productions, “The Effect,” the winner of the UK Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Play by playwright Lucy Prebble. Prebble’s credits also include a commission to the Royal Court, Head Scene Writer for “Destiny,” and writing and filming a new HBO pilot with Sarah Silverman. Previous Playhouse productions have included “Born Yesterday,” “Noises Off,” “Promises, Promises,” and “Bell, Book, and Candle.” For details and tickets, call (415) 677-9596, or click here.

  • San Francisco’s Exotic Chinatown

    March 05, 2018

    Only minutes away, San Francisco’s Chinatown presents an exotic adventure for tourists and locals alike. Where else can you visit a joss shop, a Buddhist temple, a fortune cookie factory, and enjoy delicious Dim Sum, all in a few hours? Many tours are available for those who don’t feel comfortable wandering around on their own – some are free of charge, while others cost varying amounts, depending on the length and type of tour. If you’re generally fit, and have the stamina for a 2-3 hour walking tour, the free tour offered by San Francisco’s Public Library is an excellent option.

    The library’s guides are not only well-qualified, they are also entertaining, with a depth of insider secrets and stories to impart along the way. You’ll explore the alleyways, the Tong haunts and temple sites, visit herb vendors and dim sum shops. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothing, and take along an umbrella or rain poncho. Layered clothing is needed for cooler weather, even in the spring. For more information and a schedule of library tours, click here.  

  • A Walking Tour of Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco

    February 06, 2018

    Cinephiles, classic film fans, and Hitchcock aficionados won’t want to miss this tour. Hosted by the San Francisco Library, they take visitors on a walking tour of Nob Hill and Union Square, as these two areas were the primary locations for Hitch’s film “Vertigo.” Many of the locations in these neighborhoods were particularly pleasing to Hitchcock, along with the many additional iconic attractions and elegant architectural details found in the City. The director also made several other films here, including “The Birds,” “Family Plot,” and “Marnie.”

    During the tour, experienced docents will escort you to hotels, clubs, shops, and other locations that can be seen in “Vertigo,” and Alfred Hitchcock's additional films. You’ll learn what influenced the director in making location and filming choices, in addition to their history. The library recommends that, in order to add to your enjoyment and understanding, all potential walkers watch the movie “Vertigo” before beginning the tour. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothing, and remember that you may be walking up and down some steep hills. The tours are free, but donations are always welcomed. For dates and times, click here.

  • Catch a Cable Car for a Fun, Self-Guided, Tour

    January 08, 2018

    Imagine hanging off the side of a cable car, the bay breeze in your face, as you climb and descend the renowned hills of San Francisco. With its clanging bells and singing cables, the cable car has become the traditional symbol of the city’s transportation as well as part of its culture. Cable cars have been traversing the city for almost 150 years now, carrying residents and visitors alike on regularly scheduled routes. These iconic cars are a fun way to tour the city at your leisure, taking whichever line you choose, and hopping on and off where and when you wish.

    You can check out San Francisco’s Chinatown, Union Square, North Beach, Fisherman's Wharf, and other popular tourist attractions, and also explore some of the city’s legendary neighborhoods, such as Pacific Heights and Nob Hill. The routes consist of three lines, and you can catch a car at any of the turnarounds, or any of the MUNI Cable Car Stops that are spaced about two blocks apart along each line. Tickets can be purchased from the car conductor, or via the MUNI app. For more information, click here.

  • The Art of the Mission

    December 07, 2017

    One of the city’s most interesting attractions is “Mural Alley,” where hundreds of colorful, and frequently provocative, painted murals can be seen. An ever-changing and vital part of the city’s public art scene, these are a fascinating mélange of Depression-era WPA art, early 20th century Mexican muralists, and graffiti artists whose offerings demonstrate a heavy influence by graphic comics and/or pop culture.

    Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley are where most of the murals are located, but there are many other places in the Mission area to view these, including the back side of residences – and there are hundreds of murals by artists of all ages, ethnicities, and levels of experience. Mural themes vary, but social injustice and frustration with inequity is a popular topic due to the city’s rapidly changing demographics. Others range from the fantastic to the more traditional. The murals are best viewed on foot, so wear comfortable shoes and plan on roaming freely. The area is easily accessed via BART, and a map of nearby stops is available. For the map and additional details, click here

  • The Historic Embarcadero District

    November 07, 2017

    From its beginnings during the Gold Rush era, when it was a port named Yerba Buena Cove, the Embarcadero district has been one of the marvels of San Francisco. Shipping and public travel was, and still is, thriving, and was largely responsible for the prosperity and growth enjoyed by the city and the region. As the area grew, the architectural styles varied, so that now the district features an eclectic mix of Late Gothic Revival, Mission, Spanish Colonial Revival, Late 19th and 20th Century Revivals, Italian Renaissance, and Beaux-Arts, along with the utilitarian structures of the port areas.

    In all, the area includes a total of almost 50 contributing buildings and structures, and the Central Embarcadero Piers Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. Highlights of the Embarcadero include the Ferry Building, the Exploratorium, Pier 14, Pier 39, and the Embarcadero Center. Marking the area at the base of the Bay Bridge is what some consider an artistic oddity: a giant sculpture of Cupid’s bow and arrow, known as Cupid’s Span. It’s easy to take a tour of the area, as there are many ways to access it via BART. Click here for a station schedule.

  • Exploring Nob Hill

    October 02, 2017

    Built with fortunes made in silver, gold, and the Central Pacific Railroad, Nob Hill has become associated with the rich and the powerful. The railroad barons known as the Big Four were the first to build on this hill that rises over 300 feet above the waterfront. These four, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker, and Collis Huntington, were then followed to the hill by James C. Flood and James Flair. Their flamboyant homes were architecturally excessive by 1870s standards, so much so that they were described in 1882 by Robert Louis Stevenson as “The Hill of Palaces.” They even installed their own cable car line, in 1878, which still operates today.

    After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, many of the wooden structures burned, along with much of the rest of the city. However, the James C. Flood house, a brownstone edifice, still stands and is now the premises of the Pacific Union Club. Several of the old neighborhood structures still stand, and are scheduled stops on the Nob Hill Walking Tour, which also includes an impressive cathedral, four elegant hotels, and more. Tours are ongoing throughout the year, along with several other neighborhood tours in the city, through the San Francisco Public Library. For details, click here.