June 10th, 2013 · Events
June 10th, 2013 · Events
Castello di Amorosa winery will host a Midsummer Medieval Festival on June 22, 2013 from 6:45 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. Festivities will include a wide array of medieval activities like a full-contact jousting tournament, displays of showmanship and a sumptuous array of food and wines for guests to enjoy.
“This is one of our most popular events at the Castello,” says President Georg Salzner. “We always look forward to seeing our Wine Club members and their guests dressed in medieval attire enjoying the wines and events we have in store for them.”
The festival kicks off with the live, full-contact jousting tournament at the Castello’s Lake Mario, where guests can marvel at knights in full regalia competing in various feats of skill atop their charging steeds. After the thrills of the tournament, guests can make their way into the Castello where numerous medieval delights will await them throughout the 121,000 square foot Tuscan-inspired castle winery.
This year’s festival will also include a newly reformatted element, as the Castello’s 14th-century inspired courtyard will be transformed into a medieval marketplace complete with displays of falconry, sword play, and archery. Minstrels and singers will serenade guests as they sample the various dishes available throughout the courtyard, artfully prepared by Oak Avenue Catering and all keeping with the medieval theme of the event. From roasted turkey legs to cherry hand pies, each dish is crafted to pair deliciously with the Castello’s numerous Italian-style wines.
Guests are encouraged to arrive in their finest medieval-themed attire for this evening of food, wine and revelries at the Castello. Shuttles to local Calistoga hotels are provided at no additional costs for the guests. Cost is $155 for the winery’s wine club members and $185 for their guests. Call 707-967-6274 for more information or to purchase your ticket. Get more information on wineries all around the Napa Valley from SF Travel.
June 3rd, 2013 · Activities
With our world becoming increasingly tight-knit, San Francisco has a diversity like almost no other U.S. city. Around the globe, people are continuing to learn 2nd and even 3rd languages to expand their knowledge and connectiveness to meet new friends and business colleagues. Although there are many online programs that can help you learn a new language– nothing compares to language immersion.
This summer, you can even combine an amazing time in San Francisco, with building up your language of English. A number of programs provide both part-time and full-time language programs in San Francisco each summer. The nice part is that you can combine the studies during the day – with putting your improved language skills in action at night and on weekends at attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the high-end shopping of Union Square.
April 9th, 2013 · Bikes
For a city known for its hills, I have no idea how or why bicycles took off as a major method of transportation in San Francisco. But, the San Francisco bike messenger is a city icon right up there with the Silicon Valley entrepreneur and locavore chef. Particularly within the past few years, though, it seems like everybody here is getting into cycling, and it’s particularly a great way for tourists to get out and see the real San Francisco.
Of course, not all cyclists are created equal. Keep reading to figure out what kind of cyclist you are, along with my tailored-for-you recommendations for touring SF on two wheels.
The Lycra Road Warrior
This might be you if:
1. Obviously, you own a lycra bicycle outfit.
2. You actually did some research before buying your bicycle. And then went and paid real money for it.
3. You care about things like drafting and electrolytes.
You should consider renting from:
The Sports Basement, The Presidio
San Francisco Bike Rentals, Fisherman’s Wharf
Where to go:
Make like most cyclists in this city and head to Marin Country. Don’t be mistaken, this isn’t the bike ride over the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito that’s plastered all over the Blazing Saddles bike maps (even though that’s not for the faint of heart either). Serious cyclists take it to the winding cliff side highways of the north bay, making their way through seaside villages, dairy farms, and redwood groves. For a short ride, consider cycling to the Marin Headlands for dizzying views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate. If you want to make it epic, plan a trek to Point Reyes Station for lunch at Cowgirl Creamery or at the oyster farms on Tamalas Bay.
The Urban Cyclist
This might be you if:
1. You’ve taken part in a Critical Mass ride. Or, you know what Critical Mass is and choose not to partake in it.
2. You bought the cheapest road bike you could find on Craigslist and you plan on riding it into the ground.
3. You cycle as an alternative to driving or riding transit.
You should consider renting from:
Streets of San Francisco Bike Tours and Rentals, Hayes Valley
Bike Hut, South Beach
Where to go:
You could go to San Francisco’s Mission District and hang out with fellow urban cyclists. Or, if you want something a bit more interesting, I’d recommend heading over to the industrial waterfront of up-and-coming Dogpatch. This narrow slice of a neighborhood, three miles south of Union Square, is bordered by the mountainous Potrero Hill on one side and the working piers of San Francisco Bay on the other. You can cruise past desolate urban warehouses and piers, maybe catching the phenomenal sight of a 200 ft tall cruise ship docked for repairs, then head inland to 3rd Street for some of San Franciso’s best new restaurants.
If you do make it down there, make sure to check out Warm Water Cove for wildflowers taking over abandoned industrial lots, crumbling warehouses, and impromptu public art displays.
The Beach Cruiser
This might be you if:
1. You cycle when you’re on vacation
2. You like to cruise nice and slow, preferably on a boardwalk.
3. You don’t want any part of hills or rush hour roads.
You should consider renting from:
Parkwide Bike Rentals and Tours
Golden Gate Park Bike and Skate
Where to go:
Of course, you could go bicycling along the Marina; it’s a favorite pastime for visitors to San Francisco. With flat streets and Golden Gate Bridge views and some of San Francisco’s finest restaurants only a few blocks away, the Marina is a no-brainer.
But, if you’d like to do something a little bit more local but just as fantastic, head to Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach. On Sundays, San Francisco shuts down JFK Drive, the park’s major thoroughfare, to auto trafic, and the entire city floods in on bicycles, roller blades, unicycles, and even tricycles. It’s pretty much the happiest place on Earth.
After cycling through Eucalyptus groves and past the Golden Gate Park buffalo range and rose garden, you’ll come to San Francisco’s 10-mile long sandy beachfront: Ocean Beach. From there, you can cruise on the wide cement boardwalk, stop for lunch at the Beach Chalet, pick up sandwiches from nearby Safeway for a beach picnic, or head a few blocks north for an elegant lunch at the Cliff House or a ramble through the Sutro Baths ruins.
Check out SF Travel’s Top Five Bike Rentals.
For specific route information, check out Google Maps Bicycle Directions. Click on Get Directions and the Bicycle icon to see all of San Francisco’s bike lanes and bike paths.
March 6th, 2013 · San Francisco Tours
San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf area is a destination for a large majority of visitors, and many take advantage of the historic streetcar service along the Embarcadero. The distance is enough for a very vigorous walk, but the streetcar is much more convenient. Increasingly however, visitors find that the Muni public streetcars to *leave* Fisherman’s Wharf are consistently overfilled and with very long lines. We’ve seen this personally and had similar feedback from many other San Francisco visitors.
The good news is that there is a fun way to get from the Wharf (or any San Francisco destination) along the Embarcadero, including AT&T Park for Giants baseball! Pedicabs are “human-powered” carts that take you around the City at rates that are generally similar to a taxicab. The difference is that you get fresh air, some useful advice about the City, and help out someone to stay in shape and make some extra money. It’s a unique and fun way to see the City, and particularly convenient along the Embarcadero’s stretch from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Ferry Building and on to the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park.
Pedicabs can also offer tours, and provide friendly information on San Francisco, while enjoying an eco-friendly ride. The typical cost to go from Fisherman’s Wharf to Embarcadero Center is approximately $20 for 2 adults. The maximum a pedicab can safely carry is two adults and two children. After that, you need a 2nd pedicab. Typical areas for the pedicabs are along the Embarcadero – and you can also ride to most major hotels throughout Union Square, Chinatown, and around the City.
One of the cooler companies to try out (all pedicabs are not the same) is Golden Gate Pedicabs. Look for them around the Ferry Buiding and Wharf or better yet, pre-reserve a ride so you won’t have to wait at 415-777-6999.
March 1st, 2013 · San Francisco Tours
What if you could get a tour of San Francisco – from a real resident – and (mostly) free? It sounds too good to be true but that is exactly what San Francisco’s City Guides provide. City Guides shares detailed walking tours of San Francisco neighborhoods and the only cost is a totally voluntary donation. Tours are scheduled almost every day, throughout the day. Some of the most popular tour locations (there are over 30 walks to choose from) include Coit Tower, Ferry Building, the Japanese Tea Garden, North Beach, Chinatown, and the historic Palace Hotel. With an emphasis on San Francisco’s rich history back to the Gold Rush days, these tours are a step above the relatively generic tours offered by most bus companies.
You don’t even need to reserve these tours – just show up at the meeting spot, unless you have a group of 8 people or more. Larger groups (8 or more people) require an advance reservation to maximize the quality of the tour. Tours are a combination of the popular San Francisco landmarks and off-the-beaten-path “secrets” of San Francisco. The typical tour lasts 1.5 hours to 2 hours. These are walking tours, so be ready for healthy exercise – rain or shine. The one thing not allowed on the tour is your dog, cat, or gecko lizard! Pets are not a part of the City Guides tours, please leave them at home during the tour. City Guides is a non-profit part of the San Francisco Parks volunteers, and there are over 200 active guides that can show you the best of San Francisco.
Past visitors to City Guides tours RAVE about the passionate tours, the tour guides who truly LOVE San Francisco, and the high level of detail in the tours. SF Travel is a huge fan of City Guides and a strong supporter of their mission to inform visitors and locals on the history, beauty, and unique sights in San Francisco.
Interested in other San Francisco tours? Check out the complete SF Travel guide to tours here.
February 26th, 2013 · San Francisco Tours
One day per week, you can enjoy the most vigorous and unique tour to reach San Francisco’s Coit Tower. San Francisco’s Shaolin Chinese Center offers a weekly opportunity to walk and jog from Chinatown up to the heights of Coit Tower views. This cardio workout includes stops for Tai Chi, breathing exercises, and meditation and some of the most scenic spots in San Francisco.
You’ll need to be in reasonable physical shape, as the hills and stairways up to Coit Tower can be quite steep. The hustle portion is just one mile of the 1.5 hour tour priced at $15. The walk / jog tour includes sweeping views of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz, North Beach, and Chinatown. Each tour concludes with compliemntary fresh fruit at the center in Chinatown.
February 26th, 2013 · San Francisco Tours
There are a multitude of tour companies offering paid tours of San Francisco, from huge bus operators down to individuals who will meet you for a walking tour. Choosing the best tour company is never easy for your special trip to San Francisco. One tour company that we recommend checking out is Dylan’s. Dylan’s Tours is truly a family-owned business owned by two brothers who are both native San Franciscans. The tour options include bicycle options, which are a great combination with the guided tours. The primary tour is $65 for 10am to 3pm (5 hours). You can be picked up in the North Beach or Union Square neighborhoods in a small bus that seats up to 14 passengers. The tour includes Muir Woods which is an additional $7 entrance fee (not to be missed!). The tour includes many of the best spots to see in San Francisco in a whirl-wind visit – with some stops ranging from 5 minutes up to a full hour:
- Muir Woods
- Painted Lady architecture homes of Alamo Square
- Neighborhoods: Mission and Castro Districts, Plus Marina District, Haight Street, and Pacific Heights
- Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito
If you are in a hurry with limited time, a similar tour with a subset of stops is just two hours for $50 and includes a free bike rental. One of the primary differences of the shorter tour is eliminating the trip to Sausalito and Muir Woods (over the Golden Gate Bridge) in Marin County.
Dylan’s also offers private tours with a 3 hour minimum at $80/hour for up to 5 riders. Reviews of the private tours are very positive and can be a great option for a family that wants to customize the visit. You can rent bikes for $22 per day, which is one of the lowest costs in San Francisco, or $7 per hour. Bikes include many add-on conveniences, including locks, helmets, maps, and a carrying pouch.
Overall, people very much like Dylan’s tours based on feedback from real customers. With so many tour companies operating from huge to tiny size – Dylan’s offers personalized service in a medium-sized company that has great feedback from customers.
Learn more on every tour that San Francisco has to offer with San Francisco Travel.
February 25th, 2013 · San Francisco Tours
Choosing where to have your culinary experiences can be one of the toughest decisions you have to make while on a trip to San Francisco. Luckily, the Local Tastes of the City Tours has taken the guesswork out of deciding on meals and snacks for you so each flavor and dish can simply be savored.
These excursions cover a few city blocks and allow guests to the city to be lead around by season foodie experts, sampling an array of delicious local specialties along the way. For instance, get started over a freshly roasted cup of coffee, indulge in some freshly baked bread then have a sample of award-winning chocolates. Options for culinary neighborhood exploration include Chinatown, Little Italy and customized night tours that blend together the best stops of the day adventures. No need to worry about lunch of dinner afterwards, as the hearty food and drinks during the tour are all included and very satisfying.
Not all culinary tours of San Francisco offer the wide array of options and possibilities that Local Tastes does. It can be easy to take the tourist route and settle on the most popular restaurants, but these excursions challenge visitors to brush shoulders with residents and support local artisans who have a penchant for pastries and other delights, With this leisurely style and wealth of information, taking one of the tours can be the ideal avenue to indulge when wanting to try a little bit of everything in this flavorful city.
Learn more on every tour that San Francisco has to offer for your unique tastes, at SF Travel.
By Eileen Cotter, Copyright SFTravel LLC
February 20th, 2013 · Holidays in San Francisco
San Francisco is a mecca of fun events for St. Patricks Day. There’s something here for you whether your style is kissing the Irish at a local pub or visiting the historic St. Patrick’s church in the heart of town.
The San Francisco St. Paddy’s Day Parade
The most popular St. Patrick’s Day event in San Francisco is, of course, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival. The theme of the 2012 parade is Irish San Francisco: Past, Present and Future – and there’s a lot of history to celebrate considering that this year marks the 160th anniversary of this parade! The parade starts at 2nd street and market at 11:30 in the morning on St. Patrick’s Day and continues to Civic Center Plaza. The plaza itself is where the festival takes place. It runs from 10 – 5 and includes music, food and traditional Irish arts and crafts. Entry to the festival is free and all are welcome.
Other Top Picks for a San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day
- St. Patrick Historic Church. St. Patrick’s is a Catholic Church in the SoMA with a regular mass but it’s also a historic attraction worth peeking into regardless of your religious affiliations. The beautiful green and gold decor and large stained glass windows are awe-inspiring. There is a small display at the entry of the church explaining the history and architecture of the building since it was first created in the mid-nineteenth century. This church also hosts a special St. Patrick’s Day dinner and dance.
- Crossroads Irish-American Festival. This is actually a month-long festival celebrating Irish-American heritage with a variety of different events. 2012 marks the ninth year of this event with activities beginning on March 3rd. There are no specific events on St. Patrick’s Day itself but there is an open mic on March 15th and a poetry reading on March 22nd as well as all of the other Irish celebration options throughout the month.
Best Irish Pubs in San Francisco
There are numerous Irish pubs in San Francisco and every single one of them is a jam-packed place of fun on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s tough to choose one but some of the best San Francisco Irish bars are:
- Ireland’s 32. This bar has been serving up pub grub and drinks for thirty years and shows no signs of slowing down. It’s a little out of the way from the usual tourist crowd so you’ll find mostly locals here enjoying the happy hour deals, live music and other events offered here. A great place for a high-energy St. Patrick’s evening.
- Kennedy’s. This off-the-wall bar in North Beach combines an Irish pub with Indian food dining. It sounds weird but it’s a really fun place that is also very popular with the locals and you’ll find plenty of people hanging out around the pool tables here on St. Patrick’s Day. From here it’s not a far walk to the bars on Grant Street; a popular choice there on St. Patrick’s Day is Maggie McGarrys.
- The Irish Bank. If you want to go to a bar and restaurant that has a traditional Irish pub feeling then you’ll want to find The Irish Bank which is located in an alley in the Financial District. You’ll get to enjoy a little bit of history on display here while you celebrate the holiday. It’s a busy place on St. Patrick’s Day since it’s located not so far from the parade activities.
- The Plough and The Stars. If you want to get down and dance to some traditional Celtic music for St. Patrick’s Day then your best pick is this hot spot, frequently voted a best San Francisco Irish bar. There is music here almost every night with a special event on St. Patrick’s Day itself.
- Napper Tandy. The Mission is always a popular neighborhood for bar hopping. It’s not typically thought of as a place for Irish pubs but there are a couple of good ones down there including Napper Tandy where Irish drinking culture meets a Latin twist in a high-energy fun environment.
Off-the-Beaten Path St. Patrick’s Day
- Visit the United Irish Cultural Center of San Francisco. This is a place with a wide variety of classes and local events. On St. Patrick’s Day they offer lunch and dinner (traditional corned beef and cabbage) and a space to hang out to watch the Gaelic Games together on TV. The center is located close to Golden Gate Park and just a few blocks from the beach so it gives you a chance to see some sights while you’re in the area.
- Annual Green Fest Block Party. The Irish Cultural Center also hosts this annual Irish-themed block party at 45th Ave and Sloat Blvd. Hear Irish music, see Irish dancing and enjoy the day near the beach at this family-friendly event. The 2012 event is on March 13th and runs from 11-4.
- Celtic Music in Berkeley. Take BART across the bay to visit the historic Freight and Salvage Coffee House for a night of traditional Irish music. For 2012′s St. Patrick’s Day the performance is by the Black Brothers from “Ireland’s foremost family of song”. The band includes an Irish step dancer and accordion player as well as a fiddle virtuoso.
The Right Hotels for St. Patty’s Day
If you want to be close to the St. Patrick’s Day parade action then you should choose a hotel near the parade route. Top choices near the beginning of the parade include the Palace Hotel, the St. Regis Hotel and The Westin San Francisco. Top choices near the Civic Center festival include The Hotel Majestic, Queen Anne Hotel and Renoir Hotel.
Are you more interested in being close to the nightlife rather than the daytime action? The Union Square and Civic Center hotels are still good but you might want to also explore your options in North Beach and the Fisherman’s Wharf area. That will put you close to Kennedy’s Irish Pub and within walking distance of the bars on Grant Street. Top choices here include San Remo Hotel, Hyatt Fisherman’s Wharf and The Marriott.
Would you rather be out near the ocean for some of the family-friendly activities? Top choices there include Days Inn at the Beach, Oceanview Motel and Sunset Motel. Another good lodging option on the west side of town is Stanyan Park Hotel. It’s not as close to the beach as the others but puts you in fairly close proximity to the Irish bars in the Sunset neighborhood (such as Ireland’s 32) as well as the west coast family activities. Laurel Inn is another option in this area.