From its inception, San Francisco has drawn an eclectic mix of risk-takers who together have helped shape its cultural landscape. Beginning with the gold rush, continuing through the Summer of Love, the 90s tech boom, and leading up to today, San Francisco has historically been a magnet for innovators, entrepreneurs, and those in search of… more.
In the past decade, the city of San Francisco has become synonymous with the technology industry. No longer in the shadow of Silicon Valley, the city is now headquarters to heavy-hitters like Salesforce, Twitter, Airbnb, and Lyft (and of course, Certain). This influx of business has propelled an already leading events destination into a whole new arena, with the annual Dreamforce conference bringing over 170,000 attendees from all over the world for a week of events, education, and entertainment.
With major conferences in 2018 including Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit, ABM Innovation Summit, and Experiential Marketing Summit, San Francisco has a busy year ahead for event planners, visitors, and businesses alike. With all of the options that the city has to offer, we know how overwhelming it can be to organize a visit to San Francisco; so we put together some insider tips to help you with your planning:
Where to Eat, Drink, or Host an Event
Picking a restaurant in San Francisco is probably the toughest task for visitors, with over 30 Michelin Star restaurants to choose from in 2018. We’ve narrowed down our list to a few gems that we recommend for private groups, dinner for two, happy hour or parties:
- Tucked away on a tiny SOMA sidestreet, Twenty-Five Lusk is a unique experience in both food and design. Whether it’s cocktails by one of the restaurants many suspended fireplaces, a private group dinner, or a full buyout, Twenty-Five Lusk is a must-see venue. Also available for business meetings and is equipped with an LCD projector, a drop-down screen, WiFi connectivity, & cable TV. $$$ / SoMa
- Located in the shadow of the Transamerica Pyramid, The Barrel Room is a two-time Wine Spectator award-winning restaurant that offers first class wines from around the world, and menu that changes quarterly to focus on a different type of regional cuisine. $$ / FiDi
- Michelin-star-winning Octavia is an ideal choice for anyone looking to explore beyond the FiDi & SoMa side of town, and check out a new neighborhood. This PacHeights gem offers New American cuisine in a cozy setting, and is available for private groups private group dining of up to 12, or full buyout for 50-70. $$$ / Pacific Heights
- Just steps away from the Moscone Center and Union Square, The Cavalier is an award-winning, London-inspired brasserie with a rich, sophisticated take on the hunting lodge theme that inspires its design. The restaurant offers private rooms for large and small groups, including it’s speakeasy-esque back bar, Marianne’s. $$ / SoMa
- Foreign Cinema is such a significant player in the San Francisco culinary game, that it has its own day of recognition (September 18th). Since 1999 it has dazzled guests with it’s special blend of an award-winning, ever-evolving menu and live film screenings. The venue can accommodate private groups of all sizes, offering a variety of event spaces and full buyout options. $$$ / Mission
- Located in the Ferry Building with floor-to-ceiling windows and stunning views of the Bay, The Slanted Door is a Northern California take on Vietnamese that has been racking up awards since its 1995 debut. Private dining rooms are available for smaller groups and reservations should be booked in advance. $$$ / FiDi
Where to Stay
- Located in the historic downtown Pacific Building, Hotel Zelos is centrally located on Market Street with access to shopping, transportation, and entertainment all within a one-block radius. In-house restaurant Dirty Habit boasts inventive food and beverage menus, as well as a fantastic heated outdoor patio that feels like it’s own little oasis from the busy city surroundings.
- Named one of the best in hotel design, Hotel Zetta offers a modern, playful getaway for guests where the bar and communal space include a pool table, shuffleboard, and the latest game consoles. The chic, ultra-modern rooms are uniquely designed to leave guests feeling like they’ve stepped out of the city and into their own private retreat. Just steps away from the Moscone Center, Powell Street Station & Cable Car Turnaround, and Union Square, Hotel Zetta is an excellent option for guests looking for a blend of luxury and convenience.
- Hotel Vitale is a pet-friendly boutique hotel that offers guests a penthouse spa, rooftop soaking tubs, and yoga classes. Its location on the Embarcadero provides sweeping views of the waterfront, and is within walking distance of the Ferry Building, AT&T Park, SoMa and the FiDi. Amenities include complimentary car service, fitness room, terraced restaurant & bar, and business center with boardroom.
- Sir Francis Drake Hotel is as much a historic San Francisco landmark as the cable cars that pass by it each day. Located in Union Square, it’s not hard to spot thanks to the iconic Beefeater doorman that greets you upon arrival. The hotel’s ornate lobby offers a glimpse of San Francisco’s opulent past, while guests enjoy all the modern amenities including complimentary bikes and in-room yoga mats. Don’t miss the view from the 21st floor Starlight Room, which offers an unbeatable 360 degree panorama of the city.
Things to Do
While Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Cable Cars are probably already on your radar, San Francisco is full of things to do that don’t involve a lengthy queue. Here are some of our favorites:
- Facing eastward along the Embarcadero, the Ferry Building Marketplace offers some of the best in local artisan food and crafts. For a truly special treat, grab a coffee from Blue Bottle, some bread from Acme Bread Co. and some cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, and enjoy by the water while taking in views of the Bay Bridge and Yerba Buena Island. Visit on Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays for the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.
- For spectacular views on a sunny day, stop by the Waterbar for a quick drink or snack. Located just north of the Bay Bridge, you’ll get a full view of Oakland and Berkeley by day, and a spectacular light show at night. *Locals tip – Drop in anytime between 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for $1 oysters!
- Home to both the Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park takes you out of the city and into a lush, intricate maze of gardens, lakes, picnic areas, and more. If you have some spare time and want to see a different side of the city, rent a bike and make your way through the park over to Ocean Beach, the enormous stretch of sand and dunes that will make you forget that you’re in a major city!
- The SFMOMA is a world-class modern art museum located in the heart of downtown San Francisco. Following a massive expansion in 2016, the SFMOMA has positioned itself as a major player in the global art scene, exhibiting world-renowned artists, an extensive permanent collection, a stunning sculpture garden, and a Michelin Star restaurant, In Situ.
- The Exploratorium is one of those rare interactive museums that encourages exploration and learning through hands-on experiences in science, art, and human perception. Fun for children and adults alike, but offers adults-only “After Dark” access every Thursday evening.
- Take a stroll through through the historic North Beach neighborhood. Pick up a good read in City Lights Books, San Francisco’s iconic bookstore located on the corner of Jack Kerouac Alley, enjoy a glass of wine or plate of tiramisu at one of the endless Italian sidewalk bistros, or grab some gelato and people watch in Washington Square Park. If you have time, do all three!
- In fact, grab a map of the city, point and explore! With so many neighborhoods to choose from, you could plan a whole week of exploring. Head over to The Mission and grab some sun in Dolores Park; take a historic walking tour of Chinatown and visit the free Fortune Cookie Factory. There’s no end of things to do!
- Whether or not you’re a fan of the San Francisco Giants baseball team, you won’t regret a visit to at AT&T Park. Between the unbeatable views and incredible food, it’s an unforgettable way to enjoy nine innings. Just don’t show up wearing Dodger blue…
For a relatively small city, San Francisco is full of surprise. You might find that with each step comes a new dimension of the city – and with that, a new climate! In a city where winter can feel like summer, and summer often feels like winter, visitors should plan for all kinds of weather, regardless of the time of year. But don’t let the weather thrown you off; with the Pacific to the west and a never-ending landscape provided by the surrounding hills and bay, the city has a rare beauty that is worth taking in.
So whether you’re in town for a few days or a few weeks, we hope this guide will help you to see some of the city’s finest.