By Daniel Geiger

Say that San Francisco is the most beautiful city in the US and you probably won’t get too many arguments.

But for a New Yorker, any competition can be hard to swallow. The city is, of course, a destination in its own right, but given its proximity to other attractions, oftentimes it serves as a convenient hub from which to bounce to other locations. Travelers might stop in San Francisco for a day on their way to Tahoe for some skiing in the winter, or Yosemite in the spring and summer when the national park’s waterfalls are in full flow, or Napa Valley in the summer and fall when the grapes are ripening.

While it’s hard to see any big city in a short time, we urge travelers – especially those of us hailing from out East – who are just passing through to take an extra day or two and kick around in the City by the Bay. San Francisco makes a worthy bookend to any west coast trip, especially if you find yourself in the best parts of town.

Hotel Adagio

Check out the Hotel Adagio on the edge of the city’s Tenderloin District. Once known as one of San Francisco’s grittiest areas, Tenderloin still has some hair but it is also one of the area’s fastest up and coming neighborhoods, with bars and nightlife way more interesting than some precincts like North Beach and Fisherman’s Warf, which cater mostly to tourists. The hotel is authentic San Francisco with a boutique spin.

In the mood for some cheap ethnic grub? Hit Naan N’ Curry just around the block at 336 O’Farrell Street. Don’t be dissuaded by this 24-hour restaurant’s lack of ambiance. This is first-rate Indian food served in super generous portions so order a bit light or be forced to doggie bag half your dinner.

Authentic Indian Fare at Naan N’ Curry

The best way to get the most of the city is to check out several neighborhoods via your hotel, so book your next night or two at the Hotel Vitale, right on the waterfront in the Financial District. Unlike the old-San Francisco feel of the Hotel Adagio, the hotel and neighborhood feels bright and new. Wake up to one of San Francisco’s gorgeous sun drenched mornings and cross the street to take a walk along the bay, with stunning views of the Bay Bridge.

Hotel Vitale’s Americano Lounge and Patio

If you’ve timed your trip to coincide with a weekend, hit the Saturday and Sunday fair and farmer’s market at the nearby Ferry Building. The place is swarming with stands selling everything from fresh produce to culinary delights, deserts and drinks of all kinds. Pick up a pack of super fresh raisins from one of the stands selling their leftovers from nearby vineyards or buy a pack of fresh coffee from one of many vendors selling it – all are delectable choices.

Despite the long lines that might suggest greatness, give Cap’n Mike’s lox and fish stand a miss. While their smoked fish looks delectable, the paltry portions of meat on bread for exorbitant prices leave you feeling more swindled than satisfied. An experience like that will only make you long for New York, where you can sink your teeth into one of the thick lox sandwiches served up at the city’s penultimate bagel joint, Essa Bagel on Third Avenue and 51st Street. Thankfully, as much as you’ve fallen in love with San Fran, you’ll be home soon enough to enjoy just that.

Originally published December 2012
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