The Perfect Day in San Francisco

A city made for wandering, when the weather cooperates, San Francisco feels just about perfect. So if you have a day to spare, spend it experiencing the best San Francisco has to offer. From strolling through a tea garden to indulging in the perfect ice cream cone to watching the lights turn on over the Bay at the Ferry Building Marketplace, San Francisco seduces with a bevy of adventures that will form a day of perfect memories.

75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
While Japanese gardens have come to be an expected feature of many botanical parks around the world, the Japanese Tea Garden, which opened in 1894, was the first public tea garden in the United States. The original plot consisted of less than half a hectare (one acre), though it gradually grew to its current size of two hectares (five acres). Unusually for its time, a Japanese landscape architect, Makoto Hagiwara, oversaw it for decades until he was interned during World War II and not allowed to return to his position after the war. His legacy lives on, however, in this meticulous garden dotted with pagodas and crossed by stone paths.

3692 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
At the restaurant Nopa in San Francisco‘s Western Addition, the long bar and communal tables are perfect places to perch on a weeknight. Go early, order an elderflower gimlet or a sparkling, minty Old Cuban (both off-menu). Don’t miss the Mission School-style mural painted on the wall.
1 Sausalito - San Francisco Ferry Bldg, San Francisco, CA 94105, USA
The Ferry Building in San Francisco is a must for any food lover, and Cowgirl Creamery is one of my favorite stops. This producer of artisanal cheeses is a place to pick up cheese for a snack or picnic and to ask questions about California cheese. Let the person know what type of cheese you like or are looking for, and you will be treated to samples until you find just the right one. My favorites on my last visit came from Vella Cheese from Sonoma.
151 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA
It had been a long wait for modern art lovers, but after a three-year closure and a $305 million renovation and expansion, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) reopened in May 2016, and was it ever worth the wait. A new 10-story addition from the renowned Norwegian design firm Snøhetta integrates seamlessly with the existing black-and-white-striped atrium tower, giving San Francisco‘s SoMa neighborhood some serious eye-candy. It’s also now the largest modern and contemporary art museum in America, with nearly triple its previous gallery space. New to the already impressive collection are selected works from the esteemed Doris and Donald Fisher Collection, featuring significant American and European artists of the 20th and 21st centuries such as Andy Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, Alexander Calder, Georg Baselitz, Barbara Hepworth, and Henry Moore, among many others. Gifts of painting, sculpture, drawings, media arts, and architecture made to the museum since 2009 also rotate through various galleries, while the entire third floor is dedicated to the Pritzker Center for Photography. Visitors take a breather in the tranquil sculpture garden with enormous living wall, or in the fifth floor Cafe 5. Along with offering free entry to visitors 18 years old and under, SFMOMA invites you to try In Situ, the museum’s signature 150-seat lounge and restaurant, helmed by Michelin-star chef Corey Lee, with a menu of dishes culled from the recipes of some 80 chefs from around the world.
1658 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102, United States
If one is going to throw around the word “iconic,” let’s make sure it’s used appropriately. As with Zuni. The awkwardly shaped restaurant—it’s in a narrow storefront with wider spaces on the mezzanine—was opened in 1979 by Billy West. West’s best move was hiring chef Judy Rodgers in 1987. She put in a brick oven—and thus the Zuni roast chicken was born. This dish, more than any other (except perhaps the Caesar salad), defines Zuni. The chicken is roasted in the brick oven and served over a bread salad: greens with chewy bread croutons. Simple, perfectly cooked, and seasonal. Rodgers died in 2013, but the restaurant soldiers on without her. The menu changes with the season and with what the local farms are growing, and will doubtless explain the provenance of your meat. Rodgers, along with her peer across the bay, Alice Waters, pioneered California cooking, and the cooks who have passed through here have gone on to define today’s vibrant restaurant scene.
4519, 261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA
In an age when many independent bookstores have surrendered to the advance of chain stores and Amazon, City Lights is a true survivor. Since it was founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1956, it has served as a gathering place for San Francisco’s literary communities. Everyone from beat poets to left-wing critics of America have found a welcome here. City Lights is also a publishing house, with Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems being perhaps the single most famous book it has put out, though it counts scores of other works by some of America’s leading contemporary literary figures on its list. You can drop in anytime to find an unexpected tome, and the store also has a crowded calendar of readings.

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