by Carrie Harmon

As the song goes “I’ve got lots of friends in San Jose. Do you know the way to San Jose? Can’t wait to get back to San Jose.” Well Dionne, I too have lots of friends in San Jose. But we can’t wait to get away and take a break! So then where do two girlfriends go for a getaway when they only have a weekend to spare? They look no further than the boundless city of San Francisco. Located at the heart of the Bay Area, San Francisco is little more than an hour’s drive from my hometown of San Jose. Combine the city’s numerous delights and convenient location for Bay Area residents and the result is the ideal spot for that dirty little word no one wants to admit to being a reality these days: a staycation.

Instead of treating San Francisco as a day trip I thought this time my friend and I would treat it as our weekend destination for a girl’s-only getaway, so our first step was to find a hotel. The beauty of a staycation is the forgoing of airfare, leaving us with a more comfortable budget for lodging, food and all the other fun things that don’t include waiting in painfully long lines and being searched by unpleasant airport staff. Since we were more than familiar with the city already and wanted our trip to be anything but pedestrian, we stayed in the exotic neighborhood of Japantown at the trendy and modern Hotel Tomo.

With 125 rooms, each uniquely styled with a different Japanese anime wall mural, Hotel Tomo provides its guests with an experience unlike any other. Upon entering Japantown we felt as though we had taken a wrong turn and somehow ended up on the other side of the Pacific. Once inside Hotel Tomo we suddenly realized our feelings might not be so far off. The lobby was constructed of clean, utilitarian lines interrupted by a giant, amoeba-shaped bench covered in blue shag. A maneki neko cat beckoned us further into the lobby to complete our check-in. We were greeted by an incredibly friendly staff that had us riding the elevator, keys in hand, within what seemed like only seconds. If the rest of our weekend was bound to be as pleasant and easy as our check-in, then we were in for a treat.

Our cozy, whimsical room only confirmed our suspicions that we must have managed to Mapquest our way to Tokyo instead of San Francisco. An anime mural wrapped its way around two walls, and geometric-shaped lamps lit up the technologically stocked room. Only when we pulled back the curtains and saw the vast beauty of San Francisco stretched out beyond our window could we be assured that we had reached our desired destination. And though we knew we were still only an hour from home, the culturally explicit environment and the fresh décor at Hotel Tomo made our getaway feel distant and new. It set the perfect vibe for the rest of our weekend.

After finding our hotel and dropping off our bags our stomachs reminded us that they had been left out of the itinerary, so we set out to find a spot to fill our stomachs and keep our excitement going. Enter Lime in the Castro District. It’s fun, it’s loud, it’s affordable, but best of all, it’s delicious! Their weekend brunch menu consists of both breakfast and lunch items and their amazing bottomless mimosas for $7, which they place in your hand within seconds of being seated, are the perfect balance of champagne and orange juice. But make sure to get there sooner rather than later because the cool white tables fill up fast. However, if you are running late and find a line of other fun-seekers ahead of you, pass the time in Lime’s lounge with a mimosa in hand looking out the rose-colored windows.

Following our brunch buzz we made like tourists and hit up the streetcar towards the Ferry Building Marketplace on the Embarcadero. With shops like Miette Patisserie, Taylor’s Refresher and Blue Bottle Coffee, the Ferry Building is a must-see when in San Francisco. It offers the best of the best and my friend and I took full advantage of that, dining on oysters, having some cocktails and grabbing gelato on the way out to hop the cable car back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Our last day had to be big so after checking out at Hotel Tomo, which was just as quick and easy as the check in, we headed out towards San Francisco’s iconic monument, the Golden Gate Bridge; because a trip to San Francisco was not complete without crossing the mile-long landmark. Luckily the day was utterly beautiful so the scenery was limitless. We continued on over to Downtown Tiburon, a little more than 5 miles from the bridge, for another delightful brunch. Sam’s Anchor Café was the port of call, and their Bloody Mary was our goal. We sat on their waterfront patio with a breathtaking view of the city that we had embraced the day before. Our brunch was fantastic, drinks refreshing and the atmosphere was more than we could have expected. After filling up we toured the quaint downtown streets of Tiburon, stopped once more for gelato, and then we were on our way.

The drive back home consisted only of talk of how fantastically fun every bit of the weekend was. Stimulating was the name of the game; from the delectable bites to the brilliant sights at every turn, we never got tired of our city. And what’s more is that the newness of San Francisco never ends. There is always a new window to shop, a new festival to attend, or a new dining room to dine in. We will be back in no time for what, I’m sure, will be another invigorating weekend. But for two gals living not far from our getaway destination, we truly came away feeling like we had been somewhere new.

Hotel Tomo is located at 1800 Sutter St. in San Francisco, CA 94115.

For more information and to make reservations visit or call 415.921.4000.