Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

by Anna Alioto, Certified Meeting Planner

So, I am a planner, it is in my blood. I even plan to make a plan on a daily basis. It’s not that I am not spontaneous; really, I am, but as long as I have a plan, which is probably why I am a Certified Meeting Planner with the Convention Industry Council. So, when me and my Diva’s are taking a trip, you can bet I am the one making all of the arrangements, from the flights, to the dinners, to finding the upcoming events and of course, shopping! So, when asked to plan the perfect 3-day getaway in San Francisco for my out of town friends, I was happy to oblige. Keep in mind, I do have Diva Champagne taste, so if you are on a budget, you may have to modify this itinerary a bit.

I would suggest if you are flying into SFO, take a taxi to the hotel as you will not need a car for this itinerary. If you are driving in, I would park the car with the valet for the weekend, which will run you about $50 per night, or you could park in the Stockton/Sutter Garage for about $15 per night.

There are hundreds of hotels in San Francisco and they all have their own style and charm. But, for you and the girls, there is only one place to stay – the Clift Hotel. The Clift Hotel is located on Geary Street in downtown, Union Square. I have stayed there several times, and I will be honest, I do not think the rooms are that fabulous; however, you and the girls are not going to be spending much time in your room anyway. What the Clift does offer is a fabulous bar scene. If you are not staying at the hotel, you are standing in line for hours to get into the Redwood Room. This is the place to see and be seen on Friday and Saturday nights! It is one of the more upscale nightclub venues in the city.

Below is the perfect 3-day California Girl San Francisco Getaway

Friday day 1

Lunch – You and your friends have just arrived in time for lunch and you have made a reservation at Le Central , ready to enjoy a glass of wine and delicious French cuisine. Tucked away on Bush Street, in the heart of Union Square, this is a “local” place. Don’t be surprised to see former Mayor Willie Brown, Wilkes Bashford or Rita Moreno dining at the table in the corner by the window.

Afternoon – Lunch has taken you into the middle of the afternoon and now it is close to 3pm. You have several options at this point, one of them of course Diva’s is shopping!! Union Square provides some of the best places to shop in San Francisco. If you are looking for a bargain, but want designer, you could spend the rest of the afternoon finding your outfit for the evening in Loehmanns.

Evening – You are rested up from your delicious lunch and day of shopping and now it is time to put on that new outfit and hit the town, or the “triangle” as we like to call it. Grab a cab and head down to the Balboa Café on Fillmore Street. This is the first stop and the food is good, the scene is local, fun and a bit crazy. Be sure to make a reservation for dinner a couple of weeks in advance. After dinner, you can hang at the Balboa and watch as the people start to pour in. If you find you are tired of the Balboa, you can walk across the street to East Side West or the Matrix Fillmore, hence the triangle. And once you have hit all those bars, you can walk down Fillmore Street, towards the bay, and end up at Circa, located on the corner of Fillmore and Chestnut Streets. Chestnut Street is full of small, local bars to keep you going all night long!

Saturday day 2

Brunch – After a night of partying and a morning of sleeping in, you and the girls are ready to grab a bite and do some sightseeing, after all, it is San Francisco! So, put on your walking shoes, grab a cab, and head down to the Marina, Union Street to be specific. A popular place for breakfast is Perry’s. Not to mention, it is quite the brunch scene. You may have to wait to be seated, which will give you the opportunity to walk down the street and enjoy the local boutiques.

Afternoon – Brunch is over and the first stop is the Golden Gate Bridge. You can take a taxi to the Visitor Center and start your walk across the bridge from there. Keep in mind, it is COLD! The most important thing about dressing for San Francisco is “layers”. You will need 2 or 3 layers of clothing to keep you going. I suggest a t-shirt, layered with a long sleeved shirt and a warm sweatshirt. Carry a bag with you (no backpacks Divas!) so you have a place to put all the layers of clothing you will need. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Next, grab a cab and head down to Pier 39. Here you will find all kinds of entertainment, good food and of course, the famous Sea Lions! After spending some time at Pier 39, walk down to Fisherman’s Wharf grab a fresh crab cocktail at Nick’s Lighthouse, the kiosk outside. From here, walk directly across the driveway to the hidden treasure Musee Mechanique, one of the world’s largest privately owned collections of mechanically operated musical instruments and antique arcade machines. This will only take you about 15 minutes to go through, but it is well worth the time spent and it is free!
From Fisherman’s Wharf, start your walk into North Beach. North Beach is the Italian neighborhood where you will find “al fresco” dining along Columbus Avenue. This is a good time to take a break, have a glass of wine or an espresso and enjoy people watching. Most of the places are “touristy”, but the best place in the center of it all is Calzone. After your break, walk up to China Town and enjoy the largest China Town in the United States! There a lot of good deals and it is a good place to get souvenirs to bring back to the family and friends. From China Town, you can walk back to the hotel. Find “Stockton Street” and walk thru the Stockton Tunnel, to end up back in Union Square.

Evening – You’ve awoken from your “power nap” and now it is time to get ready for dinner. Well, you won’t have far to go as there are several restaurants in the Union Square area, and since you have been out and about all day, it will nice to stay in the “hood” and enjoy Union Square nightlife. One of my favorites include Farallon Restaurant, specializing in Coastal Cuisine, Pat Kuleto has designed a restaurant resembling a beautiful underwater fantasy. At the “Jelly Bar”, custom made jellyfish chandeliers float overhead and the octopus stools sit next to glowing columns of kelp. Be sure to make reservations far in advance as this is one of the most popular restaurants in San Francisco.

After dinner, stop into the Gold Dust Bar for a quick drink $3 champagne! This is the local “Dive Bar”, but a lot of fun with live music and lots of people to chat with. After some fun at the Gold Dust, it is time to head back to the hotel and hang out at the Redwood Room; show them your room key, and no line for you, just walk right in. Drinks are expensive (no $3 glass of champagne), but the atmosphere is happening. Plus, there are lots of hot guys there to buy you drinks all night long.

Sunday, day 3

Brunch – Wake up girls, it’s Sunday and yes, we know, “Sunday’s are a Drag”, literally!! But that is the best part because San Francisco’s own Harry Denton and Donna Sachet present a weekly Drag Queen performance brunch at Harry Denton’s Starlight Room entitled, “Sunday’s are a Drag”. A salute to old-fashioned variety shows! Harry and Donna are reviving the spirit of the drag show, picking up where the legendary Finocchio’s left off. Donna Sachet will host each of the 45-minute brunch performances, showcasing the talents of a variety of San Francisco Drag Queens. The Divas will perform stand-up comedy routines, female impersonation acts and lip-sync performances. “This will truly be a magical experience,” says Sachet. “Whether you’re gay, straight, or anything in between. People won’t forget it. The price of brunch is $44.95 per person. Reservations are a must as this show always sells out.

After Brunch, it is time for some culture before the trip home. Hopefully, you booked a later flight, so you can enjoy some of the amazing museums that San Francisco has to offer. My favorite museum is SFMOMA, located on 3rd Street, it is near the hotel, so you can check out and leave your bags with the bellhop, and walk to the Museum. If time permits, enjoy an afternoon coffee or cocktail at the Hotel St. Regis right next door.

Well ladies, I hope you enjoy your perfect 3 –Day California Girl Getaway in San Francisco! And while you are there, be sure to look up your local Divas.

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