I can’t believe it was 10 years that I first moved to the west coast — with my first stop in San Francisco. A lot has changed since then, but there is at least one constant — that familiar blanket of coastline fog, weird and inexplicable patches of rain and even the occasional hail storm. Last weekend, Kevin and I went back to our stomping grounds to check things out. But just because rain is in the forecast, it doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy your time. This isn’t LA after all where even a dark cloud can cause a traffic jam. Here are our recommendations for perfect (and soggy) weekend in San Francisco.
Break a Sweat: Core40 Pilates
My newest fitness obsession is megaformer pilates (also known as Lagree pilates created by celebrity fitness guru Sebastien Lagree). Core40 has studios across San Francisco with 40 minute classes where instructors guide you through such odd-sounding exercises like mermaid, the french twist and giant spoon that will make you think you’re participating in some strange torture experiment. My friend Daniel suggested we take a class in the newly opened Hayes Valley studio (though, I’m guessing he wasn’t so thrilled with my pick of an 8:30 AM class on Saturday morning!). The equipment at Core40 utilizes the latest technology – including a feature where the instructor can lift and tilt your pilates machine (with you on it!) via a remote-controlled iPad. Hang on tight! It’s all worth it though – since a typical megaformer session can burn 500 calories or more. So you can have that extra slice of sourdough bread for brunch and not feel so guilty.
Omelettes in a Tilt-A-Whirl Car: Brunch at Straw
After burning all those calories, Daniel and I headed to a nearby brunch spot in Hayes Valley called Straw. Leave it to San Francisco to have a carnival-themed restaurant complete with a tilt-a-whirl with a table inside of it. Of course, I had to pick the most uncomfortable option since Daniel is over 6-foot tall. Our waiter handed us old-school children’s books with a menu inside full of carnival-themed brunch options (donut burger anyone?). We kept it pretty standard and went with eggs, waffles and a portobello mushroom sandwich.
Straw has just a few tables inside so get there early or you’ll have to sign up on their wait list. As we were leaving, the rain started coming down but it certainly didn’t stop the crowd from lining up.
Ultimate Foodie Experience: Ferry Terminal Farmer’s Market
Anyone who knows me, can tell you that no trip to San Francisco is complete without a stop at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, held every Saturday from 8 AM – 2 PM. You’ll find vendors lined up outside in tents (who are a hardy bunch). Even if it’s a torrential downpour, you can always head inside the ferry building to fill up on Blue Bottle Coffee, Cowgirl Creamery Cheese or browse some fancy ceramic bowls at Heath Ceramics. Upon arriving here, I got a text from Kevin, who was in Palo Alto for a Stanford alumni event, asking “So are you enjoying the farmer’s market?” Am I really that predicable? Um, yeah…
History and Culture: Chinese Historical Society & Fortune Cookies
Ever wonder how Chinatown formed in San Francisco and cities around the world? We highly recommend a visit to the Chinese Historical Society, which is housed inside a converted YWCA in Chinatown. Inside you’ll find exhibits documenting the history of Chinese immigrants in the city, showing the progress of Chinese immigration with a lot of dark periods. Discriminatory laws and racial violence drove out and isolated many Chinese migrants who established “Chinese Quarters” or “Chinatowns.” One part of the museum you won’t want to miss is the section on Angel Island, located off the San Francisco coast and sometimes referred to as the “Ellis Island of the West.” It is open Tuesday-Friday 12-5 PM and Saturday-Sunday from 10 AM – 4 PM. Admission is $15 per person but it is free the 1st Sunday of every month. Mark those calendars!
After checking out the museum, we broke out our umbrellas and headed downhill (it’s steep!) to shop along Grant Street, the main drag in Chinatown. One place I always love stopping is the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory. I still remember coming here as a 6-year-old kid, then later in college with faith-based Habitat for Humanity (where I accidentally bought some x-rated fortune cookies for the group and the campus minister, oops!). Literally, the place hasn’t changed in 30+ years. Inside you’ll still find a grungy looking room lined with bags of cookies and a pretty surly worker handing out free samples. It’s as good as I remember it.
Live Performance: ACT Theater
American Conservatory Theater shows both classical and contemporary theater productions, as well as serves as an acting school. It was a rainy, chilly weekend so we headed here to see the incredibly timely production of A Thousand Splendid Suns based on a novel by local bay-area resident Khaled Hosseini. I bought this book back in 2007 when it first came out and was totally enthralled. It’s the story of three generations of Afghan women set against the backdrop of war-torn Kabul. The topic is certainly heavy and I was a little concerned about Kevin. After all, he’s somehow fallen asleep during productions of Rent and even a live taping of Last Comic Standing (which I still don’t know how he managed to do!). But you know what? Kevin not only stayed awake the entire time, but he was totally into it! After the show, we got into a full blown discussion about how the production related to current news events at the bar of the nearby Cheesecake Factory of all places! The theater is located right off Union Square so there are plenty of places to go after the show besides Cheesecake Factory (which does have a fantastic view). Don’t judge.
Relaxation time: Philz Coffee near the Civic Center
Finally, if you’re looking to just sit around and chill (with free wifi), you can’t go wrong with Philz Coffee. There are several stores across San Francisco (and recently in Los Angeles). But our favorite still remains the shop near the Civic Center in San Francisco right off Golden Gate Ave. There are comfy couches, locally baked desserts and windows all around (so you can watch for any breaks in the rain!). Kevin doesn’t really drink coffee, but it is really one of my favorite brews. You’ll need to order at the bar and your barista will pour with great fanfare even if you’re just getting a standard drip. I love a good show with my drink!
We had a blast in San Francisco despite the soggy weather. And as the locals say, if you don’t like the weather in San Francisco, wait 5 minutes. That about sums it up!