San Francisco business trip? What to do on your off-duty hours

Source: San Francisco Travel Association

San Francisco is not only one of the country’s most visited cities, since the days of the Gold Rush, it’s been a major center for innovation.

“This is the city that inspired the creation of television, the Murphy bed and more,” said Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO, San Francisco Travel. “Known for a time as ‘Wall Street of the West,’ San Francisco was and is also a financial powerhouse.”

Much of that financial power is now wrapped up in technology, with companies such as Twitter, Uber, Airbnb, Pinterest, Dropbox, Salesforce and others calling San Francisco home.

“Medicine and technology also thrive and intertwine in the city’s Mission Bay neighborhood and throughout the region,” D’Alessandro added. “Taking on the biggest challenges to the human condition.”

If you find yourself in town to meet with one of these companies or a tiny start-up poised to disrupt, here are few ways to make the most of your off-duty hours in the City by the Bay.

Fresh fly-in convenience

Grand Hyatt at SFO

Source: SFO Airport

With the recent opening of the 12-story Grand Hyatt at SFO, San Francisco International Airport joins the ranks of major airports with a luxury hotel on property.

It’s at least a half-hour journey from the airport to downtown SFO, so this new hotel is ideal for fly-in meetings and conferences and those times when you’ve got an in-town meeting and an early flight out the next day.

arah Cain, We Will Walk Right Up To The Sun, courtesy City and County of San Francisco.

Photo: Randi Malkin Steinberger

The 351-room hotel has its own stained glass-adorned stop on the SFO AirTrain and tech-loaded meeting rooms with aviation-inspired names such as Supersonic, Stratocruiser and Astrojet. For on-site dining, Twin Crafts Market & Bar offers casual dining and a 24-hour market, while the Quail & Crane restaurant has a menu blending Northern California and Asian cuisine.

Thanks to San Francisco’s 2% for Art program, the hotel is home to 16 major new works of art, including “Ether” by Japanese artist Kohei Nawa, a 35-foot outdoor sculpture that references weightlessness and the movement of airplanes.

Grand Hyatt at SFO. A room overlooking the SFO airfield.

Source: Harriet Baskas

All rooms at the Grand Hyatt at SFO have soundproof, floor-to-ceiling windows. Rooms on one side of the hotel face the airfield of the International Terminal and each of those rooms is equipped with a handy airplane spotting guide and a loaner pair of binoculars. Rates: start at $329/night. Day-use rooms: start at $125 for six hours between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Head to town

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Source: San Francisco Travel Association

It is easy to get from the airport to downtown San Francisco. The 14-mile trip takes about 30 minutes via BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and the reloadable plastic Clipper Card you’ll need to board can also be used on city buses, streetcars and cable cars and on the Golden Gate Transit ferries. Due to highway traffic, the trip between SFO and downtown can take longer by car, van or limo.

The San Francisco Travel Association has a handy guide that lists attractions within walking distance from major BART stations in the city. A good place to start is the landmark Ferry Building, which is along the Embarcadero at the foot of Market Street. To get there, get off BART at the Embarcadero Station.

The marketplace inside the Ferry Building has coffee shops and wine bars, shops and restaurants, including Hog Island Oyster Company, Acme Bread Company, Cowgirl Creamery and Humphry Slocombe ice cream, among others.

Grab a table or head outside to watch ferries come and go to Sausalito and other destinations. A farmers’ market operates adjacent to the building three days a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays).

Well-known attractions and tourist destinations are further up the Embarcadero, including Pier 39 (the Aquarium of the Bay, sea lions and more) and Fisherman’s Wharf, but less touristly options can be found nearby in the 24-block Chinatown neighborhood and the Sourth of Market/Yerba Buena neighborhood.

Chinatown Gate in San Francisco.

Courtesy: SF Travel

Enter Chinatown through the ornate Dragon Gate (at Bush Street and Grant Avenue) and wander through shops, restaurants and the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum as you make your way to Ross Alley, home of the tiny Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.

Here you can watch as one or two cookie-makers snatch freshly baked flat cookie rounds off the cast-iron rotating griddle wheel and quickly fold in a paper fortune for one of the 10,000 hand-assembled fortune cookies made each day. Want a great souvenir? For $1 ($1.50 for 2) you can have your own message folded into a fortune cookie.

In the South of Market/Yerba Buena neighborhood, home to the Moscone Convention Center and Yerba Buena Gardens, you’ll find more than two dozen museums and cultural attractions.

Through Jan. 20, 2020, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing is the inspiration for an art, architecture and designed-centered exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA; admission: $25) titled “Far Out: Suits, Habs, and Labs for Outer Space.”

Nearby, at the California Historical Society (admission $10), “From the Gold Rush to the Earthquake: Selections from the Collection” opens Oct. 26 with paintings, photographs, manuscripts and ephemera, exploring everything from the growth of agriculture and industry in the state to the history of San Francisco’s Chinatown district and the devasting 1906 earthquake and fires.

Source: Henrik Kam | SFMOMA

A few blocks away is one of the San Francisco’s newest public spaces: Salesforce Park. The 5.4-acre fourth-story rooftop oasis sits on top of the Salesforce Transit Center and adjacent to the Salesforce Tower, which is currently San Francisco’s tallest building.

Free gondola rides to and from Salesforce Park

Source: Saleforce Transit Center

Four blocks long, the park has a lush walking path, tables and benches, play areas and a dancing fountain with 247 geysers triggered by the transit center’s bus traffic below. You can get to the park by stairs, escalators or elevators, but it’s far more entertaining to take the free gondola from the street.

Salesforce Park in San Francisco.

Courtesy: Salesforce Transit Center

Eat and drink

Want a great meal before leaving this area and heading back to the airport? You’re in luck. San Francisco is home to more than 60 Michelin-starred restaurants and a handful of them are located near Salesforce Park.

If you’ve got at least three hours to spend, an expense account (the fixed menu is $310 per person), an adventurous palate and can get a reservation, you can’t go wrong at Corey Lee’s Benu (3 Michelin stars).

Saison (Modern American, locally-sourced) and Campton Place (California-Indian cuisine) each have two Michelin stars. Mourad (modern Moroccan) and In Situ (seasonal menu of global dishes; at SFMoma) are just two of the city’s 46 one-star Michelin restaurants.

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