Hayes Valley, a four-block corridor west of Civic Center Plaza, is drawing more style mavens than an Eames retrospective at SFMOMA.
You'll need at least a weekend to hit all the shops—and a month to pay the credit card bills. At Friend (401 Hayes St.; 415/552-1717), columns etched with poetry set the stage for mod furniture and accessories. Avant-garde threads by Belgian and Bay Area designers share floor space with Oakland artist Ann Weber's biomorphic cardboard sculptures at MAC (387 Grove St.; 415/863-3011). Alabaster (597 Hayes St.; 415/558-0482), a store for antique home-furnishings and curiosities, stocks vintage hotel silveralongside contemporary Fortuny silk scarves. Half-restaurant, half-pâtisserie, Citizen Cake (399 Grove St.; 415/861-2228; lunch for two $35) is the perfect spot to refuel: try a crisp Cuban sandwich. STAY Book a room at the Inn at the Opera (333 Fulton St.; 415/863-8400; www.innattheopera.com; doubles from $129) within walking distance of it all. DON'T MISS Emerging artists at the Bucheon Gallery (389 Grove St.; 415/863-2891), housed in a space designed by local sculptor Lawrence LaBianca.
From New York to Paris, "shopping concierges" make weekend sprees a breeze. At the Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park (50 Central Park S.; 800/241-3333; www.ritzcarlton.com; packages from $2,475, including stay), travel in chauffeur-driven style on a daylong expedition with former fashion editor Kathleen Beckett. Expect private consultations with designers such as Miguel Adrover and Proenza Schouler.
The personal shopper at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago (120 E. Delaware Place; 800/332-3442; www.fourseasons.com; doubles from $320) will plot a customized buying tour and accompany those who need second opinions.
If you long for that Parisian look, try the three-day Je Ne Sais Quoi Package at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée (25 Ave. Montaigne, Paris; 800/223-6800; www.plaza-athenee-paris.com; package from $2,285, including stay), complete with hairstyling and makeup applications and a guided shopping tour.
Summer is a great time for antiquing. Your arsenal: a sharp eye, negotiating skills, and a wad of small bills. Just be sure your car's got enough room to haul back all the treasures.
WHAT Upwards of 800 booths at the Alameda Point Antiques & Collectibles Faire (510/522-7500; www.antiquesbybay.com; entry fee $5-$15). WHERE Less than an hour east of San Francisco, on a former naval base. WHEN The first Sunday of the month, from 6A.M. to 3 P.M. FINDS Every item sold is at least 20 years old—from electronics (vintage phones, eight-track players) to toys.
WHAT The new Chicago Antique Market (312/951-9939; www.chicagoantiquemarket.com; entry fee $8) handpicks its 175 sellers. WHERE An entire city block in the Randolph Street Market District. WHEN The last Sunday of every month, May through October. FINDS There's always a different collecting theme—plus a vintage-outfit contest, and food from hot restaurants Onesixtyblue and La Luce.
WHAT The Scott Antique Markets (740/569-2800; www.scottantiquemarket.com; entry fee $3), in Atlanta, has been dubbed the Brimfield of the South for its 2,400 booths—most indoors (air-conditioned, thankfully). WHERE The Atlanta Exposition Center (3650 Jonesboro Rd.). WHEN July 9-11 and August 13-15. FINDS Picture Scarlett O'Hara selling the contents of Tara—times 20.
Local icon Elizabeth Falkner has reopened Citizen Cake in the Pacific Heights. The fire-engine red store front gives way to a sparse interior with an exposed brick wall, slate floor, and black tables. Fancy versions of American diner entrees are offered: corn dogs with molasses-beer mustard, mac and cheese with gruyere, and roast chicken with duck fat potatoes. But the real draw are the desserts - sundaes, cookies, cupcakes, and, of course, cakes. One of the signature cakes is the After Midnight Devil's Food Cake: devil's food cake, milk and dark chocolate mousee, and dark chocolate glaze.
The Inn at the Opera
The 48-room Inn at the Opera brings a reverence for the arts to the city's Hayes Valley area. Within walking distance from the Davies Symphony Hall and the War Memorial Opera House, the Inn celebrates its history as the place where out-of-town performers have stayed while in town. The lobby sets the tone of understated elegance with neutral colors, light wood accents, and ambient lighting. Rooms have aptly artistic titles (the ballet studio suite and concerto junior suite) and include a kitchenette. Continental breakfast and dinner are served at Ovation, the in-house restaurant.