Budget-Friendly San Francisco
Value options in the Golden Gate City.
Though it’s one of America’s priciest cities, there are good values to be found in Bay City. As a rule of thumb, stick to museums, cafes, and outdoor attractions such as parks and overlooks—an easy itinerary in a city with delicious farmers’ market fare and a beautiful bay coastline.
Golden Gate Park
This 1,017-acre landmark might be world famous, but it’s still full of hidden gems. Visit the bison paddocks on the park’s west end, where urban buffalo graze the fields (seriously), stroll a traditional Japanese tea garden, row across Stow Lake, or just get lost walking the many trails that wind through the botanical garden and beyond.
Golden Gate Bridge
Do yourself a favor and see the Golden Gate Bridge the way it was meant to be seen: from below. Start at the Marina end of Crissy Field, an airfield-turned-recreation-area-and-bird-refuge in the Presidio. Here, you could spend hours watching the kiteboarders skim over the waves—and crash spectacularly into them—but keep walking west, past the fishing pier (take a moment to look for seals in the water), to Fort Point, the brick Civil War–era fortress guarding the mouth of the Golden Gate. Now look up.
Hog Island Oyster Company
Since 1983, Hog Island Oyster Company has built a reputation for harvesting oysters from Tomales Bay in adjacent Marin County. This small eatery, located on the north side of the Ferry Building, only serves in-season oysters (and clams), so there may be Sweetwaters, Atlantics, or Kumamotos. Oysters come in sets of 6, 12, or 24, and are prepared steamed, raw, stewed, or baked. Daily specials vary, as well, and may include black cod with roasted red potatoes, asparagus, and Romesco. Snag a seat at the L-shaped raw bar or settle into a table for a view of the ferries and the Bay Bridge.
Part eco-friendly, part rock-and-roll, the Triton is most famous for its seven “celebrity suites,” individually designed by music stars like Carlos Santana and Jerry Garcia (heavy on the psychedelic art and groovy multicolored fabrics) and Anthony Kiedis (whose “Red Hot Love Nest” has furniture made from recycled touring equipment). Equally popular these days, though, are the seven “eco-rooms,” decorated with environmentally safe paints, furniture made from salvaged forest-fire wood, and organic hemp bed and bath linens. All have New Agey amenities like free yoga mats (there’s 24-hour “YogaTV” on the flat-screen TV’s), aromatherapy bath products, and recycling bins for waste disposal. If you’re traveling solo, you can book one of 28 “Zen Dens”—petite rooms with daybeds for both sitting and sleeping, mechanical wind chimes, and bamboo plants.
Tip: Though the Triton is super pet-friendly, dogs and cats aren’t allowed in the eco-rooms (which are also reserved for those with allergies).
Room to Book: Sweet-toothed guests might not be able to resist the Häagen-Dazs suite, with its fridge full of complimentary ice-cream pints, cups, and bars.
Chow Church in the Castro neighborhood is a casual gathering place for the budget-minded. The setting is relaxed and bright with green walls, wood paneling and round tables. Chow's American-style comfort food features wild seafood, free-range organic poultry, and natural pork. Weekend brunch options use organic eggs in dishes like eggs benedicts and huevos rancheros, and lunch options include grilled organic pork chops. Families appreciate the 8-inch wood fired pizzettes("kid size pizza") and kid's menu. Wine and beer are available in the tavern or on the patio, ranging from Amstel Light and Stella Artois beer to Navarro wine from nearby Mendocino County.