Stroll the Bay City’s scenic waterfront.
The Embarcadero, which traces San Francisco’s eastern shoreline, memorably demonstrates the good that can come from a natural disaster. After the 1989 earthquake, the old freeway was torn down, replaced by a breezy, beautiful promenade. Now you can stroll along the waterfront, past redeveloped piers, all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Located in Jackson Square, this high-end clothing boutique is owned by sisters Melissa and Catie Grimm, whose family runs Grimmway Farms, the world’s largest producer of carrots. Although they do offer mini carrot cupcakes to shoppers, the Grimm sisters specialize not in produce but in men’s and women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories. The shop stocks more than 50 designers, including Yigal Azrouël, Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, and Peter Som. Housed in the former Ernie’s Restaurant, which was featured in Hitchcock’s Vertigo, the shop’s interior is now adorned with antique chandeliers, vintage suitcases, and distressed leather armchairs imported from Europe.
Ferry Building Marketplace
Even if you miss the famed farmers’ market held here every Saturday, there are plenty of other reasons to swing by the beautifully refurbished 1898 Ferry Building. The waterfront complex contains more than 40 gourmet shops and snack counters. Among the offerings are divine chocolate sablées at Miette Patisserie, fresh-baked sourdough levain from Acme Bread, Mt. Tam triple-cream cheese at Cowgirl Creamery, and harvest-time Olio Nuovo at McEvoy Ranch (or buy an olive sapling and grow your own). If you’re weighed down, a handwoven basket from The Gardener should help you carry it all.
Straight-up, artisanal chocolate defines Embarcadero's Tcho, a simple white warehouse on Pier 17 that creates remarkably tasty sweets. Nothing ganache-filled or gimmicky is offered: just bars, drinking chocolate, baking drops, and cacao nibs, all presented in colorful packages with bold typography (in other words, perfect for gift-giving.). The dark chocolates and one milk chocolate exemplify flavor profiles of citrus, fruit, nuts or classic bittersweet, and it's all achieved through the roasting and blending processes, without additional flavorings. Before buying, you can tour the factory and enjoy a complimentary, in-depth tasting of Tcho's treats, which often include organic ingredients from small-scale farmers and co-ops.
F Line Historic Streetcars
Cable cars have competition for Most Endearing Public Transit. These early-20th-century streetcars trundle along the Embarcadero. You might glimpse an orange Milanese number or the olive green “streetcar named desire” from New Orleans.
A few blocks inland from the Embarcadero, this historic district was once the rowdy Gold Rush–era waterfront. Now the mid-19th-century buildings hold genteel antiques dealers, art galleries, Thomas E. Cara’s legendary espresso machine store (517 Pacific Ave.), and a recherché clothing boutique with the humble name Carrots (843 Montgomery St.).
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
Climb aboard the historic ships docked at the Hyde Street Pier, such as the three-masted Balclutha (1886) and the schooner Alma (1891). Keep walking west and the crowds fall away as you reach the Art Deco Bathhouse Building, with its collection of ship models.
The Buena Vista
Stemmed glasses line up along the bar, getting pre-heated for Irish coffee, the whisky-laced, cream-topped pick-me-up invented here in 1952.