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San Francisco Maintains Its Edge

by Susan B. Barnes

Aug 1, 2016

Union Square with The Westin St. Francis © RINDRADJAJA | DREAMSTIME.COM

August 2016

Something is always happening in San Francisco. From its professional sports teams providing buzzer-beating excitement year-round to its phenomenal dining and shopping, not to mention iconic landmarks, the City by the Bay offers it all.

In 2015 San Francisco welcomed 24.6 million visitors — 18.9 million of whom were leisure visitors, with the remaining 5.8 million business travelers — resulting in $9.3 billion in spending, with $2 billion related to meetings and conventions. Those numbers aren’t lost on the city’s leadership, and as a whole the city is making strides to add even more options for visitors.

Hotel debuts in San Francisco over the past year include the Hotel Zeppelin San Francisco (formerly Prescott Hotel) in Union Square with 196 guestrooms, including 20 suites and 3,000 square feet of meeting and event space. Also in Union Square, the Axiom Hotel (formerly The Powell Hotel) opened with 152 guestrooms available in four styles, all featuring tech-forward amenities. Within the Japantown, Fillmore and Pacific Heights neighborhoods, The Kimpton Buchanan (formerly Hotel Tomo) opened with 131 rooms. Hotel Zephyr (formerly Radisson Hotel Fisherman’s Wharf) brings a fresh twist to the area with its 361 waterfront guestrooms, many featuring views of the bay, the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, Alcatraz and cityscapes. And Hotel VIA in South Beach, an independent hotel dedicated to technology and the environment, offers 168 guestrooms and rooftop event space with views of the Bay and Golden Gate bridges.

Renovations are all the rage in San Francisco, too. The Westin St. Francis recently completed an expansive makeover of 30 rooms totaling 50,000 square feet of special event space in both the Landmark and Tower buildings. The renovation follows the $20 million renovation to the guestrooms in the Tower Building, completed in 2014; the hotel offers a total of 1,195 guestrooms. In Union Square, The Palace Hotel completed extensive renovations to its 556 guestrooms, fitness center, indoor swimming pool and reception and lounge areas last year, seamlessly transitioning the hotel from past to present. In Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 2620 Hotel recently completed its $17 million renovation of all 233 guestrooms and began the exterior renovation, and $10 million in renovations transformed the Hyatt Centric Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco’s 316 guestrooms, two restaurants, lobby and public space into more inviting areas.

Additionally, at the city’s convention center, Moscone Center, a $500 million expansion is expected to be completed in fall 2018. The expansion to the North and South buildings includes more than 500,000 square feet of contiguous space, nearly twice as much as offered in its current largest hall; three ballrooms; more than 80 meeting rooms; 108,000 square feet of pre-function lobbies; and more than 20,000 square feet of outdoor terrace space.

During the Moscone’s expansion, meeting planners can work with the newly launched Meetings Neighborhood Network Connections to find event space and hotel accommodations that meet their needs for groups of up to 2,500 people. Four alliances and 15 hotels are currently in place and at the ready to assist in the following neighborhoods: San Francisco Downtown Connection, Nob Hill Connection, the SOMA One Connection and the Union Square Alliance.

Not only hotels and the convention center invested in renovations in the city. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art recently opened its new 235,000-square-foot expansion, an addition to the existing building that increases the museum’s space to nearly three times its previous capacity. The expansion includes the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection; the new Pritzker Center for Photography; an outdoor sculpture terrace featuring the biggest living wall in the city with 16,000 native plants in a vertical garden; and nearly 15,000 square feet of art-filled, free-access public space.

Other art milestones within the city this year include the opening of The David Ireland House, along with a number of anniversaries: the 50th anniversaries of the Asian Art Museum, American Conservatory Theater and the Magic Theatre; the 40th anniversary of Theatre Bay Area; and the 20th anniversary of Golden Thread Productions. To say the city loves its arts is an understatement.

Another arts scene continues to thrive in the city — the culinary arts. With new restaurants opening year-round, visitors and locals alike find it hard to determine which to try next. You’ll want to take time and make reservations to sample fresh fares at these restaurants to try in 2016: Volta (France meets Scandinavia meets local); China Live (at more than 20,000 square feet, it’s likened to New York’s Eataly); and seasonal, four- to five-course tasting menus from Chef Kim Alter at Nightbird. Bon appétit!


Love the coast? Travel south on Highway 1 from San Francisco to Monterey, taking time to stop at scenic viewpoints along the way. Just after crossing into Monterey County, stop at Moss Landing State Beach for terrific marine life viewing including sea lions, seals, otters, pelicans and any number of water birds. This is a terrific place for a picnic lunch, so be sure to pack one to bring with you. Once you arrive in Monterey, spend some time at Fisherman’s Wharf before making your way back up Highway 1 to San Fran in time for another West Coast sunset.

Oenophiles know all about Napa Valley, and a daytrip to the world-class wine region is easily navigable at just an hour northeast of the city. In addition to its more than 500 wineries, Napa Valley is home to Michelin-starred dining and luxurious spas in a relaxed setting. Once in the valley, choose from plenty of fun ways to explore, including hot air balloon rides, bike tours, a wine trolley and even the Napa Valley Wine Train.


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