Planning a playdate in San Francisco has long been a favorite holiday tradition around my home. Sluping a Hot Toddy between Union Square shops and stops, Christmas tea with friends at Sip, and checking out the Westin St. Francis gingerbread house are all on the list. Since 2020 was Holiday Interrupted, this year is a perfect time to reignite festive feelings with a special trip to the City. Here’s some ideas to sparkle up your day.
Top of the Mark
A fixture for eight decades, the Top of the Mark is a quintessential San Francisco experience, and THE place to bring out of town guests, or enjoy a holiday toast with good friends. Offering spectacular views of San Francisco, creative cocktails, food bites, and a fun collaborative menu with Piper Heidsieck champagne and Astrea cavier, it’s worth the effort to find a parking spot (take public transportation or the cable car instead).
Piper Heidsieck Intercontinental 75 with delicious bee pollen rim
Nob Hill started developing around 1878, when San Francisco’s famous Big Four begun to compete with “who could build the largest mansion” atop the hill where little cable cars climbed halfway to the stars. Called the “Nobs,” for short, they were Mark Hopkins, Leland Stanford, Collis Porter Huntington, and Charles Crocker. Mark Hopkins, one of the founders of the Central Pacific Railroad, chose the southeastern peak of Nob Hill for a dream home for his wife, Mary. The 1906 earthquake destroyed the mansion, but in its place rose the Mark Hopkins hotel in 1926. In 1939, the 19th floor was converted into the glass-walled restaurant and sky lounge that still delights those who take the trip up to the upper floor on the old-fashioned wooden elevator (hence Top of the Mark).
With its long view above the City and across the bay, the restaurant served as a destination for American servicemen slated to fight overseas during World War II. The soldiers brought their sweethearts, and the Northwest window was nicknamed Weepers Corner, where wives watched their Pacific-bound servicemen ship out to war in the 1940's. Servicemen and women can still enjoy a “Squadron Shot” from a historic sideboard holding bottles left by military personnel, and read stories from their service.
Rich with history, the area is a must see for travelers and locals. We Food Partied! about the historic Nob Hill neighborhood before in
The Big Four – Part One
The Big Four – Part Two
Make it a day of adventure with a cable car ride up from Market street, (this line remains the oldest U.S. cable line still in operation), a stop at Grace Cathedral, and a free guided tour of the area with SF City guides.
Yerba Buena Gardens
Located in the heart of the City’s downtown cultural district, go to Yerba Buena Gardens to play, dine, shop or just relax. There’s museums, cafes, memorials, and theaters—all cradled by gardens, public art, and award-winning architecture.
Visit another historic treasure, the LeRoy King Carousel, built in 1906 by renowned craftsman Charles Looff. It is fully restored to once again provide classic rides for all ages, open weekends, and only $3 to ride with a paid admission to the Children’s Creativity Museum, or $5 without.
When you are ready for lunch, check out Joyride Pizza, a bright indoor, outdoor restaurant, overlooking the Yerba Buena gardens, and boosting classic Detroit-style pizza on focaccia crust made with organic yecora rojo flour from the central valley of CA.
Owner Jesse Jacobs recounts his strict macrobiotic upbringing of brown rice, sea vegetables and tofu, and how he’ll always remember that first bite of pizza made with none of those ingredients. Combining the macrobiotic traditions of natural sourdough,
with a relatively-newish trend of Detroit crust, (not popular in my day there in the 60’s – 80’s), the pizza is a mouth full of flavor. But you must be “ready for bready” as my dining partner R cleverly coined; this pie is not for the gluten-free ($16 - $23).
Food Partiers! of old might enjoy our connection to macrobiotics with blogs from the past including:
Michio Kushi and One Peaceful World
Like Horse Penis
While you are Joyriding, look for salads (the Caesar with caper anchovy chimichurri was one of the BEST I have had in the City $11) and pastas ($14 - $19), and please don’t forget dessert – this cannoli made me yearn for childhood days in Michigan. Old fashioned, crunchy and cream-filled with sprinkles of course ($7).
We’ll continue next time with more Holiday Hoopla, so please come on back for additional places to play.
Now get out there!
San Francisco City Guides
A San Francisco treasure! Over 60 tours offered on every day of the week by local volunteers who love the City. Free to the public – donations welcome! Click here for a schedule of tours.
The Top of the Mark
999 California Street, San Francisco
4:30 PM – 11:30 PM Tuesday – Saturdays
Appetizers 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Children's Magical Tea at the Top of the Mark
Saturdays & Sundays, Dec. 4 & 5, 11 & 12, 18 & 19
A magical afternoon with balloon artists, face painting, a cookie decorating station.
LeRoy King Carousel
221 Fourth Street, San Francisco
Sat & Sun, 11:30 AM – 4 PM
730 Howard Street, San Francisco
12 PM - 8 PM, Sun – Thursday
12PM - 9 PM Fri & Sat
411 Valencia St, San Francisco
12 PM - 8 PM, Sun – Thursday
12PM – 10:30 PM Fri & Sat
- photos by LSIC