No, I am not going to serenade you with that 1960s anthem to Flower Power (you can thank me later), not that it isn't a perfectly lovely song, but Aunty's singing abilities leave a lot to be desired. But this post is for the 2000+ folks headed for the Romance Writers of America National Conference in San Francisco.
The DH and I spent a recent afternoon in The City in order to check out the hotel and surrounding area. For those of you with maps (or know the area) the hotel faces 4th Street between Mission and Market. St. Patrick's church is right next to it. Unfortunately, so are a lot of homeless/beggars. Pan-handlers can be aggressive in this area near the hotel. I wouldn't recommend going out on foot after about 9 pm when stores close. Better safe than sorry.
When walking out of the hotel lobby, turn right and Market Street is 1/2 block away. Ross is on the corner and handy for any emergency wardrobe malfunctions (pantyhose or knee highs, foundation garments, etc) and Old Navy is across 4th.
If you cross and walk down Market in front of Old Navy, a few doors down is a Walgreens, handy for any items (shampoo, conditioner, snacks) you might have forgotten. About 2 blocks farther is the Westfield Mall which is 4 or 5 stories with every store imaginable including Bloomingdales, Nordstroms, and a food court (below street level). There's a nice upscale grocery in the mall food court called Bristol Farms that has all kinds of hot and cold prepared foods, and beautiful produce.
Another handy store to buy most anything you need is the Rite Aid on Market. Rite Aid has all those silly little dust catchers that say San Francisco on them that you might want to take home to kidlets and others as souvenirs. When standing at Ross, cross to the other side of Market (sometimes a scary endeavor since it's one of the busiest streets in the city) and Rite Aid is in the middle of the block. Also, if you go out the back door of Rite Aid you will be about 2--3 easy blocks from Union Square which has Macy's, Neiman Marcus, and lots of other upscale shops.
If you continue down Market on the same side of the street as Rite Aid, about 2 blocks will be Grant. If you turn left on Grant and walk about 3 long blocks, you will be at the entrance to Chinatown. You'll know it by the ornate gate and lion-dog guardians. I love Chinatown and think it well worth seeing!
If you want to ride the cable cars, the end of the Powell Street line (and boarding) is on the same side of Market as Rite Aid, but down closer to the Westfield Mall. Last time I rode the cable cars (and it's been a few years) they were $4. The cost has probably gone up and it is a good idea to have correct change. There will be long lines so be prepared to wait.
Old fashioned trolleys run up and down Market to the Ferry Building, Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf which are way too far to walk. Not sure of the cost, since we had the car and drove to the Ferry Building. One fun thing to do might be to catch a pedi-cab (tricycle with a back seat for 2) from the Ferry Building to Pier 39 or Ghirardelli Square.
Directly across 4th is the Metreon Center and Yerba Buena Park. They had a free concert of opera in the park the day we were there. The Metreon has several nice places to grab a quick meal. One is called Just Desserts and looks very promising.
Those who want to see the Pacific Ocean up close, the nearest place is at the Ferry Building at the end of Market on Embarcadero. If you'd like to see authentic California wild life, dozens (sometimes hundreds) of California sea lions hang out on several of the slips at the marina next to Pier 39. (You will hear and smell them long before you see them!)
To actually find a beach, the closest will be near Fort Mason a short distance from the foot of the Golden Gate bridge. You'll need a vehicle (private or taxi) to get there. The prettiest is Sunset Beach. Go via The Cliff House for a spectacular view.
San Francisco is a unique and beautiful city and if you are going there for the conference, I hope you take a few hours to look around. You'll be glad you did!
Any specific questions? Ask away in the comments, or send me a private email via my website!