Parents’ insider guide to family travel: in a ‘city on the edge,’ Four Seasons San Francisco

Parents’ insider guide to family travel: in a ‘city on the edge,’ Four Seasons San Francisco

By on November 29th, 2012

San Francisco is on the edge, literally. California’s gleaming-white West Coast “City by the Bay” sits on the edge of the continent—and of American consciousness and innovation. A cultural icon, boomtown San Francisco was at the center of the 1880s Gold Rush, which transformed American society. Then came the Beats, the hippies, the “greed is good” 80s high finance decade; and most recently, Silicon Valley, the Dot-com boom and bust, and the social web. It’s a hub of continual reinvention and exploration. There’s also drama: the city once burned to ground and has survived epic earthquakes.

A photogenic metropolis that does glamour with laidback ease, this is a haven for dreamers with its bohemian soul and impossibly steep hills (don’t rent a stick shift car). Think: sour dough, Alcatraz, King Crab on the wharf, Haight-Ashbury, The Castro’s Gay Pride, the clanging cable car, China Town, the Alice Waters locavore movement and the famed Golden Gate Bridge peeking out from under the fog. Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco sits downtown, just a few blocks from shopper’s central: Union Square.

Why go?

*A gorgeous, easygoing West Coast city set between the Pacific Ocean and California wine country. Not much need to elaborate. It ranks 35th out of the top 100 most-visited cities in the world—can everyone be wrong?

*Its counterculture, beatnik soul.

*To get to know the famed ‘hoods: The Mission (top-notch Latino fare, burritos as big as your head), Union Street/Cow Hollow, Pacific Heights, North Beach/Little Italy, China Town, Noe Valley.

*Outstanding seafood and some of the best locavore farm-to-table offerings around.

*It’s California. Do San Francisco, then move on to other sun-drenched destinations in the Golden State. Note: Summers are cool and foggy within San Francisco (while hot just a few miles south). Come prepared. Or visit in the glorious fall months—warm and sunny.

What the kids will love:

*The city’s fabled steep and rolling hills (50 in all). Zipping up and down ‘em on the cable car. The whoosh of the other car passing yours—within inches!

*The beach—right in the city.

*Golden Gate Park. Check out the new-ish California Academy of Sciences, plus the gargantuan deYonge Museum, Japanese Tea Garden (with tea house) and the elegant Conservatory of Flowers. There’s also a botanical garden and old-fashioned carousel.

*Splashing in Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco’s pool and the hotel’s make-your-own ice cream sundaes.

*Photographing the sites. Pick up a disposable camera and let your kids take their own pictures—a great way to preserve the memories from your child’s point-of-view.

*Biking the hills of the Headlands.

*Nearby trips to Treasure Island, Alcatraz, Berkeley—even tack on a vacation to Yosemite National Park.

What you will love:

*Wine Country side trip: Napa Valley and Sonoma are a short, scenic drive up the coast. (The concierge can arrange an excursion itinerary for you.)

*Body detox at the spa: The hotel spa’s deep-cleansing and calming full-body exfoliation and stimulating massage is followed by an application of marine algae to stimulate circulation, eliminate toxins and improve energy levels.

*Eclectic shopping: hit Union Street and Pacific Heights. Hippie haven Haight-Ashbury is pretty fun.

*Piloting the USA76, the famed America’s cup racing yacht, around the San Francisco Bay. After your induction, take the helm and prepare for a thrill.

*The farmers’ market in the Ferry Building. Four Seasons offers a guided culinary tour. Pick up picnic goodies and head to Golden Gate Park or The Marina.

Look for:

Telegraph Hill’s Coit Tower, a symbol of the city since forever. (OK, since the 30s.) Our kids love the WPA murals and the dizzying views from the top.

Eat this:

Dine in—Seasons Bar and Lounge: An English pub ambiance plus sweeping views of the city and a burger bar. The small-plate portions are ideal for kids. For parents: Burgers and cocktails Sunday and Monday afternoons. Try the Sirloin Beef with caramelized onions, blue cheese, crisp shallots and house-made steak sauce on brioche bun. 

Seasons Restaurant is the hotel’s stylish take on an American steakhouse—all organic and locally sourced with California boutique wines for Mom and Dad. We loved the Dungeness Crab Salad layered with crisp apples and a celery caviar vinaigrette and the house-made Tagliatelle Pasta with truffles, mushrooms and Parmesan.

In-Room Dining at Four Seasons San Francisco

Dine out—(For the family) Kokkari: A popular upscale Greek restaurant; very accommodating to kids. Ferrari Italian Foods: A quaint little shop just around the corner from Four Seasons. Pick up food and drink to take with you on a picnic.

BiRite Creamery, a favorite for all kids! Tartine: from the homemade artisan breads to the pastries to the salads—this renowned bakery is a must-visit. Coffee Bar: for some of the best coffee in town, excellent pastries for kids and food family lunch options. The Ice Cream Bar: Homemade old-fashioned sodas, creams and phosphates along with a kid-friendly lunch menu.

(For parents) Cotogna—rustic Italian with grilled fish and meats, and wood-oven gourmet pizzas (the fine dining version is adjacent at Quince Restaurant); and State Bird Provisions—a “fascinating” husband-and-wife operation serving up “adventurous, inventive” contemporary American cuisine with a California locavore focus. Lauded as a “best first date spot.”

5 family to-dos:

  1. Ride the cable car: Kitschy? Perhaps. But truly, this is a thrill. Ask the concierge for a map and walking directions to the cable car depot where you buy tickets. There can be long lines, so its’ best to arrive early.
  2. Cycle the Golden Gate: For families with older kids, rent bikes and zoom across the bridge, enjoying the cool ocean breeze and way-up-high perspective. If your family is the athletic type, try a bike trek up the mountain on the opposite side of the bridge for incredible city vistas.
  3. Lombard Street: Driving along the “Crookedest Street in the World” makes a fun trip memory for the kids. We recommend driving down the street, parking and then letting the kids explore.
  4. Exploratorium: We spent an entire day in this magical “hands-on” museum. It’s science made super-fun and wacky. You really have to see it.
  5. San Francisco from a Big Red Shiny Mack Fire Engine: Young boys will especially love this one. A twist on the usual bus sightseeing option, this one is aboard a fire engine touring through the Presidio, across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and finally to Fort Baker for a family picture. Ask the concierge can arrange your tour.

Kids’ fun by age group—best for…

*Babies:  Strolling the city with baby in the carrier. Splasing in the hotel pool. Digging on the beach. Golden Gate Park. A boat ride on the bay. Tap the hotel’s babysitting services for your date night (or day) out.

*Toddlers: Ride on the beautiful, hand-carved 1906 carousel in Golden Gate Park. The interactive Exploratorium. Sprinting around Golden Gate Park and rolling down the grassy hills. Tottering through the park’s Japanese Tea Garden. The pool and the beach.

*Kids 5-10: The Hayes Valley playground (a locals’ favorite). The kids love it and it’s rarely crowded. Coit Tower. The museums at Golden Gate Park and the Exploratorium. This age group will especially delight in riding the cable car. Alcatraz.

*Tweens & teens: A boat ride on the bay. Mountain biking the hills of the Headlands. Union Square Shopping District Your teen will love spending an afternoon shopping just around the corner from the hotel.

For comics fans, check out the Isotope Comic Store. Alcatraz.

For some girly accessories, head over to Gigi and Rose at Ghirardelli Square. Also fun: Union Street and Haight-Ashbury.

Four Seasons SF - Ghirardeli Sq.

Read more on San Francisco in Four Seasons Magazine. 

Read our “Concierge Recommendations” for San Francisco in Four Seasons Magazine. 

Read “Four Seasons San Francsico: Within Walking Distance” in Four Seasons Magazine.

Post Author
Carrie Vitt

Carrie Vitt is the author of the cookbook Deliciously Organic and the publisher of the popular food blog Deliciously Organic. Husband, kid- and party-friendly, Deliciously Organic is brimming with the recipes and flavors families love — all created using wholesome, unrefined and organic ingredients. Carrie lives with her husband, an Air Force test pilot, and their two daughters in Northwest Florida.

View all posts from Carrie
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3 Response(s) to "Parents’ insider guide to family travel: in a ‘city on the edge,’ Four Seasons San Francisco"
LG says:
January 10, 2013 at 12:08 am

Great post! But can kids swim in the four seasons’ pool? When I called to book a res, they told me that it was 16 yrs old and up (no kids allowed).

Liondragoncustom says:
November 29, 2012 at 8:26 pm

I love that! I want to write a TV series based entirely on this. Love it!

Jean | says:
November 29, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Carrie, loved this post. I’m sitting here feeling as if I’ve just been there myself! It’s been too long!

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