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joe

joe

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Trip Plan Tags: 
adventure,
city,
educational,
family,
food,
golf,
luxury,
romantic,
skiing + snowboarding,
spa + wellness
Destinations: 
Belgium,
Berkeley,
Bermuda,
British Virgin Islands,
Brussels,
California,
Caribbean,
Europe,
Jost Van Dyke,
Marshall,
Norman Island

we will go to china and hastings and isel of wight and on this trip we are going to the eral hotel

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Article

Places and Prices: Labyrinth of Time

Thirteen centuries old, Cairo hopes to build a prosperous future even as it preserves its layered past.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
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Hotel

W San Francisco, California

181 Third Street
San Francisco, California 94103
Tel: 415 777 5300, Fax: 415 817 7823
Website: www.whotels.com/sanfrancisco

The San Francisco outpost of the W hotel chain is popular with conventioneers for its proximity to the nearby Moscone Center; it also attracts skimpily clad twentysomethings who pose in the lobby bar pretending they're in L.A. or Miami. But the hotel is comfortable as well as trendy: All 410 rooms and suites have fluffy goose-down comforters, a carafe of water on the bedside table, and a Munchie Box containing wasabi peas and other goodies. The dramatic three-story octagonal lobby is stocked with specially designed board games and game tables. If you're planning to join the party downstairs, consider bookinga facial and manicure first at the 5,000-square-foot Bliss Spa. The XYZ restaurant offers contemporary American cuisine, and you can get a cocktail or light fare in the adjoining café. Outside, look up to see the giant metal-mesh sculpture of a woman reclining on top of the fourth-floor terrace.—Updated by John Vlahides

The Westin San Francisco Market Street

Stanford Court, A Renaissance Hotel

$400 or more
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Hotel

St. Regis San Francisco, California

125 Third Street (at Minna Street)
San Francisco, California 94103
Tel: 415 284 4000
Email: 01511.strsf@stregis.com
Website: www.stregis.com/sf

Staying here can feel a little like you've discovered how to control others with your mind: Your desires are often fulfilled before you knew you had them. Need a shirt ironed before that meeting? The butler is at your service. Broke the strap on your bag? The concierge desk will have it fixed. Touch screens control the lighting, temperature, window drapes, and alarm clocks in the 260 rooms, all of which are outfitted with minimalist modern furnishings, plasma TVs, abstract art, and neutral colors. The slightly sterile aesthetic can make the place seem a little like a futuristic airport lounge, but its location makes it a good bet for business travelers and art lovers (it's close to the Financial District and next door to SFMOMA). Our only regrets: The rooms' giant picture windows don't open, and there's a fire station next door. Request a room not facing Third Street if you're a light sleeper, though you'll sacrifice the gorgeous west-facing view of Twin Peaks. For those seeking a spa experience, the St. Regis does not disappoint. Remède Spa—with whirlpool, steam room and sauna, an infinity pool overlooking the city, and chocolate truffles and Champagne in the waiting lounge—is among the most lavish in town.—Updated by John Vlahides

$400 or more
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Hotel

Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, California

600 Stockton Street
San Francisco, California
Tel: 415 296 7465, Fax: 415 291 0288
Website: www.ritzcarlton.com/hotels/san_francisco/

Inside an iconic, 100-year-old columned Nob Hill landmark, the Ritz-Carlton is San Francisco's most formal luxury hotel. Polished marble floors, Oriental carpets, and crystal chandeliers greet your arrival, and Victorian-era oil paintings make the lobby feel more like a museum than a hotel. Because of the building's historic status, hotel designers weren't allowed to make major structural alterations when the hotel opened in 1991, so each room is different in size and shape: Plan to spend time with the reservationist to choose the right one for you. The traditional decor marries walnut, mahogany, and rosewood; beds are dressed with Egyptian cotton sheets and tasseled silk throw pillows. But more than anything, it's service that sets the Ritz-Carlton apart—prompt and courteous, personable and never presumptuous, with your every need anticipated. The Dining Room, helmed by celeb chef Ron Siegel, serves dynamic Japanese-influenced French cuisine worthy of a splurge. The Lobby Lounge draws gray-at-the-temples CEOs and society matrons for evening cocktails.—John Vlahides

$199 or less
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Hotel

Red Victorian Bed, Breakfast & Art, California

1665 Haight Street
San Francisco, California 94117
Tel: 415 864 1978
Email: reservations@redvic.com
Website: www.redvic.com

A shrine to the Summer of Love, the Red Victorian is the place to go if you're sick of chain hotels and want some local color—psychedelic color, in this case. Each room is decorated according to a hippie theme: The exuberant Flower Child Room has a rainbow and sun painted on the ceiling; the Summer of Love Room has a lava lamp, tie-dyed bed canopy, and '60s posters. The Peace Café offers delicious vegetarian food, and customers are encouraged to mingle at family-style breakfasts. The clientele is international and down-to-earth, and the amiable staff radiates peace, love, and the scent of patchouli. Note: Some rooms share a bath; ask when you book.

Prescott Hotel

$199 or less
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Hotel

Phoenix Hotel, California

601 Eddy Street
San Francisco, California 94109
Tel: 800 248 9466 (toll-free), Tel: 415 776 1380
Email: phoenixhotel@jdvhospitality.com
Website: www.thephoenixhotel.com

If you're looking for a romantic hideaway, the Phoenix is not for you. If you want to party like a rock star, you've found the place. Popular with visiting celebs, such as Keanu Reeves, the Phoenix is a funky boutique hotel with tropical bungalow decor and an outdoor heated pool (check outnote the mosaic-tiled mural on the bottom). Think retro-cool motor lodge built around a central courtyard, with art installations among the landscaping. Some of the furnishings could definitely use upgrading (namely the foam pillows, too-thin carpeting, and nothing-special bed sheets), but the look is cool in a rattan-and-tiki kind of way. The Bambuddha Lounge downstairs can be noisy and overrun by drunk 20-twentysomethings on a Saturday night, but that won't be a problem if you're partying partying, too. The Tenderloin neighborhood looks shabby but is perfectly safe if you exercise common sense (don't flash your cash). —Updated by John Vlahides

$199 or less
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Hotel

Petite Auberge, California

863 Bush Street
San Francisco, California 94108
Tel: 800 365 3004 (toll-free), Tel: 415 928 6000
Email: petiteauberge@jdvhopitality.com
Website: www.petiteaubergesf.com

The Petite Auberge feels like a tranquil country inn. The decor is rustic French, with white-painted shutters and a ubiquitous floral motif. Eighteen of the 26 rooms (all nonsmoking) have gas fireplaces, great for those foggy San Francisco summers. Attentive employees do everything they can to make you cozy, from serving afternoon wine and hors d'oeuvres in the parlor to placing a bottomless cookie jar in the lobby. They'll also arrange for a Golden Gate Greeter—a local who takes you on a tour tailored to your interests (ask when booking). If you don't have a friend to show you around town, this is the next best thing.

$200-$299
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Hotel

Orchard Garden Hotel, California

466 Bush Street
San Francisco, California
Tel: 415 399 9807
Website: theorchardgardenhotel.com

$400 or more
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Hotel

Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco, California

222 Sansome Street
San Francisco, California 94104
Tel: 800 622 0404, Tel: 415-276-9888
Email: mosfo-reservations@mohg.com
Website: www.mandarinoriental.com/sanfrancisco/&kw=general&htl=mosfo&eng=concierge&src=cpm

San Francisco's best hotel with a view, this Mandarin Oriental property occupies the top 11 floors of the city's third-tallest building. The apex of the Transamerica Pyramid rises at eye level, and the Golden Gate Bridge looks like a child's toy in the distance. The 158 contemporary rooms are subtly Asian-style, with Chinese-inspired furnishings and a bold palette of gold and cinnamon red. The smallest rooms are a bit tight on space and have only a view of downtown's towers, but the big windows make them feel larger than their 350 square feet. For the best sightlines and more elbow room, request a corner location—these have bridge-to-bridge vistas. For pure indulgence, it's hard to beat the Golden Gate Mandarin King rooms, which have a bathtub perched in the window. Service is the hallmark of the Mandarin Oriental chain, and here it doesn't disappoint. Need a new charger cord for your iPod? Call the concierge, and it will be in your room before you're back from Alcatraz. Downstairs, Silks restaurant serves Pacific Rim cuisine in one of the city's most intimate white-tablecloth dining rooms; the MO Bar serves full afternoon tea.—John Vlahides

$300-$399
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Hotel

InterContinental Mark Hopkins, California

1 Nob Hill
San Francisco, California 94108
Tel: 800 662 4455 (toll-free), Tel: 415 392 3434
Email: sanfrancisco@interconti.com
Website: www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/ic/1/en/hd/sfoha

This gothic hulk of a building in neighborhoodtk Nob Hill is named after Mark Hopkins, the Central Pacific Railroad co-founder whose mansion previously stood here. After being acquired in 1973 by the InterContinental chain, the hotel lost some of its character and now attracts a buttoned-up business clientele. But nearly every room has a stunning view and some luxe touches, like Frette linens. Splurge on a Terrace Suite to enjoy the ultimate perch above the city, complete with solarium, and feel like a tycoon. If you plan to spend much of your time in the hotel, consider paying an extra $60 per couple ($40 per individual) for club access, which includes hotel-wide Wi-Fi, five daily food services, and an open bar in the evening. The Nob Hill restaurant serves California cuisine, and the 19th floor houses the Top of the Mark, famous for its nearly 360-degree panorama. Although the bar is typically full of tourists, there's nothing quite like enjoying a martini (they serve 100 varieties) while listening to live jazz and watching the sun set over Babylon by the Bay.—Updated by John Vlahides

$199 or less

Hotel

Inn 1890, California

1890 Page St.
San Francisco, California
Tel: 415 386 0486, Tel: 888 466 1890, Fax: 415 386 3626
Email: inn1890@pacbell.net
Website: www.inn1890.com

$300-$399
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Hotel

Hotel Vitale, California

8 Mission Street
San Francisco, California 94105
Tel: 888 890 8688 (toll-free), Tel: 415 278 3700
Email: bookvitale@jvdhospitality.com
Website: www.hotelvitale.com

The flagship property of the Joie de Vivre chain, the Vitale promotes California-style serenity with free daily yoga classes—often held in the penthouse studio—and private soaking tubs in the spa's rooftop garden. The 199 rooms have a Zen aesthetic, with a sprig of lavender outside every door; a palette of soft blues, greens, and beiges; and streamlined modern furnishings. Extras like mud masks in the minibar help inspire a meditative mood. For the best views, it's worth springing for a waterfront room, with sweeping vistas of the Bay Bridge. At happy hour, head downstairs to the lounge at Americano, the hotel's restaurant, which has a thriving singles scene.Updated by John Vlahides

$300-$399
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Hotel

Hotel Palomar, California

12 Fourth Street
San Francisco, California 94103
Tel: 866 373 4941 (toll-free), Tel: 415 348 1111
Email: sales@hotelpalomar.com
Website: www.hotelpalomar.com

Snappy art installations add a contemporary touch to the lobby of this soigné downtown hotel, tucked away in a historic 1905 building. The Palomar's comfortable bedrooms have simple, clean lines with some bold bursts of color and crocodile-print carpets. Art is a recurring theme here, from the Escher-like geometric parquet in the lobby to the Magritte Suite, a tribute to the great Surrealist artist that includes a cloud-painted ceiling and a bowl of green apples. The eager-to-please staff sets a genial atmosphere, and the swanky Fifth Floor restaurant serves seasonal California cuisine.—Updated by John Vlahides

$200-$299
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Hotel

Hotel Monaco, California

501 Geary Street
San Francisco, California 94102
Tel: 800 546 7866 (toll-free), Tel: 415 292 0100, Fax: 415 292 0111
Website: www.monaco-sf.com

The Hotel Monaco, one of several Kimpton properties in the vicinity of Union Square, manages to achieve a certain swank despite the rooms' slightly dated dot-com–era decor. Still, the look—a riot of mismatched stripes and checks—remains fun, and there are some quirky touches that set the hotel apart: Pets are welcome, a goldfish is delivered on request to keep guests company, and bathrobes are emblazoned with leopard and zebra prints. The on-site spa, intended to evoke a contemporary Roman bath, includes a sauna, steam room, and hot tub, plus a 24-hour gym and various massage treatments. The Grand Café serves French brasserie food in a beautiful turn-of-the-century ballroom. A complimentary wine and cheese reception is held nightly in the sumptuous lobby, which has a frescoed ceiling, a large fireplace, and a sweeping marble staircase.—Updated by John Vlahides

$400 or more
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Hotel

Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco, California

757 Market Street
San Francisco, California 94103
Tel: 800 332 3442 (toll-free), Tel: 415 633 3000
Email: world.reservations@fourseasons.com
Website: www.fourseasons.com/sanfrancisco

The superluxurious Four Seasons San Francisco is a sanctuary so serene it's hard to believe it's in the heart of downtown. The 277 large rooms have soft beds, marble bathrooms, and deep soaking tubs; the suites have stunning views of the city. Though the understated greige decor successfully straddles the line between contemporary and traditional, with clean lines and zero clutter, it lacks color and splash: If you like fringe and chintz, choose the Ritz-Carlton instead. The Cal-Med restaurant, Seasons, offers a sophisticated spin on surf and turf, and the vast Sports Club/LA, the city's top health club, has a gym, fitness classes, a pool, a full spa, a basketball court, and even Gyrotonic and Budokon studios. The hotel's $2 million Bay Area art collection is so prestigious that it merits a podcast tour, and service can be so obsequious it's almost embarrassing.—Updated by John Vlahides

$400 or more
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Hotel

Fairmont San Francisco, California

950 Mason Street
San Francisco, California 94108
Tel: 800 441 1414 (toll-free), Tel: 415 772 5000
Email: sanfrancisco@fairmont.com
Website: www.fairmont.com/sanfrancisco

Perched atop Nob Hill, the venerable Fairmont is the hotel where Tony Bennett first crooned, "I left my heart in San Francisco." The lobby dazzles with gilded opulence: gold-framed mirrors, potted palms, impressive columns, and the building's original marble floors from 1907. Rooms are high-end business-class in style; most feature Asian antique reproductions and rose-marble bathtubs. Those in the original building have high ceilings and a rich sense of place, but not all have views; rooms in the vintage-1961 tower have jaw-dropping vistas yet feel more generic. The Fairmont also has San Francisco's most fabulous presidential suite, built circa 1926, complete with outdoor terrace and a movable bookcase in the library that conceals a secret staircase to the rooftop helipad. Downstairs, the sublimely kitschy Tonga Room offers Asian food and cocktails, and the Laurel Court Restaurant serves California cuisine. The Fairmont is perfect for a romantic weekend, especially if you're looking for a place wreathed in San Francisco history.—Updated by John Vlahides

The Clift Hotel

$400 or more
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Hotel

Campton Place Hotel, California

340 Stockton Street
San Francisco, California 94108
Tel: 866 332 1670 (toll-free), Tel: 415 781 5555
Email: reservations@camptonplace.com
Website: www.camptonplace.com

Refined The refined Campton Place, which was purchased in spring of 2007 by the Taj hotel group, has only 110 rooms, which means that service is personal as well as polished. Rooms are decorated in sand and cinnamon hues, with old-fashioned leather-topped writing desks and pear-wood paneling. A stay here is as soothing as a cup of hot chocolate and as serene as a weekend at a country house, thanks to insulated glass windows that block out urban noise. Standard rooms can be a bit cramped, and not all have bathtubs (request one if it matters to you); better to upgrade to the deluxe category, which will give you an extra 100 square feet, enough space to accommodate a fully opened room-service table and two chairs. The in-room dining is courtesy of the attached Campton Place Restaurant, which serves up Cal-Med cuisine that highlights local produce and is executed with French-style precision. The guests, mostly high-flying executives and couples on romantic getaways, tend to keep to themselves.—Updated by John Vlahides

Albion House Inn

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XOX Truffles, California

754 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco, California 94133
Tel: 415 421 4814
Website: www.xoxtruffles.com

His truffles may look rough-hewn, but their creator, Jean-Marc Gorce, is a master craftsman, named one of the top ten chocolate makers in the United States by Chocolatier magazine. His tiny shop sells 27 flavors. Try the peanut butter with dark chocolate—a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup that has died and gone to heaven. Or sample "Casimira's Favourite," named after Gorce's wife: smooth white chocolate ganache perfumed with Madagascar vanilla.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 9 am to 6 pm, Sundays 10:30 am to 6 pm.

Shop

Wilkes Bashford, California

375 Sutter Street
San Francisco, California 94108
Tel: 415 986 4380
Website: www.wilkesbashford.com

A San Francisco original since 1966, Wilkes Bashford is the city's priciest and most exclusive department store, catering to local elite hungry for upscale sportswear, couture, and premium men's suits—labels include Brioni, Kiton, Monique Lhuillier, and Azzedine Alaia. But with Neiman Marcus, Saks, and Barneys all in the neighborhood, it's Wilkes' personal service that keeps customers coming back. The sales team and tailor will make house calls, and the staff is experienced in closet clean-outs and wardrobe editing. Gift wrapping is always gorgeous (and free), and if you get hungry while perusing the season's looks in the private salon, just order a little "room service" from the acclaimed Campton Place. Too tired to carry your packages home? Wilkes will have them delivered.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 6 pm.

Shop

Villains, California

1672 Haight Street
San Francisco, California 94117
Tel: 415 626 5939
Website: www.villainssf.com

If you want to look cool without seeming like you're trying too hard, Villains is the place to go. The look is understated but youthful and urban. The great selection of designer T-shirts includes the quirky Gama-Go brand, a local favorite. The cute staff members really know their denim and will help you pick the perfect pair of jeans from their vast selection, which includes 7 for All Mankind and Citizens for Humanity. Sneaker fetishists will have a hard time resisting Villains Shoes next door.

Open daily 11 am to 7 pm.

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Sue Fisher King, California

3067 Sacramento Street
San Francisco, California 94115
Tel: 888 811 7276
Website: www.suefisherking.com

If you like to cover your bed with luxurious throw cushions and grace your dinner parties with elaborate table settings, then this place is for you. The selection of opulent home accessories includes Venetian glass mirrors, Anichini pillows, and gorgeous hand-blocked silk bed-coverings. The furniture selection, including pieces from Paris and the Far East, is elegant but not stuffy. There's also a wide selection of flatware and European dishes (you can order a set with your family crest or monogram) and Italian bath linens.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 6 pm.

Shop

Rainbow Grocery, California

1745 Folsom Street
San Francisco, California 94103
Tel: 415 863 0620
Website: www.rainbowgrocery.org

With endless varieties of miso, tofu, and seaweed, baked goods that accommodate every allergy known to medical science, and luminous fruits and vegetables, Rainbow is the most extensive emporium of organic vegetarian food you'll ever hope to find. It also carries great natural beauty products and an encyclopedic range of vitamins, medicinal herbs, and detoxifying teas. Stock up on supplements, buy a vegan gift, or simply assemble a delicious and virtuous picnic.

Open daily 9 am to 9 pm.

Shop

R.A.G. (Residents Apparel Gallery), California

541 Octavia Street
San Francisco, California 94102
Tel: 415 621 7718
Website: www.ragsf.com

In a town as quirky as San Francisco, you have to work pretty hard to stand out… but R.A.G. can help you get there. The garments here (for both men and women, locally designed and arranged in a gallerylike space) are either one-of-a-kind or made in small batches, so you'll be able to find pieces that no one else has. The clothes are distinctive without being too wacky; their originality lies in funky details like frilled seams, an asymmetric cut, or a whimsical tennis-player pattern on a dress.

Open Mondays and Wednesdays through Fridays noon to 7 pm, Saturdays 11 am to 6 pm, and Sundays noon to 6 pm.

Shop

Paolo


Website: paoloshoes.com

Even the handmade Venetian masks on the walls won't distract your attention from these exquisite shoes. Made in Italy and designed by owner Paolo Iantorno, the collection includes superb women's boots, each pair with its own personality, as well as heels, flats, sandals, and handsome men's boots and loafers. Shoes tend to range between $150 and $400—a bargain for footwear that is at once so comfortable and stylish.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 11 am to 7 pm, Sundays 11 am to 6 pm.

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Miette Confiserie, California

449 Octavia Street
San Francisco, California 94102
Tel: 415 626 6221
Website: www.miette.com

At Miette Confiserie, the sunny French-style sweet shop in Hayes Valley, the world is your candy oyster—or gummy rat, chocolate carrot, or sweet tart skull. While there's none of Wonka's lickable wallpaper, the flowery pastel-hued space with cheerful shop girls and gumdrop topiaries is a sugarcoated backdrop for overflowing jars and tables laden with imported herbaceous chocolates, artisan lollipops, and Parisian macarons. The in-house kitchen dolls out homemade caramels, marshmallows, toffee, and likewise serves as a sweets laboratory for local culinary talent. Wash down a fresh-spun pouf of organic cotton candy with an elderflower spritzer. For artisan cakes and assorted pastries, check out their sister shop, Miette Pâtisserie, in the Ferry Building.

Open daily 11 am to 7 pm.

Shop

M.A.C. (Modern Appealing Clothing), California

387 Grove Street
San Francisco, California 94102
Tel: 415 863 3011

Rich hipsters with a hankering for avant-garde Belgian and Japanese designers shop with the big dogs at M.A.C., the longtime Hayes Valley mainstay for pricey-but-worth-it works of fashion art. Owned by stylish brother/sister duo Ben and Chris Ospital, the store is like a brick-walled curio cabinet for the family's collection of eclectic artworks and unexpected garments—if you've ever dreamed of a corset that looks exactly like a miniature men's three-piece suit, then this is the boutique for you. With a well-edited selection that includes A.F. Vandevorst, Tsumori Chisato, and Martin Margiela, there's no shortage of totally wearable and expertly tailored looks for clients with the means. The men's collection is really the highlight here, with a large offering of Dries Van Noten alongside Lanvin, Engineered Garments, and local label Turk + Taylor. Though there's often a killer sale rack for women, the men's clothing rarely goes on sale.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 11 am to 7 pm, Sundays 12 pm to 6 pm.

LeeQuen Atelier

Hydra

House of Hengst

Haseena

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Gump's, California

135 Post Street
San Francisco, California 94108
Tel: 800 766 7628
Website: www.gumps.com

Founded in 1861 by Solomon Gump to introduce Gold Rush parvenus to the decorative arts, the famous Gump's purveys costly, beautiful, and unusual housewares in addition to a wide selection of inexpensive gifts. As well as bedding, bath accessories, china, and crystal, you'll find jewelry and objets d'art, such as Limoges boxes and Murano glass. Gump's wares show a strong Pacific Rim influence, and an 18th-century Ching dynasty Buddha (not for sale) greets visitors who enter from Post Street.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 6 pm, Sundays noon to 5 pm.

Shop

Good Vibrations


Website: www.goodvibes.com

Founded in 1977 to offer sex information and toys geared toward women, this store is no dimly lit back-alley den. Rather, it's bright, comfortable, and friendly, stocked with condoms, lubricants, books, and videos, as well as state-of-the-art vibrators and other playthings. The knowledgeable personnel will discourse on the finer points of the Rabbit Pearl or the Magic Wand, and on occasion, founder (and sex therapist/educator) Joani Blank displays her "museum"—dating back to 1869—of antique vibrators.

Polk Street location open Sundays through Thursdays 11 am to 8 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to 9 pm. Mission location open Mondays through Wednesdays 11 am to 8 pm, Thursdays 11 am to 9 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to 10 pm, and Sundays 11 am to 9 pm.

Friend

Brown-Eyed Girl

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Bae, California

3101 Sacramento Street
San Francisco, California 94115
Tel: 415 928 1287
Website: www.bae-home.com

Known for its eclectic collection of unusual finds, Bae specializes in home furnishings ranging from Asian porcelain lamps and crystal candlesticks to high-end bath salts and small tabletop items that easily stuff into a suitcase. It's the perfect place to pick up a whimsical gift—perhaps a picture frame of alabaster or horn, or a salt-and-pepper shaker set of carved shell. Unlike some of the shops further up Sacramento Street in Presidio Heights, Bae stocks great gifts for under $30. And fear not: If you fall in love with a gorgeous lead-crystal floor lamp, they'll be happy to ship it home for you.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 6 pm, Sundays noon to 5 pm.

Shop

Amoeba Music, California

1855 Haight Street
San Francisco, California 94117
Tel: 415 831 1200
Website: www.amoebamusic.com

A music junkie's paradise, Amoeba has an encyclopedic selection of new and used CDs, as well as DVDs, music posters, LPs, and 45s. Everyone from pierced club kids to aging Deadheads comes here to offload their used CDs for cash or trade then stay for hours to browse. Unlike Virgin and other media mega-stores, Amoeba has an extremely knowledgeable and helpful staff, many of whom moonlight as musicians or DJs. Plus, there are live in-store performances every week (sometimes local bands, sometimes major phenoms like DJ Shadow).

Open Mondays through Saturdays 10:30 am to 10 pm, Sundays 11 am to 9 pm.

Shop

Ambiance, California

1458 Haight Street
San Francisco, California 94117
Tel: 415 552 5095
Website: www.ambiancesf.com

An Aladdin's cave of sequins, flowers, polka dots, ruffles, and ribbons, Ambiance is a girly-girl's paradise. With the help of friendly saleswomen, SF fashionistas find all the dresses they ever dreamed of here, from vintage-inspired cocktail outfits to spaghetti-strapped summer frocks. Ambiance also carries tops, skirts, and jeans, as well as pretty accessories. It gets crowded here on weekends.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 7 pm, Sundays 11 am to 7 pm.

Eating

Zuni Café, California

1658 Market Street
San Francisco, California 94102
Tel: 415 552 2522

Officially, the food's called Mediterranean, but the menu of burgers, raw oysters, and Caesar salad is pure California. Opened over two decades ago by chef/owner Judy Rodgers (an original member of the Alice Waters farm-to-table school), Zuni Café has become an icon of West Coast cuisine. Multiple expansions have given the sunny space a topsy-turvy feel, but that's just part of the charm. The must-eat here is wood oven–roasted chicken, all smoky, golden-crisp skin and succulent meat, portioned for two and served with a bread salad.

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 11:30 am to midnight, Sundays 11 am to 11 pm.

Eating

Yank Sing, California

One Rincon Center, 101 Spear Street
San Francisco, California 94105
Tel: 415 957 9300
Website: www.yanksing.com

One of the city's best dim sum parlors is neither in Chinatown nor the Richmond District but rather in SoMa's unlikely and soulless Rincon Center. Run by the same family for three generations, this restaurant serves up a seemingly endless array of delicious tidbits, such as snow-pea-shoot dumplings and lotus leaves stuffed with sticky rice and Chinese sausage. In addition to traditional dishes such as won tons and pot stickers, the chef offers "the Creative Collection," with inventive options that might include chicken curry in an avocado half, or lamb dumplings with mint. However full you are, don't miss the fresh-baked custard tarts.

Open Mondays through Fridays 11 am to 3 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 10 am to 4 pm.

Eating

Town Hall, California

342 Howard Street
San Francisco, California 94105
Tel: 415 908 3900
Website: www.townhallsf.com/

The menu at Town Hall is a lively mix that chef-owners Mitchell and Steven Rosenthal, the brothers behind the stoves at Postrio, call "New Orleans meets New England." Dishes may include barbecued shrimp with spicy Worcestershire sauce and garlic herb toast, and roasted duck with toasted wild rice and gingersnap gravy. The renovated 1907 warehouse gets packed (and incredibly loud) for lunch and dinner, filling even the last seats at the bar and communal table.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm, Fridays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 11 pm, Saturdays 5:30 to 11 pm, and Sundays 5:30 to 10 pm.

Eating

Tartine Bakery, California

600 Guerrero Street
San Francisco, California 94110
Tel: 415 487 2600
Website: www.tartinebakery.com

The queue moves as slowly as a Cold War–era breadline, and you'll be hard-pressed to find anywhere to sit, but the cakes, pastries, and cookies at Tartine are worth the hassle. The James Beard Foundation thinks so, too: In 2008, co-owners Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson together won the coveted award of Outstanding Pastry Chef. The bakery uses organic ingredients wherever possible and local milk and eggs. In addition to baked goods, Tartine sells hot pressed sandwiches, such as soppressata and fontina with broccoli rabe pesto. The staff may be prone to hauteur, but who cares, when the frangipane-stuffed croissants are this sublime? If you can't find a table, head to nearby Dolores Park (at 18th and Dolores streets).—Updated by John Vlahides

Open Mondays 8 am to 7 pm, Tuesdays and Wednesdays 7:30 am to 7 pm, Thursdays and Fridays 7:30 am to 8 pm, Saturdays 8 am to 8 pm, and Sundays 9 am to 8 pm.

Eating

Swan Oyster Depot, California

1517 Polk Street
San Francisco, California 94109
Tel: 415 673 1101

Opened in 1912, Swan Oyster Depot isn't a restaurant, it's a landmark. Today, the fifth generation is behind the original marble counter, and the ground rules remain unchanged. Except for the rich, creamy clam chowder, everything here is served cold. "Cooking" means tossing shrimp salad with Louie dressing (sort of a homemade Thousand Island), shucking oysters, or cracking crab (ask Frank to make you the special Dijon-butter-mayo sauce for dipping). The stools at the long, narrow counter fill up during the lunch hour, so try to get there before or after noon. But be warned, the owners close when they sell out. '

Open Mondays through Saturdays 8 am to 5:30 pm.

Sushi Ran

Eating

Spruce, California

3640 Sacramento Street
San Francisco, California 94118
Tel: 415 931 5100
Website: www.sprucesf.com

Nearly three years in the making, Spruce is a large designed-to-the-hilt joint that feels like it's straight out of a Williams-Sonoma Home catalog. Enter beneath an arched portico to an opulent soaring space where chocolate mohair walls, buttery leather seating, and dim lamps set the mood. The menu is stuffed with incredibly rich fare—foie gras with grape gelée, veal sweetbreads, sliced potatoes cooked in duck fat, and buttered Maine lobster. The clientele, though, is up to the challenge: The dining room is a showcase for affluent socialites in Chanel, while the marble-topped bar and lounge is packed with Laurel Heights fashion mavens gossiping over after-work cocktails.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 10 pm, Fridays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 11 pm, Saturdays 5 to 11 pm, and Sundays 5 to 10 pm.

Eating

SPQR, California

1911 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, California 94115
Tel: 415 771 7779
Website: www.spqrsf.com

The ancient initials emblazoned on Rome's manhole covers and imperial landmarks popped up on trendy Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights, in the form of a bustling osteria. SPQR quickly made a name for itself serving tasty Cal-Italian food and expert wine pairings, but some loyalists got fed up with the notoriously long waits. Problem solved: As of October 2009, the restaurant finally takes reservations for tables in its buzzing, narrow space. Start with cold, hot, or fried antipasti—don't miss the griddled local calamari with salsa verde—then choose between such dishes as ricotta ravioli with lamb's quarters and fontina, and braised oxtail with polenta. Monday nights bring mainly neighborhood locals and provide the best glimpse into the lives of twentysomething Pac Heights hedonists.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open Mondays through Wednesdays 5:30 to 10:30 pm, Thursdays through Saturdays 11 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 11 pm, and Sundays 11 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm.

Eating

Spork, California

1058 Valencia Street
San Francisco, California 94110
Tel: 415 643 5000
Website: www.sporksf.com

Chef-owner Bruce Binn—a veteran of such S.F. mainstays as Citizen Cake and the Slow Club—describes the look of his Mission District eatery Spork as looking like a "sexy Greyhound bus station." We'd say it's more like a fast-food outlet viewed through Champagne goggles: Set at a see-and-be-seen corner in a spiffed-up 1960s-vintage KFC, Spork gives a nod to the location's greasy spoon past with stainless steel sporks and orange plasticlipped coffee pots in lieu of water pitchers. Slick banquettes, modern accents, and vintage gas-station signage make the place inviting to local hipsters, all hungry for revved-up comfort food like steak stroganoff and juicy burgers. The wine list is appropriately short and reasonably priced, and while there are only a few desserts, each is simple and delicious.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open Mondays through Thursdays 6 to 10 pm, Fridays 6 to 11 pm, Saturdays 5:30 to 10:30 pm, and Sundays 11 am to 2 pm and 5:30 to 9 pm.

Eating

Slanted Door, California

1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, California 94111
Tel: 415 861 8032
Website: www.slanteddoor.com/

Now in its third location, trendy contemporary Vietnamese spot Slanted Door has found a suitably swank home in the northeast corner of the Ferry Building. The vast, modern glass-and-steel space has sweeping views of the bay and is always packed with posh diners ogling each other. Chef Charles Phan's menu is a blend of Asian street food and traditional Vietnamese dishes, with offerings such as barbecued Willis Ranch pork ribs basted in a sticky-sweet honey and hoisin sauce, or a brick oven–roasted whole fish of the day with a spicy ginger sauce. The wine list features numerous rieslings and other dry, floral wines that pair perfectly with the heady Asian flavors. Book way ahead or try for one of the 20 walk-in spots. To avoid feeling rushed through your meal, reserve a table at the last seating of lunch or dinner—with such spectacular views, you'll want to linger.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open daily 11 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm.

Eating

Medjool Restaurant and Lounge, California

2522 Mission Street
San Francisco, California 94110
Tel: 415 550 9055
Website: www.medjoolsf.com

An adventurous spot for cocktails and dinner with the funky Mission District crowd, Medjool has an impressively high-ceilinged red and saffron dining room and a rooftop terrace with gorgeous views of downtown and the Golden Gate Bridge. The slightly overpriced menu is divided into North African, southern European, and Middle Eastern dishes. But it's the small plates that really shine, like the crunchy sumac-dusted fried calamari with aïoli or the marinated shrimp with spicy tomato jam. On weeknights, Medjool attracts the city's boho jet-setters, but steer clear on weekends, when suburban crowds move in. —Updated by John Vlahides

Open Sundays through Wednesdays 5:30 to 10 pm, Thursdays through Saturdays 5:30 to 11 pm.

Limón

Eating

Jardinière, California

300 Grove Street
San Francisco, California 94102
Tel: 415 861 5555
Website: www.jardiniere.com

Jardinière is the epitome of fine dining, San Francisco–style: polished in front, organic-sustainable in back. The beautiful split-level Art Deco room features velvet drapes and a sparkling domed ceiling, while the kitchen relies on ecologically minded suppliers to produce its California-French cuisine. Dine happily, knowing your duck confit with candied kumquats (a succulent harmony of gamy-salty-sweet) was sustainably produced. If you can't commit to a full meal (or can't score a table), cozy up in J Lounge, a small alcove adjacent to the U-shaped bar with modern sofas and deep armchairs ideal for sampling bar bites and concoctions like the absinthe daiquiri (a mix of rhum agricole, fresh lime, and locally produced absinthe). Note: This is the most popular pre- and post-theater spot in town. To avoid the crush, book a time when the curtain's up. —Updated by John Vlahides

Opens daily at 5 pm.

Eating

Jai Yun, California

680 Clay Street
San Francisco, California 94111
Tel: 415 981 7438

This San Francisco Chinese mainstay may have improved its ambiance by moving from its old spot on Pacific Avenue, but Jai Yun's eccentric service remains the same. The chef, Nei Chia Ji, speaks almost no English, and you get whatever he decides to make that day, ordering by price. At lunch, you'll do well for $20, but at dinner, the minimum is $55 a person, cash only, and reservations are now required. But you'll forget all these aggravations when the food arrives—an endless stream of epicurean tidbits, including wisps of jellyfish, crispy orange-scented beef, and glistening stir-fried eggplant. Most banquets on this scale would leave you groaning, but Jai Yun's fresh, delicate cuisine will send you out into the night deliciously sated rather than stupefied.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open Mondays through Fridays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 6:30 to 9:30 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 6:30 to 9:30 pm.

Eating

Incanto, California

1550 Church Street
San Francisco, California 94131
Tel: 415 641 4500
Website: www.incanto.biz

If Incanto was in your neighborhood, you might eat there several times a week. The vaulted stone ceilings and blond wood furniture create a feeling of casual comfort. The ever-changing Cal-Ital menu is short but always seems to have just what you want: house-cured olives with salumi, a creamy bowl of polenta, or seasonal vegetables dressed in a veil of olive oil and lemon. But what Incanto does best is meat; they call it "whole beast" dining. Think Atkins goes Italian, with lots of fresh-from-the-garden veggies—you can even order an entire shank of beef, provided you call a week ahead. The wine list is lovingly crafted to show off the breadth and depth of Italy's enological bounty. So go ahead: Order that second bottle of Brunello di Montalcino and make yourself at home.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open Sundays and Mondays 5:30 to 9:30 pm, Wednesdays through Saturdays 5:30 to 10 pm.

Eating

Hog Island Oyster Company, California

20215 State Route 1
Marshall, California
Tel: 415 663 9218
Website: www.hogislandoysters.com

Hog Island Oyster Company is not strictly a restaurant, but rather an outdoor shack on Marin's Tomales Bay, built right next to the beds where the oysters grow (it might be the only shack you'll ever visit where reservations are essential, though). They don't sell anything else (except lemons), so bring your own wine, and maybe some charcoal for the grills. Oysters are plucked from the troughs—varieties range from Kumamotos to Hog Island's own Sweetwaters—and handed to you on a cafeteria tray. There's a shucker attached so that you can open them yourself. Settle in at one of the outdoor picnic tables and savor the briny flavor of the freshest mollusks you've ever gulped down. (If you can't get out of town, you'll have to content yourself with visiting Hog Island's smaller location in San Francisco's Ferry Building.)

Open daily 9 am to 5 pm.

Eating

Gary Danko, California

800 North Point Street
San Francisco, California 94109
Tel: 415 749 2060
Website: www.garydanko.com/

Gary Danko is the city's favorite culinary son; his restaurant is both a serious dining destination and a local favorite that's convivial, never stuffy. The intimate rooms, adorned with well-chosen artwork, natural woods, and flattering spot lighting, exude a warm, neighborhood vibe. But the menu, which combines French, Californian, and Mediterranean elements, indicates a more expansive vision. Principal ingredients such as foie gras, roasted lobster, and farm-raised lamb change accompaniments with the seasons: Summer brings cherries and chanterelles; winter, earthy truffles and root vegetables. Add details like the restaurant's custom-built cheese refrigerators and the professional yet friendly service, and you have a dining experience that works on every level and appeals to everyone from casual diners to New York food snobs.

Open daily 5:30 to 10 pm.

Eating

Fleur de Lys, California

777 Sutter Street
San Francisco, California 94109
Tel: 415 673 7779
Website: www.fleurdelyssf.com/

French is the language of romance and cuisine, and Fleur de Lys is fluent in both. Open 45 years and counting, this is the last of the great Continental restaurants, and it's looking younger than ever. After a fire in 2001, the restaurant was completely renovated, with rich red fabrics, a dazzling crystal chandelier, and cozy alcoves. The canopied dining room now resembles a tent at Versailles, an appropriately regal setting for chef Hubert Keller. His menu is priced by the number of courses chosen, letting you create your own dégustation menu. Perhaps a tasting of foie gras, followed by roasted squab with truffles and a sweet ginger and Sauternes sauce. Or—and it's not often that these words occupy the same phrase—the Vegetarian Feast.

Open Tuesdays through Thursdays 6 to 9:30 pm, Fridays 5:30 to 10:30 pm, and Saturdays 6 to 10:30 pm.

Eating

Ferry Building Marketplace

The iconic whitewashed Ferry Building, standing proud at the water's edge behind a row of statuesque palms, is a sight in itself. Situated on a sunny patch of the Embarcadero, this sweeping, huge building opened in 1898 as a water-transportation hub for the city, but these days it's a foodie mecca. Weekdays, it draws Financial District types for lunch on the patio at MarketBar and arty freelancers skateboarding or chowing down at Gott's Roadside, a 1950s-style all-natural burger joint that also serves nouveau diner food like pistachio-espresso milk shakes. Locals come for loaves straight from the oven at Acme Bread, one of the best bakeries in the Bay Area; succulent, locally harvested oysters from Hog Island Oyster Company; and artisanal cakes from Miette, a tiny pâtisserie selling exquisite macaroons and cannelés (their candy shop in Hayes Valley is likewise a local favorite). Saturday mornings are prime time to shop for farmstead cheeses, heirloom tomatoes, homemade jams, herbs, and flowers at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market (open Tuesdays and Saturdays year-round, Thursdays and Sundays seasonally). The focus is, of course, on local, seasonal, and sustainable produce, with hard-to-find fare like wild nettles, fresh lavender, and free-range eggs in shades of mint and baby blue.

Eating

Chez Panisse Restaurant and Café, California

1517 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, California 94709
Tel: 510 548 5525
Website: www.chezpanisse.com

When Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in 1971, she sparked a "green" revolution that spread around the world. And though focusing on local, artisanal ingredients is now de rigueur in California and elsewhere, Waters is still the master. Her strictly limited (only one option per course) seasonal menu changes daily, so each visit is like dining at the home of a friend who happens to be an incredibly talented chef. One night, the entrée might be an oven-roasted veal chop with fresh herbs and spring vegetables; another, a dish of unadorned, pristine black figs might serve as petits fours. Warm, earth-toned decor adds to the sophisticated-homey feel, and a more casual upstairs café with an à la carte menu catches the overflow.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 6 to 10 pm. There are two seatings per night.

Eating

Bushi-Tei, California

1638 Post Street
San Francisco, California 94115
Tel: 415 440 4959
Website: www.bushi-tei.com

While Asian fusion is starting to feel old-fashioned, the innovative Cal-French cuisine with a Japanese accent at Bushi-Tei seems decidedly nouveau. The Japantown restaurant serves intriguing creations that don't feel forced. To start, try big-eye tuna tartare with tobiko and wasabi crème fraîche, or seared foie gras atop pumpkin pot de crème. Plates include coq au vin with mushroom polenta and cress, and seared scallops with saffron-infused potato chowder. The cool interior matches the style of the food: Candlelight and paneled walls, made from 150-year-old wood sourced from Nagano, add warmth to the narrow space, which is dominated by an 18-foot glass communal table and floor-to-ceiling storefront windows. —Updated by John Vlahides

Open daily 11 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm.

Eating

Bocadillos, California

710 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, California 94111
Tel: 415 982 2622
Website: www.bocasf.com/

Regardless of what time of day you sit down at the Financial District tapas bar Bocadillos, Gerald Hirigoyen's menu provides just the right treat: baked eggs with chorizo and Manchego at 7 am, grilled ham and cheese bocadillos (small sandwiches) and amazing lamb burgers at noon, and sautéed pimientos de Padrón (green peppers popular in Spain) at 10 pm. There's a solid Cal-Med wine list and fun sodas like sugarcane cola, blackberry, and that retro favorite, Fresca. The brick walls, wood floors, intimate lighting, and jovial young crowd generate a warm vibe, and the prices are extremely reasonable for the caliber of cooking. But if you want to avoid the dining masses (no reservations here), go at off-hours, between regular mealtimes. —Updated by John Vlahides

Open Mondays through Wednesdays 7 am to 10 pm, Thursdays and Fridays 7 am to 10:30 pm, and Saturdays 5 to 10:30 pm.

Bacar

Albona

Eating

A16, California

2355 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, California 94123
Tel: 415 771 2216
Website: www.a16sf.com/

Trendy Marina District spot A16 has it all: great food; an extensive, well-chosen wine list; and a happening scene. The sleek, dark space, all concrete floors and cork walls, draws local singles, who pack the bar. And chef Liza Shaw's seasonal southern Italian dishes—such as pumpkin-ricotta gnocchi with pancetta and kale, and calamari with fiorelli pasta, fennel, and marjoram—score every time. But the real draw? Chewy-crusted pizza baked in a wood-burning oven. It can be hard to book a table, especially on weekends, so plan well ahead. —Updated by John Vlahides

Open Sundays through Thursdays 5 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5 to 10:30 pm.

Nightlife

Zeitgeist, California

199 Valencia Street
San Francisco, California 94103
Tel: 415 255 7505
Website: www.zeitgeistsf.com

The city's de facto biker bar is patronized by tattooed Mission hipsters, bicycle-riding twentysomethings, blue-collar dudes in thermal shirts, and, of course, motorcyclists, most of whom favor crotch rockets to Harleys. Though you could hang out indoors by the pool table, the long wooden trestle tables on the enormous outdoor patio are the place to sit—every underground artist comes through here sooner or later. The place gets packed on warm evenings; be prepared to squeeze in where you can. The kitchen serves tasty pub grub such as burgers and barbecued chicken, and the Bloody Marys are damn good. Note: If you don't have an ID, you won't get in, period—no matter how old you look.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open daily 9 am to 2 am.

Nightlife

Truck, California

1900 Folsom Street
San Francisco, California 94103
Tel: 415 252 0306
Website: www.trucksf.com

Truck pulls mellow gay guys and gals off the beaten Castro path. It's an easygoing place, with cheap micheladas, burgers, and fries and free shots at the start of happy hour. With its auto-garage decor and no-nonsense attitude, this is the type of place to slug back a few and feel like a real local, particularly on Sunday evenings, when locals stumble from Beer Bust at the Eagle to Truck's always-odd drag show with hot mess Suppositori Spelling. Tuesday nights (men only) are notoriously sexy, but you'll need to find out the password to get in. The rest of the week, it's your classic neighborhood gay joint.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open Mondays through Fridays 11 am to 2 am, Saturdays 4 pm to 2 am, and Sundays 2 pm to 2 am.

Nightlife

Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar, California

Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason Street
San Francisco, California 94108
Tel: 415 772 5278
Website: www.fairmont.com/sanfrancisco/GuestServices/Restaurants/TheTongaRoomHurricaneBar.htm

Lovers of kitsch will relish the Fairmont's faux-Polynesian bar, its entrance guarded by a stern-faced totem. Inside, there's a dance floor made from an actual ship's deck, and a small lagoon, its surface ruptured by an artificial monsoon every 15 minutes. A live band plays cheesy covers, and the drinks are the umbrella- and fruit-laden concoctions you would expect, such as the "Zombie," which comes in a miniature Easter Island head.

Open Sundays through Thursdays 5 to 11:45 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5 pm to 12:45 am.

Nightlife

Supperclub, California

657 Harrison Street
San Francisco, California 94107
Tel: 415 348 0900
Website: www.supperclub.com

An average night's entertainment at Supperclub might include an aerialist, a python-festooned exotic dancer, and a couple of women in cat costumes prowling about on all fours. Guests loll in white beds to watch the dreamlike spectacle and to enjoy standard global-eclectic fare along with cocktails. There are several prix-fixe menus ($35–$70, depending on the day of the week) and only one seating per night, at 7:30—but as with most "dining experiences," the real draw is the experience, not the dining. (If you'd prefer to forgo the food, show up on a Friday or Saturday night after 10 pm, just for drinks and dancing.) Book a table well in advance, and don't wear white—not only will you vanish in the all-white dining room, but when eating in bed, it's far too easy to make a mess of yourself.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 7 pm to 2 am.

Nightlife

Specs' Twelve Adler Museum Cafe, California

12 Adler Street
San Francisco, California 94134
Tel: 415 421 4112

Tucked in an alleyway off Columbus Avenue, near the storied City Lights bookstore, this North Beach saloon is at once a dive bar and a museum of oddities. Random-seeming objects dangle from the ceiling, gather dust in display cases, and hang everywhere on the walls. The wacky collection includes a New Guinea bone calendar, a petrified marine mammal's penis, scrimshaw art, and a stuffed mongoose. Genial bartenders cater to a mellow crowd of bohemian regulars who plunk out tunes on the old piano, scribble in their journals, and debate the latest conspiracy theories.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open daily 5 pm to 2 am.

Nightlife

Redwood Room, California

Clift Hotel, 495 Geary Street
San Francisco, California 94102
Tel: 415 929 2372
Website: www.clifthotel.com/clift_hotel_redwood_room.asp

The Redwood Room, at the Clift Hotel, can be a pickup joint, popular with rich businessmen and bottle blondes, but it also blazes with splendor. With its burnished redwood walls, tiger-striped carpet, and enormous bar carved from a single redwood tree, the room resembles an opulent hunting lodge and has been a San Francisco landmark for decades. Ian Schrager and Philippe Starck took over the place a few years ago, installing now-tired furniture and ugly plasma screens designed to look like oil paintings with shifting eyes, but the legendary room still merits a visit, if only to see the gorgeous woodwork. Just don't come on weekend evenings, when drunk suburbanites jam the place. Try the signature martini drinks; flavors include lavender and lychee.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open Sundays through Thursdays 5 pm to 2 am, Fridays and Saturdays 4 pm to 2 am.

Nightlife

Powerhouse, California

1347 Folsom Street
San Francisco, California 94103
Tel: 415 552 8689
Website: www.powerhouse-sf.com

The Powerhouse holds a torch for the old-school gay-bar standard of hard drinks and heavy stares. Though not particularly big, the space has two levels. The well-lit lower bar has a pool table and a mellower vibe, good for socializing with friends; the upstairs attracts guys more focused on hooking up, and there's a smoker's patio outside where new friends go to make out. The regular crowd tends toward 40-somethings, but there's more of a mix during the frequent special events (like strip billiards or ink-and-steel night for the pierced and tattooed). NB: The Powerhouse is an inappropriate place to bring women.

Nightlife

Orbit Room Café, California

1900 Market Street
San Francisco, California 94102
Tel: 415 252 9525

A cool place to mingle with local Vespa-riding hipsters, the slightly grimy Orbit Room features a pressed-tin ceiling, an Art Deco facade, and rose-colored cone tables. But the real attraction here are the cocktails. The showstopping Bloody Mary gets zing from horseradish-infused vodka and is garnished with five vegetables. Be forewarned: Service is s-l-o-w; order your second round before the first is done.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open Sundays through Thursdays 8 am to midnight, Fridays and Saturdays 7 am to 2 am.

Nightlife

Noc Noc, California

557 Haight Street
San Francisco, California 94117
Tel: 415 861 5811
Website: nocnocs.com

Evoking a nuclear fallout shelter, a Dr. Seuss illustration, and a Martian cocktail lounge all in one, Noc Noc may have the strangest interior of any bar you've seen. Neon and black lights illuminate the splatter-painted, zebra-striped space. The TVs on the wall show a permanent snowstorm. The music can get bizarre—think Moog synthesizer space tunes. If you've ever been to Burning Man, you'll fit right in. Come early to secure one of the nooks: Later, the bar can get crowded with Lower Haight locals, some studiously hip, others looking like they just rolled out of bed. No hard liquor is served—only wine, sake, and a great selection of beers. Just don't ask for Bud, Coors, or Miller; they don't serve it. Nothing is common at Noc Noc.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open daily 5 pm to 2 am.

Nightlife

Martuni's, California

4 Valencia Street
San Francisco, California 94103
Tel: 415 241 0205
Website: martunis.ypguides.net

The city's only true piano bar, Martuni's draws an always-animated crowd of mostly male bon vivants, ranging in age from 20s to 60s and clad in everything from jeans to tuxedos. The unifying theme here is a love of cocktails and song, specifically martinis, Broadway musicals, and the Great American Songbook. Crooners snag seats at the piano and wait their turn to sing at the open mic. But this ain't karaoke—don't ask to sing if you can't carry a tune, unless you want to flounder, ignored, in the spotlight. If you prefer your music in the background, stick to the front room, where you can sip drinks at high cocktail tables.

Open daily 2 pm to 2 am.

Nightlife

Lime, California

2247 Market Street
San Francisco, California 94114
Tel: 415 621 5256
Website: www.lime-sf.com

Lime recalls the swinging '60s, with pink-tinted windows, shiny white plastic furniture, and an aggressively (sometimes annoyingly) hip gay clientele. Cocktails are the big thing here; you'll do fine if you order anything muddled, especially mojitos. There's a sexy dining area with swooping booths and a pretty good small-plates menu (try the mini burgers) served until 11 pm on Mondays through Thursdays and until midnight Fridays and Saturdays. But reserve an early table if you want to enjoy dinner conversation: Once the DJs arrive on weekend evenings, the noise level is deafening. Quieter types may prefer to come for the surprisingly good weekend brunch with all-you-can-drink mimosas.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 5 pm to midnight, Fridays 5 pm to 1 am, Saturdays 11 am to 3 pm and 5 pm to 1 am, and Sundays 10:30 am to 3 pm and 5 pm to midnight.

Nightlife

Lexington Club, California

3464 19th Street
San Francisco, California 94110
Tel: 415 863 2052
Website: www.lexingtonclub.com

Considering San Francisco is the gayest city in America, there's a surprising dearth of lesbian bars. Thank goodness for the stalwart Lexington Club, which (accurately) bills itself as "your friendly neighborhood dyke bar." The crowd is on the young side and ranges from shave-headed grrrls with motorcycle helmets under their arms to pin-up glamour gals, all out for a good time. The space is remarkably small, just one room, with a bar running the length of it, and a pool table at one end. On busy nights, the shoulder-to-shoulder scene can get a little raucous; cat fights aren't unheard of here. Seek refuge in the ladies' room, which has possibly the best graffiti in all San Francisco.

Nightlife

Harlot, California

46 Minna Street
San Francisco, California 94118
Tel: 415 777 1077
Website: www.harlotsf.com

Named for the Barbary Coast–era prostitutes who dominated SoMa back in the day, Harlot is situated on shadowy Minna Street behind a velvet rope and mysterious facade. Until nightfall, it's a moody happy-hour hangout, then it morphs into an ultralounge. The interior features a black-on-black palette, 24-foot onyx bar, leather banquettes, and cowhide accents. Harlot further entices revelers by spoiling them with rare amenities like valet parking and a well-edited wine list, by sommelier Mark Bright (of restaurant Michael Mina); bottles come with olives, nuts, and local chocolates. There's also a white-on-white upstairs VIP lounge with table service. Wednesdays and Thursdays draw a mostly local crowd, particularly at happy hour; on weekends, the place gets overrun by Bacchanalian suburbanites. Finicky bouncers pick who comes in: To avoid getting stuck outside, dress smartly.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open Wednesdays through Fridays 5 pm to 2 am, Saturdays 9 pm to 2 am.

Nightlife

Foreign Cinema/Laszlo Bar, California

2534 Mission Street
San Francisco, California 94110
Tel: 415 648 7600
Website: www.foreigncinema.com

One wall of this restaurant's expansive heated courtyard functions as a screen for art-house foreign films—but most patrons don't actually watch the movies. Rather, the flickering frames of Antonioni's Blow-Up and Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi serve as a glamorous nighttime backdrop for cocktails and flirting. The California-Mediterranean cuisine is reliably good, although—again—it plays second fiddle to the scene. The adjoining industrial-chic Laszlo bar has rotating DJs. The whole ensemble makes this a great date spot.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open Mondays through Fridays 6 pm to 2 am, Saturdays and Sundays 11 am to 2 am.

Nightlife

The Fillmore, California

1805 Geary Street
San Francisco, California 94115
Tel: 415 346 6000
Website: www.thefillmore.com

Once a 1920s dance hall, the Fillmore is decorated with concert posters dating back to its heyday in the mid-'60s, when legendary rock producer Bill Graham lured some of the biggest names in music here. Santana and the Grateful Dead played the Fillmore before they were widely known. Today, it's still the place to see big-name rock and alt-rock groups, and, strangely, free apples are always provided (a tradition started by Graham). Barring a few balcony seats, admission is standing room only; you can snag a place up front if you arrive early. Don't miss the million-dollar collection of psychedelic concert posters in the upstairs gallery.

Nightlife

Eagle Tavern, California

398 12th Street
San Francisco, California 94103
Tel: 415 626 0880
Website: www.sfeagle.com

The Sunday afternoon beer bust at the Eagle Tavern is—by far—the biggest daytime boy-bar scene in the city. Everyone from leather-clad biker dudes to bicycle shorts–wearing gymheads shows up to swill all-you-can-drink beer on the huge outdoor patio. (If you're still recovering from the night before, you can also take refuge in the always-dark billiards room). It's dinner time when you see a tiny Mexican woman carrying a red cooler; she's the famous “Tamale Lady” and makes some of SF's tastiest. Say yes when she asks if you want hot sauce. The scene peaks between 4 and 6 pm, then dies when the sun goes down.

Open daily noon to 2 am.

Nightlife

Cantina, California

580 Sutter Street
San Francisco, California 94102
Tel: 415 398 0195
Website: www.cantinasf.com

Dozens of votive candles cast a honeyed glow upon coppery tequila-hued walls and neo-tropical wallpaper inside this cozy Latin art salon and "culinary cocktail" lounge near Union Square. It's a comfortable hole-in-the-wall with cowhide armchairs and wine-barrel tables. Owner Duggan McDonnell is known for his artisanal drinks, and bartenders from around town grab stools at the long bar to watch him mix up exotic cocktails. The blackberry and cabernet caipirinha—available by the pitcher—is a blend of Three Thieves Cab, cachaca, and fresh fruit. Other libations play with hints of pastis, riesling brandy, and sangiovese. If you're stumped about what to order, the margaritas are superb. Deejays spin most evenings, and if you're so moved, there's a tiny space to dance.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 5 pm to 2 am.

Nightlife

Bourbon & Branch, California

501 Jones Street
San Francisco, California 94102
Website: www.bourbonandbranch.com

Situated in an authentic 1920s speakeasy, Bourbon & Branch is SF's answer to New York and London's Milk & Honey—an unmarked watering hole in Tenderloin that requires an online reservation (the phone number is unpublished) and a password at the door. Okay, now that you've heard the spiel, here's the real deal: If you want a primetime table in the front room on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night, then by all means make a ressie. Otherwise, walk-ins are accommodated in the modish mezzanine lounge, secret library room with vintage tomes, and antique tractor seats at the bar. Despite a glam atmosphere—pressed-tin ceilings, velvet wallpaper, and a custom blown-glass chandelier—the artisan cocktails, crafted with homemade ingredients and fresh produce, are the real draw.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 6 pm to 2 am.

Nightlife

Asia SF, California

201 Ninth Street
San Francisco, California 94103
Tel: 415 255 2742
Website: www.asiasf.com

If you can't commit to the over-the-top drag dinner theater of Teatro ZinZanni, visit Asia SF to admire its gender illusionists. Unlike drag queens, these svelte odalisques in low-cut evening gowns try to look convincingly female. On the hour, they perform lip-synch revues on top of the bar. The vaguely Asian decor includes rice-paper lanterns and shoji screens that shift from pink to gold. Instead of paying an entry fee, customers must purchase one of three reasonably pleasant pan-Asian dinner menus. If you're bringing guests, don't tell them about the "girls," and see how long it takes them to figure it out.

The Ambassador

Nightlife

Absinthe Brasserie and Bar, California

398 Hayes Street
San Francisco, California 94102
Tel: 415 551 1590
Website: www.absinthe.com

With copper-topped tables, checkerboard-tile floor, and antique mirrors, genteel Absinthe evokes a French brasserie of the Belle Époque. Its excellent cocktail menu is in keeping with this theme, using recipes, such as the Ginger Rogers, culled from early 20th-century cocktail books. The bar has a separate menu from the adjoining restaurant—chiefly nibbles and small plates, ideal for a bite after the nearby symphony or opera. The soft, flattering light makes this a perfect date choice. Our only regret is the sometimes-snooty staff.

Open Tuesdays and Wednesdays 11:30 am to midnight, Thursdays and Fridays 11:30 am to 2 am, Saturdays 11 am to 2 am, and Sundays 11 am to 10 pm.

Nightlife

111 Minna Gallery, California

111 Minna Street
San Francisco, California 94105
Tel: 415 974 1719
Website: www.111minnagallery.com/

This large, warehouselike space is a gallery and performance venue as well as a bar and club. In the main room, eccentric local art is displayed. On the dance floor, a giant dragonfly dangles from the ceiling, and trippy visuals flicker on the walls. On Wednesdays from 5 to 10 pm, the club hosts Qoöl, the finest happy hour in the city; the after-work crowd dances to techno with a wild enthusiasm usually reserved for Saturday nights. Note that the place has no sign, so it's easy to miss. Look for the bright red door.

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Four great cities . . . on $250 each

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Eating

Port O' Call, Bermuda

87 Front Street
Hamilton HM11, Bermuda
Tel: 441 295 5373
Website: www.portocall.bm

This bustling spot on Hamilton's main street serves up interesting takes on fresh local seafood. Among the best dishes on the lunch menu are the seafood linguine—made with shrimp, scallops, mussels and calamari in a saffron sauce—and scallop and avocado fritters served with a mango-red onion salsa. For dinner, start with the house specialty, the Bermuda fish chowder made with black rum; then follow up with grilled filet of mahi-mahi, served with jasmine rice in a plum-orange sauce. They've also added an all-day lounge serving tapas and lighter fare (weekdays only).

Open Mondays through Fridays noon to 3 pm and 5:30 to 11 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 5:30 pm to 11 pm

Pickled Onion

Eating

Mickey's Beach Bistro & Bar, Bermuda

Elbow Beach, 60 South Shore Road
Paget PG04, Bermuda
Tel: 441 236 3535
Website: www.mandarinoriental.com/bermuda/dining/mickeys/

Far less swanky than Elbow Beach's two formal restaurants, Mickey's still manages to charge steep rates for surprisingly ordinary food. The service, however, is top-notch, even overly attentive at times. With simple fare such as burgers, lamb chops, and salads, the food is clearly secondary to the location: a prime spot on the sand facing the still, blue water (shoes are optional). It's a great spot for refreshments after a day of baking in the sun alongside other upscale vacationers, but choose your table wisely; the wrong seat can mean a sandy Chardonnay.

Eating

Hi Tide, Bermuda

9 Beaches, 4 Daniel's Head Lane
Sandys MABX, Bermuda
Tel: 441 232 6655
Website: www.9beaches.com/cuisine/vizcaya/

It's surprising to find such an ambitious restaurant in such an intentionally casual resort, but the main restaurant at 9 Beaches is turning out some of the best food on the island. Chef Guillaume Brard, who took over the kitchen in early 2006, dishes up specialties like lamb chops with lemon-mint pistou and mango puree, and grilled yellowfin tuna with spinach, dates and almonds.

Closed January to March.

Frog and Onion Pub

Eating

Coconut Rock, Bermuda

20 Reid Street
Hamilton HM11, Bermuda
Tel: 441 292 1043

Hidden among the shops (and foot traffic) of Reid Street, Coconut Rock requires sleuthlike skills to find. But once you taste the spicy linguine with tiger shrimp or the fresh sushi, you'll forget about the time you spent searching. The casual eatery's sushi bar has a futuristic Asian atmosphere; a hip crowd consisting mainly of young locals and adventurous tourists gathers at the sleek bar, where flat-screen TVs project music videos. The vibe is cool, the prices are reasonable, and the service is fast—Coconut Rock rocks.

Eating

Café Gio, Bermuda

36 Water Street
St. George's GE05, Bermuda
Tel: 441 297 1307
Website: www.portocall.bm/cafegio/cafegio_home.html

Fearing the cruise ship throngs, locals and discerning travelers usually avoid St. George's Harbour like the plague. Thankfully, the area now has an oasis where tourist-weary diners can escape. Café Gio has the best piece of waterfront real estate in town, so alfresco dining is a must. The menu is pricey and the service little more than adequate, but the Mediterranean cuisine combined with spectacular views make up for it. Start with the Bermuda fish chowder or the calamari with mango salsa; then follow up with the grilled local rockfish or pan-seared wahoo with coconut curry sauce. For dessert, try one of pastry chef Glenda Wee's creative interpretations of molten chocolate cake or crème brûlée.

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays noon to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm. Closed January and February.

Nightlife

Café Cairo, Bermuda

93 Front Street
Hamilton HM11, Bermuda
Tel: 441 295 5155

Part Middle Eastern hookah lounge, part lavish dance club, and part fabulous restaurant, Café Cairo brings some much-needed sex appeal to Front Street, Hamilton's main shopping and nightlife thoroughfare. Occupying the second floor of a waterfront building, the restaurant, which serves traditional Middle Eastern dishes, is decorated with creatively recycled pieces: hand-carved Egyptian plows recast as regal chairs, inscribed copper bed frames molded into ornate tables. Late at night, the bar area morphs into a trendy club that's ridiculously popular with the locals, as much as for the dance music as for the hookah pipes out back, where one can partake in fruit-flavored tobaccos. To ensure entry, men should come armed with a female.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 5 pm to 3 am.

Eating

Blû Bar & Grill, Bermuda

Belmont Hills Golf Club, 97 Middle Road
Warwick WK06, Bermuda
Tel: 441 232 2323
Website: www.blu.bm

If you can look past the remote location of the Belmont Hills Golf Club, you'll find the culinary experience at its restaurant well worth the trouble. The dining room, with its wall of windows, evening candlelight, and gleaming flatware, is an oasis of calm. The Southwest-inspired menu of meats (barbecued pork ribs), seafood (macadamia-crusted salmon), and creative appetizers (toasted beefsteak tomato stuffed with bleu cheese) somehow evokes both haute cuisine and comfort food. (The kitchen even has a brick oven for making wonderfully crispy pizzas.) We're not sure how the wait staff manages to stay friendly and composed even during the frantic Saturday dinner rush, but it does.

Waterloo House

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
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Hotel

Royal Palms Hotel, Bermuda

24 Rosemont Avenue
Pembroke HM06, Bermuda
Tel: 800 678 0783 (toll-free), Tel: 441 292 1854
Email: reservations@royalpalms.bm
Website: www.royalpalms.bm

In a country where everything from bottled water to taxi rides is overpriced, the century-old Royal Palms is a refreshingly good value. Just blocks away from downtown Hamilton, the property is a postcolonial dream of coral-pink manor houses and white-roofed cottages set among manicured grounds. The 32 sunny rooms, decorated in English style with pastel-painted walls, flowery upholstery, and dark wood furniture, are elegant without being ostentatious. Start the day with breakfast on the patio surrounded by flowering tropical bushes; then wander through the grounds and test the romantic two-seater lounge swing, or refresh with a dip in the kidney-shaped pool. The friendly and helpful staff are managed by brother–sister team Susan Weare and Richard Smith; both are fonts of information about things to do and see on the island.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Hotel

The Reefs, Bermuda

56 South Shore Road
Southampton SN02, Bermuda
Tel: 800 742 2008 (toll-free), Tel: 441 238 0222
Email: generalinfo@thereefs.bm
Website: www.thereefs.com

More than 60 percent of the guests at the Reefs are repeat visitors. What are they coming back for? Comfort—as in fluffed pillows, homemade chocolate-chip cookies, and a staff that manages to smile authentically, despite the required uniform with black socks pulled up to the knee. Architecture-wise, the zealously pink stucco block complex in Southampton doesn't make much of statement, but the grounds hang on a cliff overlooking a cove and beach with limited access and a very private feel (most beaches in Bermuda are public). A massive, nearly five-year renovation was finished in 2008; the 56 rooms and five private cottages now have marble baths with rain showers and soft color schemes of brown, pumpkin, and yellow. The public spaces were also redone and are now large and light-filled; there's a steakhouse and a slightly more formal Bermudian restaurant that specializes in local seafood. Talk between tables—usually filled with 50-something American couples down for the weekend—often morphs into shared desserts and after-dinner drinks.

Horizons & Cottages

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Hotel

Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda

101 South Shore Road
Southampton HMFX, Bermuda
Tel: 866 540 4497 (toll-free), Tel: 441 238 8000
Email: southampton@fairmont.com
Website: www.fairmont.com/southampton

Catering to big families, golfers, beach bums, and those who'd rather avoid the intimate "charms" of B&Bs, the mammoth, 593-room Fairmont Southampton—the sister resort to the downtown Fairmont Hamilton Princess—does everything in a big way. Given the resort's size, it's almost inevitable that you'll check in alongside groups wearing name tags. One way to escape the hordes is to book a room on the top floor, known as the Fairmont Gold Floor; it has separate check-in facilities, concierge service, complimentary snacks, and more upscale furnishings than those in the relatively ordinary rooms below. The resort's extensive facilities range from a stretch of pink-sand, calm-surf private beach to a children's Explorers Camp to the 2,684-yard, palm tree–studded golf course. At the 31,000-square-foot Willow Stream Spa, grown-ups can enjoy massages and sorbet wraps (spoons not required). There are also ten restaurants, including Bacci, a chichi Italian hot spot for locals and visitors alike, and the Ocean Club, known for its Asian seafood. If those choices aren't enough, take the hotel's complimentary ferry into Hamilton and try out some of the downtown restaurants and bars.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Hotel

Elbow Beach, Bermuda

60 South Shore Road
Paget PG04, Bermuda
Tel: 800 223 7434 (toll-free), Tel: 441 236 3535
Email: ebbda-reservations@mohg.com
Website: www.mandarinoriental.com/bermuda/

This nearly century-old grand dame, painted a jaunty yellow and looming over a half-mile stretch of pink sand, completed a $5.5 million dollar overhaul in 2010. The 98 rooms have sleek blond-wood and rattan furnishings and spacious marble bathrooms. For the most privacy, go for one of the three cottages, particularly the Bird of Paradise cottage, a 2,436-square-foot one-bedroom house that's steps from the beach. The hotel, set on 50-acres of garden-filled grounds, has four restaurants including the high-end Mediterranean-focused Lido and the casual right-on-the-beach Mickey's Bistro. And book a spa treatment as soon as you check in—this is a Mandarin Oriental hotel, a group known for its impeccable Asian-style treatments.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Hotel

Cambridge Beaches, Bermuda

30 Kings Point Road
Sandys MA02, Bermuda
Tel: 800 468 7300 (toll-free), Tel: 441 234 0331, Fax: 441 234 3352
Website: www.cambridgebeaches.com

Old-fashioned in the best possible sense, this cottage colony in the northwest part of the island posts a list of its return guests on a public bulletin board. The lineup is extensive—some have visited dozens of times over the last several decades. What inspires such devotion? Maybe the secluded, picturesque setting on a 30-acre peninsula overlooking Long Bay Beach, with the Atlantic on one side and Mangrove Bay on the other. Or perhaps the 94 individually decorated rooms and suites, some done in English-country chintz, some in a more streamlined style. Or possibly it's the staff that remembers individual names and preferences. Regardless, recent renovations and additions—including a multitiered infinity pool, three new suites with private pools, and a concierge who can arrange romantic, butler-served dinners on a nearby private island—are already bringing in a new crop of converts.

Ariel Sands

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
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Hotel

9 Beaches, Bermuda

4 Daniel's Head Lane
Sandys MABX, Bermuda
Tel: 866 841 9009 (toll-free), Tel: 441 232 6655
Email: info@9beaches.com
Website: www.9beaches.com

Opened in May of 2005, this resort aims to be the anti-Bermuda—a young, hip alternative to the often stodgy, traditional cottage colony. And so the 84 cabanas have not a salmon-pink wall or ridged white roof in sight; instead they're soft-sided bungalows made of sailcloth that sit on an 18-acre property at the western tip of the island. The six Paradise Pier cottages stand Polynesian-style on stilts over the water, and have glass panels in the floor to observe anything that might be swimming by. The resort does have its problems: rust stains, cheap bathroom fixtures and windows that come off their tracks when you try to close them. Also, while the open cabanas let the sounds of the sea in, they also let in the sounds of your neighbors and the heat (only the cottages have air conditioning). But on the plus side, the Hi Tide restaurant, featuring the creative dishes of chef Guillaume Brard, is a good choice for dinner; the hotel indeed has nine beaches for guest use, and there are fun perks like loaner iPods and local cell phones.

Closed January to March.

See + Do

Verdmont House Museum, Bermuda

Verdmont Lane, Collectors Hill
Smith's SL05, Bermuda
Tel: 441 236 7369
Website: www.bnt.bm

This historic house-turned-museum is filled with an extensive and rare collection of antiques—most of which were amassed by John Dickinson, the wealthy shipowner and Bermudan politician who built the mansion in 1710. Among the treasures occupying the house today are pieces of vintage cedar furniture made on the island, 17th-century oil paintings, and English porcelain. Many of the locally crafted antiques, such as the drawing room desk and cabinet and three bedroom tallboys, showcase a rare transitional style that combines elements of 17th-century medieval-type aesthetics with 18th-century Georgian. It's amazing that the house has been so beautifully preserved, given that until 1951 it was occupied by a rather eccentric spinster who refused to modernize the property with plumbing or electricity.

Closed Sundays and Mondays; closed Tuesdays Nov. to March.

See + Do

St. George's, Bermuda

St. George's, Bermuda

The historic town of St. George's, the landing site of English colonists shipwrecked en route to Virginia in 1609 and the oldest continuously occupied town of English origin in the Western Hemisphere, was declared an UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000. Apart from its perfectly preserved architecture, alleyways, and lanes, one important sight is the replica of the Deliverance, the ship built to carry most of the survivors of the 1609 shipwreck onward to Virginia. St. Peter's Church, believed to be the oldest continuously operating Anglican church in the Western Hemisphere, is also worth a stop on Duke of York Street; some parts of it date from the original 1612 construction, others have been added through a series of restorations from the 17th through 20th centuries. Stroll through the cemetery behind the church, where the whitewashed gravestones shimmering in the sun seem oddly cheerful. Designed as a humbling punishment, the stocks and ducking stool in King's Square are now a setting for festive tourist snapshots.

See + Do

Shipwreck Dives in Bermuda

As a navigational point for ships crossing the Atlantic to and from the New World, Bermuda was on the map for sailors in as early as the 16th century. Unfortunately, the jagged reefs surrounding the island weren't, resulting in literally hundreds of shipwrecks—tragic for the ship passengers, but gravy to modern-day scuba divers. The myriad wrecks surrounding the island have in fact made Bermuda a sort of underground playground, where divers can visit French 19th-century three-mast warships, Civil War–era paddle steamers, and even an early 20th-century Spanish ocean liner. Blue Water Divers & Watersports runs daily dive trips to these wrecks, as well as other, less arduous sites; its boats leave from Somerset Bridge in Sandy's (441-234-1034; www.divebermuda.com). Dive Bermuda, which operates out of the Fairmont Hamilton Princess and the Fairmont Southampton (441-238-2332; www.bermudascuba.com), also runs boat dives to a variety of reef spots around the island.

See + Do

Royal Naval Dockyard, Bermuda

Ireland Island
Sandys MA02, Bermuda

A fascinating remnant of Bermuda's role in the British–American conflict, this massive compound of 19th-century buildings on the tip of Bermuda's western hook was once the largest British naval facility outside the U.K. But though huge cannons and stacks of cannonballs are everywhere around the Dockyard, a shot has never been fired from any of them. The grounds are so expansive they never feel crowded, and wandering around inspecting the bastions and fortresses is a lovely way to spend an afternoon (and burn off some of the calories from last night's daiquiris). Some of the most beautiful views on the island can be found here—even when you look down, you'll be able to see huge blue parrot fish and other sea critters beneath the crystal-blue water. You might also encounter a matted sheep flock, kept on site to trim and fertilize the grass (the sheep are particular experts in the latter, so don't wear nice shoes). If taking home a souvenir is essential, stop by the on-site Bermuda Art Centre (www.artbermuda.bm; 441-234-2809) and the Bermuda Craft Market (4 Freeport Rd., Cooperage Building; 441-234-3208), where the work of resident artists is for sale.

See + Do

Fishing in Bermuda

Bermuda's prime big-game fishing season is April to November. That's when yellowfin tuna and blue marlin frequent its warm waters, along with barracuda, billfish, and shark. Even during the "off season" from December to March, though, wahoo and smaller tuna are plentiful. Contact the St. George's Game Fishing and Cruise Association for charter boat availability and recommendations (441-297-8093). Fishing aficionados swarm the island between the first and second weeks in July to participate in (or watch) the annual Big Game Classic (407-571-4680; www.bermudabiggameclassic.com).

See + Do

Golf in Bermuda

With nine golf courses scattered across its modest landmass, Bermuda has more greens per square mile than any other place in the world. The 18-hole par-three course at Fairmont Southampton Golf Course has several lakes and elevated tees. Originally built in 1921, the world-famous private course at the Mid Ocean Golf Club in Tucker's Town has repeatedly hosted the PGA tour (441-293-0330; www.themidoceanclubbermuda.com). Also in Tucker's Town, Tucker's Point Club has one of the most expansive views on the island: From the 13th tee you can gaze across Harrington Sound all the way to the Royal Navy Dockyard, some 20 miles away (441-298-6970; www.tuckerspoint.com).

The three above, as with the majority of the courses on Bermuda, are private, often with limited access for nonpatrons, and requiring advance booking. Most hotel concierges can make arrangements for a round of play; alternatively, you can make your own on www.bermudagolf.bm.

Tee times on all three of Bermuda's public courses—Ocean View, St. George's, and Port Royal—can be easily arranged with one phone call (441-234-4653). Port Royal, first designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., in 1970, recently completed a major renovation, reopening in June 2009.

See + Do

Botanical Gardens, Bermuda

169 South Road
Paget DV04, Bermuda
Tel: 441 236 4201

Although the entire island could rightly be considered a botanical garden, this spectacular 36-acre property lets you see some of Bermuda's prettiest plants without wearing out your hiking shoes. There's a subtropical fruit garden, a cactus garden, enclosure-free butterfly zones, greenhouses, an aviary, and a miniature forest—there's even a garden for the blind, with especially aromatic flowers and herbs, and informational plaques inscribed in Braille. The pretty picnic area is a great place to bring a snack and a book and veg out to the sounds of the birds and bees.

See + Do

Boating in Bermuda

One of the best ways to explore St. George's Castle Harbour is by renting a boat. Thirteen-foot Boston Whalers with Bimini tops are available at Blue Hole Water Sports (Grotto Bay Beach Resort; 441-293-2915; www.blueholewater.bm). The "dudes" at the front desk will point out the rough, reefy spots that you should avoid, but no formal boat-handling instruction is offered; still, maneuvering the boats is a cinch, and each comes with a cell phone in case you get stuck. From the water, you can get a firsthand look at the new Tucker's Point development and the lavish mansions at Tucker's Town Bay. A few minutes east is a scene worthy of Robinson Crusoe: Castle Island, where you can anchor offshore and snorkel the clear waters or picnic on the deserted beach.

See + Do

Bermuda Maritime Museum, Bermuda

The Keep, Royal Naval Dockyard
Sandys MA01, Bermuda
Tel: 441 234 1418
Website: www.bmm.bm

Not just for nautical buffs and history majors, the Maritime Museum is a fascinating (honest!) collection of exhibits dedicated to Bermuda's social, nautical, and military history. One of the most popular attractions on the island, it is made up of eight buildings on six acres of the Royal Naval Dockyard. The Commissioner's House atop the citadel is the world's first cast-iron building (built in the 1820s) and displays maps from the 16th to the 19th centuries, maritime art collections, and a room dedicated to Bermuda's role in the slave trade (seeing actual chains used to bind slaves for transport is especially haunting). The Keep Pond, once used for ammunition transportation, is the home of Dolphin Quest, a research and educational facility where guests can swim with the smiley mammals. Those not interested in getting wet can observe the theatrics from the sidelines (15 Maritime Lane; 441-234-4464; www.dolphinquest.org).

See + Do

Beaches of Bermuda

The pink-sand beaches of this island are unlike any others in the Caribbean. Most people think the color comes from broken shells and bits of coral, but it's actually the ground-up skeletons of tiny, plankton-like sea creatures called forams that lend the sand its rosy hue. Horseshoe Bay Beach on the south shore in Southampton Parish is the most famous; a wide arc of pink sand, it also tends to be the most crowded, partly because it has facilities such as changing rooms and a café. More secluded is Jobson's Cove in Warwick Parish, adjacent to the half-mile Warwick Long Bay Beach, an almost secret hideaway perfect for snorkeling. John Smith's Bay in Smith's Parish is usually frequented only by locals but it's such a long beach that it never feels crowded.

Nightlife

Quito's Gazebo, Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Tel: 284 495 4837
Website: www.quitorymer.com

Tortola's Cane Garden Bay is the place to do a barefoot bar hop down the beach. Walk along the crescent strand, eavesdropping on the ebb and flow of people moving from one beachfront bar & grill to the next, Myett's to Rhymer's to Big Banana. Most everyone ends up at Quito's, eventually, especially when the owner—singer/songwriter Quito Rymer—is on stage with his band The Edge. The house specialty, Caribbean Run (coconut rum, vodka, and OJ), is named after one of Quito's most popular songs. It's best enjoyed from the large first-floor bar/restaurant, where you can take in the view across the bay and down the beach. Quito mellows out with acoustic solo sets Tuesdays and Thursdays; the full band rocks the reggae Friday and Saturday nights.

Opens daily at 10 am.

Nightlife

Bomba Surfside Shack, Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Cappoon's Bay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Tel: 284 495 4148
Website: www.bombasurfsideshack.com

To call this beach bar on Tortola's Cappoon's Bay a shack is an insult to shanties everywhere. Still, this jumble of flotsam and jetsam—held together, it seems, solely by the elastic of the panties and bras that hang from every available inch of rafter—has become a must-do for Caribbean pub crawlers. The main attraction is the Full Moon Party, when the grizzled Bomba himself hosts an overflowing horde of partiers, many of who come to sample the infamous hallucinogenic mushroom tea (weak, but $10 gets you a bottomless souvenir cup). And with beverages like that, you can understand how people eventually feel the need to donate their undies.

Opens daily at 10 am. Live bands play Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Nightlife

William Thornton, Norman Island, British Virgin Islands

Norman Cay Bight, Norman Island, British Virgin Islands
Tel: 284 494 0183, Tel: the bar also monitors VHF Channel 16
Website: www.williamthornton.com

Body shots, temporary tattoos, synchronized shooters via an ingenious contraption called the “shotski,” impromptu nakedness. This floating bar proves that the further you get from the mainland, the lower your inhibitions. Captained by head bartender, Zeus, Willie T cruises nowhere fast. The partying pirate ship simply swings on anchor in Norman Cay's Bight, attracting yachties and those landlubbers who hitch a ride on the bar's supply boat, the Wet Willie (284-496-6416; leaves Tortola at 5 pm; back whenever the bar closes.). To soak up the rum, the galley offers up a good selection of grilled and fried pub grub (conch fritters, fish sandwiches, burgers). Even though the skinny-dipping skydives off the stern rail have recently been outlawed, the atmosphere can get decidedly PG-13 to R after dark, so the sensitive best abandon ship early.

Opens daily at noon. Reservations for lunch and dinner suggested.

Nightlife

Foxy's Tamarind Bar and Grill, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands
Tel: 284 495 9258
Website: www.foxysbar.com

Foxy Callwood's eponymous watering hole on Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, is the most famous bar in the Caribbean. Foxy is a famed raconteur and politically incorrect Calypsonian who ribs patrons with improvised guitar ditties (stop in before 5 pm to catch his shanties). Most people know the salty dog for his do-before-you-die “Old Year's Eve” party when revelers fill the bay with sailboats rafted gunwale to gunwale. The rest of the year, boaters sail in for great food, live music (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights), and libations like the Dread Fox (made with Foxy's own brand of rum poured over sour mix and cranberry juice) and the Friggin' in de Riggin' (mango, banana, and a double dose of rum). Be forewarned: The ferry stops at about 6 pm, so those who want to continue the party will have to sleep on boats moored in the harbor or at one of the few accommodations on the island.

Opens daily at 9:30 am.

See + Do

The Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Belgium

9 Rue du Régence
Brussels, Belgium
Tel: 508 3211
Website: www.fine-arts-museum.be

These enormous art museums—one filled with "ancient" works; the other, modern—will keep you busy for a day, or two. They chart the history of Flemish art from Brueghel and Rubens to Magritte.

Closed Mondays.

See + Do

Musée des Instruments de Musique, Belgium

2 Rue de la Montagne de la Cour
Brussels 1000, Belgium
Tel: 32 2 545 0130
Website: www.mim.fgov.be

Known as MIM, the Musical Instrument Museum would be worth seeing even if it were empty, since it's housed in the beautiful Art Nouveau former Old England department store—and its top-floor restaurant is pretty nice, too. But the four floors of 1,500-odd instruments, complete with infrared headphones that allow you to listen as you gaze, happen to be irresistible. Don't miss the prototypes of an invention by that indispensable Belgian Adolphe Sax: the saxophone.

Closed Mondays.

See + Do

La Maison Autrique, Belgium

266 Chaussée de Haecht
Brussels 1030, Belgium
Tel: 32 2 215 6600
Website: www.autrique.be

The first building designed by Belgium's greatest architect, Victor Horta. It was restored by Brussels' own François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, better known as comic-strip artists.

Closed Sunday through Tuesday.

See + Do

Ixelles, Belgium

Brussels, Belgium

An extremely pleasant neighborhood of boulevards, squares, and a string of lakes known as the Étangs d'Ixelles. It's worth the trip for real-estate junkies (due to its many enviable houses), but the charms of Ixelles don't end there. The locale also offers picnic spots, cute restaurants and cafés, a great market, and good shopping in lots of interesting boutiques.

See + Do

Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée, Belgium

20 Rue des Sables
Brussels 1000, Belgium
Tel: 32 2 219 1980
Website: www.cbbd.be

The Comic Strip Museum is another attraction that's housed in a building at least as great as the museum itself (in fact, unless you're a huge Tintin fan, the building is the real star). The structure, called the Waucquez Warehouses, is by Victor Horta (the progenitor of Art Nouveau), built in 1906 and restored in 1989. Comics are huge in Belgium, as you'll see, and nobody is better known than Hergé, the creator of Tintin. You'll also meet many very famous illustrators you've never heard of, like Willy Vandersteen, the creator of Suske en Wiske. The shop is a fabulous source of gifts for the folks back home.

Closed Mondays.

See + Do

Bruparck, Belgium

, Laeken
Brussels, Belgium
Website: www.bruparck.com

In the shadow of the instantly recognizable '50s-futuristic Atomium, built for the World's Fair of 1958, sits this haven for kids: the Océade swimming park and Mini Europe—which, as you'd expect, contains the landmark buildings of Europe in miniature.

See + Do

Bois de la Cambre, Belgium

Brussels, Belgium

At 272 acres, Bois de la Cambre is Brussels's biggest park. This central spot is a delightful place to spend an afternoon strolling around its woodland paths. Highlights include a large lake with a small island at its center (reached by a cable-drawn ferry) which is popular for picnics. The ferry is currently closed for renovation until 2008, but the park is still well worth a visit.

See + Do

Horta Museum, Belgium

25 Rue Américaine
Brussels 1060, Belgium
Tel: 32 543 0490
Website: www.hortamuseum.be

As Gaudí is to Barcelona, Victor Horta is to Brussels, and this, his former house, is now his museum. If you think you're not interested in Art Nouveau, a visit here will convert you. The neighborhood, too, is fun to stroll, with several more Art Nouveau gems to spot.

Closed Mondays.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.