San Francisco/SoMa

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States California San Francisco San Francisco/SoMa

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Introduction

SoMa, short for South of Market, is San Francisco's urban renewal district and an extension of downtown San Francisco, with brand new condominiums, office buildings, and a thriving club scene, the result of real estate speculation and the Bay Area's technology sector. Some of the city's newest attractions can be found here, including several museums, the convention center, and the ballpark for the San Francisco Giants, which has only furthered the gentrification of the area. The neighborhood is bordered roughly by Market Street on the northwest, the 101 Freeway (from Market Street to I-80) and 16th Street (from 101 to the San Francisco Bay) on the south, and the San Francisco Bay on the east.

Once home to warehouses and dilapidated Victorian houses, SoMa saw an artistic and club culture revival in the 1980s. By the time of the Internet boom of the 1990s, the "live-work" buildings of this area had become prime real estate, and the artists and musicians who had made it cool could no longer afford the sky-high rentals. With the burst of the dot.com bubble, SoMa has become somewhat more affordable, but has also lost many of the businesses that made the area attractive during the boom. Some of the best clubs are still in SoMa, but a taxi is recommended for getting around, especially after dark as some areas are still a bit dangerous.

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Sights and Activities

Moscone Center, 747 Howard St, ☏ +1-415-974-4000. Stretching across adjacent two full blocks between Mission, Folsom, 3rd and 4th Streets (with another building across the street at 4th and Howard), Moscone Center is a major convention center and entertainment complex with a variety of attractions. As a convention center, the Moscone Center houses major exhibits and conventions, including a number of major (especially IDG) expos that occur each year, including Apple Computer-related expos such as Macworld and Apple's WWDC, and LinuxWorld. The main entrance to the Moscone Convention Center is on Howard St. (on both side of the street) in between 3rd and 4th Sts., and the Center is divided into Moscone North, between Howard and Mission Sts., and Moscone South, between Howard and Folsom Sts. Moscone North and Moscone South is connected at the lower level underneath Howard St.; Moscone West is not connected to Moscone North or Moscone South.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), 151 3rd St (across the street from the Yerba Buena Gardens), ☏ +1-415-357-4000. F-W 10AM-5PM, Th 10AM-9PM. A gigantic and innovative art museum with multiple floors of galleries featuring changing exhibitions as well as permanent displays featuring the works of some very famous 20th century artists, including Georgia O'Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and many others. $25 adults, $22 seniors, $19 for ages 19-24, free for age 18 and under.
Treasure Island. An artificial island half-way between San Francisco and Oakland connected to Yerba Buena Island which the Bay Bridge passes through. The island has excellent views of the San Francisco and Oakland skylines and quirky structures from the international fairground turned-navy base-turned neighborhood. Accessible by Muni bus line 25 from the Transbay Terminal in SoMa. If you travel by car, there is no toll between Treasure Island and the rest of San Francisco.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Getting There

By Train

Caltrain, a commuter rail line between San Jose and San Francisco, terminates at the 1 Caltrain station at 4th & King Streets, just down the street from Oracle Park.

Bordered by Market Street on its northwest side, SoMa is within easy walking distance of all MUNI Metro lines and the several BART lines which run under Market Street. Running on Market Street is the F-Line Streetcar which stops frequently on its route from the Castro to the Ferry Building, then north on the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf.

Additionally, the MUNI Metro T-Third and N-Judah lines emerge from the Market Street subway and travel through the SoMa district, stopping at a few places along the Embarcadero south of Market, including Oracle Park. The N line stops at the Caltrain station, while the T line continues south down 3rd Street into Southeast San Francisco.

By Car

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which is part of Interstate Highway 80, offers a direct connection from the cities of the East Bay area (such as Oakland) to SoMa. After getting into San Francisco, any of the first three exits (Fremont/Folsom, 5th Street, 8th Street) will lead you into SoMa before I-80 terminates at US-101.

From the south, there are two freeways running into SoMa: I-280 dead ends near the Caltrain Station - stay in the right lanes to get onto 6th Street, or stay in the left lanes to get onto King Street and past the Caltrain Station and Oracle Park. US-101 comes up from the south to merge into I-80, where you can get off onto I-80 and take one of the two eastbound exits into SoMa, or stay on US-101 (stay in the left lanes) and exit at 9th Street or Mission Street before the freeway terminates at Market Street (US-101 continues north as Van Ness Avenue).

SoMa is also well-connected to other San Francisco neighborhoods by surface streets. From the north, The Embarcadero is the best one for getting down from Fisherman's Wharf, while Van Ness Avenue is the best for getting from the Golden Gate area. Between those two are a number of other major thoroughfares, such as Montgomery, Stockton and Hyde Streets, which will also do nicely. From the south and southwest, 3rd Street, Mission Street and Market Street all work well.

Parking here, as anywhere else in San Francisco, can be a challenge, but there a number of parking garages in the district, including a large one at Mission between Fifth and Fourth streets for the Moscone Center. People driving to a Giants game are advised to park at the large parking lot along 3rd Street just south of Oracle Park, just across the canal.

By Bus

MUNI offers extensive bus service through SoMa, with nearly every street having a bus line of some sort. Routes 10-Townsend, 12-Folsom/Pacific, 30-Stockton, 45-Union/Stockton and 47-Van Ness are the best bets for getting down from the neighborhoods to the north, like Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf. Routes 1-California, 5-Fulton, 6-Haight/Parnassus, 38-Geary and 7-Haight/Noriega are some of the best for getting in from eastern neighborhoods like The Avenues, while routes 9-San Bruno, 12-Folsom/Pacific, 14-Mission, and 27-Bryant come up from Southern San Francisco through the Mission district.

Nearly all intercity bus service into San Francisco runs into SoMa, including Greyhound, MUNI, and various other Bay Area transit services (AC Transit, samTrans, Golden Gate Transit, and WestCAT). Due to the reconstruction of the Transbay Terminal, all this service is going to the 2 Transbay Temporary Terminal at Main and Howard Streets. Facilities are minimal, with bus bays for Bay Area service on the Howard Street side of the terminal and on the streets surrounding the site, and Greyhound service on the Folsom Street side of the terminal.

By Boat

In addition to the regular ferry service provided to the Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street in the adjacent Financial District, two ferry companies offer special ferry service to Giants home games at Oracle Park: Golden Gate Ferry from Larkspur, and San Francisco Bay Ferry from Alameda, Oakland, and Vallejo.

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Eat

In addition to the numerous restaurants listed below, there are also food courts in the Metreon and the San Francisco Shopping Center, both of which are large and offer a variety of restaurants; although in the case of the Metreon, be sure to avoid the food court during lunch hours of any major convention, when the lines for each restaurant will get very long.

Dottie's True Blue Cafe, 28 6th St (between Market St and Mission St), ☏ +1-415-885-2767. M Th-F 7:30AM-3PM, Sa-Su 7:30AM-4PM. Top-rated breakfast cafe and a top contender in San Francisco proper. Affordable food with friendly service; comfortable, intimate atmosphere, and excellent food. Arrive early to stand in line with all the other admirers. $3-12.
Reds Java House, Pier 30 (on the Embarcadero near the Bay Bridge), ☏ +1-415-777-5626. Have the hamburger, fries and an Anchor Steam combo. e
21st Amendment, 563 2nd St (between Bryant and Brannan), ☏ +1-415-369-0900. M-Tu 11:30AM-9:30PM, W-Sa 11:30AM-10PM, Su 10AM-9:30PM. Good "California-style microbrew" beers. Classic brew pub-grub - burgers, fish, some salads. The Jerk Chicken is excellent. Full menu and images are online. Great place to have drinks before or after a Giants game.
Canton Chinese & Dim Sum Restaurant, 655 Folsom St (between 2nd & 3rd Streets), ☏ +1-415-495-3064. Lunch and dinner daily. Large selection of Cantonese dim sum as well as traditional Chinese dishes, including tanks of live seafood. Great place for a banquet.
Delancey Street Restaurant, 600 Embarcadero St, ☏ +1-415-512-5179. Tu-F 11AM-11PM, Sa-Su 10AM-11PM. It's not just a restaurant, it's a training school for the Delancey Street Foundation - an organization that helps people rebuild their lives from scratch. Nice backdrop of the San Francisco Bay and cheap eats to boot.
Hidive, Pier 28 (on the Embarcadero near the Bay Bridge), ☏ +1-415-977-0170. This is where SoMa residents go for quick meetings and meals. You can also find decent food here to go along with the great waterfront views.
Manora's Thai Cuisine, 1600 Folsom St (at 12th), ☏ +1-415-861-6224, fax: +1-415-861-1731. Lunch M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM; dinner M-Sa 5:30PM-10:30PM, Su 5PM-10PM. A favorite Thai place among locals, they serve up a great Pad Thai and Thai soups.
Palomino, 345 Spear St, ☏ +1-415-512-7400. A nice, classy bar where you can get delicious food, such as thin-crust pizza or calamari.
South Park Cafe, 108 South Park St (at Jack London Alley between 2nd and 3rd), ☏ +1-415-495-7275, ✉ southparkcafe@sbcglobal.net. Lunch M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM; dinner Tu-Sa 5:30PM-10PM.
Thirsty Bear Brewing Company, 661 Howard St (1/2 block from Moscone Center), ☏ +1-415-974-0905, fax: +1-415-974-0955. M-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F 11:30AM-11PM, Sa noon-11PM, Su 5PM-10PM. Brewpub meets tapas bar. Good beer brewed in-house, from very light lagers through a nice Kozlov Stout. One or two brews on nitrogen. Very good small-plate food with a Mediterranean/Spanish flair. Tuesday is cask-ale night - beer served from traditional wood cask instead of modern steel - while it lasts, which usually isn't very long.
Tres Agaves, 130 Townsend St (between 2nd and 3rd), ☏ +1-415-227-0500. Su-W 11:30AM-10PM, Th-Sa 11:30AM-11PM. Best margaritas in the city, along with great Mexican food. The food comes with so many sides that one appetizer and one entree is easily enough for 2 people.
Fringale French Bistro, 570 4th St (at Freelon between Bryant and Brannan), ☏ +1-415-543-0573, fax: +1-415-905-0317. Lunch Tu-F 11:30AM-2:30PM; dinner Su-Th 5:30PM-10PM, F-Sa 5:30PM-11PM.
Yank Sing, 101 Spear St (in the Rincon Center near the Embarcadero), ☏ +1-415-781-1111. M-F 11AM-3PM, Sa Su 10AM-4PM. This is the place for dim sum, and thus you might need to wait 30 minutes (at most) to have a table. You do not need a menu to order your food; the staff lets you choose what you want to eat from carts pushed around from the dining room. The shrimp, dumplings, and duck here are delicious. The setting of the restaurant is also wonderful.

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Drink

21st Amendment, ☏ +1-415-369-0900. See above under Eat.
83 Proof, 83 1st St (between Elim St & Mission St), ☏ +1-415-296-8383. This narrow lounge sits precariously between a Walgreens and a Wachovia. Friendly bartenders will concoct any type of drink you desire, which makes it great for a quick, after-work drink or late-night cocktails. 83 Proof is also well-suited to group outings with its cozy atmosphere and chill vibe. Along with the DJ, weekend nights can get pretty loud sometimes.
City Beer Store & Tasting Bar, 1168 Folsom St (between Hallam St and Langton St), ☏ +1-415-503-1033. Tu-Sa noon-10PM, Su noon-6PM. Your best bet for beer to go.
District, 216 Townsend St (between 3rd and 4th), ☏ +1-415-896-2120. Old furniture store converted to the latest wine-bar in SoMa.
Hotel Utah Saloon, 500 4th St (at Bryant), ☏ +1-415-546-6300. M-F 11:30AM-2AM, Sa Su 1PM-2AM. Popular brewery.
Jillians, 175 4th St (inside the Metreon), ☏ +1-415-369-6100. This upscale sports bar has a huge video wall great for watching sports. There are also 8 well-kept pool tables for something to do. This bar becomes a dance club on Friday and Saturday nights with a strict dress code -- nice shoes required.
Press Club, 20 Yerba Buena Ln (between Market St & Mission St), ☏ +1-415-744-5000. This bar focuses on wine, with some of the finest from the nearby Wine Country. Sneak a peek at the wine cellar, and don't be surprised if you're super critical of the next glass of wine you drain outside the Press Club. Be prepared, however, to put a dent in your credit card or wallet by the end of the night.
Thirsty Bear Brewing Company, 661 Howard St, ☏ +1-415-974-0905. An upscale brewpub/restaurant and favorite expense-account spot for the trade show crowd from nearby Moscone Center. The cask-conditioned ale is satisfying, but the place can get crowded.
Tres Agaves, ☏ +1-415-227-0500. See above under Eat.

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Sleep

Pontiac Hotel, 509 Minna St (at 6th), ☏ +1-415-863-7775, toll-free: +1-800-504-1005, fax: +1-415-552-4491, ✉ pontiachtl@aol.com. Clean and comfortable hotel. $35+.
Best Western Americania, 121 7th St (between Minna and Natoma), ☏ +1-415-626-0200, toll-free: +1-800-444-5816, fax: +1-415-863-2529, ✉ Reservations@haiyihotelca.com. Chain motel with a few more amenities than the typical Best Western; outdoor swimming pool, internet access, cafe on-site, pet friendly. $149–169. edit
Carriage Inn, 140 7th St (at Minna), ☏ +1-415-552-8600, fax: +1-415-626-3973. $169–189.
Mosser Hotel, 54 4th St (between Stevenson and Jessie), ☏ +1-415-986-4400, toll-free: +1-800-227-3804, fax: +1-415-495-7653, ✉ reservations@themosser.com. Nice, clean hotel with small rooms but a great location.
Pickwick Hotel, 85 5th St (at Mission, a block from the Convention Center), ☏ +1-415-421-7500, fax: +1-415-243-8066, ✉ info@thepickwickhotel.com. A historic hotel with very nice guestrooms and flexible meeting space.
Courtyard San Francisco Downtown, 299 2nd St (at Folsom), ☏ +1-415-947-0700, fax: +1-415-947-0800. A Marriot with all the amenities that generally come with it. $200–250.
Four Seasons Hotel, 757 Market St (between 3rd and 4th), ☏ +1-415-633-3000. Very high-end hotel. Beautiful art collection, and extensive sports club with fitness facilities and spa.
Harbor Court Hotel, 165 Steuart St (between Mission and Howard), ☏ +1-415-882-1300, fax: +1-415-882-1313. A waterfront boutique hotel on the Embarcadero, across from the San Francisco Ferry Building, with views onto San Francisco Bay. $230–280.
Hotel Griffon, 155 Steuart St (between Mission and Howard), ☏ +1-415-495-2100, fax: +1-415-495-3522, ✉ reservations@hotelgriffon.com. A comparatively smaller hotel with small but very comfy rooms and good service.
InterContinental Hotel, 888 Howard St (at 5th), ☏ +1-415-616-6500, fax: +1-415-616-6581. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. A translucent cool-blue tower that doubles as a city landmark.
Marriott Marquis, 55 4th St (between Stevenson and Mission), ☏ +1-415-896-1600, fax: +1-415-486-8101. Convention center hotel across the street from the Moscone Center.
The Palace Hotel, 2 New Montgomery St (at Market), ☏ +1-415-512-1111, fax: +1-415-543-0671. Established in 1875, the Palace has 552 guest rooms. In 1945, the official banquet honoring the opening session of the United Nations was held in The Garden Court at The Palace.
St. Regis Hotel, 125 3rd St (between Mission and Minna), ☏ +1-415-284-4000. A historic and very upscale hotel with a spa, butler service, and on-site restaurant.
W Hotel, 181 3rd St (at Howard), toll-free: +1-877-946-8357. Another major convention center hotel, with lots of amenities and very nice rooms.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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This is version 2. Last edited at 9:20 on Sep 18, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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