DAY ONE — As long as I was flying cross country to San Francisco, I thought I’d try Virgin America (www.virginamerica.com) . I always liked flying Virgin Atlantic to London. They were among the first to have individual seat entertainment systems with dedicated kids’ channels and games. Virgin America has gone a step further: the touch screen not only controls entertainment .
Too bad the satellite TV was out most of the trip so I paid $7 to watch a movie and then a few dollars more to watch episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. Then there’s the food service: You want a (free) soft drink or a cup of coffee, you order it on the touch screen and a flight attendant brings it. You can also order food and snacks for purchase (I’d brought along a sandwich and an apple).
Seems like a good system to me. So here I am in San Francisco staying downtown at the snazzy Intercontinental San Francisco (www.intercontental.com/sanfrancisco) that opened earlier this year. It couldn’t be a better location-just a short walk to Market Street and all its shops and cable cars and Union Square and Yerba Buena Gardens with its museums including Zeum, the interactive arts center for kids (www.zeum.org com), the Contemporary Jewish Museum (www.cjm.org) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (www.sfmoma.org).
This area is called SOMA (south of Market) and what was once an industrial area has become a center for art, entertainment, museums and galleries. There’s also the Sony Metreon Entertainment Center with movie theaters, shopping and an interactive walk-through of Maurice Sendak’s classic Where the Wild Things Are and a children’s center with bowling, ice skating and a first-rate playground.
By the way, if you are planning to take in a lot of the city attractions and museums, check out www.citypass.com The coupon booklets not only give you discounted admission to many of the city’s top attractions, but you get a seven-day pass for cable cars and other public transportation — it’s a good deal! You don’t want to drive or rely on taxis, I discovered last night. Not only are they expensive but you may have to wait a while to get one at a busy time or not find one at all, depending on where you are.
My mission this weekend is twofold: To tell all of you readers about what a great city San Francisco is for families, and to help my daughter Reggie, who just graduated from college, to find an apartment . She starts her new job next week and may well be temporarily homeless. “Don’t worry,” she says. “I can always stay on someone’s couch!” I hope so. Apartment hunting is so different these days since you search for roommates on www.craigslist.com and wait for them to reply and then if the phone conversation is good you’re invited for an “interview” to see if you’ll mesh with the others in the house. It’s kind of like a blind date except you’ve got to decide pretty quickly if you can live with these folks. I’m glad I don’t have to do it. I hope Reg finds a place she’s comfortable with and won’t be homeless for too long.
After a wild goose chase to see one apartment all the way to a neighborhood at the edge of Golden Gate Park (and a 40-minute bus ride back to the city center) I forgot all about my daughter’s homeless-state over a late dinner at Lark Creek Steak (www.LarkCreekSteak.com) conveniently located on the fourth floor of the Westfield San Francisco Centre mall on Market Street a short walk from where we’re staying.
My daughter managed to get a haircut and buy some jeans (on sale!) in the mall before an awesome dinner (and there is a terrific kids’ menu with everything from mac and cheese to a four-ounce steak and mashed potatoes for $9.50 and a hot fudge sundae for desert. Rasberry lemonade anyone?
Since we are in northern California, a short hop from Wine Country, we indulged in a terrific bottle of Cabernet along with our stellar dinner- heirloom tomato salad, steamed prince Edward island mussels, filet mignon perfectly cooked (it was hard to choose the sauce should we go with maytag blue cheese butter or béarnaise…) and amazing chocolate cake for desert.
The restaurant is noisy so you don’t have to worry about kids annoying other diners here and because it’s in the mall, it’s casual-fine to come in jeans! And you can eat as little or as much as you like — my kind of place! Not too pricey either. A great end to a first day in one of my favorite American cities.
I look around at the cable cars. You’ve got to ride the Powell-Hyde Cable Car that have been around since 1873 and you can stop at the cable car museum and powerhouse where you can show the kids the cables that pull the cars (www.cablecarmuseum.com) , not to mention everything from Golden Gate Park to Fisherman’s Wharf, to the world-class hands-on science museums Exploratorium (www.exploratorium.org ) and the soon to open new California Academy of Sciences (www.calacademy.org). I realize this is a city that looks decidedly different than many other American cities yet offers the comfort of being in the United States (www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com) .