Best ways to experience San Francisco

Best ways to experience San Francisco, looking at the Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco is perhaps the most famous city in the world. There’s so much to see and do in the so-called City by the Bay that you might have no idea how to go about it. There are so many ways to experience San Francisco, after all, more than one can count.

And that kind of paralysis by analysis can – and will – ruin your time in this wonderful place. You’ll be stressed out without doing anything fun, and you’ll be going back home with sour memories. If you worry about this happening to you, fear not! This handy guide will show you all the best ways to enjoy San Francisco.

That said, you might not be a tourist sticking around for a short while. Maybe you’re moving to San Francisco from another city, and you’ll have all the time in the world to soak in the sights. If so, you’ll still want to read on. This city has so much going on that, eventually, it doesn’t become a matter of what you see, but how you see it.

So let’s get started.

Create a streamlined itinerary for sight-seeing in a hurry

Every trip has its complications, and these problems usually cost you time otherwise spent taking in your location. Whether it’s lost items or broken bags, it all eats up the hours. This is pretty much a constant truth, so you ought to prepare for it whenever you travel.

You can fix most of these problems – keep track of your things, have a quality traveling bag, and so on. However, you can’t take back lost time. In case you’re pressed for time, it’s a great idea to have a quick-and-dirty itinerary on hand for emergencies. The best way to make one is to write down everything you would love to see.

Poke around on the Internet to approximate how much time it would roughly take to visit each of those places. Put the ones that require a lot of time in a to-dump list. For extra effectiveness, see which sights are near one another and cluster them in a single day’s worth of sightseeing. Try separating some time for things like buying special gifts and souvenirs for your close ones, if possible.

Woman writing on notebook
Write down your top destinations that you have time for

This means you’ll, sadly, have to miss out on some experiences. For instance, visiting Alcatraz is basically a day-long process, from the ferry rides to the tour itself. And that’s if you call ahead to book a spot on this tour – doing it impromptu is even more complicated.  If you’re dead set on seeing Alcatraz, maybe consider taking an evening tour instead. You’ll still experience San Francisco, but you may need to make a few sacrifices.

Ride/rent out bikes to experience San Francisco healthily

There’s nothing quite like riding a bike in SF on a sunny spring day. Not only is it a healthy alternative to driving or taking the bus/trolly, but it also saves you loads of time otherwise spent walking. You have the speed of a vehicle tour combined with the autonomy to go and stop wherever you like. As long as you’ve brought your essentials for traveling, you’ll be enjoying the best of both worlds.

If you don’t have your own bike to ride, don’t worry. Being such a large city and tourist attraction, San Francisco has its fair share of bike renting agencies. They’re very professional for the most part: they provide well-functioning bikes, helmets, and escorts that know the city well. San Francisco sights are a delight to marvel at this way, believe me.

San Francsico cable car
Cable care are neat, but bikes are healthier

Categorize types of activities

It’s an understatement to say that this city is packed with things to do. You definitely won’t get too far trying to pack everything into your schedule. To properly experience San Francisco, you need to organize your sight-seeing by categories.

What does that mean? Well, if you’re a bit of a gourmand, you can research great places to eat in San Francisco. Or, if you’re more of a nightlife kind of person, look up the best clubs. You can classify these into neat categories that let you quickly organize your day to your liking.

Not sure what this is all about? Don’t worry, you’ll see below.

Awesome bars and restaurants in San Francisco

Here’s an example of a list of what to see in San Francisco. It’s about great places for eating and drinking (with an emphasis on cheesy goodies).

–           Hog Island Oyster Company: great oysters, grilled cheese;

–           Daily Driver: organic bagels, cream cheese;

–           Cowgirl Creamery: European-style cheese;

–           Gott’s Roadside: burgers and milkshake;

–           Vive La Tarte: “tacros” (taco-croissants);

–           Slanted Door: whiskey cocktails, Vietnamese fare;

–           Humphry Slocombe: fun, strange ice cream flavors

–           Fort Point Beer Company: local beer

Experience San Francisco at night
The nightlife in San Francisco is indescribable

This kind of organization is especially useful for tourists that visit San Francisco. It allows them to see the best of San Francisco by preparing ahead of time. See the best sights, get some quality wine and dine in there, and include other activities you wouldn’t normally have time for.

Meet the locals

Wherever you’re staying, one fact rings true: the locals know the place best. This applies whether you’re a tourist or you’ve recently moved to SF. People that have been living there their whole lives tend to know exactly where to go to get the authentic experience. That’s why you should try to make a few “native“ friends while there that can show you cool things to do in San Francisco.

Not only that, but the locals can teach you how to save money while in the city (though not every local is that way). San Francisco isn’t exactly the cheapest of cities, and your cash can quickly fizzle out if you aren’t careful.

Since SF is such a tourist hotspot, the locals there are quite used to new people from other places. That makes them very friendly in general, so don’t worry about annoying them with your attempts to make a connection. And even if they do get peeved, there are tons of people in SF, so you’ll find someone else to show you the best ways to see San Francisco.

Wrapup

San Francisco is a big slice of wonder – much more than anyone can handle at once. Luckily, this guide will let you take out one strategic bite at a time. And that’s one of the best ways to experience San Francisco. Savor it like the splendid treat that it is.

The Best Airports for Long (Unexpectedly Fun) Layovers

It’s not often you hear someone rave about his or her time at the airport. More often than not our layover is spent on our phones scrolling through emails or texts (or let’s be honest, Tinder) while trying not to overhear the conversation of the person next to us at the gate. But there is good news for all travelers expecting a longer airport wait this year: It turns out there is a lot of fun to be had when waiting for the next flight. We are talking everything from massages to jumping into in a rooftop pool. With fun in mind, we’ve put together the list of the airports taking the layover experience to the next level.

 1. Changi Airport – Singapore

Changi won the World’s Best Airport Award (voted on by travelers) in 2015, and when it comes to spending time during a layover, this airport certainly does not disappoint. What better way to pass the time than a dip in the airport’s rooftop swimming pool? Or take in a film at their movie theater. There is also a butterfly garden, orchid garden, and sunflower garden that boasts a field of more than 500 sunflowers. Changi is also home to the world’s tallest slide in an airport at nearly 40 feet tall. The Crowne Plaza Changi Airport Hotel also has a swimming pool and 24-hour fitness center for those looking to spend the night near the airport. In addition to a plethora of shopping and dining locations, Changi’s unique airport features make it stand out as a luxurious and entertaining spot for long layovers.

2. John F. Kennedy Airport – Terminal 5, New York, NY

Of all the terminals at JFK, Jet Blue’s Terminal 5 is the one you want to spend your layover in. With more than 30 food and beverage spots, you can find just about anything to nibble and sip on. That includes places like Deep Blue Sushi, Dylan’s Candy Bar, and Bar Veloce. The terminal hosts more than 35 retail shops. If sitting down and relaxing is more your style, people watch on the Grandstands while you charge your phone and use the terminal’s free Wi-Fi.  The Marketplace at T5 also hosts concerts with musicians from all over the world, including Taylor Swift, James Blunt and Robyn. Travelers can step out of the airport and over to the Crowne Plaza JFK Airport Hotel to ensure a solid night’s sleep during an overnight layover. Their complimentary shuttle bus will get you right back to the airport in time for your flight.

3. Heathrow Airport – London, United Kingdom

This bustling airport caters to an exceptionally diverse crowd, and the range of shops, restaurants and entertainment options reflects just that. The airport has two spas that offer services ranging from manicures and pedicures to aromatherapy and facials. The No1 Travel Spa offers a jet lag revival package for those who need to recuperate from exceptionally long trips. The iconic shopping destination Harrod’s of London has shops located in each terminal, and personal shoppers are available by appointment to provide fashion and style advice. Restaurants and cafes regularly host events all year round, including special activities and menus for Chinese New Year, like complimentary 2016 Chinese Horoscope cards and special dishes like Hoisin Duck Puffs from Rhubarb British Restaurant and Bar. Travelers can step out of the airport and head to nearby Sofitel London Heathrow for afternoon tea at the hotel’s tea salon or check email at one of their workspaces.

4. Vancouver International Airport – British Columbia, Canada

Voted by travelers as the Best Airport in North America, YVR is not short on entertainment and services to help you spend your time in between flights. The airport has a Meet and Great Service that provides travelers with an Airport Butler who can customize your experience, from getting you to your gate to helping you with the purchase of duty-free items and spa services. The Absolute Spa and Hair Salon can handle all grooming needs, from hair styling and removal to massages. There is a diverse selection of international fare, from sit down restaurants and bars to fast food chains. Less than three miles away is the Radisson Hotel Vancouver Airport where those with longer or overnight layovers can relax in the indoor pool and spa tub, grab food at one of many fine-dining establishments and easily hop back to the airport with complimentary on-demand shuttle service that operates around the clock.

5. Denver International Airport– Denver, CO

Denver’s airport stands apart with its appealing architectural style, complete with a vast collection of public art, more than 140 shops and restaurants, and relaxing lounges. The airport offers free Wi-Fi, but many travelers find themselves putting down their phones to stare at the gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountains near gates C23 and C24. Denver is also home to Paradise 4 Paws, 9http://www.flydenver.com/traveler_services/pets) an on-site pet resort. Dog suites have their own flat screen TV’s and massage therapy and veterinary services are also available. Cats won’t feel left out either with their own bungalow and Adventure Jungle. Who said layovers can’t be fun for pets too?

6. San Francisco International Airport – San Francisco, CA

San Francisco airport is a tech-lovers layover dream. The #Converge@flySFO loungeis a unique space inside the airport created specifically for travelers to share ideas around technology, entrepreneurship and ways to create change (among many topics). The room has free Wi-Fi, white boards to write down ideas and places to charge electronics. For less business-minded guests, the airport also houses theAviation Museum and Library, the Berman Reflection Room for quiet meditation, XpresSpa’s for spa services and a free yoga room. Travelers and their pets with longer layovers are welcome at the Aloft San Francisco Airport Hotel located just two miles from the airport. Guests can enjoy stretching their legs on the scenic jogging trail or taking a dip in the hotel pool before grabbing a bite to eat and heading back to their airport to catch their next flight.

 

This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on March 11, 2016.

 

5 Top US Boutique Hotels for Business Travelers

Having somewhere comfortable and homey to rest your head at night when traveling for business can make the experience much more enjoyable. There are many hotels catering to business travelers across America, but most are chain hotels with impersonal, bustling atmospheres. Sometimes, when traveling for work, it’s more comfortable to stay somewhere smaller and more intimate, and a good alternative is the boutique hotel. Read on to find out more about the best boutique hotels for Business travelers.

1. The Setai Hotel, Miami

If you’re traveling to Miami, chances are you’ll want to take advantage of the city’s entertainment while you’re there; thus, The Setai, in the heart of South Beach, is a great option for business travelers. The hotel features a business center with iMac workstations, free color copiers and fax machines, free printing, complementary office supplies to use and a dedicated help team. For an affordable stay on South Beach, check out Hipmunk deals at The Setai Miami.

2. Hotel Lincoln,Chicago

Hotel Lincoln Chicago, from the Joie de Vivre hotel company, is located outside of the hustle and bustle of the loop, making it a good place to get some sleep. The hotel features complementary Wi-Fi throughout, and all of the rooms are outfitted with a work desk and iHome docking station. The hotel also has a business center and several bookable meeting rooms.

3. Refinery Hotel, New York City

New York is an extremely popular destination for business travelers, and the Refinery Hotel, located in the city’s Fashion District, is a great place for them to stay. Each room has a writing desk, iHome docking station and free WiFi. The hotel also has convenient services like valet parking, concierge and fitness center. The Refinery also offers complementary business services like A/V equipment and printing.

4. The Benjamin Hotel, New York City

Another popular boutique option in the Big Apple is the Benjamin Hotel. The hotel has kitchenettes inside each room, so weary travelers make their own breakfast if they have to get before an early meeting. Guests at the Benjamin can ensure they’re well-rested for their next meeting via the hotel’s Rest & Renew Sleep Program, which offers insomniatic guests a pillow menu, sleep concierge, sleep masks, white noise machines, dream dictionaries and more.

5. Hotel Vitale, San Francisco

Another Joie de Vivre Hotel, the Hotel Vitale San Francisco is located in the very bustling Financial District. The hotel features work desks in each room with ergonomic chairs and safes big enough for laptops, as well as free WiFi, laundry and dry cleaning services, complementary newspapers and a soaking tub for the end of a very long workday.

 

This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on January 19, 2016.

Will Travel for Iced Coffee: Where to Get the Best Brew on the Road

Travel for Coffee

When jetting off for the final vacation of summer, there’s one thing everyone needs: a good iced coffee. Luckily there’s no shortage of cold brews, iced americanos, or classic iced coffees across the U.S. to guarantee a refreshing caffeine fix on any trip.

Despite cold coffee’s recent popularity, sip this: Dunkin Donuts has actually has been selling iced coffee for more than 25 years, and Starbucks’ famous Frappucino came to counters back in 1995. We can thank the youngin’s for iced coffee’s recent spike. Thirty eight percent of 18-24 year olds drink iced coffee, which is way higher than any other age group. Still, only 20 percent of Americans drink iced coffee, while 83 percent consume hot coffee.

The types of iced coffee jet setters can discover are pretty much divided into three groups: the classic iced coffee, frappuccino (or “coffee drinks”), and cold brew.

The classic kind, otherwise known as “The Japanese Method,” is when hot coffee is brewed and immediately poured over ice. This is the easiest way to make iced coffee, and produces a lighter and sweeter taste. Frappuccinos are when baristas grab a blender and mix a shot of espresso with cold milk, ice, and a bit of sugar. This’ll result in a frosty coffee treat. Cold brew is a coffee snob’s haven when it comes to coffee. Here, grounds are mixed with water for at least 12 hours; soaking the grounds this long makes the drink way more diluted and caffeinated.

We’ve rounded up some of the best cold coffees around the country, along with a recipe for jet setters to make themselves when on the move:

Iced Mint Mojito. Philz Coffee, San Francisco, CA

Philz Coffee is known for their unique spin on a classic summer rum drink: the iced mint mojito. No rum this time (but just as good!) mint leaves are added to espresso and milk or cream, which makes it both rich and refreshing. Stay at Le Meridien San Francisco and be less than a five minute walk from one of the many Philz Coffee’s in the city.

Iced Mocha. Barista Parlor, Nashville, TN

For a hipster and chocoholic twist, try this iced coffee that’s (obviously) served in a mason jar. The espresso is mixed with a specialty chocolate ganache and served over ice. It’s sweet and rich, and will make anyone want to go back for another.

New Orleans Iced Coffee. Blue Bottle Coffee, New York City and San Francisco, CA

Get a taste of NOLA at any of the Blue Bottle Coffee’s in New York City or San Francisco.
The New Orleans iced coffee is cold-brewed for 18 hours with roasted chicory and cane sugar. Pro tip: Add a bit of whole milk to cut the bitterness. Hotel Stanford, steps away from the Empire State Building in New York, is also only a few blocks from one of three Blue Bottle’s in Manhattan. Goers can also purchase their own kit to take back home or make in the hotel room.

Pure Black. La Colombe Torrefaction, Philadelphia, New York City, Chicago, D.C.

La Colombe coffee roasters, which are scattered throughout the States, has done something awesome: This iced coffee looks like beer, but is actually our favorite caffeinated beverage. Pure back is a type of cold brew that’s pressed and filtered twice after being steeped for 16 hours in a stainless steel wine tank.

Angeleno. Intelligentsia, Chicago, IL

Ready for this? The Angeleno is made with four shots of rich, espresso, creamy whole milk, and a generous squeeze of agave. The end result is a smooth and downright yummy drink that’s a sweet tooth’s favorite way to caffeinate.

Iced Almond Macadamia Latte. Go Get Em Tiger, Los Angeles CA

The superstar in this drink is house-made almond-macadamia milk, that’s mixed with espresso and (once again) served in a mason jar. Consider staying at Ginosi Hudson Apartel and be less than a 10 minute drive from this addictive drink, which is also considered the best latte in the U.S.

Want to see if a DIY brew can trump any of these places above? Save a few bucks (and see if a new career of being a legendary barista is the future…) by learning how to make iced coffee at home. Better yet, check out this article, hack your hotel room coffee, for an extra bit of buzz before taking on the day. This recipe is also perfect for a drink on-the-go when heading to the airport for the next adventure.

Measure and stir: Combine 1 part coffee to 4.5 parts room-temperature and filtered water. Give it a nice stir.

Let it brew: Place the container of coffee in the fridge overnight. This is the “brewing” part of the process—no boiling water included—and needs this much time!

Strain: To make the iced coffee concentrate, take a coffee filter or French press to strain the coffee. This removes the grounds.

Just add water! The coffee just brewed will be super concentrated, so add water depending on how strong you like it (the standard is about 1 part coffee to three parts water). Add ice, and drink up!

 

This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on September 15, 2015