Staycation in San Francisco

I love booking airline tickets. But I also enjoy exploring my neighborhood and staying local. Thanksgiving weekend was a perfect opportunity to explore San Francisco. It’s an hour drive from my home in San Jose — local but away from home. In my eight years in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve been to the “city” countless times and frequently stayed at the W San Francisco hotel on Third Street. This time, we wanted to do something different. Be away from the busy Union Square area. We decided to explore Japantown, a lovely Japanese neighborhood in the heart of San Francisco.

Chip Conley, the author of Peak and founder of Joie de Vivre hospitality was my inspiration in identifying Hotel Kabuki for our 30-hour visit to the city. I made reservations online, through the hotel website directly. Booking directly also offers flexibility with reservations changes and additional perks that you would miss out by booking through a third party. You can check-in 24-hours prior to your arrival (just like you do with the airlines) and make special requests such as higher floor or best view room requests. We arrived at the hotel a little before noon and were able to check-in early. Along with our room keys, we also received complimentary day passes to the Kabuki Springs and Spa (more on this later). Our king room was nothing out of the ordinary but was clean with cute Japanese decor. The room was also equipped with a Keurig coffee machine and Japanese bath.

Shortly after check-in, we decided to hop on our road bikes to explore the city. My friends and I had never ridden our bikes on the Golden Gate bridge, so we thought, it would be fun to ride on it. We wanted our bike ride to be long (10+ miles), flat for the most part and scenic. We drove to the Ferry Building and parked our car nearby. San Francisco weather was cooperating with us with just the right amount of sunshine needed to make the ride pleasurable. The bike route from the Ferry Building to the Golden Gate bridge is well marked, scenic and fairly flat. We passed by Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, Fort Mason and the marina lined with magnificent homes. Bikes and pedestrians have access to opposite sides of the bridge. The separation made a huge difference in our riding experience as we did not have to worry about bumping into pedestrains.

On our ride back, we stopped by Delarosa, an Italian restaurant on Chestnut Avenue near Fort Mason. They have excellent thin crust pizza and a wide selection of beverages. However we found their pasta portion sizes fairly small. You can sit outside under the toasty heaters and park your bikes next to your table. Chestnut Avenue is dotted with many restaurants, so it is worth exploring other options.

After our late lunch, we hopped back on bikes and headed towards Ferry Building. During the winter months, it does get dark early and the air is chilly. Even with our clothing layers and gloves, we were cold. Be sure to equip you bike with front and rear lights. Our 16.5 mile ride felt amazing and women were now ready to soak in at the Kabuki Spa and Springs, located two blocks away from Hotel Kabuki. The spa has separate days for men and women with only one day a week being coed.

For dinner, we looked no further than accross the street from our hotel — Waraku, a ramen dining spot that is affordable with delicious food. As vegetarians, were skpetical about our options. To our surprise, they brought us a couple of delcious salads, edamame, fried tofu and more. Our non-vegetarian friends devoured the ramen noodles. The restaurant is fairly busy, so be prepared to wait in line for 10–30 minutes.

The next morning, we warmed up with a 10 minute walk to The Grove on Fillmore Street for breakfast. Service was friendly and quick. You order at the kiosk and then find a table to be seated. There was a line when we got there but it moved quickly. I highly recommend trying their coffee. After our healthy and filling breakfast, we decided to spend more time walking in the neighborhood and stopped by one of my favorite independent bookstores — Browser Books Publishing. Their collection is highly curated, especially fiction and biography sections. If you enjoy aquariums and fishes, do stop by the Aqua Forest Aquarium for a peek. Their selection and quality of products is impressive.

Next, my friend and I headed to the Kabuki Spa and Springs as the spa was open to men only. The check-in process was straighforward. We handed our drivers license and in return were handed locker keys to store our belongings and two towels. The communal bath is as close as it can get to the Japanese onsen i.e. hot springs. Our first stop was the sauna room, followed by a plunge in ice-cold water, the hot pool and finally the steam room. Clothing is optional. They serve a variety of tea to keep you hydrated. The spa is truly relaxing and meditative experience. Talking is not permitted.

We were back to our hotel rooms ready to check-out. After loading our bags in our car, we decided to walk to Hayes Valley, a trendy neighborhood located at a 2o minute walk from Japantown. Our first stop was Smitten Icecream where icecream is freezed with liquid nitrogen. If you are in a mood for coffee instead, try the Blue Bottle Coffee on Linden Street that is a block away from Smitten’s. After our ice cream treat, we were ready for a small meal. We stopped by Souvla, a Greek restaurant, for a healthy salad and not-so-healthy Greek fries. The food was delicious and fresh with quick service. Now it was time to start walking towards our car and head to San Jose. But before that, we had to make one last stop to Plentea that serves bubble teas. You won’t be disappointed by your visit. This place does tend to get crowded and parking can be a challenge. Plentea is located in the financial district, so it is best to drive from Japantown or ride an Uber from Hayes Valley.

Overall we were very pleased our staycation experience, especially the Japanese hotel, communal bath and meals. After you get home and if you want to relax your muscles from all the biking and walking, try Soothe, an on-demand massage service. You can also pre-order ready to eat fresh meals from Munchery that is delievered to your doorstep.

Let the adventure begin!

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