Erica Sandberg has been a passionate San Francisco resident for over thirty years. She ism a consumer finance reporter and had a City Brights column in SFGate (the Chronicles online edition). She is a regular on KRON-4 news, am a community advocate focusing on crime and safety issues. Sandberg is also a SFPD Auxiliary Law Enforcement Team member.
What are three words you like to use when describing SF to visitors?
Gorgeous, authentic, challenging
Which hotels do you recommend staying at? Why?
I always suggest the Fairmont on Nob Hill. The views are incredible, it has opulent old San Francisco charm, and it’s right on the cable car line. The Tonga Room is downstairs, but if you can’t get in, the Top of the Mark is right next door! And if you can finagle a visit to the penthouse, do it!
Best time of year to visit?
September through December. The weather is almost always perfect. The Christmas season here is really special – the financial district is especially amazing because they do the decorations up right.
What are your favorite outdoor and indoor activities?
Outdoor: Long walks. Even with the crazy hills this is an incredibly walkable city. You can pass through several different neighborhoods within an hour, and each is distinct.
Indoor: Eating and drinking, of course!
What is your favorite street? Why?
I’m partial to Hyde Street, and not just because I live on it. The street is very long, extending from Fisherman’s Wharf to Market Street. The cable car runs on much of it, and the hills are seriously steep. If you start at the Fisherman’s Wharf end and go down, you’ll see it all. Incredible restaurants. lovely places to have a drink or snack, and Lombard Street (the crooked street.” As you go down toward (and through) the Tenderloin and Civic Center it gets really gritty. Make no mistake, SF has it’s problems, but I think it’s valuable to know what they are. And it takes you to City Hall and the Asian Art Museum, both of which are architectural marvels.
What are your favorite annual festivals and celebrations?
I love the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown, and the Moon Festival in Chinatown. And do not miss the San Francisco Ballet. It is world class, and the Nutcracker is especially wonderful.
What are your safety tips?
Wear comfortable shoes when walking and take breaks. More than one person has told me they got shin splints from walking up and down the hills.
I don’t dissuade people from going to the rough parts of town – just be mentally prepared. Sadly, drug sales and usage is rampant and it can be highly disturbing. A lot of the downtown areas are really tough. Be careful.
Look out for pickpockets!! When buying Muni and BART tickets, do not let someone “help” you make a purchase. and if you’re driving, don’t leave anything in the car — not even an empty paper bag. trust me.
Your top three shops to visit.
- Not so much a shop, but a shopping destination – the Ferry Building farmers market. Delicious and stunning.
- Britex fabrics in Union Square. I don’t even sew and go just to see the wild array of fabric and ribbons, all in one of the city’s most historic buildings.
- Molte Cose on Polk Street is great for unique clothes and accessories. It’s been there for ages and the stylish owner will help you pick out something amazing, but she’s never overbearing.
Which souvenirs should visitors purchase? From where?
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art store is filled with countless cool things. The Cliff House store carries vintage photos of SF, for really good prices. I also love Chinatown and you can get all kinds of stuff, like keychains with knives embedded in them.
Describe your perfect day in SF.
Get ready for an extremely long stroll! I’d start early and grab some pastries from Arsicault Bakery. Eat them at the Sutro baths, then hike around the ruins. Maybe go to Lands End too. Head down to the Legion of Honor museum and if there’s something interesting happening I’ll go in. Keep walking ‘till I get to Clement Street, and have lunch in one of the Chinese restaurants. Walk all the way down to Nob Hill and rest for a short time. Change into nice clothes, then go to Union Square for a drink at La Colonial. Dinner at Sams Grill. take the cable car back home and collapse!