Booming tech start-ups, trendy restaurants, and chic boutiques are just some of the things that make San Francisco one of the most modern cities in the world. It's so modern in fact, it’s hard to see anything past its present-day hustle and bustle.
But whether you realize it or not, the city by the bay holds a rich history; one that has sparked eras of social revolution and political opinion. At the center of it all will forever stand one of it's most historical treasures: San Francisco City Hall.
Our concierge team at W San Francisco set out on an exclusive VIP City Hall tour with Beyond the Fog, a local tour and special events company known for their one-of-a-kind experiences. With the help of the company's founder Susan Brown (former Mayor Willie Brown's daughter) and veteran guide Ellen Schumer, our team got a first-hand look at the inner workings of one of the nation’s most iconic of city halls.
We started our tour at the bottom of the main rotunda where artfully designed stairs made of Tennessee pink marble and floor to ceiling limestone walls make for the perfect photo op.
From there we made our way to the second floor Ceremonial Rotunda where over 45 couples get married DAILY (fun fact: this is this is the same place Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe got hitched back in 1954)!
We headed to the Board of Supervisors’ Chamber where San Francisco's top politicians meet every week. We couldn't help but get 18th century vibes from the sight and scent of the oak carved walls covering the chamber top to bottom.
Our guides led us up several sets of spiraling staircases all the way to the very top of the city hall dome. The best part of the tour had to have been seeing up close and personal the 23.5 karat gold leaf finish on the renaissance inspired decor. Equally amazing was the panoramic views of San Francisco’s downtown area and rolling residential hills.
It goes to show that our tour was an experience full of history and old-time charm. Not many have yet ventured to this vintage crown jewel of San Francisco. So whether you’re a first time visitor looking for a unique urban experience or a SF native looking to further explore your hometown, let our concierge team at W San Francisco and the professionals at Beyond the Fog arrange you a one-of-a-kind tour with exclusive VIP access.
BEYOND THE FOG
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Long are the days when we go to museums to...say, learn stuff. If you’re one of the many who has noticed the multicolored specks sprinkling the sidewalks (and even the BART trains) of San Francisco, you know exactly what I’m talking about. After its success in Los Angeles and New York, The Museum of Ice Cream has taken over the City by the Bay.
Because tickets are notoriously hard to snag (we’re talking months in advance if you’re lucky), we’re giving you a look at the museum that has forever changed our Instagram feeds. Save yourself the trouble of scouring Craigslist for overpriced tickets and check out our highlights. If you’re still having FOMO, don’t worry - there are plenty other options for ice cream and the perfect snap.
1. THE BUILDING
Picture this: a historic 107-year old building designed with the Roman Pantheon in mind meets a Millennial Pink wonderland. There might not be much history involved in the Museum of Ice Cream experience, but the setting provides an interesting contrast to the sprinkles and unicorns.
2. SPRINKLE POOL
The Museum of Ice Cream came to San Francisco after its success in Los Angeles and New York. Though each location offers a completely unique design, the sprinkle pool is the one feature that remains the same.
3. THE STATEMENT PIECE
What do you scream for? We said cocktails, cheers to that! Craft your own message in the statement room.
4. UNICORNS AND RAINBOWS
While we’re embracing our obsession for all things bright and photogenic, we might as well get a picture with the unicorn (with ice cream in hand, of course).
5. SWEET SWINGS
There's no more appropriate way to finish our journey through the ice cream wonderland than swinging in a room full of whipped cream.
Let the sugar high begin! I'll be curled up in the corner next to the gummy bears. Do not disturb.
If you followed along in the Twitterverse last week, you know that W Hotels hosted Marie Claire’s second annual The Power Trip. It was hard not to Tweet (or insert your platform of choice) about all the bold and stirring remarks from the likes of Mila Kunis, Taraji P. Henson, Emily Ratajkowski, and Priyanka Chopra.
The Power Trip started in New York City early Monday morning, where 100 of the most influential lady bosses in tech, fashion, and media hopped on a chartered Jet Blue flight to San Francisco for a 36-hour pop-up conference. The East Coast entourage was met at W San Francisco by some of the most powerful names in the industry on West Coast, such as Ty Stiklorius of Friends at Work and Boz Saint John of Uber.
Between conversation of overarching topics such as fighting for fair pay in the workplace, the ability to say no, and how social media might pave the way for gender equality - the panelists addressed topical issues such as #MeToo, Harvey Weinstein and the last charges on their credit card statement.
We all know that Mila Kunis loves her bourbon and Emily Ratajkowski is an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, so we gathered a few fun facts about our favorite women in Hollywood that we learned at The Power Trip.
Mila Kunis's guilty pleasure is The Real Housewives.
We know Mila Kunis is a bourbon fanatic and a proud member of Bachelor Nation (her cameo on Rachel's season of The Bachelorette was everything), but Kunis admits that her latest guilty pleasure is The Real Housewives. "When you're up at two in the morning - pumping, nursing and holding a crying baby - that's what's on TV."
Priyanka Chopra can put her legs behind her head.
Not only did we learn that Priyanka aspired to be a maid as a child, but we were also graced with the fact that her secret talent is being able to put her legs behind her head. "That's a talent you guys!" Enough said.
Emily Ratajkowski is guilty of deleting Instagram photos just to make her grid more visually pleasing.
Emily Ratajkowski, better known as Emrata, spoke on breaking the internet and the role of social media in shaping the future for women. She revealed that she is guilty of deleting photos if it doesn't look right in the layout of her feed - or in laymen's terms "if an old selfie lines up the wrong way with a new selfie."
Conversely, Ratajkowski never deletes comments because censoring is never the right answer. The dialogue in the comments just as important as the photo.
Taraji has a book in the works.
Maybe not in the works, but definitely in the mind's eye. Taraji P. Henson has an amazing story to tell with her role as an African American female in Hollywood. Henson revealed that she loves the word no. "I love the word no, I love when people doubt me. That just adds fuel to the fire."
Henson revealed her favorite word in discussion of her role as Queenie in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, where she was paid a mere fraction of what stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett were making. Henson stuck with the job because she knew that it was eventually going to pay off. "I know that this is just a part of the story that I'm going to put in my book one day. This is going to be a great story to tell. We're going to flip a negative into a positive and change the narrative of our lives as women."
There is so much to explore in Golden Gate Park, you could spend the whole day and still not see it all. Whether you're riding around on Scoot, renting bikes or walking, here are a few Insider-approved stops to amplify your journey.
Hippie Hill earned its name in the 1960s, when it became a well known gathering spot during the Summer of Love. Today, you'll find drum circles, Frisbee throwing, picnics and the best people watching around.
Conservatory of Flowers
The Conservatory of Flowers has to be one of my favorite spots in the city. The greenhouse and botanical garden is full of exotic flowers and plants from around the world. Oh, and bring your cameras. There are many photo ops and lots of Insta-worthy material.
de Young Museum
The de Young Museum brings many world-renowned exhibits to the middle of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Visit during their normal business hours or after-hours for Friday Nights at the de Young.
Japanese Tea Garden
The Japanese Tea Garden is another one of my favorite gems in Golden Gate Park. The garden will transport you to a village in Japan, where you can enjoy the natural calming beauty of the surrounding nature. With many native Japanese plants, koi ponds, and stepping stone paths, you'll leave feeling fresh and renewed.
Strawberry Hills offers panoramic views of the city, but the hike to the top will make you work for it. Walk around Stow Lake or make the trek up to the top - either way, the views are stunning.
If you're feeling adventurous after your tour of Golden Gate Park, head to Sutro Baths at the far Western edge of the city.
Marnee Thai and Nopalito
I'm sure you will have worked up an appetite after your Scoot journey in Golden Gate Park, so stop at Marnee Thai or Nopalito for a bite to eat.
ELECTRIFY YOUR STAY AT W SAN FRANCISCO
For a limited time, enjoy a Scoot day pass for two included with your room at W San Francisco. Turn on excitement as you explore San Francisco by electric scooter. Ignite your weekend adventures with:
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There are many ways to get around San Francisco: the famous Cable Cars, bicycle, Uber, or even segways in Golden Gate Park. And if you've spent any time in the tech bubble, I'm sure you've witnessed the revival of Razor scooters or those self-balancing unicycles. Yes, that is a real thing (only in San Francisco).
Before the revival of Razor scooters, the electric scooter was the transportation method of choice in San Francisco. They make it easy to zip around the hills of the city, park in those tiny places that cars won't fit, and are simply a fun and exhilarating way to explore the town. Not to mention the many environmental benefits of driving an electric vehicle.
Here's where Scoot comes in, an urban mobility service featuring a scooter-share network across San Francisco. "Scoots are shared, electric, smartphone-activated motor-scooters you can ride in the city. If you can drive a car and ride a bike, you can scoot!" (Scoot)
The process of signing up, learning to ride, and hitting the streets is very simple and user-friendly. Let me break it down.
Here's how it works:
Once you have completed this process, I recommend exploring a flat area with less traffic, especially if you have never ridden an electric scooter before. We chose to ride around Golden Gate Park since there are not as many cars and TONS to explore. For other starter rides, see Scoot's suggestions here.
For a day in Golden Gate Park, reserve a Scoot at 12th and Judah or the UCSF Parnassus Garage. Reserving a Scoot at one of the garages ensures that you will receive a scooter that has more charge and a further range. Once you get to your Scoot, dock your phone in the waterproof dash and follow my Insider Guide to check out some of my favorite spots.
Electrify Your Stay at W San Francisco
For a limited time, enjoy a Scoot day pass for two included with your room at W San Francisco. Turn on excitement as you explore San Francisco by electric scooter. Ignite your weekend adventures with:
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Whether you choose to Netflix and chill all day long (no judgment) or drink bubbly in Dolores Park, San Francisco has much to choose from to energize your Sunday. Follow my Insider Guide for the best Sunday activities before the weekend comes to an end.
THE PHOENIX HOTEL POOLSIDE PARTIES
Cross your fingers for a sunny Sunday in San Francisco and head to the poolside party series at the funky Phoenix Hotel. Located in the heart of the Tenderloin, The Phoenix is known for its retro decor and 1950's inspired architecture and design. Grab your Polaroid cameras - there will be no shortage of photo ops!
Bastid's BBQ with Just Blaze, Skratch Bastid, Cosmo Baker
The Skinny Dip with Hayden James and Jacklndn
Summertime Radness: The Magician Poolside
Mighty Real Annual Pride Poolside Party
The Phoenix Hotel
601 Eddy Street
TREASURE ISLAND FLEA MARKET
Escape the city for the Treasure Island Flea on the last weekend of every month. Make it a Sunday Funday and take advantage of the 3 full bars, featuring a variety of local wines, craft beers, and seasonal cocktails. With over 25 food trucks and over 400 local artists and makers, there's always something new to discover.
Insider Tip: Treasure Island Flea is a great place to find unique gifts and souvenirs. Think locally made jewelry, handmade cards, and artisan foods.
Treasure Island Flea
Last weekend of every month
OFF THE GRID: PRESIDIO PICNIC
Grab your picnic blanket and head to the Main Parade Ground in the Presidio for the best selection of the Bay's food truck scene.
Insider Tip: Make it a day and walk the Presidio's 24-mile long trail network after lunch. Don't forget to stop at the many art installations from Andy Goldsworthy. My favorite is the Wood Line.
Main Parade Ground
Every Sunday through October 2017
11AM - 4PM
MISSION DOLORES PARK
When in San Francisco, do as the San Franciscans do. On a sunny day, the locals flock to Dolores for a relaxing day in the park. Grab snacks (and maybe a few adult beverages) from Bi-Rite Market or a sandwich from Dolores Park Cafe to make it a picnic. Oh, and the people watching is exceptional!
566 Dolores Street
CURED SUNDAYS AT JONES
HUSHconcerts is partnering with 620 Jones for a weekly HUSHcast silent disco. Featuring 3 dueling channels of silent disco stations on Jones' infamous outdoor patio, the event will celebrate the tastemakers who will curate each station with their own diverse style and flair.
Insider Tip: Reserve your headphones in advance for $11 or get them on site for $15.
620 Jones Street
Starting at 2PM
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Think you've seen all San Francisco has to offer? Think again. You've never seen the City by the Bay in its entirety until you've seen it from above.
The W concierge team may know the streets of the city like the back of their hand, but there's nothing like a bird's eye view of those iconic San Francisco hills. We hopped in one of SF Helicopter's choppers and let their pilots show us the city from their perspective.
We took off from the San Francisco airport, swept past Twin Peaks and headed toward Golden Gate Park. The three mile expanse sure does occupy a lot of real estate in this city!
From Golden Gate Park, we headed toward the Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge. The pilot swooped underneath the bridge for an incredible view (it felt more like a nosedive - and yes I screamed). I mean, how many people can say they've been underneath the Golden Gate? #onceinalifetime
From the Golden Gate, we headed toward Alcatraz and the Bay Bridge. We floated over downtown San Francisco - spotting iconic buildings like the Transamerica Pyramid, the Salesforce Tower (set to become the tallest building in our skyline) and of course W San Francisco.
From downtown, our pilot took us to the ATT Stadium. This view is gold for both Giants fans and Kimye superfans (that proposal though)!
Our concierge team has exclusive access to unique San Francisco happenings. If you're looking to see the city from a different perspective, just let us know and we will customize your experience. Whatever/whenever.
SAN FRANCISCO FROM ABOVE
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Skip the touristy Fisherman's Wharf and mingle with the locals at Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center. This outdoor night market is back for another season of indulgence, music, and craft cocktails. This is a must-try experience for first time visitors and adventurous foodies.
Fort Mason Center is just one of the places where you can find this roaming food truck extravaganza. Founded on the idea of bringing communities together through shared food experiences, Off the Grid currently hosts over 50 weekly public markets throughout the Bay Area.
Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center offers top tier vendors every Friday evening from 5 - 10 PM. Sample a mix of San Francisco staples (think pizza from A16), up-and-coming food entrepreneurs (visit Instrucktional to preview the future chefs of our city), and pop-ups from SF favorites (including Tai Chi Jianbing from the Inner Sunset).
To complete the experience, Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center will feature live DJs from 5 - 7:30 PM and live bands from 8 - 10 PM. After you get your fill, you'll be ready for your Friday night on the town. Need recommendations for bars or lounges? Just let me know.
Insider Tip: Once the sun sets, you'll want to be sure you have plenty of layers. The Bay offers amazing views, but the winds are no joke.
Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center
Every Friday from March 3, 2017 through the end of October
5 PM - 10 PM
For a sneak peak at another Off the Grid event, take a look at my Insider video. Presidio Picnic will be back for its fifth season on Sunday, March 19th.
In honor of National Random Acts of Kindness Week, we’re throwing it all the way back to December 2016 (ok, so only a few weeks ago) when we paraded around San Francisco sprinkling kindness everywhere we could. 2016 was a tough year. Even the New York Times recognized 2016 as one of the worst years yet, so we couldn’t think of a better time to take to the streets of Soma with kindness on our mind.
Four ladies, five hundred dollars, seven destinations in mind and one light up headband (totally necessary). Our one goal was to spread happiness through completely random acts of kindness. Our first stop was Starbucks, where they likely know W Talent by name. This time, we weren’t here to fuel our coffee addictions, but to surprise a few customers in line with a coffee on the W.
Our second stop was The Grove, another establishment where W Talent have become familiar faces. We talked to the cashiers ahead of time, handed over the credit card and told them that we would like to pay for the next person in line’s lunch. We waited for the right moment, and in walked a dad with his 6-year-old daughter. When the cashier explained that the W Hotel wanted to pay for their lunches, he immediately turned to us and said that he could not accept the gesture. He would rather us pay it forward to someone that needed it more than they did. He explained all of this to his 6-year-old daughter who learned a valuable lesson on this day. The sandwich we bought went to someone on the streets in Union Square.
Next, we hit Philz Coffee (that Mint Mojito Iced Coffee though...), where we attempted to start a chain of kindness. We purchased six coffees and encouraged the recipients to pay it forward to the next person in line.
From Philz, we headed to the Union Square Ice Skating Rink where we purchased a family’s tickets to ice skate. They were shocked and confused by the gesture but eventually came to terms with accepting the act of kindness.
One of the highlights of my day was our stop at Winter Walk, where children rode around on motorized stuffed animals. The inner-child in me really came out – I just HAD to try these scooters out for myself!
After some quality control, we bought four tickets for children to ride the scooters. The kids were just excited to get on these life-sized stuffed animals, but the random acts really resonated with the parents. We received big hugs, lots of laughs, and priceless moments watching the little ones romp around Winter Walk.
Then we hit the BART station (the Bay Area subway system) as rush hour was approaching, where we purchased tickets for eight lucky riders.
Our last stop was the AMC Movie Theater in the Metreon, where we met a group of 5 friends all seeing a movie together. We paid for their movie tickets and sent them off to enjoy the flick and their buttery popcorn.
Taking part in WISH was one of the highlights of my holiday season. There's something about not only giving back but getting to see the reactions of those that were touched by these acts of kindness.
My favorite reaction was watching others become inspired by our acts of kindness. WISH is testament that generosity is truly contagious, so we want to continue making the world a happier place during National Random Acts of Kindness Week. It all starts with one act - one smile, one coffee for a stranger, one favor for a friend.
We're passing on the torch - what will you do this week to make the world a better place than you found it? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and tag #RAKWeek2017 and @WSanFrancisco. Win brunch for two in our restaurant TRACE by submitting the most creative random act of kindness. Ready, set, go!
Tequila aficionado, traveler, explorer, and artist are only a few of the things that define Annamarie Pabst. Annamarie started working at W San Francisco in fall of 2011 as a Cocktail Server in the Living Room Bar. Serving drinks by night (very delicious drinks, I might add) and painting by day, Annamarie has fused many of her interests to build a portfolio of inspiring work over the years.
It all started back in St. Paul, Minnesota where Annamarie grew up. From there, she went on to study in Portland, Oregon, then spent a semester abroad in Kenya and Tanzania, and most recently lived in Vietnam for a year teaching English to primary school children. All of this before she landed in San Francisco! Are you getting wanderlust yet?
Her travels around the world and in our very own city of San Francisco have been a source of inspiration for Annamarie’s art. We played 21 questions to find out what inspires her to create, her go-to karaoke song, and how she navigates life as an artist in San Francisco.
Of all the amazing places to which you have traveled, do you have a favorite?
I got to see the Northern Lights on a backpacking trip in Western Canada. I’ll never forget that. I was also fortunate to study abroad in Kenya and Tanzania for a semester in college. Before moving to San Francisco, I spent a year in Vietnam teaching English.
Have you drawn inspiration from your travels for your art?
While I was studying in Vietnam, I took a trip to Cambodia that inspired my series of charcoal drawings S-21 Prison Series. I visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh where the walls are lined with mugshots of some of the victims of Khmer Rouge. This experience stuck with me well beyond my time in Vietnam and Cambodia. I didn’t begin my series of charcoal portraits until 2012, which took three years to complete.
You’ve been around the world, but what are some of your favorite things about your home in San Francisco?
San Francisco is packed with gorgeous parks, beaches, and stunning views. Lafayette Park, the Presidio, and Crissy Field to name a few. I love walking around in North Beach and drinking at ancient establishments such as House of Shields or Vesuvio.
How does San Francisco inspire your art?
Inspiration and ideas formulate in bits and pieces over time. Literature, movies, travel, people I know, music, illustrations, wilderness, architecture, all of these things can contribute to envisioning a painting. Caravaggio’s work inspires me, as well as movies directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.
Favorite restaurant in San Francisco?
Any guilty pleasures?
Cheese. It’s the best.
Drink of choice?
Favorite cocktail at W San Francisco?
The R&R. It's a Manhattan that tastes like root beer. So you get to feel like a grown-up and a kid at the same time.
Go-to karaoke song?
In my imaginary life, it’s “When You Were Mine” by Cindy Lauper
Annamarie’s S-21 Portrait Series will be on display at the Roll Up Gallery at Public Works from February 10 – March 10. Celebrate the opening of this exhibit this Friday, February 10th from 6 – 9 PM.
Opening Friday, February 10th, 2017
6 – 9 PM
Roll Up Gallery
161 Erie Street
The W San Francisco team is full of talent and inspiration. Read more about our talent and contributors here.