The sea lion population at Pier 39 peaks at about 600 animals
in January and February
SAN FRANCISCO TRIP DAY 2: CHINATOWN
The colorful Chinatown district
People love San Francisco for its blending of cultures. And there’s no place in the city where this is more evident than at the entrance to Chinatown. The colorful crossroads of Grant and Bush streets are dominated by the majestic entrance to “Little China.” Yet just across the street is a café that transports you instantly to Paris. Café de la Presse is the best spot for a café au lait and croque monsieur to start your day — you can even buy the paper in English or French.
After indulging, step under the red and green pagodas on Grant Street and into an entirely new world. Instead of streetlights there are Chinese lanterns. Buildings are adorned with signs written both in English and the graceful Chinese alphabet. Teashops, herb pharmacies and vegetable stands line the streets. If you have the time, book a spot with a Wok Wiz public walking tour of the area that includes visits to Buddhist temples, a tea ceremony, an optional dim sum lunch and wealth of local history.
The stylish Absinthe
Next, head over to the beautiful Asian Art Museum near the Civic Center and City Hall (take the street car west along Market Street). The museum houses one of the largest collections of ancient and contemporary Asian art in the Western world, displayed in a world-class building designed by Gae Aulenti. Dress for dinner at Jardinière, Traci Des Jardins's celebrated Art-Deco restaurant near City Hall and the Opera House. If your budget is smaller, reserve a table at the Boxing Room where you’ll feast on elegant favorites from the American South: hushpuppies, po’boys, fried chicken and bourbon ice cream. Just around the corner, Absinthe Brasserie & Bar is known for its roster of vintage cocktails and excellent raw bar.