April 20-21, 2013

Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival

San Francisco's Japantown is home to the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival.  This annual event is held for two weekends during the month of April and can attract nearly 100,000 people at its peak

The Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the largest events for the Japanese American community in San Francisco and gives visitors the experience to visit Japantown with free live stage entertainment on two stages, arts and crafts fair, lots of shopping, learning how to support non-profit organizations, and a huge variety of Japanese and American food fare with a Japanese twist. 

On the last day of the festival is the Cherry Blossom Parade, one of the main attractions of the entire event.  With numerous community organizations and neighborhood groups participating, it is a popular event without the hype of the Chinese New Year Parade.  At the end of the parade is the Taru Mikoshi, a 1,000 pound portable shrine carried by volunteers down the parade route.

Parking is available at the Japantown garage and on the streets, however the main roads into Japantown are closed off for the event.  Public transportation is highly recommended and is served by Muni lines 2, 3, 4, 22, 38, and 38L. 

Here's some tips from a seasoned volunteer of the Cherry Blossom Festival: Street and underground, parking is terrible starting at 9AM and all the way until 6PM during festival days.  You can choose to either park in the area at or before 8AM or take public transportation.  The food booths are a popular choice as all proceeds support the non-profit organizations, but during peak times (lunch and after the parade) is the best time to avoid as wait times at very popular booths can be up to 15 minutes.  It is suggested that you wear good shoes, as the festival has very limited seating at their entertainment stages and food area.

Sunday June 30, 2013

San Francisco Pride (aka The San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Transgender Pride Celebration)

This annual event held over the weekend at the end of June draws crowds of onlookers, gay and straight, not only from across the nation but from all around the world.

Beginning in 1972, this annual parade draws hundreds and thousands of people to celebrate this "colorful" day.  The parade starts with a procession of hundreds of lesbian motorcyclists, aka "Dykes on Bikes", followed by their male counterparts, cyclists, and then numerous colorful floats and marching bands. The parade begins on Market Street (roads will be blocked off so plan your transport accordingly) at around 10:30am, and continues towards 8th street, going on till late afternoon. People will be out all day celebrating, in gaudy and sexy attire, and vendors in and around the Civic Center will be selling food, drinks and souvenirs.

For photographs of this years' festivities, click here

San Francisco Pride

June 30-July 12th, 2013

InterHarmony International Music Festival

The InterHarmony International Music Festival is a perfect, economically satisfying event for travelers and San Franciscans alike. This is the first season of the InterHamony International Music Festival to be held in San Francisco at San Francisco State University. Well-known soloists and chamber players from around the globe gather at the InterHarmony International Music Festival to perform and teach talented young musicians. Concerts are free and open to the public. Classical Music enthusiasts are invited to attend masterclasses and lectures as well.

The concert series includes performances by internationally-renowned cellist Misha Quint and the InterHarmony Festival Orchestra, conducted by Sidney Harth, former L.A. Concertmaster and Conductor.

The San Francisco Festival is just one of three sessions of InterHarmony this year. The other locations are Birklehof, Schwarzwald in Southern Germany in its 3rd year and Sulzbach-Rosenberg in Bavaria, Germany in its 4th year. Be a part of InterHarmony's San Francisco debut. Visit www.interharmony.com or call 415.287.4136 for more information.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Chinese New Year Parade

Dreaming about attending the Chinese New Year Parade?  Why not make that dream come true? 

The parade has its own website ( http://www.chineseparade.com/) where information on the parade route and the purchase of bleacher tickets ($30) can be made.  The parade is visible from the street, but some prefer to be in china town on the bleachers.  Events surrounding the parade are plentiful and offer an insight into the Chinese enclave that still thrives on Grant and Stockton streets.  All information is available on the website.  For greater street viewing, the earlier in the parade path is best.  It also means you can head out to your dinner reservations before the crowds.  Anywhere along Geary should be easy. 

 To make the trip a true adventure one must plan to spend Saturday night in San Francisco.  Hotels along the route are plentiful, but often noisy with revelers going well into the night.  However, parking will be impossible, public transport a nightmare and there is only so far anyone can walk.  Trekking from Fisherman's Wharf is just too far.  Check out the hotels around Moscone or the Financial District.  Remember the Financial District has lovely 4 star hotels that are empty when the neighborhood financiers are closed up over the weekend. 

 San Francisco is very much the city for Hotwire and Priceline on the weekends.  Remember the hotels of the Financial District aren't as far from the heart of the city as they once were.  With the redevelopment of the Embarcadero,the Farmers Market and a safe walk to Union Square, and easy access to BART, the Financial District is where the real deals are.  Remember that parking in San Francisco is EXPENSIVE.  Parking ranges from $25 a day plus taxes to $45.  There is a 24 hour  CITYPARK  on Kearny  that charges $24 a day. 

If you want cheap parking, breakfast and a basic room  with an upfront price- Try www.hotelres.com for the best packages in San Francisco.  For families wishing to keep to budget prices try the Pickwick .   It is very basic and often a hangout for British tourists looking for a deal and not expecting a flashy hotel room.  If you don't need breakfast, The Milano is a better bet.  The Milano is one of the few hotels in San Francisco that has 2 Queen Beds in a room and a spacious room at that.  It is right next door to the Westfield Shopping Mall and has a Boudin (coffee, bakery, sandwiches) across the street.  Both of these hotels average around a $100 plus taxes.  The JW Marriot,  has a current offer of $169 that includes parking on Expedia, but with taxes this goes closer to $200.

 The next step is your dinner reservation for Saturday night.  Plan ahead,  tables will be hard to come by in downtown San Francisco.  You could follow the milleu into China town or look for asian haunts around Union Square.   For  quieter dinner  Scala's in Union Square vicinity offers a menu that allows kids to have pizza or pasta and their parents to dine like adults.     For those staying in the Financial District, San Francisco's reverence for dining is embodied in Belden Place ( http://www.belden-place.com/view/rest...).  A tiny alley off Kearny, Belden Place is San Francisco's "French Quarter". Restaurants like B44 (Catalan), Plouf (French),  etc. regularly rank among San Francisco's best.   The parade starts at 5:30, but allow time for the parade to pass and to make it to your restaurant.  To dine in a  San Francisco institution there is Sam's Grill and Tadiches near by.  Both have menus that haven't changed much in generations, but for those who like their menus to have a heavy dose of meat and potatoes these are tried and true.  Sam's Grill has been open for more than 100 years and is still regularly featured in the local food critics top 100 restaurants. 

The parade is only 2 hours and the weekend is long.  To fill out the weekend try perusing the Farmer's Market, do some Union Square Shopping etc.  Two very cool events for the more adventurous art lovers are the Vivienne Westwood opening at the De Young and the Members events (membership is for those of you who have a reciprocal Art museum membership or those live in the region and care to take out membership to broaden your horizons) associated with the opening of the Picasso as Muse exhibit at MOMA.  This weekends member event includes breakfast and a special tour of the new exhibit.  

gung hay fat choy!

(IF BART is an option remember that for Chinese New Year if tickets are purchased ahead, they are discounted.  For visitors coming by plane, BART is now the easiest way into the city, unless you are a family with children and luggage.  Find a van taxi, or better yet, call ahead to the hotel and ask if they can arrange transportation for a fee. )