If you live in San Francisco you may try to avoid tourist-filled areas (kind of like how New Yorkers avoid Times Square). Maybe you think you’ve been there, done that. But think again, especially in regards to iconic places like Ghirardelli Square. This former home of the famous chocolate-making factory has updated its retail and dining options, so the choices just might surprise you! So whether you’re a local or a tourist, head to the Square and take advantage of all this historic complex has to offer.
If you’re aiming for an action-packed day, start out the Square at Pico where you can fuel up on huevos rancheros and coffee, then rent a bike at Unlimited Biking to tool around town. Feeling ambitious? Head over the Golden Gate Bridge and pedal up Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands to take in the gorgeous views of the bay and the bridge. Keep in mind, Unlimited offers both standard and electric bikes — the latter might come in handy if you haven’t biked in a while! Back in the Square, settle in by the outdoor fire pit with a well-earned craft beer and grass-fed beef burger at the San Francisco Brewing Co.
Perhaps you had more of a leisurely afternoon in mind — a stroll with a little shopping thrown in. Ghirardelli Square is ideal for that as well. Start out with walk at nearby Crissy Field, the former airfield turned waterfront park, with awesome water views. Once you make your way over the hill and into the Square, treat yourself to lunch in the cafe at The Cheese School (which also has gorgeous vistas, by the way). Order a crock of French onion soup and a cheese board or one of the gourmet sandwiches, such as braised pork with smoked provolone. Afterward, hit Lola boutique to buy humorous greeting cards, San Francisco-themed socks, and adorable onesies and YAP for a few chew toys and treats for your pooch.
Don’t let rain or Karl the Fog ruin your day, especially when there are plenty of indoor activities to keep you busy. A round of mini golf at Subpar, where all 18 holes are modeled after San Francisco attractions (Lombard Street, The Painted Ladies, etc.), is always a good time (loser has to buy snacks like tater tots and mini corn dogs!). Afterward, head to GamedayVR to dive into the world of Virtual Reality games. At Succulence you can build your own terrarium at the planting bar, then you’ll be more than ready for dinner. At The Pub, dig into finger-lickin’ hickory-smoked bbq ribs and brisket, along with sides like mac ‘n cheese.
Finally, foodies from everywhere will have a field day at Ghirardelli Square. At VomFass, wander amid the specialty balsamic vinegars and extra virgin olive oils, while at Wattle Creek Winery’s tasting room, you can do a tasting of Sonoma wines or buy wines by the glass. Lunch on fresh seafood like oysters and cedar-plank roasted sturgeon at McCormick & Kuleto’s (another spot with killer water views). After a walk around Aquatic Park, it’s time for delicious dumplings and pork buns at Palette Tea House. And if you still have room for chocolate (of course you do!), head to where it all started, Ghirardelli’s, for a super rich hot fudge sundae! Don’t worry, the diet starts tomorrow.
Photography by: Ghirardelli Square