By Mary Charlebois
What do you think of when you imagine San Francisco? Foghorns rumbling? Cable car bells clanging? Ships from foreign ports passing under the Golden Gate? Maybe seabird calls, seals barking, or the ring of mast lines in a marina. San Francisco has its own soundtrack, complete with stunning scenery, outstanding food, vibrant culture, and crazy traffic.
This hilly city can be a challenge to drive. Streets are congested, limited parking is expensive. When in the city with a car, park it and forget it. Opt-in for a no-drive weekend.
Cow Hollow is a small neighborhood bordered to the north by San Francisco Bay and to the west by historic Presidio. It’s compact and walker-friendly. At the intersection of two MUNI lines, it’s a quiet residential district. Cow Hollow is filled with off-the-beaten-path destinations, accommodations, eateries, and boutique shopping.
“Any day is a good day to shop; any night is a good night to party.” Or so the Cow Hollow residents will tell you. It’s a beehive of shops, restaurants, and bars. Menus cover every palette and budget. Dining possibilities range from grab-and-go delis to 4-star. Cow Hollow happy hours are notorious. Mimosa filled Sunday brunches are a guarded tradition.
COW HOLLOW ESP (eat-sleep-play)
Sail at sunset or greet the bay at sunrise. Explore an urban temple or stroll a secret beach. An organ powered by waves performs at high tide. Have a long, lazy lunch at a sidewalk café, or picnic by the yacht harbor. Savor dinner in a laidback bistro, or roam Fillmore at Greenwich for buzzy nightlife.
Any place you drop into for food and beverage will be a treat. It’s hard to go wrong. Here is a selection of my favorites for happy hour and brunch.
Eastside West for mac & cheese balls you’ll never forget. Find them on the corner of Fillmore & Greenwich. The scene turns to disco and comedy after 9 PM.
Stock in Trade is on Lombard near Filmore. Try a pulled-pork slider with deviled eggs. The grilled cheese is exceptional. Full service bar with brilliant mixologist, and indoor bocce ball keep things lively.
Head to San Francisco icon, Perry’s, for anything on the menu. Everything is made in-house, including burger buns and chips. The best service and quality ingredients from soup to steaks. Indoor and outside seating. Sit at the bar to eat, drink and chat with locals. Perry’s is at 1944 Union.
Cow Hollow lodging has one of the best-kept secrets in the city – free parking with your room at several locations.
Find friendly staff, spotless rooms, Tempur-Pedic mattresses, choice linens, safe and secure property, and free parking at Coventry Inn, Cow Hollow Inn, Lombard Inn, Cow Hollow Suites, and Chelsea Inn.
These sister properties have the same exceptional operating standards and décor. Rates are competitive, especially in winter. Complimentary parking is provided in off-street secure garages.
Cow Hollow has shopping of the very best kind—small and unique, friendly and uncrowded. Stroll Union Street, drifting in and out of shops. Find boutiques specializing in things from useful to bazaar. Shops for people, dogs, décor, grooming, and fashion.
The last spring – The Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin, protects the last spring in Cow Hollow. One hundred years ago, the area was pastureland filled with springs. Dairies flourished here providing San Franciscans’ their daily milk and cheese.
Inside the church’s courtyard, a cobalt blue and gold tiled fountain and pool are spring-fed. Lovely frescos depict the life of St. Mary. The spring is located at the corner of Steiner and Union.
Painted Lady is a name coined for the ornately painted Victorian houses you find in San Francisco. The Cow Hollow District has a higher concentration than most neighborhoods. This area was spared some of the devastation caused by the 1906 earthquake. Walk up the side streets off Union, and you will find beautifully maintained homes built between 1849 and 1915.
The Palace of Fine Art lagoons, gardens and grounds are home to songbirds, waterfowl, and visiting seabirds. The tranquil setting is perfect for picnics, photos, strolling, or just lazing about on the grass. Check the website for some of San Francisco’s finest performances of music, dance, and drama.
Explore the Marina – Stroll Marina Boulevard where boat lines ping against masts, ships sound horns in the bay. Seabirds and songbirds add their soundtrack to this peaceful, unhurried neighborhood.
Marina Photo Ops – You can stand directly on the edge of the bay, a rare experience in the city. Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay form a panoramic backdrop and matchless photo ops. The unbroken view across the bay is unlike any other in San Francisco. From the bay side location, you have a completely unobstructed picture of Golden Gate bridge’s entire span. This shot with nothing but water between you and the bridge is worth the walk to its location.
San Francisco’s skyline has many faces. With your back to the bay, looking toward the city, you have an unobstructed view of the San Francisco hills and architecture. This shot is breathtaking in any type of weather, but sunrise or sunset will sometimes cause windows to glow gold or red.
Picnic – Buy fixings at Marina Supermarket on Chestnut Street. Take your bounty to Palace of Fine Arts or Marina Boulevard for an al fresco meal. Marina Green is a long swath of lawn used by sports teams of all ages. On most days, locals use this lovely area for picnics, recreation, and exercise.
The Wave Organ is an eclectic San Francisco attraction. An acoustic sculpture, it’s a series of cement tubes with one end in the water and the other at listening height. At high tide, you hear the sound made by water rushing in and out of the tubes. It works much the same way as a pump organ, only with water instead of air. The views here are spectacular.
Level and paved, San Francisco Bay Trail runs along San Francisco Bay and passes through the marina. It’s used by walkers, joggers, and cyclists, but is rarely crowded.
Cow Hollow is filled with unforgettable scenery, history, good eats, lively libations, entertainment, and leisurely shopping. Cow Hollow is authentic San Francisco; an ideal no-drive zone, and perfect for a weekend escape.