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Leaving My Heart in San Francisco

A smart, beautiful, and unique city with great weather all year round

San Francisco has it all. The Exploratorium, the Aquarium of the Bay, the Wax Museum, Alcatraz Island, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art are just a few of the perennial favorites. The California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park is a new addition to the must-see list.

Once you've been spooked by the ghosts of Alcatraz and dazzled by the Academy of Sciences, stick around to explore more of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, one of the most visited national parks in the country. View the mighty Pacific from the Muir Beach Overlook. Wander beneath the towering redwoods in the Muir Woods National Monument. Hike the walkway to the Point Reyes Lighthouse.

Back in the city, check out the largest Chinatown in the Western Hemisphere. Take a tour or just wander the many shops that line Grant Avenue and Stockton Street. In Portsmouth Square watch the poetry in motion that is tai chi. Visit a Buddhist temple and consult with an herbalist. A two-hour tour without lunch is $30 for adults and $20 for kids. A three-hour tour, including dim sum costs $45 for adults and $35 for kids. Children under 6 come are free.

Whenever a city lays claim to a special food, sampling it is a rule. In Chicago, it's deep dish pizza. In Boston it's chowder. In San Francisco, it's sourdough bread. At the Boudin Museum and Demonstration Bakery, learn the science and taste the bread. In season, you can join the bakers for a breakfast of warm pastries, coffee and juice every Thursday and Friday at $6 for adults and $3 for children.

Hollywood has done its share to woo us to San Francisco. Before a long afternoon of hiking the hills of the city, head to Pier 43.5 at Fisherman's Wharf to catch a motorized movie tour of San Francisco. See the sights of the city while viewing clips of such famous San Francisco films as American Graffiti, Milk, and 48 Hours. You'll stop at Fort Point where Kim Novak leapt into the water in Hitchcock's Vertigo. The three-hour tour costs $47 for adults, $37 for seniors and children. Children under 5 are free.

Where to Eat

This is a food city so it's no surprise Travel & Leisure Magazine's list of the 50 best new U.S. restaurants for 2009, including eight from San Francisco.

Sentinel, at 37 New Montgomery Street, sells sandwiches to rave reviews. Try Yellowfin tuna with avocado or pink and juicy roast beef with horseradish cream, all on fresh house-made breads The place is tiny so diners cross the street to the food court of the Crocker Galleria to unwrap and enjoy. Brenda's French Soul Food ,652 Polk Street, serves breakfast and lunch with a New Orleans twist. Breakfast on stuffed beignets, or lunch on Creole gumbo. Most menu items are under $10.

Dynamo Donuts and Coffee at 2760 24th Street in the Mission District also made the 50 Best list. Why settle for a McMuffin when you can bite into a frosted doughnut sprinkled with bits of applewood smoked bacon? If you're ready for a splurge, check out the spectacular bayside terrace at Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio's La Mer at Pier 1.5 in the Embarcadero. Try the Cebiche tasting menu. If you need to keep an eye on the tab, know that the burgers and the rest of the reasonably priced bar menu are available even in the dining room.

Where to Sleep

What address could sound more San Franciscan than One Nob Hill? That's where you'll find the Mark Hopkins, a true city landmark. It perches atop the hill near the intersection of three cable car lines and is also walking distance to Union Square and Chinatown. Rack rates start at about $200. Don't leave without choosing something from the 100 Martini Menu at the famous Top of the Mark sky bar on the 19th floor.

How to Save More

If your plans keep you on the move to lots of attractions, consider buying a seven-day City Pass for unlimited cable car rides as well as entry to the Aquarium, the Museum of Modern Art, the Exploratorium, the Academy of Sciences, and a Blue and Gold Fleet Bay Cruise. The price: $59 for adults and $39 for children.