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The Perfect Guide To San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square

Chocolate lovers, unite! At Ghirardelli Square, you can take a whiff of rich, world-class chocolate while enjoying the perfectly salty breeze of the San Francisco Bay. Peruse the old factory and its surrounding shops, and get classy with a wine tasting at Wattle Creek Winery. With seven-day citywide transportation included in your San Francisco CityPASS and a trolley stop conveniently located right in front of Ghirardelli Square, there is no reason to pass up this sweet slice of history.

Why Is It A Must See?

Ghirardelli Square isn’t just a place to eat some delicious, high-quality chocolate; it’s a place to explore American history—the chocolate way. Established in 1852, chocolatier Domingo Ghirardelli moved his company to four different locations before settling on North Point Street, or what is now known as Ghirardelli Square. Although the original factory was sold and transferred elsewhere in the 1960s, a group of San Franciscans who were eager to preserve the historic factory purchased the property and made the square what it is today—a fabulous hodgepodge of great restaurants, one-of-a-kind shops, and mouth-watering chocolate.

The Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop in the Clock Tower building pays homage to the original factory by giving visitors like you a first-hand view of chocolate manufacturing equipment. After you enjoy creamy, San Francisco-themed sundaes such as “The Ocean Beach Sea Salt Caramel Sundae” or “The Golden Gate Banana Split”, don’t forget to read the placards around the square—they tell the story of the factory, how it came to be, and its importance in San Francisco history. It’s not everyday you have an excuse to eat chocolate at 9am, but when you’re in Ghirardelli Square, the enticing smells and rich history are reason enough to satisfy your sweet tooth all day long.

Even if you’re not much of a chocolate lover, there are plenty of wonderful restaurants in the square that can sate any appetite. Step back in time at Lori’s Diner—a ‘50s themed restaurant where you can get a classic Coca-Cola and an all-American burger and jam out to some good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll. Savor the taste of seasonal seafood or a 13 oz. Ribeye Steak at McCormick & Kuleto’s Seafood and Steaks. After you’ve filled up, you can work off your meal by exploring the unique boutiques that make Ghirardelli Square a wonderful place to shop.

Getting There

San Francisco’s Muni system is as diverse as the city itself. With 800 buses, 200 streetcars, and 40 cable cars running through the veins of San Francisco, there is simply no place you can’t get to. On a Muni bus, you can hop off at a stop right on North Point and head right in, or you can take the Powell-Mason cable car line and walk about a block from the Beach and Hyde cable car stop to make your way to the entrance. It’s worthwhile to take advantage of the seven-day muni pass with a CityPASS booklet—taxi expenses add up rather quickly.

Nearby Goodies

Not only is Ghirardelli Square a treat on its own, it’s also close to some of San Francisco’s other must-see attractions.

Fisherman’s Wharf is a crazy-popular tourist attraction and rightfully so. From Ghirardelli Square, take a short walk to Fisherman’s Wharf and the famous Pier 39, where you can learn about the ins and outs of the fishing industry and enjoy some fresh steamed crab from one of the many historic seafood stands. Don’t miss a trip out onto San Francisco Bay with Blue and Gold Fleet Bay Cruise, included in your CityPASS booklet. You’ll sail past the famous Pier 39 sea lions and catch great views of Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the San Francisco Skyline.

From there, see the beauty of the Bay up close and personal at the San Francisco Aquarium of the Bay. Over 20,000 local sea creatures—from sharks to jellies—will give you an oceanic experience unique to San Francisco.

After you’ve had a long day sampling chocolate squares, touching sea stars, and eating delicious San Francisco dishes, you might want to settle in for the night at a nice hotel. For a sea-themed siesta, The Argonaut Hotel of Fisherman’s Wharf is your comfy waterfront stop. Or, if you want to rise and shine and get straight to the chocolate, you might want to book a stay at the Fairmont Heritage Place located right in the heart of Ghirardelli Square. A luxury experience that is just as warming and delicious as the famous Ghirardelli chocolate, Fairmont Heritage Place truly meets the mark of world-class service.

There are plenty of nearby hotels to suit your needs and budget. From the Hyatt and Argonaut to the Holiday Inn, you can customize your Ghirardelli visit however you see fit.

Insider Tips

Before you plan your trip to San Francisco, take a good look at weather forecasts. Although San Francisco does have its sunny summer days, there are bouts of fog and cold that could really put a damper on the outdoor Ghirardelli Square experience and muddy the beautiful Bay view. But even on a rainy day, you can still enjoy a delicious hot chocolate from the Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop.

The spill over from Fisherman’s Wharf means a lot of tourists will be making their way to Ghirardelli Square along with you, but the weekends are by the far the busiest. Avoid the thick crowds by visiting Ghirardelli Square during the weekdays; the earlier in the day, the better. Also, if you’re eager for a world famous Ghirardelli sundae but don’t have the patience to wait in a line, there is a hidden treasure on the 2nd floor—a practically line-less ice cream shop. It’s the same delicious, sweet goodness without the wait.

Don’t Forget to See...

Aside from great food, Ghirardelli Square is home to a handful of interesting boutiques worth visiting for gifts for yourself or loved ones back home.

At ElizabethW, you can find luxury bath & body products, soy candles, and even handcrafted linen drawer liners. Shop the Helpers Bazaar, a charity-driven boutique, and find a unique vintage gift or piece of jewelry to admire.

If you’re looking for a healthy pick-me-up, the recently opened Juice Shop is the hip new place to get a tasty drink. With 12 juices and four elixirs, you can enjoy a fruity smoothie, a seasonal drink, or a blend of nutrient-rich ingredients for a natural source of energy.

Under new ownership, Ghirardelli Square will be revealing some new, delicious restaurants in the near future that will be well worth your appetite. An Italian-influenced restaurant “Brezza Emporio and Pizzeria” will cater to locals and tourists alike. The menu will offer fresh pasta, pizza, and grilled meats. Local favorite Le Marais will be making its way into the Ghirardelli Square for a Marina bakery that will open up in May. The new owners plan to focus on food that is local—so you can get a taste of what it’s like to be a San Francisco native.

Guide to Ghirardelli Square Events

Ghirardelli Square takes part in many wonderful events throughout the year. In May, enjoy great wine, local food, and live music as festivities liven the entire Square and Beach Street. On Independence Day, Ghirardelli Square offers the perfect view of the fireworks as they light up the Bay. Perhaps the most popular Ghirardelli event is the annual Chocolate Festival held every September 10-11. Sample the finest desserts from local companies and get your fill of the always-delicious Ghirardelli chocolate. Live music, ice cream eating contests, and entertainment for adults and kids make this festival an experience worth waiting for.

Whether you’ve been to San Francisco many times before or have yet to see the Golden Gate Bridge in person, Ghirardelli Square is definitely worth visiting. With a CityPASS booklet, you can see any of the included attractions at your own pace and at a great savings in any order you’d like, so you can check out San Francisco’s other awesome attractions (like Ghirardelli Square) in between. Ghirardelli Square is a chocolate wonderland you can’t miss.

New York and San Francisco: Great Honeymoon and Babymoon Destinations

Before that precious bundle of joy arrives in your arms, wouldn't it be nice to get out of town for a little while? A babymoon is a relaxing vacation for parents-to-be to do some one-on-one bonding, and a babymoon in San Francisco or New York might be the romantic getaway you’ve been dreaming of. After all, parenthood is difficult: Sleepless nights, diaper changes, and necessary expenses could imbue you and your spouse with plenty of stress. Before you obtain membership to the tired parents club, why not go all out just one more time, just the two of you?

Or, if you’re newlyweds looking for a thrilling honeymoon, a rendezvous in either of these cities will sate your appetite for romance. Take a walk along the Golden Gate Bridge overlooking the bay, or go on an adventure through the urban enchantment of New York City—either city is an excellent choice for your first adventure together as a married couple.

With CityPASS, you can see the greatest attractions in both cities at a discounted price. Honeymoon or babymoon, San Francisco and New York are the perfect places to celebrate your romantic excursions.

San Francisco: Sweetheart Spots in the City by the Bay

A honeymoon in San Francisco might not be typical, but for a city that is often compared to New York, it’s a mystery as to why that might be. With its exquisite culture, world-class hotels and restaurants, breathtaking views, and historic plazas and architecture, plus the city’s proximity to other romantic areas like Napa Valley and Lake Tahoe, San Francisco is teeming with romance.

With the seven-day Muni pass included in CityPASS, just flash your booklet for access to buses, street cars, trolleys and the historic cable car system that runs through the hilly veins of the city. You won't have any trouble getting from one destination to the next while you enjoy iconic views of San Francisco.

Restored Victorian homes set against elegant skyscrapers are as scenic as the surrounding ocean that brushes the shore. Looking for ultimate relaxation? Head over to Nob Hill Spa for a perfect spa getaway. Pamper yourself with a soothing massage, and enjoy the outdoor sun deck as you bask in the presence of your loved one.

Make your way toward Ghirardelli Square for a decent dose of history, culture, and delicious chocolate. Don’t forget to stop in one of the many boutiques for a unique honeymoon gift. ElizabethW offers spa-quality bath and body products, candles, and fragrances—perfect for unwinding alone in your hotel.

Blue & Gold Cruise

Get ready for the spectacular sites of the San Francisco Bay—the Blue & Gold Fleet offers a one-hour cruise that will take you underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and up and around Alcatraz and Angel Islands. It’s a sweetheart adventure and a splendid opportunity to take memorable photos you can bring back to your friends and family.

At the Garden of Shakespeare’s Flowers in Golden Gate Park, take a romantic walk through the beds of flowers and enjoy time alone with your honey. Explore the wonders of the ocean at one of San Francisco’s premiere aquariums, the Aquarium of the Bay, or head south to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Cuddle close on the cable cars as you head to Crissy Field for a romantic picnic. Or, treat yourselves with a meal at Boulevard, a picturesque dining experience in one of the Bay Area’s many wonderful historic buildings. Enjoy French-inspired dishes like California Sea Bass and relax with a glass of wine from the 500-item wine list.

Remember to add a San Francisco CityPASS to your baby or wedding registry—family members will love being able to provide you with a romantic getaway.

New York City: Destination Romance

Before you’re forced to survive solely on coffee and little rest when the baby arrives, request your New York CityPASS. Take a week to enjoy the City That Never Sleeps before you become the Parents That Never Sleep.

With public transportation aplenty, getting around New York City is virtually no problem for two sweetheart explorers. Shop ‘til you drop on 5th Avenue, pack a picnic and stroll through Central Park, or see the Van Goghs and Monets of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Get a panoramic view of New York City from 70 stories high at the Top of the Rock Observation Deck, and then escape into the world of Broadway with tickets to a show.

Make your way to Liberty and Ellis Islands for an up-close encounter with the Statue of Liberty and a visit to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. The science nerd in you will love the American Museum of Natural History, with an amazing variety of exhibits from dinosaurs to gems and minerals to space shows in the planetarium. Not every attraction needs to be infused with romance—simply being alone with the love of your life is an experience worth having.

For a sit-down dinner with your beloved, PJ Clarke’s has the elegant feast you’ve been waiting for, with delightful dishes that will be forever engrained in the memory of your taste buds. Savory oyster and creamed spinach, along with the restaurant’s warm interior, will bring your romance-infused day to a perfect and delectable end.

When you’ve walked along the city streets and have had your fill of New York magic, it might be a good idea to catch up on some R&R at the Red Door Spa. Enjoy a tranquil facial and deep massage in one of New York’s most sophisticated sweetheart destinations. After your stresses are massaged away, take a romantic carriage ride through Central Park and cuddle close to the one you love.

For an unforgettable gift and memorable adventure, request CityPASS booklets in your wedding or baby registry. As you explore two of America’s most romantic cities, you won’t regret letting CityPASS show you the best each city has to offer.

Solo Travel to New York for the Holidays

Whether by choice or circumstance, millions of people spend the holidays solo. Those who are lucky enough to be spending the holidays alone in New York have the entire city as their date. You’re free to follow your own itinerary or simply roam the city at will, doing what you want, when you want. It’s almost impossible to feel lonely in New York City during the holidays.

Statistics reveal that solo travel is on the rise every year. Whether you're single and ready to mingle or simply looking to make friends, NYC is a great place to make connections. As the season creeps closer, picture yourself in a grand city filled with dazzling lights and softly falling snow. New York holidays are simply unforgettable, and you’ll be telling this tale for many years to come.

What to do on your own in NYC

Rockefeller Center's ice skating rink is the winter wonderland you've been waiting for. Skating alone gives you the opportunity to brush up on your skills if you aren't the most stable skater. Or, if you're speedy and balanced, you won't have to lug around a clumsy comrade while you make your rounds around the rink. Catch your breath afterwards at the Top of the Rock Observation Deck, where stunning views of New York might just take your breath away all over again.

The world-famous Christmas Tree in Washington Square is a spectacular sight to see during your New York holiday adventures. The sheer scope of the tree and the festive decorations cannot be missed. Take plenty of pictures, and ask a stranger to take one of you in front of the tree. Asking someone to take your photo is a wonderful (if old fashioned) way to make a connection.

A 360-degree view from the historic Empire State Building is sure to take away any solo blues. The twinkling lights glow brighter than ever at night, and around the holiday season, you'll definitely appreciate the stunning spectacle. The magnificent cityscape reveals just how big the city is. As you look down on the city that never sleeps, you'll feel anything but lonely. If you’re smart enough to visit the city with a CityPASS booklet, you can see the Empire State Building's crisp skyline in the day and get a bonus view at night of the shimmering city lights. No sparkling garland or string of holiday lights could outshine NYC's natural luminescence.

Since you’re not on anyone’s schedule but your own, you can visit the Museum of Natural History or The Metropolitan Museum of Art and take in each exhibit or piece of artwork for as long as you'd like. See the twinkling lights of the night sky at the Hayden Planetarium or observe the stunning beauty of 5,000 years’ worth of art. Wander as you wish—you don't have to keep track of anyone but yourself.

You can also partake in one of the oldest New York City Christmas traditions — catching a movie. Then, end your day by filling up at John Dory's Oyster Bar, where flavorful food and body-warming beer will make your cozy sweater feel that much cozier.

A CityPASS Holiday

The best way to see the top spots in New York City is with a CityPASS booklet. Many attractions have holiday hours, and CityPASS lets you skip most ticket lines so you can do more for less on your holiday. (We suggest spending the savings on a nice Christmas present for yourself!)

Attractions Open on Christmas Eve:

Attractions Open on Christmas Day:

Attractions Open on New Year’s Day

After you see the best NYC has to offer, you’ll have lots to share with your friends and family. Just don’t be surprised if some are jealous of your adventures!

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Beyond Fall Foliage: Things to Do in Boston in Fall

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