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The Best Restaurants in San Francisco (and the Celebrities Who Love Them)

It’s no surprise that shows like Top Chef, The Taste and The Chew have become popular with the masses: foodies are everywhere! While they may have been considered food snobs in generations past, today’s foodies not only love trying delicious new restaurants, but are also able to enjoy the full experience that comes along with dining out these days.

And San Francisco is one of the best foodie cities in the country right now. A major restaurant boom over the past few years has both locals and visitors alike scrambling to get reservations to some of the most coveted seats in town.

CityPASS has found the hottest restaurants in San Francisco for you to experience yourself. And don’t be surprised if you have a few celebrity sightings during your meal—everyone from Kimye to Ryan Gosling has been spotted in these delectable dining rooms.


564 4th Street
Neighborhood: SoMa (South of Market)

Not far from AT&T Park, this chic, rustic eatery is the newest project from Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino. Self-described as "a celebration of San Francisco’s diverse culinary heritage," the menu at Cockscomb is heavy on seafood and butcher’s cut meats, and includes an oyster bar, Cornish game hen, and their signature wood-oven-roasted pig’s head to share. The pork dishes are where Cockscomb really excels, especially the crispy pig ears and a “ham”burger. They also have a killer late-night happy hour menu with fantastic deals. Sit at the chef’s counter if you want to watch how the menu is put together. You might even get to meet the celebrity chef himself!

After dinner, you can stroll over to the Hotel Utah Saloon, an historical 100-year-old bar that offers live music 7 days a week. Built in 1908, the Hotel Utah Saloon is a San Francisco institution that gained popularity by serving the best beer in town, which was "brought to the Utah by horse and carriage and lowered into the cellar in wooden kegs." Today, the bar is stocked with your favorite wines and keeps 12 different beers on tap.


490 Pacific Avenue
Neighborhood: Financial District

If you can’t decide whether you want a casual meal or something a little more upscale, then Cotogna and Quince are a perfect option for you. Chef Michael Tusk opened Cotogna as “a celebration of rustic Italian cuisine” to complement his adjoining venue, Quince, which is a fine dining experience focused on "California contemporary cuisine that celebrates the seasonal bounty of California."

A slew of celebs have been known to nosh at Cotogna, including Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair, and Blake Lively. This lunch hotspot seems to be the best place in town to catch a glimpse of your favorite entertainer!

State Bird Provisions

1529 Fillmore Street
Neighborhood: Western Addition

Married couple Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski have been recognized with top honors for their restaurant, including a James Beard Award and Bon Appetit magazine’s Restaurant of the Year Award. Described as having a "whimsically Californian menu, served dim-sum style," State Bird Provisions is not an easy place to get a table. It’s been noted that on most evenings you can find lines 50 people deep waiting to be seated prior to the 5:30pm opening of the restaurant.

Not one to be left out, Ryan Gosling was seen eating at this hot spot when he was in town for a movie screening, which took place a few blocks away at the Sundance Kabuki. If you’re interested in channeling the same Ryan Gosling experience, be sure to check out the special programming they offer at the theatre.

AL's Place

1499 Valencia Street
Neighborhood: The Mission

When you think of a unique and memorable dining experience, a vegetarian-friendly restaurant is not typically what comes to mind. AL’s Place, however, breaks the mold. Chef Aaron London will make you forget all about your love of meat through his focus on fresh local produce and seafood from the Bay Area. He’s a purist when it comes to his food, having once said that "we use every part of everything—not just because it’s morally good or cost-effective, but in the pursuit of flavor." Menu items are seasonal and inventive, offering an adventurous take on familiar ingredients. Dishes are small, encouraging eaters to try a variety of creations.

A casual dinner at AL’s Place, recently named the Best Restaurant in San Francisco, is the perfect way to end a day after hanging out in the Mission’s Dolores Park. This vibrant, lush park boasts 16 acres of green lawns, palm trees, 6 tennis courts, a basketball court and a soccer field, in addition to a playground and a dog run. This park often hosts various cultural events and music festivals, but even on a quiet day it can serve as a great backdrop for a picnic.

EPIC Steak

369 The Embarcadero
Neighborhood: Embarcadero

When Mindy Kaling was in town to shoot some scenes for her show, The Mindy Project, she wasn’t secretive about the fact that she and co-star Chris Messina filmed at waterfront restaurant EPIC Steak. She posted two photos on Instagram with the restaurant’s epic view of the water and the Bay Bridge. Other celebrities have also been sighted here, including Dr. Dre and Lance Bass, so you may be in for a visual treat as well as a culinary one!

It’s not surprising that the production team for The Mindy Project chose EPIC Steak to highlight on the show; it’s a hip steakhouse that offers "innovative cuisine, expertly crafted cocktails and inspirational wines" along with one of the most breathtaking views in all of San Francisco. Chef Ulrich aims to craft an environmentally responsible menu, using organic local produce and sustainable seafood. He also pays homage to San Francisco’s international history through his dishes.

While there are plenty of things to do in San Francisco, take time to indulge yourself in the food. San Francisco is the ultimate spot for foodies and non-foodies alike who want to enjoy great meals in a legendary environment with a unique twist on Northern California cuisine. After all, LA and NYC aren’t the only cities where you can live like a celebrity.

The Pope is Visiting Philly: Here is Everything You Need to Know

Pope Francis is Visiting Philadelphia!Pope Francis is Visiting Philadelphia (Photo Credit)

Seeing the Pope in person is rare for most people, but your opportunity has arrived! Pope Francis is visiting Philadelphia on the weekend of Saturday, September 26th and Sunday, September 27th. Here’s what you need to know as you plan your trip to see the Pope in Philadelphia, and to visit other amazing Philadelphia attractions.


Saturday, Sept. 26:
8:40am Travel to Philly
10:30am Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul (closed to the public)
4:45pm Papal Address at Independence Mall
7:30pm Visit the Festival of Families on Ben Franklin Parkway

Sunday, Sept. 27:
9:15am Meeting with bishops at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (closed to the public)
11:00am Visit to Curran-Formhold Correctional Facility (closed to the public)
4:00pm Papal Mass for the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway
7:00pm Visit with organizers of the World Meeting of Families, Atlantic Aviation (closed to the public)
8:00pm Depart for Rome

How to Travel

Pope Francis will be doing a papal Mass on Sunday, which is open to the public and is expected to bring over 1.5 million people into the city center. Transportation will be the most important step to figure out as a number of major highways, along with the Ben Franklin bridge, will close during Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia. Don’t even think about trying to drive around Center City as no cars will be allowed to enter specific zones, which are outlined below.

As a result, the best plan for travel is to plan to park outside the restricted area and bike or walk in or to obtain mass transit passes. Act fast: SEPTA had a lottery for special $10 three-day passes valid for Saturday – Monday for travel on subways, buses, and trolleys, which has already ended. You may also use a regular weekly/monthly SEPTA pass or TrailPass, One Day Convenience Pass, One Day Individual or Family Independence Pass, or Senior Fare, but all passes must be purchased in advance as sales offices will not be open, Ticket Vending Machines will not be in service, and cash will not be accepted on Saturday and Sunday. Regional Rail will only have daily passes available, which will be $10 a day, and must be ordered in advance.

Only 18 of the 282 rail stations will be open over the weekend for travel into Center City. Drop off locations are listed on a special SEPTA site about the event. The ticket you receive will be stamped with the station name and will only be accepted at that station. Arranging to be dropped off and picked up at the station will be essential, as the amount of parking available will not meet demand.

PATCO will also offer transportation from four of its New Jersey stations and one Philadelphia station. NJ Transit and Amtrak will also be making arrangements in the area. Visit the websites of these transit operators for more details.

Map of Pope Visit to PhiladelphiaMap shows road restrictions, transit stations that will remain open during the papal visit, and locations at which Pope Francis will hold events.

Things to Know the Day of the Pope’s Visit

Keep in mind that camping out the day before the Mass will not be allowed by Philadelphia authorities. Selfie sticks will also be banned from the event. There will be no tickets required to view the Mass on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, so don’t get duped by scalpers. Pope Francis’ address at Independence hall will have some ticketed areas, and other areas available to the public.

Food and beverages are OK. Bags may be subject to size restrictions. The U.S. Secret Service will spell out all the restrictions in early September. Also vendors will be set up all along the parkway. Food trucks will also provide a variety of cuisines and Philly Favorites. No alcohol will be sold. There will be more than 3,000 portable toilets on the parkway (including ADA accessible toilets).

The Pope’s visit has been declared a National Security Special Event (NSSE), which means that the United States Secret Service is the lead agency responsible for security. This designation is only in effect for the weekend of the papal visit, not the entire week of the World Meeting of Families, but does mean enhanced security measures will be in place.

Prohibited Items:

The United States Secret Service has released a non-exhaustive list of items banned from the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the Independence Mall on Saturday and Sunday. Everyone in attendance will go through security screening, including having bags checked. Be prepared for long lines. Prohibited items include:

  • Aerosols
  • Ammunition
  • Animals other than service/guide animals
  • Backpacks and bags exceeding the size restrictions (18” x 13” x 7”)
  • Balloons
  • Bicycles
  • Hard Coolers (Soft-sided thermal coolers ARE allowed)
  • Drones and other unmanned aircraft systems
  • Explosives
  • Firearms
  • Glass, thermal or metal containers
  • Laser pointers
  • Mace/Pepper spray
  • Packages
  • Selfie Sticks
  • Signs exceeding the size restrictions (5’ x 3’ x 1/4”) made of any material except cardboard, poster board or cloth
  • Structures
  • Supports for signs and placards
  • Toy guns
  • Weapons of any kind
  • Any other items determined to be a potential safety hazard

Locals will be experiencing a number of interruptions to their daily routines, including mail suspension. On both Saturday and Sunday the United States Postal Service will suspend mail collection and delivery to and from the following Philadelphia postal codes:

  • 19102
  • 19103
  • 19104
  • 19106
  • 19107
  • 19130
  • 19122
  • 19123

Mail collection and delivery will resume on Monday September 28 for all residents. If you’re planning to have anything shipped to or from Philadelphia during this period, including the week before during the World Meeting of Families, expect Post Office locations to be closed and delivery delays.

[More information to come]

The Best Way to See Pope Francis

Certain areas where Pope Francis will be addressing the public will be blocked off to non-ticket holders. If you were one of the lucky people who reserved a ticket during the few seconds they were available, congratulations! Get there early for the best viewing spot. If you were not able to reserve your ticket, there are still several ways to see the Pope’s address.

  1. On a jumbotron: The City of Philadelphia is providing 40 jumbotrons to project the Pope’s message to the masses, including those who will be outside of the ticketed areas. You’ll still be able to see and hear the Pope’s message (which will be given in Spanish) even if you’re blocks away from the address. There are several near the Independence Hall stage, along Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and at multiple other locations along what officials are calling a “block party” layout.
  2. On a parade route: Pope Francis is participating in two parades on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. This will allow people to get a much closer view of the Pope as he travels in his Popemobile.
  3. From your hotel: There are still hotel rooms available! Hotels are all but rolling out the red carpet for visitors, with many providing incentives such as transit passes and pope swag, and if you book a room with a balcony or window you can look down on crowds and watch a jumbotron or the live broadcast from your hotel TV.

Where to Stay and What to Eat

If you haven’t already booked a room, you may need to check several hotels before you find one that has rooms still available. Also, be aware that many hotels raise their rates around a major event like this one, so don’t be alarmed by prices.

At the time of this writing, the hotels in or near city center that still had rooms were around $400 - $550 per night on the weekend of the Pope’s visit. Hotels 10 or more miles from city center were in the $180 - $225 per night range. Using booking sites with reviews such as TripAdvisor, Booking.com, or Hotels.com is recommended in addition to AirBnB options.

There are a number of amazing restaurants in Philadelphia that you will want to visit during your stay. For lunch, Sketch Burger is a must-have Philly classic. Don’t miss the Harissa Aioli for dipping. For lunch or dinner, Radicchio has amazing Italian fair that’s highly recommended. If barbecue is more your style, be sure to visit Fette Sau, which features indoor/outdoor seating, naturally raised meats, and amazing barbecue side dishes. When you’re done with your meal, don’t miss The Franklin Fountain for dessert. It’s nationally known for its amazing ice cream blends.

Find open restaurants either by walking by or using the hashtag #OpenInPHL for places that will be open during the weekend. You may want to scope out some spots beforehand, as cellular signals could be weakened with so many people in the same small area.

Philly Cheesesteak 101

A trip to Philadelphia is never complete without a famous Philly Cheesesteak! Below are our top, local recommendations:

Rounding Out Your Vacation

While seeing Pope Francis is certainly exciting, there are many other attractions in the city of Philadelphia that will help you finish out your vacation well. Here are some suggestions.

The Liberty Bell

If you haven’t seen the Liberty Bell before, it’s a must-hit attraction in Philadelphia. It may be crowded with so many other people in the city, so be patient. The Liberty Bell Center at Independence Hall has a wealth of artifacts from the early history of the United States.

The Franklin Institute

The Franklin Institute has three floors of exhibits, including The Giant Heart, Changing Earth, and Your Brain. There are also live science shows and a Planetarium. Fun for all ages!

Please Touch Museum

After telling the kids to be quiet, sit still, and keep their hands to themselves for a few days why not take them to the Please Touch Museum®? Located at Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park, the museum has been recognized as one of the nation’s top 10 children’s museums. They’ll love the fun and freedom!

Eastern State Penitentiary

If you’re looking for a more adult-focused attraction, the Eastern State Penitentiary is a fascinating place to visit. The prison was known for its grand architecture and strict discipline. Tours include Al Capone’s cell, Death Row, and artist’s installations.

Seeing a Pope is a once-in-a-lifetime event for many people. As you plan to visit Philadelphia for the papal visit, be sure to purchase transportation passes in advance and be aware of street and station closures. After you’ve attended the Mass, stick around — there are lots of other fun things to do in Philadelphia. You’ll have a fantastic vacation!

Last updated 9/21/15

The Beginner's Guide to Atlanta: Travel like a Local

Atlanta is an amazing city, boasting close to 500,000 residents in the city itself, and another 5 million in the metropolitan area that surrounds it. With so much going on, it can be overwhelming to even know where to start looking for things to do in Atlanta.

There are a lot of major tourist attractions in the city, but if you really want to enjoy the hidden gems, try to explore Atlanta like a local. Here are five activities you don’t want to miss on your trip to the capital city of Georgia.

Tubing in the Chattahoochee River

This summertime staple is a much-loved activity in the Atlanta area. If you’re looking for things to do in Atlanta this weekend, give it a shot! There are outfitters on the river who can set you up with tubing gear. You’ll want to call in a reservation in advance – if you walk in, you run the risk that all the equipment will be rented. You don’t want to miss your chance to “Shoot the Hooch,” so plan ahead to enjoy this local activity. Of course, don’t forget to bring your own beer!

College Football

College Football Hall of FameCollege Football Hall of Fame

In the Southeast, college football is everyone’s favorite religion. If you’re visiting in the fall, make plans to catch a game at Georgia Tech or Georgia State. The scene will be very wild, so be prepared! If you’re visiting outside of football season, be sure to at least visit the College Football Hall of Fame, which features 50,000 square feet of exhibit space, interactive multimedia displays, children’s activities, and a 45 yard indoor football field.

Enjoy Local Beer

Drinking is a local pastime, and no beginner’s guide to Atlanta would be complete without mentioning SweetWater Brewing Company. While you plan things to do in Atlanta, make time to tour the brewery, attend a tasting, and get to know this local landmark of the city. If you can’t visit the brewery directly, be sure to visit the many pubs that feature local brews and enjoy a drink with your friends.

Hit Up a Food Truck

Atlanta has a thriving food truck scene, and as a result there are a lot of unique places to catch lunch in the city. To really explore Atlanta like a local, you can look up your favorite food truck and find out where they are on a given day. Some good options for specific trucks include King of Pops, the Atlanta Burger Truck, Wing King and Things, and Genki-to-Go. For an easier option, just visit Atlanta Food Truck Park & Market to see what you can find.

Grab Some Barbecue

Atlanta is in the south, and that means you can’t miss the best barbecue around. Which place has it is still open for debate, but you can try either Fox Brothers or Fat Matt’s without being disappointed. In fact, there may be fistfights between Atlantans over which one is better. Regardless of which place you try, grabbing some barbecue is a great thing to do in Atlanta this weekend.

As you look for things to do in Atlanta, don’t miss these five great activities that will have you experiencing the city like a local. And watch out for that other experience all the locals have – traffic. Don’t laugh that folks always seem to know side roads – in Atlanta, that’s a survival skill. Plan plenty of time to get where you need to go.

Romantic Activities for Couples in Seattle

Romantic Activities for Couples in Seattle Trying to find the perfect romantic getaway, packed with heart-throbbing dates sure to sweep your significant other off of their feet? Love is in the air of Seattle, hanging on the gray clouds enveloping the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, and trickling down below into the city. Fuel the fire of romance with these great Seattle attractions that are sure to heighten the attraction between you and your date. read more »

Boston vs New York: How Does Each City Stack Up?

CityPASS recently conducted a poll among prominent bloggers in New York City and Boston to get their impressions on these two great cities and the best of what they have to give to tourists and locals alike. Both New York City and Boston have a lot to offer and do it in their own way, at their own pace. Let's take a tour, shall we? read more »


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