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Scope Out San Francisco’s Best Spots for Seafood

San Francisco is known for its colorful neighborhood culture and melting pot atmosphere. Sometimes known as the “City by the Bay,” San Fran is also a beacon for those who savor seafood – whether they live within one of the various neighborhoods that comprise its 231 square mile city borders, or are tourists just passing through. While San Francisco offers a wealth of museums and opportunities to see fine art, as well as a touch of the unusual scattered throughout the city, its seafood dining options are beyond measure.

CityPASS has narrowed the field to just a few of San Francisco’s most sumptuous seafood houses where you can get your grub on. From fine dining to more relaxed neighborhood fare, we’ve got all of your bases – and basses – covered!

Farallon

Located at 450 Post Street in Union Square, Farallon offers patrons top-notch seafood and a unique dining environment that marries upscale with quirky. The neon-lit marquee outside belies the opulent interior that can be considered one of the must-see San Francisco attractions to check out while you’re in town. Inside, Farallon boasts hand-crafted chandeliers stylized to look like crystalline jellyfish and a sweeping “caviar staircase” made from thousands of shimmering blue marbles. And that’s just the décor!

Farallon’s menu offers an abundance of creative ocean fare, including entrees such as Grilled Rare Tombo Tuna accompanied with roasted red squash and coconut-lemongrass coulis, and appetizers like White Bean Stuffed Monterey Squid, sure to tempt the palate. Although Farallon’s fruits of the sea can be somewhat pricey, they do offer a great Happy Hour in their “Jelly Bar” with $6 drinks and appetizers that cull from classics like vodka gimlets, bay oysters, and truffled French fries.

Woodhouse Fish Co.

With two locations – one on Fillmore St. nestled in San Fran’s Lower Pacific Heights and another at 2073 Market Street – Woodhouse Fish Co. serves up delicious seafood dishes in a relaxed setting at great prices. In addition to fresh daily fish specials, Woodhouse Fish Co. specializes in delicious fish sandwiches, including a Dungeness Crab Melt and a to-die-for split-top Maine lobster roll – packed with meaty chunks of lobster on butter-slathered toast. If seafood sandwiches aren’t your bag (or baguette), check out their authentic San Francisco cioppino or grilled stuffed artichoke filled with shrimp and crab. In addition to their daily specials, Woodhouse Fish Co. also offers select menu items for just $1 on their Dollar Tuesdays.

Sotto Mare

Consistently ranked among the best places to enjoy fresh fish and oysters in San Francisco, this Italian seafood restaurant is located in North Beach. The building Sotto Mare resides in is over 100 years old, and owner and Chef Gigi Fiorucci had its exterior restored to look the way it did in the early 1900s – as a charming neighborhood fixture. Fiorucci, an Italian immigrant who has been in the restaurant industry as both an owner and chef for decades, applying his expert touch to no less than 10 restaurants, has pledged that Sotto Mare is his last effort as a restauranteur and aims to make it his best ever. Apparently, many San Franciscans agree!

Sotto Mare features fine seafood in a warm, family-friendly setting. Among some of their signature dishes are clam chowder with bacon, seafood risotto and the “Best Damn Crab Cioppino” with a portion-size so generous it can serve two people. Sotto Mare also has an assortment of fresh seafood, as well as oysters on the half shell or oyster shooters to whet the customer’s appetite before indulging in a main course.

Planning a trip to the West Coast? Set your sails and adjust your seafood sights for some of San Francisco’s best places to score one amazing catch of a meal. Do you have any other favorite San Francisco seafood houses? Let us know in the comments below!

A Piece of Atlanta's History Looking to the Future

Photo credit: Underground Atlanta

The 26th annual New Year’s Eve Peach Drop at Underground Atlanta launched what could be a final year of shopping, eating, events and attractions at the historic downtown landmark as it is today.

Renowned as the largest New Year’s Eve celebration in the Southeast, the drop of the 800-pound fiber and foam peach down the Underground’s 138-foot tower draws an estimated 175,000 spectators. The drop is the first of a year’s worth of activities and attractions at the six-block Underground Atlanta site, with its 12 acres and three levels of shopping, restaurants, entertainment and tours.

But plans are underway to refashion the site for the first time since 1989 with the sale of the property to WRS Inc, a South Carolina developer. The company’s website says the urban redo will include “a live-and-shop development with retail and residential space.”

The company plans to keep Underground Atlanta as is for this year, says media rep Erin Keeler.

Declared a historic site in 1968, Underground Atlanta, once the bustling Creek Village and Trading Post in the late 1700s, played a pivotal role in Atlanta's early beginnings. The Underground’s Alabama Street, between Central Avenue and Peachtree Street, was Atlanta’s city center and a focal point as Atlanta grew to become the trade and cultural center of the south in the 1800s.

Visitors today can see the historic landmark Zero Milepost, marking the first train route from Atlanta to Chattanooga. A daily guided walking tour or your own self-guided tour (brochures available at the information booth) bring alive the Underground’s rich historic past.

What you see today is the result of the 1920’s construction of concrete viaducts that elevated the street system one level for better traffic flow. Merchants moved to the new higher level, leaving old storefronts for service and storage, now the Underground Atlanta.

The area evolved into a hub for dining, shopping and activities, with more than 65 vendors along the original cobblestone streets of old Atlanta, plus specialty carts, a food court and restaurants. Visit on a Wednesday for Food Truck Wednesday on Upper Alabama Street from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Photo credit: Underground Atlanta

The world’s first PAC-MAN Play arcade was opened in August 2012 on the lower level at Lower Alabama and Pryor streets and offers family games and prizes.

Check the Underground Atlanta website for listings of events and festivals including the Heritage Arts Festival, celebrating its 20th year in July 2015.

Underground Atlanta is open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday noon to 6 p.m.

The landmark is conveniently located near the Georgia State Capital as well as the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca Cola, both part of the Atlanta CityPASS program.

Find out more about lodging and other attractions in Atlanta at the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau website, www.atlanta.net.

Tough Torontonians Don't Hibernate, They Play

CN Tower

If you think Torontonians hibernate just because of a little cold and snow (okay, a lot of cold and snow), you’d be mistaken.

In fact, some of these folks spent New Year's Day plunging into Humber Bay for the annual Polar Bear Dip. Participants will tell you there’s nothing like shaking off the cobwebs of the prior night’s New Year’s Eve madness than an invigorating plunge.

For the rest of us, Toronto offers oodles of activities to pass the long winters or just a few days. Visitors will love exploring this crisp, clean, cosmopolitan city no matter what the season.

Zip to the top of CN Tower, which is regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World (along with the Panama Canal, Channel Tunnel and Empire State Building, to name a few). Here’s where having a Toronto CityPASS ticket booklet comes in handy. CityPASS holders walk straight past the line to the glass-fronted elevators, and shoot skyward 1,136 feet (346 meters) to the Look Out Level in just 58 seconds. If that isn’t heart-stopping enough, visitors can experience the sensation of standing on a clear, glass floor with a view 1,122 feet (342 meters) straight down.

Once guests reclaim their nerves, they can dine at the upscale, revolving 360 Restaurant, or enjoy bistro fare at Horizons Restaurant, or snag a causal bite at Le Café. There are plenty of shops to peruse and, for an additional fee, there is even a Sky Pod elevator that soars up another 33 stories. A Toronto CityPASS admission ticket to the CN Tower also provides a choice of either The Height of Excellence film or the new film, The Red Rocket: Toronto by Trolley.

Photo credit: Il Fornello Danforth. Winterlicious begins on Jan. 30.

While visiting Toronto, why not take advantage of all the nearby slopes for some skiing and snowboarding? Enjoy gentle and fun ski runs at Earl Bales and Centennial Park. But if you're a black diamond skier or boarder, you will have to drive outside the province to find the speed you need.

If staying on level ground is more your cup of tea, explore North America’s “medieval castle,” Casa Loma. Canadian business magnate Sir Henry Pellatt built his immense monument to excess in the early 1900s, and he filled the castle with treasures and art from around the world. The castle also has secret passages, tall towers and luxurious stables. During warmer weather, there are five acres of gardens, sculptures and fountains to enjoy as well. Because Casa Loma is another Toronto CityPASS attraction, CityPASS holders can skip the main ticket line.

Another Toronto CityPASS stop, the Ontario Science Centre, is perfect for those days where being indoors is the only sensible thing to do. It provides a day’s worth of wandering for inquisitive kids and adults. Brain: The Inside Story, is the newest exhibit featuring a forest of tangled wires and flashing lights that evoke trillions of firing synapses inside the brain. Not only are there challenging games and puzzles, the exhibit explores how our brains process language, organize the visual world, and store memories. Children 8 years old and younger will be riveted by the KidSpark discovery playground, and visitors can play invisible harp strings, or create photo images in bubbles. Once again, entry is a breeze with Toronto CityPASS.

Photo credit: Polar Bear Dip on New Year's Day.

After all that activity, fuel up during Winterlicious, Toronto’s winter food-lover’s celebration, January 30-February 12. The city’s top chefs and eateries will feature prix fixe meals at all price levels, and special culinary events and opportunities to experience tastes that are out of this world.

If you have a chance, make sure to join fellow Torontonians in gliding around the city’s $4-million outdoor hockey and skating rink. The first of its kind, the Greenwood Park complex has an elaborate new skating trail, and directly south is the covered rink. Even the freewheeling former Mayor Rob Ford made an appearance at its opening and said, “This is amazing.”

The Best US Diners After You’ve Rung in the New Year

US Diners When your throbbing head, sore feet and growling stomach rouse you from your slumber on January 1, consider a visit to one of these diners, some of the best in the U.S. for the “morning after.” Sharpen your fork and knife – we’re starting 2015 with a large stack of chocolate chip pancakes! read more »

Seattle Center Steps Up as Dining Destination

With so much to do at the Seattle Center, it’s hard to think about cramming in time for lunch. But when the hunger pangs do hit, you can pursue instant gratification at the Seattle Center Armory, formerly The Center House, where some mainstays of the local restaurant scene have joined forces to turn this once ho-hum food court into a storied dining destination. read more »

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