A late-summer trip to San Francisco with my wife, child and parents had all of us wanting to check out different parts of the City by the Bay. With some planning, we were able to combine touristy highlights with lesser-known areas, including where we stayed — the city's NoPa neighborhood. NoPa, which stands for North of the Panhandle, a neighborhood near the narrow eastern strip of Golden Gate Park that has hip cafes, quirky shops and colorful Victorians. (Our favorite had disco balls hanging outside.) The tab: $650 for two nights in a two-bedroom cottage, $130 for a light meal with cocktails at La Urbana and $15 for a quick breakfast at Matching Half.
Because Airbnb (www.airbnb.com) is based in San Francisco and we were in search of a two-bedroom rental, it seemed fitting to book through the online service. The cottage we chose, tucked away off busy city streets, had all the comforts of a modern hotel room — although it had better art and a bottle of Sonoma County wine waiting for us. Nearby, Alamo Square Park offered impressive views of the city skyline and a of row of classic Victorians known as the Painted Ladies.
I knew our dinner at La Urbana (661 Divisadero St.; (415) 440-4500, www.laurbanasf.com) would be an experience once we were seated at a communal table alongside other couples and families. We were all given complimentary shots of melon juice with chili powder before eating cantina-style Mexican food. Our daughter loved the avocado with corn tortillas; I was a big fan of the roasted corn with lemon aioli. Other dishes we enjoyed included Tijuana quesadillas and carnitas. The food was tasty, and we left satisfied but not stuffed.
The next morning, we had coffee and homemade pop tarts at the Matching Half Cafe (1799 McAllister St.; (415) 674-8699, www.matchinghalfcafe.com) before heading to Koret Children's Quarter, just off Kezar Drive on the southeast side of Golden Gate Park. It features an elaborate playground next to a historic carousel (tickets cost $2 for adults and $1 for children ages 6 to 12; children 5 and younger are admitted free with a paying adult). We then took a drive to the other end of Golden Gate Park, where it meets the Pacific Ocean. A highlight of the day was strolling the beach in the chilly weather while searching for sand dollars.
The lesson learned
NoPa's trendiest restaurant is similarly named — Nopa (560 Divisadero St.; (415) 864-8643, www.nopasf.com). We were curious to check out the "urban rustic food" served at the packed eatery, although our growling stomachs couldn't handle the two-hour wait. Next time we'll call ahead or book online, where reservations are accepted up to a month in advance.
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