27 MAR 2017: With San Francisco celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love, there’s more reason than ever to visit the Golden City this year. More than 60 events and activities are planned and of course there’s always the latest trendy restaurants to check out and cool new hotels.

In 1967 nearly 100,000 young people converged on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Music, fashion, art and new ideas flourished in a cultural phenomenon known as the Summer of Love. The San Francisco Travel Association special website provides an ever-expanding guide to the whole groovy scene, including events and itinerary ideas. www.summeroflove2017.com

The Hotel Zeppelin which opened just last year fits right in as the place to stay. Designed by Dawson Design Associates, the hotel states that its experience “was created for revolutionaries, dreamers and visionaries, guests who are rule breakers with a little spark of mischief”. Just two blocks from Union Square, the 196-room hotel has a hip sixties counter culture vibe. From what I saw checking in, the dress code tends towards torn skinny jeans, t-shirts and leather jackets.

In the mornings, the steel and brick Fireside Bar serves as a breakfast place for coffee and a crispy Dynamo Donut. At night, it’s a stylish bar with décor that pays tribute to the bookstores and cafés of the beatnik era. Lit-up graffiti poetry by Austin street group Colour Cartel adorns the walls and flames dance in the gothic fireplace. Playing homage to Hotel Zeppelin’s former use as a speakeasy is a display of rows upon rows of gin bottles.

Rambler Restaurant wasn’t yet open during my visit to the hotel but is now. Under Executive Chef Robert Leva, it serves “flavour-forward” California fare and wood-fired pizzas cooked in Wolfgang Puck’s original Postrio pizza oven. Downstairs there’s a large game room entitled Peace where guests can unwind with games of skeeball, shuffleboard, electronic bingo or take a shot at the basketball wall. www.hotelzeppelin.com

Hotel Zetta, also owned by Pebblebrook Hotel Trust and managed by Viceroy, is a short walk away at the convergence of Union Square, SoMa and Financial Districts. Whereas Dawson Design Associates made Zeppelin sassy and hip, their motif for Zetta was ultra-modern and cool. Housed in a 1913 building and formerly known as Hotel Milano, the space underwent a dramatic, $12 million-dollar transformation to reopen as Hotel Zetta in 2013.

The sleek, contemporary designed rooms have natural elements meant to exude the feeling of being in an urban loft. The large well-lit bathrooms have tromp-l’oeil bookcases which tell a story about the literary, historical and intellectual aspects of the area. (Images of titles range from tongue-in-cheek bathroom humor books, SF tech culture, i.e. “goodnight iPad” and the Steve Jobs biography to beat-generation literature.)

Between the lobby and mezzanine there’s a “Playroom” with a pool table, shuffle board and video games. Connected to the hotel, is The Cavalier, an upscale British brasserie - the third restaurant in just over three years (after Marlowe and Park Tavern) from Executive Chef/Partner Jennifer Puccio and Managing Partners Anna Weinberg and James Nicholas. www.hotelzetta.com

I be hard pressed to say which hotel I preferred. Both had their own charms and special local character. And both were near the centre of the action and within an easy walk to many of the latest trendy restaurants.

Nearby on Nob Hill, Liholiho Yacht Club, a James Beard best new restaurant nominee in 2016, is a happening eatery for Hawaiian, Indian & Chinese dishes that I just loved. Casual and buzzy with people, its fun menu includes dishes such as beef tongue with kimchi, duck hearts with pickled cherries, clams in coconut curry, marinated squid with crispy tripe and twice cooked pork belly. www.liholihoyachtclub.com

Whether by visiting the haunts of the Grateful Dead, attending the countercultural How Weird Street Faire in May or viewing the exhibition “On the Road to the Summer of Love” there’s a groovy time to be had in San Fran this year.



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Margaret Swaine

Margaret is a nationally published wine, spirits, food and travel writer, who has authored thousands of articles on these subjects for magazines and newspapers.

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