A Spa Lover's Delight
This warm, historic boutique may be on ritzy "Snob Hill," but it's actually a great value -- so there's more money left over for indulging at the divine spa, voted "Reader's Choice for Best Pamper Spot" by San Francisco Magazine in 2009. The Premier Spa Suite, with private treatment areas, plus a living and dining room, is the perfect splurge for a group of girlfriends, as are specialty treatments like the Table Thai Massage ($200 for 80 minutes) and a Coconilla Massage Wrap ($140 for 50 minutes). In any case, the city views from the pool, Jacuzzi, fireplace lounge area, or breezy outdoor patio doesn't cost a thing. The fitness center, yoga/Pilates studio, sauna, and steam rooms are free for guests as well, making this a great pick for pampering on almost any budget.
Wining and Dining
At the acclaimed restaurant in the Campton Place Taj, Master Sommelier Richard Dean can guide you through the 1,500-bottle cellar or the 40 wines that are served by the glass. And the inventive Californian-Mediterranean fusion menu, which features dishes like slow-roasted pork belly topped with cuttlefish and deep-fried okra, is (nearly) as impressive as the wines. And the hotel itself? This ultralux, 110-room boutique a block from Union Square offers posh rooms and pampering service that place it among the city's most special hotels.
If shopping is more important than sightseeing, the Laurel Inn -- located close to the high-end boutiques, galleries, and antique stores of Pacific Heights -- is a great base of operations. Start walking along Sacramento Street, just half a block to the north, for pricey (but special) stores, from original women's clothing designs (and usually, the designer herself) at Catherine Jane, to ribbons from around the world at The Ribbonerie, to 18th and 19th century European furniture at T. Reggiardo Antiques. Then head east along Sacramento until it meets Fillmore Street for more upscale shops, and continue north toward Union Street, a long stretch of boutiques, jewlery, beauty, and home decor stores that could justify another full day of shopping. Fortunately, The Laurel Inn is not only one of San Francisco's best boutique hotels, it's also one of its best values, leaving you with more spending money.
Decadent Sunday Brunch
For a truly decadent brunch, you can't do better than the legendary Sunday jazz buffet at the the Palace's Garden Court restaurant. The setting is sublime: Neoclassical marble columns, six-foot-wide crystal chandeliers, a towering vaulted glass ceiling, and a jazz trio. At $68, it's a pricey breakfast, to be sure -- but that includes unlimited champagne.
A Jazzy Night on the Town
If you love live music and classy drinks, head to the elegant Top of the Mark sky lounge on the Intercontinental's 19th floor for jazz performances and selections from the hotel's "100 Martinis" menu, such as the Golden Gate Martini (Jack Daniel's, lemon juice and creme de cacao; $13). You only have to look through the glass walls to see the bridge itself -- the views of the city and its sites is spectacular.