Where to Stay in San Francisco:
I've stayed at a number of hotels in the financial district, and they have all been more than adequate. There are a number of boutique hotels in the area that offer a fun and eclectic feel. If you are the adventurous type, I'd definitely recommend them. Here are a couple to try: Hotel Phoenix (for the hipster experience), and Hotel Metropolis.
What to do in San Francisco:
If you are staying near Moscone, then Chinatown is just a nice (uphill) walk or short cab ride away. If you've never walked around that area, it's worth a look. One of my favorite things to do is get lost in Chinatown, and then find a back alley Chinese restaurant that is just for the locals and partake of some authentic and very affordable cuisine.
Right near the Powell BART station is the Powell line turnaround. To get that authentic San Francisco experience, you really have to ride on a cable car. If your hotel is in the Union Square area, it's not just an experience – it's functional. You can get a memorable lift back to your hotel area.
What to eat in San Francisco:
Eating healthy while on the road is very difficult. When I can, I try to eat sensibly. One of my favorite places, Fresh Roll, is just north of Moscone on 4th Street. They offer Vietnamese rolls and bowls. Everything is fresh as the name implies, and it's reasonably priced. I end up eating there a couple of times during a show.
Being on the coast, there are ample chances to have fresh seafood. The Bay Area is known for its Dungeness crab. If you've never tried it, be sure to check it out. It's delicious. If you make it down to Pier 39, one of the best places to go for Dungeness crab is the Crab House Pier 39.
Downtown San Francisco has a great deal of homeless people. It seems that there is someone panhandling on every corner. It's understandable, considering it's a high tourist area. If you are put off by this, I'd recommend avoiding the Powell BART station and streets west of that (Tenderloin neighborhood). So far I've never felt threatened, so it hasn't been an issue personally.
Moscone Center, like most convention centers, charges an arm and a leg for food and drinks. My personal recommendation is to refill your bottle of water (or refillable container) at the provided water coolers. This saves you a ton of money, and you end up drinking more water, which is a good thing. I also tend to buy some fruit at a drug store on the way to the Moscone and keep it for a nice healthy snack later in the day.
San Francisco is home to the Uber app. It was created to help with the chronic shortage of taxis. If you are going to be traversing the city, I highly recommend downloading the app and registering with the company. This app allows you to call a car with just one click. You are notified when the car arrives, and you just get in and go. When you get dropped off, you don't even need to dig out your wallet because it automatically charges your credit card. Lyft is a comparable company that offers a similar experience and is worth having on your phone during your trip. Having both allows you to get a car even when it's busy.
Be prepared for cooler weather. As a newbie to San Francisco, I expected the temperatures to be a lot warmer - after all it's California - but because of the tides in the area, San Francisco can get down right cool, especially at night. Be sure to pack a light jacket for the evenings.
If you find yourself with nothing to do one evening, just go for a walk and, as my friend Richard Laible says, "Let the city just open up to you" and go on a little urban adventure.
San Francisco has so much to offer both business travelers and tourists alike. I haven't explored even a fraction of the area's sites and attractions. What are your favorite things about San Francisco? Let me know!