Monday, September 21, 2015

The Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival is Coming Soon!

Followers of my blog know that the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival is my all-time favorite Bay Area festival. It combines my favorite holiday, Halloween, with one of my favorite flavors. Check out my post on the festival to learn more, get tips on making the most out of your trip to the festival, and see pictures from this annual favorite! I'll be posting more photos from this year's event later.

                                                                     See more here!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Shows at the Orpheum and Golden Gate Theatres

If you live on or visit the East Coast, seeing a show on Broadway is a treat, but you can still enjoy a great show in a great place here on the West Coast. Just off Market Street in San Francisco, the Orpheum and Golden Gate Theatres host all the fan favorites. I've seen How the Grinch Stole Christmas at the Golden Gate and Beauty and the Beast and Les Miserables at the Orpheum. Phantom of the Opera, my favorite musical, runs at the Orpheum until October 4, and I just caught the 2 p.m. show this weekend.

Here are a few tips to make the most of your own San Francisco show experience. First, tickets can be pricey, and the cheap seats sell out quickly. If you want to save some money, I suggest trying for rush tickets. Rush tickets are a gamble, but if you get them, you usually pay a fraction of the price for very good seats. Most theaters offer a limited number of rush tickets first-come, first-serve or by lottery before a show. For example, the Orpheum is offering a limited number of rush tickets for $40 a piece (CASH) for the Phantom. The tickets go on sale two hours before the show starts.

My sister and I arrived at the theater at 11:24 a.m. to get tickets to the show at 2 p.m., and there was already a small line. The line grew pretty long by the time the box office opened at noon, but it seemed like everyone got a ticket. My sister had to talk me into the rush ticket gamble because I usually like the sure bet, but I definitely recommend this approach. You meet a lot of great people in line, and it's pretty exciting if you get the tickets. We got seats in the orchestra that were in the "limited view" section, but the view was actually great. We were thirteen rows away from the stage among people who spent $125 for a ticket.

If you try this approach, I recommend getting in line at least 30 minutes before the box office opens (two hours before each show). If you get there even earlier and need some places to kill time before the show, the San Francisco Public Library is close to both the Orpheum and Golden Gate (on Larkin), and it has clean, free bathrooms. There are also a couple Starbucks in the area, and you can do some shopping around Union Square.

Now, let's talk transportation. With the techie boom sweeping the Bay Area, traffic is a nightmare. I definitely recommend NOT driving. You'll be stuck on the bridges for hours, and getting parking in the Market Street area is expensive and beyond stressful. The BART is a good option, but I personally think the only way to visit the city for a fun day is the ferry. You get to enjoy great views, refreshments are available on board (you technically can't eat or drink on BART), and the ride is stress free. You can take the ferry from Oakland and Alameda, and it runs until 11:20 p.m. on the weekends. This probably won't be late enough for a night show, but it's perfect for the afternoon show.

If you don't live in San Francisco I recommend the day show. Market Street can be a rough place, especially at night, and I personally hate worrying about catching the last BART out of the city. Plus, if you see the matinee, you have time for dinner after if you want to splurge after saving so much on your tickets.

If dinner and a show is your thing, I highly recommend Straw on Octavia. This tiny, cozy restaurant serves gourmet carnival food that's oh-so yummy. Their most popular menu item is probably their donut burger. Yes, an organic beef patty between two glazed donuts. I don't eat beef, so I can't critique this savory delight, but I've seen it heartily consumed, and it's definitely mouth watering.

Straw offers brunch on the weekends, and my sister and I attempted to get a table after we got our rush tickets and before the show, but alas, it was too busy. However, you can make reservations for dinner, and that turned out to be better because the restaurant was quieter and more enjoyable. I had the blackberry pulled pork sandwich (oh my god), and my sister had the fried chicken-n-waffle Monte Cristo sandwich (again, oh my god). We had delicious fried pickles for a starter.

But the best experience of the meal was the cocktail we chose, the Cotton Candy. They pour the cocktail tableside for the wow factor. The cocktail arrives in two glasses. One is filled with cotton candy, and the other is filled with sake, vodka, and sparkling wine. The server pours the alcohol over the cotton candy, which quickly dissolves and flavors the drink. YUM. I have to say, out of all the excellent restaurants I've enjoyed in San Francisco, I think Straw has the most delicious food and the most unique experience. And the prices are very reasonable. Make sure to make a reservation online before you go.

Finally, nothing tops off a great day in San Francisco like a ferry ride home at sunset. Make sure your camera or phone is ready for those spectacular shots. Dinner and a show in San Francisco, especially when you get a great deal, is definitely a Bay Area miss-me-not.

Passing by the Oakland shipping cranes on the ferry ride to SF
Passing under the Bay Bridge

Don't forget to say hi to the Civic Center.
Orpheum Theater
Our seats

Dinner time at the cutest little restaurant.

Cotton Candy Cocktail 

Fried Chicken-N-Waffle Monte Cristo

Blackberry Pulled Pork
Fried pickles and seasoned popcorn

Views from the evening ferry. That's the Golden Gate behind the Bay Bridge.

Sunset on the ferry. Goodnight San Francisco!