Union Square

The Union Square neighborhood is one of San Francisco’s retail and cultural centers. In fact, with its large collection of department stores, boutiques and art galleries, Union Square is one of the world’s premiere shopping destinations. This is unique considering the area, which borders Union Park, was named after the pro-Union and labor rights rallies staged here prior to the Civil War. To get a good bird’s eye view of the square, head to the top of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel.

Where it’s At

The heart of the neighborhood is Union Square Park, which is bordered by Geary, Powell, Post and Stockton streets, with most of the stores in the Market and Powell area.

What to See

Most people go to Union Square not to see but to shop. However, there are several sites of interest. The cable car turnaround for the Mason and Hyde lines is always fun to watch. Here the drivers disembark and turn the eight ton cars around so they’re facing the right direction and ready to go.

The neighborhood also serves as San Francisco’s theater district, with the Geary Theater as its center piece. For Broadway, head to the Curran or Golden Gate theaters. As an Insider’s Tip, you can get half-price day-of tickets to most shows from the TIX Bay Area ticket booth located at the corner of Geary and Powell streets.

Art and rock ‘n roll fans will appreciate the San Francisco Art Exchange, which displays Rolling Stone Ron Wood’s paintings, along with work by Albert Vargas and other famous rock and roll photographers.

Where to Eat

If you’ve worked up an appetite from a day full of shopping, head to Macy’s Cellar and Cheesecake Factory (170 O’Farrell Street) for an assortment of food-court options. For something a little more intimate, try Café Madeleine (43 O’Farrell St.) for a light Panini and coffee. For something more substantial, try the coastal cuisine at the ‘underwater’ Farallon (450 Post St.). Then wash it all down with a prohibition era cocktail at Bourbon & Branch (501 Jones St.), a classy speakeasy entered via an unmarked door and ‘secret’ password.