If you're anything like me and want a city break where you can have the best of all worlds – and in large portions – San Francisco, California, is the place for you. Here's how to make the most of it
Where to stay
I strongly recommend the Hotel Abri (see Make It Happen, top left), in a perfect location for everything near Union Square and just steps away from the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station that links to the airport in 25 minutes. We paid just £40 per night (can you believe it?) and had a superb stay. All the rooms are brand-new, it's super-trendy, has a fab shower, the best nightlife within a two-minutes walk – and the staff are the most helpful I have ever encountered. They printed us out lists every day of the best places to go that night, and got us on the guest list for just about everywhere.
Where to go at night
If it's nightlife you are after, you have it big here. San Fran is home to one of the best clubs in the world – Ruby Skye (www.rubyskye.com), with the likes of Tiesto, PVD (etc) spinning every week. I was fortunate enough to talk my way into the VIP area – simply by being friendly to the security staff. I can also recommend a very busy haunt with quite a trendy crowd – Infusion Lounge, just across from the Hotel Abri. Clubs generally close at about 2am, but if you want to carry on partying, jump in a cab to the "End Up" (www.theendup.com) which is open until 6am.
Union Square and Downtown have masses of choice when it comes to bars and clubs. If you want a lot more upper class, go to North Beach, with its trendy haunts. For something a bit more urban, try the Mission area with its alternative bars.
Where to eat
There are so many places, where do I start? Fisherman's Wharf has some beautiful restaurants, great if you love fish – but they're equally good in the City, with so much choice and never too expensive. The portions are huge… so big, in fact, that we saved a fortune by sharing meals – fine, unless you are starving after a big night out. If you have eyes bigger than your belly, worry not about food you have left; the staff will box it up for you to take away later – bargain!
Where to drink
If you love cocktails, one of the best places I have been in the world is the Cheesecake Factory, near Union Square in Macy’s. Woweeeee is all I have to say. For $10, you can have a taste sensation, with plenty of alcohol in it. I’d suggest the Raspberry Martini – I’d go back just for one of these bad boys! Similarly, if you love cheesecake then this is the place for you; with more than 50 to choose from, my friend and I were in here nearly every day. Expect to pay $5-$7 for vodka and a mixer, though a lot of places do have happy hours between 6pm and 7pm when you can get wine, Champagne and beer for $2.50-$5. Remember, the measures aren’t like those in the UK.
What to do by day
Cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge Hire a bike for $28 for the day, and go wherever you want in the city. See www.blazingsaddles.com.
Get the ferry to Alcatraz For $25, it’s worth a look. See www.alcatrazcruises.com.
Walk around the city In particular, see the "Crookedest Street" and the Victorian Houses (as seen in famous movie car chases, and Mrs Doubtfire)
Go to Golden Gate Park There is so much to see here – too much to list. See www.sfgate.com/neighborhoods/sf/goldengatepark.
Visit Fisherman's Wharf Look out especially for "Bubbagumps shrimp restaurant" (as in Forrest Gump). See www.fishermanswharf.org.
Go shopping My word – so many shops it’s unbelievable, from high-street to high-end.
You have the BART, the equivalent of the London Underground – but it is unlikely you will use it, as most places are within walking distance and it can be expensive. It's useful, though, for the Yellow Line to and from the airport. Use the street cars for day-to-day travel; they run pretty much all around the city – and for $1.50, your ticket lasts a few hours and you can jump on and off. While you are in SF, take a trip on the famous cable cars that run north and south of the city.
If you like things clean, you will be in heaven here. I was even impressed by the state of public toilets – not what we are used to in the UK at all. It’s the little things that make a huge difference...