You are here

What's New in San Francisco | January/February 2015

“What’s New in San Francisco” is a monthly roundup of news and updates presented by the San Francisco Travel Association.


Jan. 8, 2015 — “What’s New” is compiled by the San Francisco Travel Association. Past editions of “What’s New” and a list of “Recent and Coming Attractions” are available in the Media section of San Francisco Travel’s website,


Roundup of Annual Festivals and Special Events for 2015 Now Available

A roundup of annual festivals and special events taking place in San Francisco in 2015 is now available at

Dine About Town becomes San Francisco Restaurant Week, Jan. 21-30, 2015 

San Francisco Restaurant Week (SFRW) will be presented by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA) on Jan. 21-30. The program, presented for 13 years as Dine About Town by San Francisco Travel, will have some new enhancements: 

  •  Two-course lunches ($25) and three-course dinners ($40) will include a little something extra for diners such as an amuse-bouche, a paired beverage, or an after-meal takeaway.  
  • An $85 Discovery Menu includes food and beverage pairings and is intended to inspire restaurants to flex their creative muscle and surprise diners. Available at select restaurants only. 
  • The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank will receive $0.25 from every cover sold through OpenTable bookings during SFRW. Diners and restaurants will also have the opportunity to make additional contributions throughout Restaurant Week.

For more information, visit Media contacts: Jenais Zarlin, Golden Gate Restaurant Association,, 415-781-3925 and Jamie Kopmann, Andrew Freeman & Co.,, 415-781-5700.

Sketchfest Returns for 14th Round of Laughs

The 14th annual Sketchfest comedy festival,  Jan. 22 – Feb.8 , 2015 featuresmajor comedy stars and the best up-and-coming comedians from around the world for more than two weeks of sketch, stand-up, alternative comedy, music, improv, films, tributes, live podcasts, workshops and panel discussions.   Highlights (subject to change) include:

  • SF Tributes to Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer, Marc Maron, Weird Al
  • StarTalk Live with Bill Nye the Science Guy and co-host Eugene Mirman (Bob's Burgers)
  • NoisePop tribute to Scharpling and Wurster w musical guests John Darnielle, Ben Gibbard and Bob Mould
  • Maya Rudolph's Prince cover band "Princess"
  • Live podcasts include hugely popular "Judge John Hodgman,"  "Superego," "Jordan  Jessie Go!"
  • Family friendly shows include "Mo Willems & Friends Storytime"
  • Legendary improv groups The Groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade perform
  • NPR's live trivia and music show "Ask Me Another" with Ophira Eisenberg and guests
  • Old time radio inspired live show "Thrilling Adventure Hour" returns with its impressive cast
  • Cult favorite w00tstock with Adam Savage (Myth Busters), Paul & Storm and more also returns
  • Festival favorite "Celebrity Autobiography" returns
  • Musical guests Ben Gibbard (Death Cab), Bob Mould, Rhett Miller (Old 97s)

For up-to-date information and announcements, visit Media contact: Sheila Kenny,, 512-487-5005. 

Multiple Events Mark the Centennial of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition

Feb. 20, 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE), the World’s Fair celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal and showcasing San Francisco’s recovery from the ashes of the 1906 earthquake and fire and its world trade potential. Throughout 2015, the PPIE100, a citywide consortium of cultural, civic, and historical organizations, will conduct centennial programs to commemorate the PPIE’s historical significance and to reflect on its legacy. Events are scheduled throughout 2015 at the Palace of Fine Arts, California Historical Society, Market Street Railway and other locations. Learn more at Media contact: Angela Carrier, California Historical Society,, 415-357-1848. 

Restoration of Alcatraz’ Historic Gardens Completed

Alcatraz Island’s historic but long-neglected gardens are once again lush and colorful, thanks to a decade-long partnership between the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy (Parks Conservancy), The Garden Conservancy and National Park Service. The project included removing 40 years of overgrowth and decay to restore five key garden areas; gathering historic documentation and keeping detailed records of work performed; developing a volunteer garden program to help care for the gardens, and promoting and interpreting the gardens with guided walks, brochures, a website, book, slideshow presentations and social media.  Alcatraz Island was once little more than a barren rock in San Francisco Bay, home only to seabirds. However, gardening has been an important part of life since the mid-nineteenth century, when the island was settled by the Army. Sent to live on the cold and bleak island, military families planted Victorian-style gardens in pockets of imported soil around the somber citadel on the island as early as the 1860s. Over time, prison crews and a few carefully selected inmates also participated in the tending the landscape.  The island first served as an Army fortress, becoming a military prison in 1861 and then a high-security federal penitentiary for 30 years, from 1934 to 1963. It became a Golden Gate National Park site in 1972. For 40 years, before the Historic Gardens of Alcatraz project was formed in 2003, the gardens grew wild. Today, the island’s historic buildings and harsh environment are softened by thriving plantings, including 160 types of “survivor” plants that weathered a challenging growing environment as well as long periods of neglect. For more information about the Gardens of Alcatraz, see Media contacts:  George Shakespear, The Garden Conservancy, 845-424-6500,; David Shaw, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, 415-561-3064, and Howard Levitt, National Park Service, 415-561-4730,

The Bay Lights Will Shine in 2016 and Beyond  

Illuminate the Arts has announced that The Bay Lights - the world’s largest LED light sculpture - will become a permanent part of the Bay Bridge.  The two-year installation of The Bay Lights by artist Leo Villareal will end on March 6, 2015 and the sculpture will be removed to allow Caltrans to perform maintenance on the bridge cables. Illuminate the Arts has successfully raised $4 million in private funds to pay for new equipment and re-installation, so The Bay Lights will be re-installed in time to shine for Super Bowl 50 in February 2016.   Once the light sculpture is returned to the bridge, the artwork will be gifted to the State of California for ongoing stewardship. The Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) Oversight Committee has unanimously approved negotiation of an MOU with Illuminate the Arts to make The Bay Lights a permanent part of the Bay Bridge.   Bay Area philanthropist Tad Taube stepped forward with a challenge grant of $2 million to help Illuminate the Arts reach its goal. Taube’s commitment was absolutely pivotal to helping Illuminate the Arts by inspiring matching gifts, increasing visibility of the need for support and creating real momentum. Media contact:  Tami Kelly, Brazer Communications,, 925-640-9997.

Marrakech Magic Theater

With more than 1,500 performances and counting, the Marrakech Magic Theater, featuring the classical magic and comedy of magician Peter Morrison, is San Francisco’s second longest continuously running show.   The evening begins in the Sultan's Oasis lounge where guests enjoy a little pre-show entertainment and meet-and-greet with magician-owner Peter Morrison.   The experience ends with Peter's unforgettable 75 minute performance in the Main Showroom.  Morrison has performed more than 3,000 performances nationwide for over the course of 17 years, including more than 80 sold out performances at the world renowned Magic Castle in Hollywood, CA.  It was from this experience that Morrison formulated his one-of-a-kind show for the Marrakech Magic Theater. For more information, visit   Media contact: Peter Morrison,, 925-984-6504.


SoundBox by San Francisco Symphony – A New Place for People Who Love Music

SoundBox is a new alternative performance space backstage at Davies Symphony Hall, home of the San Francisco Symphony.  Events in this venue, designed to encourage culturally curious newcomers to discover the classical music experience, will be curated by a variety of composers, artists and musicians from the San Francisco Symphony family in casual, interactive settings with flexible seating and bar service.  All SoundBox events feature SFS musicians performing and interacting in a cabaret-style setting enhanced by a state-of-the-art Meyer Constellation sound system. Upcoming events feature explorations of California Counterculture (March 6 and 7), featuring music by composer Nathaniel Stookey and others led by conductor Edwin Outwater; the SF Symphony Percussion section in a journey (Feb. 13 and 14) featuring percussion classics from the Western canon by Xenakis and others;  works influenced by musical traditions from around the globe, and Revolutions in Music (April 9 and 10) featuring Spanish guest conductor Pablo Heras-Casado, whose late night SoundBox appearances follow his concerts on the main stage at Davies Symphony Hall.  Learn more at Media contact:, 415-503-5474.

New Conservatory Theatre Center Announces 2015 Lineup

New Conservatory Theatre Center (NCTC) is the premier LGBT and allied performing arts institution in San Francisco. Since 1981 NCTC has championed innovative, high quality productions with a new season of main stage plays each year, in addition to featuring work from emerging theatre artists in the residency program, world premieres developed in our New Play Development Lab and original family matinees.  The New Conservatory produces a wide range of plays including the laugh-out-loud Tony-award winning musical Avenue Q (running thru Feb 1, 2015), a fun family matinee Sock Puppet Jamboree (Feb 7-15, 2015), the sharp and timely comedy, Harbor, (Jan. 23 – Mar. 1, 2015), and the daring and explosive Pulitzer Prize finalist, Other Desert Cities, (March. 6 – April  5, 2015). NCTC aspires to take risks in each season and showcase stories that remain in audiences’ minds long after the play has ended. New Conservatory Theatre Center houses three theatres ranging in size from 49-130 seats and is centrally located at 25 Van Ness Ave. at Market Street, near both Muni and BART lines. For information, visit  Media contact: Kate Jones Butler,


Artful Tour Offers “I Have A Dream…”

“I Have A Dream...” is the newest custom tour by San Francisco’s Artful Tour.  Offered during January and February 2015, the tours will be available in both San Francisco and Oakland to augment celebrations of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday and Black History Month.  The custom tours acknowledge the inspiration of Dr. King and the achievement of Bay Area African American artists in the affirmation of black culture. Participants will select venues to visit including museums, galleries, art centers and artist studios.  Artful Tour was recently launched by Bernard Faber, a former Professor of Sociology and founder of The Center for the Study of Public Policy and the Arts.  As a guide at the diRosa Collection in Napa Valley, he has lead more than 300 tours involving 3,000 visitors.   Artful Tour offers custom designed art tours covering museums, private and public galleries, art centers, public art and artist studios. Other walking tours he has offered have covered Dogpatch; Potrero Hill; Union Square/Tenderloin; SOMA/Mission district including the famous murals, as well as Winter Night Tours. Faber encourages visitors to create their own tours of art in the city. Learn more at  Media contact:  Bernard Faber, 415-595-1282,  

Explore the Science of Romance at the Exploratorium in February 

Celebrate love in February at Exploratorium by delving into the museum’s sensual and steamy side through exhibits, art and activities that focus on human interaction, love, trust, touch and more. Highlights include:

  • Love is Blind at Tactile Dome. Using only the sense of touch, guests can stroke, slide and bump through this maze, exploring in total darkness. Creative visionary August Coppola developed this exhibit as part of his advocacy work for the visually impaired. Reservations for Tactile Dome are required at
  • Steal a kiss under the 22-foot-high Tinkerer’s ClockLovers can animate small cartoon characters poised to oil, brush, weld and otherwise tinker with love’s mysteries. On the hour, the work is finished and the clock comes to life, even though “loves knows not what time is.
  • Explore love’s topsy-turvy collaborative and competitive nature through the new hands-on exhibit, Science of Sharing. How do lovers handle daily social dilemmas, build trust and work together (or not)?
  • Find out just how hot your date is under an infrared light camera at the “What’s Hot, What’s Not” exhibit. Then, make some friction and warm things up at the Heat Camera Workbench.

Date Nights: 

  • Thursday, Feb. 5 – After Dark: Nocturnal. This evening mixes cocktails, conversation and playful, innovative science and art events. From 6 to 10 p.m. $15/person, adults 18+ only.
  • Thursday, Feb. 12 – Resonance with Susie Ibarra. Hearts beat faster during this percussionist’s pulsating concert.  She draws polyrhythmic traditions from her Filipino heritage and from cultures across Asia and Africa to create avant-garde compositions evoking narrative, imagery, and the natural rhythms of life. 7 p.m., $25/person, adults 18+ only.
  • Thursday, Feb. 26 – Full Spectrum Science with Ron Hipschman: Radioactivity. Excite the nucleus inside each of your atoms with this colorful exploration of radioactivity hosted by Exploratorium scientific raconteur Ron Hipschman. You’ll leave radiating nothing but love. 8 p.m., included in museum admission, adults 18+ only.

For more information, visit  Media contact:  Trisha Clayton, 415-346-4565,


Mazarine Coffee Elevates the Experience in a Cup

Mazarine Coffee, a new coffeehouse at Market and Kearney streets in downtown San Francisco, takes its inspiration from Paris’ Bibliothèque Mazarine, the city’s oldest public library, dating back to the 17th century. Mazarine seeks to become the coffeehouse equivalent, curating diverse epicurean offerings and acting as a community gathering spot. While the inspiration for Mazarine is a historical one, the design aesthetic is decidedly contemporary. The coffee menu, served in an array of dishes from Heath Ceramics, features rotating specialty espresso and coffee blends, featuring international award-winning Klatch Coffee and Ritual Roasters at opening. Additional roasters will be added to the menu, depending on what coffees owner Hamid Rafati and his team may discover, and what his customers ask for. Mazarine offers a breakfast menu followed by an all-day menu of sweet and savory pastries from Starter Bakery, as well as seasonal sandwiches and salads. Mazarine’s beer and wine menu focuses on notable, local producers.  For more information, visit www.mazarinecoffee.comMedia contact: Olga Katsnelson,, 415-508-6727. 

The Bubbles Flow Every Day at the San Francisco Champagne Society

The San Francisco Champagne Society opened in August 2014 as a reservation-only champagne lounge with the focus on grower producer champagnes.  The experience is undeniably intimate – the 250-square foot loft holds a maximum of 20 guests.  Proprietor Bill Marci explains his approach:  “True champagne must be from the Champagne region of France to be classified as such and most of what I pour is grower-producer champagne with production less than 100,000 bottles (large house such as Moët produce 30 million).  I also have sparkling wines from California and other parts of the world outside of Champagne.”   Marci is an electrical engineer by education and has run BMA Solutions A/V Systems for 20 years, so don’t be afraid to get technical with him.  Reservations are required and can be made at reservations@sfchampagnesociety.comMedia contact: Bill Marci,   

PABU – A Japanese Izakaya

 Chef Ken Tominaga brings forth a modern take on traditional Izakaya-style dining with PABU San Francisco. In partnership with Michael Mina this modern izakaya and sushi bar in downtown San Francisco is a dream brought to life for Tominaga and Mina. Located at the landmark 101 California space in San Francisco’s Financial District, PABU combines rustic, old-world Japanese charm with modern, urban sophistication to create a dynamic, social dining experience. Learn more at  Media contact: Megan Palmer,, 415-359-0791. 

Escape the Worries of the Day and Celebrate Island Culture at Palm House

Housed at 2032 Unions St. in the original 1854 dairy farm house where Cow Hollow derives its name and situated behind the second oldest palm tree in San Francisco, Palm House evokes a bygone era of tropical leisure. Catch up with friends over al fresco brunch on the front patio “street side,” grab a drink and some snacks in the festive main bar atrium while you watch your favorite team on the big screen, or get a little more intimate with dinner in the dining area or private Captain’s Room.  Learn more at  Media contact: Madeline Janning, 415-781-5700,


The Payne Mansion Reopens in Grand Style

After an eight-year, $6.5 million restoration, the Payne Mansion is again open for business.  This 1881 Victorian in the heart of San Francisco offers ten luxury rooms, event space for 300, a 1,000 square foot professional chef's kitchen and an additional VIP Club for 70 guests.  The historic “Painted Lady” is ready to host everything from destination weddings and private events to photo shoots and location filming.  Learn more at  Media contact: Irv Spivak,, 415-637-5767.

Harvest Inn in Napa Valley’s St. Helena Getting the Charlie Palmer Touch

Palmer City-Core, the hospitality firm spearheaded by celebrated chef Charlie Palmer, has announced the groundbreaking of the highly anticipated transformation of Harvest Inn by Charlie Palmer, the historic St. Helena property acquired in early 2014. Phase one of three takes place in the Main House, Harvest Inn’s central building, from standard check-in and common area to a fully revamped reception area, a welcoming bar, and a signature Charlie Palmer restaurant, Harvest Table. Plans for phases two and three include four additional guest rooms, new and improved meeting and event spaces and a complete room revamp of the existing 74 guest rooms.  Details will be released in early 2015 along with more information on Harvest Table and the new guest rooms. The award-winning design firm, MBH Architects, worked side-by-side with Chef Palmer on the transformed aesthetic taking it from classic Wine Country inn to luxurious five-star resort.  Learn more at Media contact: Ashley Hamik,, 707-849-0212.    


BART’s New Connection to Oakland International Airport 

BART’s new train-to-plane service, “BART to OAK,” provides an easy connection to Oakland International Airport (OAK).   Riders board one of four three-car automated people movers at either the Coliseum Station or the Oakland International Airport Station and take the eight-minute ride at 30 mph.  Trains arrive every five minutes during peak commute hours (weekdays 8 a.m.-8 p.m.) and drop off and pick up riders just steps away from both terminals at OAK.  BART riders have a quick and easy train-to-train transfer at the Coliseum station.  Riders can use a BART ticket or a Clipper Card.  Learn more at  Media contact:  Alicia Trost,, 510-464-6154.


New and Expanded Service at San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco has never been more connected to the world with new or expanded service to San Francisco International Airport from Taipei, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Dubai, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, London, Zurich, Maui and more: 

Start Date: Jan. 5, 2015 
JetBlue is adding new nonstop service between SFO and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. The award-winning airline will offer two daily roundtrips beginning Jan. 5, 2015. JetBlue will serve the SFO-LAS market with spacious 150-seat Airbus A320 aircraft.

British Airways
Start Date: March 29, 2015
British Airways will operate an Airbus A380 between SFO and London-Heathrow Airport beginning April 2, 2015 through the busy summer travel season. The Airbus A380 is the largest commercial passenger aircraft in the world, featuring a double-deck that extends the entire length of the fuselage. British Airways’ A380 aircraft offers 170 more seats per flight than the Boeing 747, which previously operated on the route.

Turkish Airlines
Start Date: April 13, 2015
Turkish Airlines will begin non-stop service between SFO and Istanbul next spring.
Turkish Airlines officials said the airline plans to launch service at SFO on April 13, 2015, with flights operating five days per week to Istanbul using Boeing 777 aircraft.  The flag carrier of Turkey plans to increase service to daily flights on May 11, 2015. 

United Airlines
Start Date: May 6–Oct. 24, 2015
On Dec. 15, 2014 United announced that it will operate additional flights to Shanghai and Chengdu, China, from the airline's premier trans-Pacific gateway hub in San Francisco during the peak summer travel season. The current daily service between San Francisco and Shanghai will increase to two flights daily from May 6-Oct. 24, 2015, and the three-times-weekly service between San Francisco and Chengdu will increase to daily service from June 4-Sept. 1, 2015, both routes subject to government approval.

Virgin Atlantic
Start Date: March 29–Oct. 20, 2015
Additional summer seasonal service from London Heathrow to San Francisco flying five times a week will be introduced. 

Swiss International
Start Date: July 4, 2015–Aug. 23, 2015
Swiss International will increase its frequencies between Zurich and San Francisco from seven to 13 a week between July 4-Aug. 23, 2015.

China Southern Airlines
Start Date: Dec.16, 2014
China Southern Airlines nonstop flights between SFO and Wuhan and onwards to Guangzhou began Dec. 16, 2014. This is the first direct service between SFO and the two interior mainland China cities.

Start Date: Dec. 1, 2014
Emirates now has upgraded its non-stop daily flight from Dubai, UAE. Its brand new Airbus 380-800, offers an additional 135 seats and will have 14 First Class Private Suites (including access to an onboard shower), 76 Business Class seats and 399 Economy Class seats. San Francisco augments the airline’s American expansion, which now includes two gateways in California, the U.S. southwest with Houston, and the Eastern seaboard with two daily services.

Hawaiian Airlines
Start Date: Nov. 20, 2014
Hawaiian Airlines commenced nonstop SFO-Maui starting Nov. 20, 2014. The non-stop service between San Francisco and Maui began with flights four times a week on Nov. 20, 2014 and increased to daily service beginning Dec. 17, 2014. The new daily service will add a total of more than 210,000 seats to both San Francisco and Maui travel markets per year, and will be operated by Hawaiian Airlines' wide-body, twin-aisle Airbus 330-200 aircraft.

Etihad Airways
Start Date: Nov. 18, 2014
Etihad Airways began daily nonstop service from Abu Dhabi to San Francisco on Nov. 18, 2014. 
San Francisco was Etihad’s fifth U.S. destination, complementing New York, Chicago, Washington, Los Angeles and Dallas (started Dec. 3, 2014). Etihad operates a three-class Boeing 777-300ER aircraft offering eight first class, 30 business class and 308 economy class seats.

United Airlines
Start Date: Oct. 26, 2014
United Airlines launched a new Pacific route between San Francisco and Tokyo's Haneda Airport, on Oct. 26, 2014. New daily flights between San Francisco and Tokyo's close-in Haneda Airport complement United's existing service between the hub and Tokyo's Narita International Airport. 

Start Date: Oct. 26, 2014
Mint, which offers private suites, the longest full-flat bed and widest seat on domestic U.S. routes, was launched on Oct. 26, 2014 between New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport and SFO. JetBlue is also ramping up service between New York and San Francisco in the coming months increasing to up to five daily roundtrip flights by first quarter 2015.

Aer Lingus
Start Date: April 2, 2014
The airline returned to SFO on April 2, 2014, with five flights per week to Dublin, Ireland, using an Airbus A330-200 aircraft. Aer Lingus will increase to daily service on May 1, 2015.

United Airlines
Start Date: March 29, 2014
United Airlines commenced daily service from San Francisco to Taipei, Taiwan on March 29, 2014 on a Boeing 777-200 aircraft. 

For more information about service to San Francisco International Airport, visit  Media contact: Doug Yakel, San Francisco International Airport,, 650-821-4000.


Changes in Local Dialing

Beginning February 21, 2015 telephone customers must use a new dialing procedure for all local calls placed in San Francisco. After this date, calls will not be completed without the new dialing procedure and a recording will instruct callers to hang up and dial again.

Beginning March 21, 2015 new telephone lines or services in that area may be assigned numbers with the 628 area code. This new 628 area code will serve customers in the same geographic region as the current 415 area code that generally covers communities such as Belvedere, Brisbane, Corte Madera, Daly City, Fairfax, Ignacio, Inverness, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Nicasio, Novato, Point Reyes, Ross, San Anselmo, San Francisco, San Rafael, Sausalito, Stinson Beach and Tiburon. 

To complete local calls from a landline phone, the new dialing procedure requires callers in those locations to dial 1+ the area code + telephone number. This means that all calls in the 415 area code that are currently dialed with seven digits will need to be dialed using the 1+ the area code + telephone number.   To complete calls from a cellular or mobile phone, callers may dial the area code + telephone number or 1 + area code + telephone number whenever placing a local 415 call.  For more information, visit