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What’s New in San Francisco – Fall/Winter

San Francisco Travel releases a roundup of what's new across the city, from newly opened restaurants to fresh art activations.

October 18, 2023

New on the Scene

HOTELS CHECK-IN: Five hotels are launching this fall in San Francisco. Set to debut Nov. 15 on the edge of the city’s historic Jackson Square neighborhood is The Jay. Formerly the Le Méridien, the 360-room property has been renovated and rebranded. Redesigned by AvroKo, the interior’s textured textiles and warm tones offer an abrupt departure from the historic brutalist frame by original architect John Portman. The hotel’s Third Floor features a garden terrace and will house an eponymous dining and cocktail outlet by the famed San Francisco-based Omakase Restaurant Group.

Quadrupling down on San Francisco, Chicago-based Oxford Capital Group, LLC announced it would open four rebranded, refreshed and repositioned properties this fall. The first to open was Hotel Fiona, formerly The Carriage Inn. Located in SoMa, the historic boutique property with Victorian flair features renovated guestrooms and an updated arrival lobby. The 107-room Hotel Julian San Francisco, 152-room SoMa House, and 121-room Hotel Garrett are also slated to open in Q4. 

AL FRESCO ART: The Asian Art Museum debuted its 7,500-square-foot East West Bank Art Terrace last month. Boasting cityscape views, the terrace is San Francisco’s newest and most expansive outdoor platform for relaxing and experiencing contemporary art installations by local and global Asian and Asian American artists.


Two historic alleyways sitting at the crossroads of the Transamerica Pyramid, Embarcadero Center, Chinatown and the Financial District have been transformed into the Landing at Leidesdorff. The new pedestrian-oriented space offers a variety of programming, including outdoor dining and cocktails, live music, and cultural programs. The Landing at Leidesdorff showcases a pair of new murals honoring the rich history of Captain William Alexander Leidesdorff, Jr., a founding father of San Francisco and one of the most prominent Black and biracial citizens of early California. His successful business ventures made him one of the first Black millionaires in America.

A flurry of pop-ups has landed in nine downtown properties. The first cohort features 17 local activators, including apparel brands, restaurants, designers, artists, and other makers. Among those who debuted their three-month pop-ups are local favorites such as Devil’s Teeth Bakery and Wack Donuts, both at Embarcadero Center. Two more cohorts of pop-ups are slated to open in 2024.

The Exploratorium's acclaimed public project, Middle Ground: Reconsidering Ourselves and Others, landed last month in the heart of San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza. The free exhibition invites passersby of all ages to learn more about themselves and how they relate to the people around them as they interact with the exhibition and each other. The expanded Middle Ground includes 15 architectural-scale, interactive, and multimedia exhibits about topics such as stereotypes and biases, social influence, prosocial behavior, and social polarization. Visitors can interact with the exhibition’s bright yellow activity towers through March 24.

DESIGNATED DRIVER: Big Bus launched Wine Country Tours from San Francisco, offering six- or nine-hour tours for those wanting to explore the wine regions of Napa and Sonoma Valley. Tickets should be reserved 24 hours in advance.

ORIGAMI IN THE SKY: Paper Tree – The Origami Store recently partnered with Adobe to create a free cutting-edge augmented reality (AR) origami tour. Launched in September, visitors scan a QR code at Paper Tree to begin an immersive origami adventure on their smartphones. As they stroll along Japantown’s Buchanan Street, colorful red and white envelopes appear to “float in the air.” The user’s proximity triggers an envelope to open, revealing a larger-than-life origami diorama. Using their smartphone, visitors can walk around the origami figures and inspect them from all angles to see the intricate folds made to create each piece. A pop-up display also shows the artist's name and which origami papers from Paper Tree were used in the work. A flock of gold origami cranes flutters across the sky once all the dioramas are revealed.


Off The Grid is back at Fort Mason through Oct. 27. Celebrating the deliciousness and diversity of San Francisco's food scene, Off The Grid boasts a stellar lineup of Friday night food trucks, pop-ups, and entertainment.

The year’s biggest movie is coming to the biggest screen in California on Oct. 27. In collaboration with Warner Bros. & Mattel, Giants Enterprises is hosting the ultimate Barbie movie night at Oracle Park. Guests can picnic on the field or sit in the stands to watch the movie.

Bringing more sparkle to San Francisco is D’Arcy Drollinger, San Francisco’s, and the nation’s, first Drag Laureate. Drollinger along with the Civic Joy Fund, Honey Mahogany, Juanita MORE! and Oasis Arts are organizing a takeover of city streets by drag performers. Taking place Dec. 2 and 3, San Francisco is a Drag will feature 100 “Kings and Queens” performing throughout the city at over 50 locations.

Dia de Los Meurtos (Day of the Day) activities on Nov. 2 include the 31st Annual Festival of Altars and the Ritual Poetry Circle in Potrero Del Sol Park and the 42nd Annual Day of the Dead Ritual Procession in the Mission District. The procession, produced by El Colectivo del Rescate Cultural, starts at 6 p.m. at 22nd and Bryant Streets.

The Park Market at Crane Cove brings local makers, live music, food and drink vendors, and family-friendly activities to one of the city’s newer parks. The final two markets of 2023 take place on Oct. 28 and Nov. 19. The Trick or Treat Market on Oct. 28 will include Halloween activities and crafts. The series ends on Nov. 19 with a Holiday Mercantile.

Dirty Habit, the restaurant and bar located on the 5th floor of Hotel Zelos, has partnered with the SF LGBT Center’s burgeoning Cultural Department to launch a new monthly music series that promotes and supports BIPOC artists from an array of musical backgrounds. The new “Vibin’ Live” music series features live performances at Dirty Habit every third Thursday of the month from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Admission is free with a dinner reservation. 

BUCKET LIST: Alcatraz, which celebrates its 50th anniversary as a National Park site in October, is ranked one of the world’s 20 best bucket list destinations based on a study by travel company Kuoni. The notorious 22-acre island was a fort, a military prison, and a maximum-security federal penitentiary for 29 years, when it housed notorious inmates such as Al Capone and George "Machine Gun" Kelly before it was turned into a park site.

Arts & Culture

ON POINT: San Francisco Ballet’s 2024 Repertory Season, which runs from Jan. 25 to May 5, is filled with premieres, company firsts, and works rarely seen in the U.S. Curated by Tamara Rojo, the first woman to lead the company and SF Ballet’s first new Artistic Director in nearly four decades, the season centers cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural collaborations, celebrates the artists and histories of San Francisco, and spotlights women’s voices on stage and off. Programs include a cutting-edge commission led by music producer/DJ and composer Floating Points; world premiere commissions from female choreographers Aszure Barton and Arielle Smith, who, along with Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, will reimagine the myths of Pandora, Carmen, and Frida Kahlo; and two classic British ballets rarely seen by American audiences.

VIRAL LOVE: Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s dazzling psychedelic art installations are on view for the first time in the Bay Area at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). With an extended run through Sept. 7, 2024, Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Love features two of the acclaimed artist’s Infinity Mirror Rooms: Dreaming of Earth’s Sphericity, I Would Offer My Love (2023) and LOVE IS CALLING, one of the largest and most immersive of such installations by the artist to date. In addition, Kusama’s monumental sculpture Aspiring to Pumpkin’s Love, the Love in My Heart (2023) pushes the polka-dotted pumpkin to new extremes, extending over 18 feet in length and more than 11 feet in height.

MONSTER MASH: The Asian Art Museum’s newest exhibition, Takashi Murakami: Unfamiliar People — Swelling of Monsterized Human Ego, showcases more than 75 works — including a dozen never-before-exhibited ones — and delivers Murakami's signature combination of fun, spectacle, and playful social commentary in his first-ever solo exhibition in the Bay Area. On view through Feb. 12, Murakami uses monsters as a lens to examine human behavior.

ZEN-ULTIMATE: This season, the Asian Art Museum will reveal two rarely seen, precious and celebrated artworks that have never previously left Japan. The Heart of Zen exhibit features Six Persimmons and Chestnuts centuries-old ink paintings originating from China. The paintings, treasures of the Daitokuji Ryokoin Zen temple in Kyoto, have remained out of sight for all but a few monks and select special visitors. Given their fragility, Six Persimmons and Chestnuts will be exhibited separately for three weeks (Nov. 17 to Nov. 10) and (Dec. 8 to 31), respectively, and together for one week (Dec. 8 to Dec. 10).

RARE WORKS: Reuniting rare works from across the U.S. and Europe, Botticelli Drawings —presented exclusively at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Legion of Honor from Nov. 19 to Feb. 11 — is the first exhibition to explore the central role that drawing played in Botticelli’s art and workshop practice. The exhibition unveils five newly attributed drawings alongside more than 60 works from 39 lending institutions. Botticelli Drawings features 27 drawings by the artist. The incredible rarity and fragility of these works preclude frequent travel, and many are leaving their lending institutions for the very first time in modern history solely for this exhibition.

POP GOES THE SYMPHONY: Esa-Pekka Salonen’s fourth season as Music Director at the San Francisco Symphony includes 12 Orchestral programs, four world premiere performances, SoundBox, continued partnerships with Peter Sellars and Alonzo King LINES Ballet, and a celebration of the spirit of California. During its impressive 2023/2024 SF Symphony Season, SF Symphony is also partnering with several famous musical artists, including Ellie Goulding (Nov. 20) and Sting (Feb. 14 and 15).

AI EXAMINED: Thrive City, the 11-acre plaza surrounding Chase Center, unveiled the family-friendly Misalignment Museum, a pop-up installation that showcases the capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) technology through thought-provoking art pieces. The museum represents a space to learn about AI and reflect on its power for both destruction and good through dynamic, playful art pieces.

WHAT ENDURES: The Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco (ICA SF) debuted the largest solo museum exhibition of artist Patrick Martinez. On view through Jan. 7, Ghost Land features a major public art piece and large-scale sculptural installation. The exhibition highlights Martinez’s “landscape” paintings—works that evoke the topography of personal, civic, and cultural loss, and includes a wall installation of his popular neon works. Also on view is Out of Place from Oakland-based painter Rupy C. Tut. Her exhibit follows the relationship between three characters – the body, the landscape, and the will to belong – and features Tut’s largest paintings to date.

DRAMA AND MORE DRAMA: SF Broadway, part of the Ambassador Theatre Group, has a busy fall and winter season scheduled. Upcoming shows include DISNEY’S THE LION KING (Nov. 22 through Dec. 30), MAMMA MIA! (Dec. 5 through Dec. 10), Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (Dec.12 through Dec. 17), The Wiz (Jan. 16 through Feb. 11), and PAW Patrol Live! “Heroes United” (March 9 through 10).

THE SAN FRANCISCO SOUND: Retroblakesberg: The Music Never Stopped offers a captivating visual narrative through photographs by Bay Area-based photographer Jay Blakesberg of legendary musicians, shedding light on the evolution of San Francisco's distinctive music culture and its far-reaching impact. The exhibition at the Contemporary Jewish Museum unites over 200 photographs and related memorabilia, all captured between 1978 and 2008. Icons such as the Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman, Neil Young, Soundgarden, and others are on view through Jan. 28.

RETROSPECTIVE: For its 30 Year Anniversary, 111 Minna Gallery features the works of 40 artists and curators who have worked with 111 Minna Gallery since its inception. Curated by 111 Minna co-owner David Scott Mabry, the exhibition features works by Sacha Eckes, Irene Hernandez-Feiks, Jay Howell, Micah LeBrun, Ron Turner and D Young V, among others. The show runs through Jan. 12.

BOUNDARY DEFYING: SFMOMA will unveil Wolfgang Tillmans: To Look Without Fear on Nov 11. Curated by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the exhibit is the most comprehensive of the artist's work to date. It encompasses Tillmans’ iconic pieces in photography, video, and multimedia installations. Tillmans’ inaugural solo exhibition in San Francisco is on view through March 3.

LOCAL LEGEND: 84-year-old contemporary painter and installation artist Joe Sam.’s works are on display at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) through March 3. His first solo exhibition in San Francisco, Joe Sam.: Text Messages, showcases 20 mixed media paintings from key series produced between 1985 and 2020. The works draw attention to Sam.’s experiments in text and abstraction, his activism, and his enduring love for the Bay Area.

“A GIANT LOVE LETTER”: The only one of its kind at a major U.S. museum, the groundbreaking The de Young Open triennial community art exhibition features 883 works by artists residing in the Bay Area. The second edition of this free “salon style” exhibition spans nine mediums and explores the issues shaping life in the Bay Area and beyond. The 883 works were selected by a jury from 7,766 applications and are on view through Jan. 7.

SECOND CENTURY: For its 101st season, San Francisco Opera explores new stories, contemporary voices, and classic works. The 2023/2024 season includes premieres of three co-commissioned operas. OMAR, the 2023 Pulitzer Prize winner for Music by Grammy Award-winning artist Rhiannon Giddens and composer Michael Abels, brings its urgent, American story to the War Memorial Opera House from Nov. 5 to 21. From June 1 to 21, the Opera House will also host the American premiere of INNOCENCE, the final opera by the late Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho with libretto by Sofi Oksanen and dramaturgy and multilanguage translations by Aleksi Barrière.

CATS & DOGS: Disney Cats & Dogs is on view at The Walt Disney Family Museum through June 2. The exhibit features over 300 archival reproduction concept sketches, paintings, model sheets, animation drawings, posters, photographs, digital artworks, and final film sequences that highlight the true-to-life design and movements of Disney’s speaking and non-verbal cats and dogs, including characters like Mickey Mouse’s best pal Pluto, Lady and Tramp from Lady and the Tramp (1955), and Duchess from The Aristocats (1970).

Food & Drink

San Francisco is the most "food-forward city in the U.S., according to Datassential, a company which tracks menu and consumer trends. According to Datassential, “It’s not just about having a lot of trendy restaurants. It’s about having a thriving and diverse restaurant scene.” The company analyzed the diversity of cuisines, the prevalence of emerging foods and flavor trends, and residents’ appetite for varied menus for the rankings.

Noodle in a Haystack and Prik Hom were named to the third annual New York Times Restaurant List featuring the 50 places deemed the best in America. Noodle in a Haystack along with Shuggies landed on Bon Appetit’s 24 Best New Restaurants Of 2023 list. Both Prik Hom and Noodle in a Haystack reported they are fully booked through 2023.

Restaurant and Bar News:

The new Blue Whale Restaurant & Lounge from Michelin-starred Chef Ho Chee Boon is a sprawling, sleek venue in the Marina. Opened in October, the restaurant serves seasonal Asian cuisine. It features multiple dining areas, including a private dining lounge and a large open-air garden oasis tucked away in the backyard. Malaysian-born Boon introduces diners to favorite seasonal dishes and flavors inspired by his extensive travels and background. Blue Whale's menu includes delectables such as Crab Meat Xiao Long Bao, Wasabi Crispy Tiger Prawns with Pineapple, and Baked Lobster with Buttermilk and Chili. This is Chef Boon’s second restaurant in San Francisco. He opened his elegant Cantonese restaurant, Empress Boon, in Chinatown in 2021.

Chotto Matte SF is set to open in Union Square on Oct. 21. The rooftop restaurant will showcase Nikkei cuisine, the amalgamation of Japanese techniques and Peruvian ingredients. The new venue is Chotto Matte’s first outpost on the West Coast. Signature menu highlights landing in San Francisco include the iconic Chotto Branzino Ceviche, Tentáculos de Pulpo, Sato Maki sushi and Pollo den Miso. The restaurant occupies the newly developed rooftop restaurant and wraparound terrace atop 100 Stockton St., affording stunning panoramic views of the city. The design is chic yet organic, with prominent Japanese lavastone and shou sugi ban wood.

Yokai, a 60-seat hi-fi cocktail bar and charcoal grill, opened in September in downtown SF. Inspired by Chef Marc Zimmerman’s travels throughout Japan, Yokai pays homage to Japan’s after-work food and drink culture with shareable plates and skewers cooked over binchotan charcoal. While wagyu is a focal point, the menu gives equal attention to fish and seafood selections, vegetables and produce from Tenbrink Farms. The venue has a strong focus on Japanese whisky and cocktails, as well as brandies, cognacs, and the budding Japanese gin scene.

Corzetti, from hitmaker Adriano Paganini’s Back of the House, opened at Hotel G in San Francisco’s Union Square in August. Highlighting coastal Ligurian cuisine, the seafood-forward menu features traditional dishes inspired by Paganini’s memories of summers by the Ligurian Sea.

Michael Mina tapped Chef Shotaro “Sho” Kamio as consulting chef to collaborate on a new culinary experience at Pabu Izakaya, a Japanese izakaya-style restaurant. The new menu showcases small and shareable plates, larger entrees from the Charcoal Grill, and various rolls and hand rolls. New menu items include Mentaiko Pasta with spicy cod roe, shiso, nori and garlic ginger; Tamari Marinated Whole Squid with tempura tentacles, bonito flake and mentaiko aioli, and a new Temaki category showcasing taco-shaped hand rolls.

PLS on Post opened in Union Square at the boutique Hotel Zeppelin in August. The casual spot serves made-to-order gourmet smash burgers, indulgent photogenic milkshakes, highball cocktails, beer, wine and more. Short for Peace Love Soul on Post, the restaurant pays homage to San Francisco’s 1960s counterculture tradition.

Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz, the duo behind beloved pop-up Istanbul Modern, opened Dalida this summer to rave reviews. Located in the Presidio of San Francisco, the full-service restaurant showcases the warm hospitality, fresh ingredients, memorable flavors, and rich culture of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Ghirardelli celebrated the grand reopening of the Original Ghirardelli Chocolate & Ice Cream Shop in July following a six-month renovation. The store champions Ghirardelli's history as a U.S. chocolate pioneer and legacy in San Francisco since 1852. The new design features North America's largest flowing chocolate wall, the original 19-foot “G” from the historic marque Ghirardelli sign, a replica San Francisco cable car that doubles as a seating area, and antique chocolate-making equipment.

Flour + Water Pizzeria reopened in a new location in North Beach. Flour + Water co-chefs Thomas McNaughton and Ryan Pollnow are known for their commitment to meticulously crafted, Italian-influenced dishes. Here, they bring that same sensibility to all things pizza.

Opened in May, Kiln, a 3,400-square-foot, 34-seat fine-dining concept from Michelin-starred industry vets seeks out the finest quality ingredients from around the world. Kiln’s concept is rooted in showcasing ingredients in their simplicity and using various techniques, such as preservation, fermentation, curing and open-fire cooking.

The team of industry vets behind The Treasury and The Beehive opened the delightful, woodsy Heartwood in downtown’s Financial District. The nature-inspired interiors boast a cocktail menu featuring “flavors derived from plants, fruits, herbs, and spices.” The bar’s name refers to the innermost part of a tree and the nearby Transamerica Redwood Park.

Part of a downtown bar boom, Heartwood is joined by Holbrook House, Yokai, Bar Sprezzatura, Harlan RecordsDragon Horse, The Felix, Madarae, The Dawn Club, The Harlequin and Movida as new places to imbibe in the heart of SF.

Mattina, the Cal-Italian-inspired all-day café in Pacific Heights by Chef Matthew Accarrino of SPQR, launched an ‘Aperitivo’ or ‘Appi Hour’ from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The menu focuses on vermouth spritz-inspired drinks served with accompanying snacks such as fried stuffed olives, pickled vegetables, and local cheeses. Accarrino has sourced over 20 vermouth selections for ‘Appi Hour.’

Estiatorio Ornos, a Michael Mina restaurant, introduced a cocktail menu inspired by the origins of the Greek world and their gods of creation. Conceptualized by Lead Bartender Jose Luis Merino Calderon, the menu is rooted in classic cocktails reimagined with Mediterranean flavors like citrus, elderflower, tamarind, and passionfruit. Also featured are Greek spirits like Mastiha, a cedar-like flavor from an evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean, and Greek vodka and brandy, including a house-made lamb-washed rye.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

10 YEARS OF FURRY STRESS RELIEF: SFO’s Wag Brigade, a team of certified stress-relief animals, has been on paw patrol for nearly a decade. Launched in December 2013 to make passenger travel more enjoyable, the animals roam the terminals with their people wearing “Pet Me” vests (and sometimes costumes). The Wag Brigade includes Duke Ellington Moris, a feline; LiLou, a Juliana-breed pig; Alex the Great, a 34-pound Flemish giant rabbit, and a roster of canines including Fonzie, a chihuahua and poodle mix, and Indy, a golden retriever. All Wag Brigade members are certified by the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) through their Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) Program.

BEST OF: SFO scored multiple awards in the annual USA Today Readers’ Choice Awards. SFO was named among the 10 Best Airports for Shopping, and in the Best Airport Grab-And-Go Food” category, SFO’s Napa Farms Market, with locations in the International Terminal and Terminal 2, was honored as a 10Best winner. The Airport also earned an award in the “Best Airport Lounge” category for the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, located in the International Terminal. Food & Wine also named SFO “The Best U.S. Airport for Food in earlier this year.



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