City Staycation: Commune With Nature in the Presidio - San Francisco
As a San Francisco resident, why oh why would you want to do a city staycation anywhere other than the Presidio, since it’s by far the only place in town in which you can actually feel like you’re somewhere other than the place you actually live. Isn’t the purpose of a staycation to get as far away as possible within the city limits? Thanks to its peaceful forests; views of the ocean from almost any point within its 1,491 acres; internationally renowned art; and distinct lack of hipsters milling about, the Presidio—a military base turned national park—seems to have been specifically conceived for your staycationing pleasure.
In the park, the Inn at the Presidio is basically your only choice for lodging (unless your idea of a home away from home is a tent, in which case you can pitch your flyweight bivouac at the Rob Hill campground, located at the Presidio’s highest point), but what an awesome choice it is. Once military housing for bachelor officers, the historic 1903 Classic Revival brick building was fully renovated into a charming auberge that opened in 2012. Book one of the beautiful Classic King suites, appointed with two gas fireplaces, and a feather-top bed from which you can hardly emerge once you’ve been cocooned within its sumptuous linens. The Inn offers a complimentary European-style continental breakfast each morning for guests, and while you can easily make a dinner from the nightly wine and cheese—a cornucopia of fancy fromages and vintages—try to exercise some discipline, because within five minutes’ walk from the hotel are two Traci Des Jardins restos and a weekly Off the Grid.
Renowned SF restaurateur Traci Des Jardins recently opened a casual Mexican eatery, Arguello, in the old Officers’ Club, just a few hundred feet away from the Inn. Brunches on the sunny enclosed patio are quite festive, so if you do partake, slather on the sunscreen and wear something with an elastic waist. What the food lacks in portions (but really, can you ever have enough chilequiles?) it makes up for in quality of ingredients and refined preparation. Besides, you can always go crazy on the sides, particularly the chips and guacamole and crispy pork. Des Jardins’ other Presidio outpost, The Commissary serves up Spanish tapas in a sophisticated setting. Post up at the chef’s counter for a front-row seat to the action: Watch flames kiss octopus destined for a tumble of potatoes and pimenton; marvel at how the salt cod fritters emerge perfectly crispy and light golden brown, a masterful feat that requires intuition and precision.
If you happen to be staycationing over a Thursday or a Sunday, Off the Grid and its numerous food trucks takes over the Main Post Lawn. If you’re in the mood for full-on flavor, grab a Kalbi Koja from Koja Kitchen a “burger” of savory-sweet Korean barbecue beef sandwiched between two rice patties. And don’t forget their special Oreo mochimisu, a riff on tiramisu that’s flecked with Oreos and chewy in that glorious way mochi is. You can bon appetit on an Adirondack chair (the ones surrounding the propane heaters are the most coveted) and watch the sailboats float by on the Bay.
If you’re a Disney fan, then by all means visit the Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio, where the upcoming exhibit, “Disney & Dalí: Architects of Imagination” will document the friendship between Walt and Salvador, but we’d venture to guess that you haven’t put on Mickey Mouse ears since you were a kid, or maybe the last time was at that ill-fated frat party in college….
Instead, jog along the shoreline at Crissy Field, being careful not to get tangled in kite strings or be taken out by dogs chasing tennis balls. Alternatively, you can take a hike. Like any good national park, the Presidio is laced in walking trails, one of which starts behind the Inn and takes you about a mile uphill through a forest, over some restored grasslands, past some blackberry bushes, to the beautiful golf course. Some of the trails, like Lovers Lane, take you past Andy Goldsworthy sculptures, a reminder of the world-class destination you’ve chosen for your brief sojourn.