Combine a world-class city
with some of America’s top stage productions, and you get an irresistible
destination for theater lovers.

No, I’m not talking New York City here, but California’s City
by the Bay. The arts have always been an important part of life in San
Francisco. Theater companies big and small have been delighting audiences here
since the Gold Rush days. 

But you don’t have to be a local to enjoy the arts. San
Francisco is the perfect spot for a long weekend getaway. And this year, there’s
an additional reason to make a weekend escape to this northern California city –
in January 2009, the international smash hit “Wicked” returned to San Francisco
for an open-ended engagement.


The homecoming is sweet for locals who saw the production’s
premier at the Curran Theatre back in 2003. Since then, “Wicked” has gone on to
become a worldwide theatrical phenomenon, and has been seen by some 16 million

Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, “Wicked” is the story of
the witches of Oz before they ever got involved with Dorothy and her dog, Toto.
Young Glinda is an ambitious and popular student when she meets the
introspective and misunderstood Elphaba at school.

At first repulsed by
Elphaba’s strange looks, Glinda grows to appreciate her unlikely friend. The
pair’s remarkable odyssey provides insight into how each girl meets her destiny
to become the well-known witches of Oz.

Filled with imaginative costumes, powerful music and a
compelling storyline, the musical keeps viewers on their seats. The story
touches on human emotions that all can relate to – from falling in love and the
pain of rejection to the bravery it takes to stand up to wrongdoing.

The production is playing at the Orpheum Theatre, a historical
landmark, which was built in 1926. Looking much more like a 12th-century Spanish
palace than a popular theater venue, the Orpheum has featured everything from
vaudeville and silent films to motion pictures and popular musicals.

theater’s intimate setting allows for large-scale Broadway productions, yet
offers a “you-are-right-there” theatrical experience.

There are plenty of
places to stay during your weekend getaway. One recommendation is the
‘green-from-the-inside-out’ Orchard Garden Hotel, San Francisco’s only LEED
(Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified hotel.

This boutique property is centrally located just a few minutes’ walk
from Chinatown. The hotel’s “Wicked Green” overnight package includes a deluxe
guest room, “Wicked” CD soundtrack, a  complimentary breakfast and a turndown
sweet from the Sugar Bowl Bakery for $179 based on double occupancy. The price
does not include theater tickets.


Another property with a superb location is the newly renovated
Hyatt Fisherman’s Wharf. The 313-room hotel is just across the street from the
Mason/Powell Cable Car line, and within walking distance of Fisherman’s Wharf
and many nearby attractions.

San Francisco’s most popular attraction is the Pier 39. This
bayside marketplace along the wharf is admittedly a bit touristy, but for good
reason. It’s home to more than 100 stores, a dozen seaside restaurants and the
city’s beloved sea lion colony. (You can see the seals via webcam at

For many, Fisherman’s Wharf is synonymous with great seafood.
You’ll find a wide range of restaurants, from street vendors selling steaming
clam chowder served in sourdough bowls to fine restaurants offering romantic
views of the harbor.


Wherever you go, be sure to try the Dungeness crab, a popular
local dish. This sweet-tasting crustacean is harvested in the cold Pacific
waters near San Francisco, so it’s guaranteed to be fresh.

After that, stop by Boudin Bakery to sample another local
favorite – the Original San Francisco Sour Dough Bread. You can watch the bakers
as they craft their masterpieces or browse the museum, which covers 150 years of
company history.

Chocolate lovers will want to follow their noses up the hill to
Ghirardelli Square. It was here in San Francisco that the world-famous chocolate
got its start in 1852. Today, you can sample it for yourself at the Original
Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Manufactory.  

Another American icon was invented in San Francisco -- the
cable car. In the early days, San Francisco’s steep hills were difficult for
horse and buggies to manage. After British immigrant Andrew Hallidie witnessed a
horrific horse and buggy accident in 1873, he decided to try something new. The
result of his efforts is the cable car system that still transports riders
throughout the city today.

You can learn more about this unique transportation system at
the free San Francisco Cable Car Museum. And after you’ve walked up some of San
Francisco’s steep hills, you’ll have a new love for these slow, but effective
cars. A day pass to ride the cable cars is only $11 – and well worth it!


Your San Francisco experience wouldn’t be complete without a
visit to Alcatraz Island. Located in the middle of San Francisco Bay, this tiny
piece of land was home to the first lighthouse and U.S. fort on the western
coast before it became an infamous federal penitentiary.

Today, ferries
transport guests to visit the historic site, which is operated by the National
Park Service. Audio tours offer insight into life in those long-gone days, as
well as the history of some of the prison’s most-hardened prisoners. 

A weekend just isn’t enough to sample all that San Francisco
has to offer. But it will give you a pretty good taste of this beloved American
city, and it will make you want to come back for more.