Fun and affordable day getaways

March 4, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Fun and affordable day getaways. Zahrah Farmer-Castillo, executive producer and host of "Days with Zahrah," shares great ideas for exploring areas of San Francisco with your kids.

Sample Day Getaway I: West Portal in 1927

As a local, discovery of a new hip hot spot never ends in this city by the bay. Today's journey takes us to West Portal, a local favorite, and for many, a brand new discovery. A fifteen-minute train ride from union square, it'll cost you $3.00 round trip to get to this neighborhood "at the other end of the tunnel." Named for the Western Terminus of the muni tunnel beneath Twin Peaks, it was erected in 1918 and is an outlet to The Sunset District and much more. Perched between the elegant St. Francis Woods and Forest Hills neighborhoods, West Portal has the "city element" and is cozy with a strong family vibe. Most shops are owned by your local mom and pop instead of the big chain corporations and incredibly, the restaurants don't disappoint. Delicious Italian homemade tiramisu, a legendary beer list beside famous enchiladas, and homemade fudge are just a taste of what you will find at reasonably priced eateries. Further, not only does West Portal have one of the best sandwich stores in San Francisco, but it also has the oldest candy shop in the city. From wine tasting to the local bookstore and to the fruit stand down the block West Portal is undeniably one of the city's sweetest neighborhoods and a place you've got to visit.

Stop number one: Sub Center
Grab a sandwich at Sub Center Sandwiches, a "center size" for an average $6.00, Choosing from meatball, pastrami, hotlink, vegi, etc. They come toasted and hot with a special sauce

  • Many locals will tell you it is the best sandwich they have ever had
  • From Joe Montana and Jerry Rice to other locals, you never know who is stopping in to grab a bite

Stop number two: West Portal Bookstore
From local magazines to a plush handmade bags, the Wet Portal Bookstore is a cool find

Stop number three: Shaws Candy $6.00 bucks buys you a lot The oldest candy shop in the city, you'll find an array of homemade fudge, to die for chewy peppermints, and they serve the famous Mitchell's ice cream

Michael and Jacks Vintage Shop
You will be splurging if you purchase here, but it is worth a trip to simply check out the international and beautiful pieces of furniture that find their way into this shop. From white carrera marble Venician desks to slick French armoires it is a fun place to visit and to talk to the designers who will chat it up with you, and tell you the history behind the furniture

Our last stop:
Choose a beer from one of the largest beer lists in the bay area at El Torreador The eclectic and colorful atmosphere is unlike any other, The guacamole is delicious and the enchiladas, some of the best

Other West Portal options:
For families, there are four or so kids' themed stores. You'll find a wonderful fruit stand where the trail mix is so good that it gets me excited about eating trail mix. There is Spiazzo, where the Italian owners cook up some of the most deliciously reasonable Italian cuisine in the city and many other cafes and fun stores.

Built in 1925, and originally called the Portal Theatre, its name changed to The Empire in 1936 and is one of the oldest buildings on the block.

Day 2: The Mission

A trip to the mission takes you into one of the oldest and hippest neighborhoods in the city. Kick the morning off with breakfast at one of the best bakery/ cafés in the city: Tartine. Choose from delicious morning buns, chocolate éclairs and rumor has it, the best croissant in the country. Tartine does not disappoint! Across the street make a quick stop at the Women's building- take in the awesome mural on the outside and the endless resources on the inside. A block over, trek to Dolores Park and take in one of the best views of the city. Two blocks over talk a walk through history and visit La Mission De Asis, a San Francisco landmark. (shown below)

Walking through the mission you will bump into endless vintage shops and we stop at Natural Resources, a parents' dream, where you can not only find essential goodies for mom, dad and kids, but they are so cool that upon dropping in you can enjoy a cup of coffee, tea or a cookie, on the house. Or if you have a little one with you, you can change their diaper or chill on one of their plush chairs and nurse your baby. To top off the day, we jet over to Precita Eyes Mural Arts where they will take you on a tour, eight blocks long, of over eighty murals. It is a sight to remember. The tour is 12.00 for adults, 8.00 with a student ID, seniors and youth under 17 is 5.00 and under twelve years old is only 2.00. (shown on the next page)

Day 3: "Navigating Through Golden Gate Park"
(Even for locals it will feel like new)

As a local, sometimes we need to get back to the oldies but goodies- Things we did as a kid but haven't done in a while. Experiencing Golden Gate Park is just that. Furthermore, from a tourist perspective you can't come to San Francisco and not visit the Park.

We kick the day off with breakfast at the Cliff House. Here, we take in the history and indulge in incredible pop-up buns while overlooking the beautiful Ocean Beach. Next we walk down to the Golden Gate Park Visitor's Center located at the Beach Chalet. The Visitor's Center helps you get acclimated to the park and provides information to begin your journey. Try the home made brewed beer upstairs and downstairs at the Park Chalet grab a few tasty caramel apples to go.

Next, we hop on JFK drive, making our way past the windmill, which will feel like you are in a scene from Lord of The Rings and we continue driving to the home of the Buffallo and the Bicen. Farther up the road, we trek to Stow Lake where we check out the various bike rentals but opt for a boat ride over to Strawberry Hill. A hike to the top brings in views of Golden Gate Park, as this is the highest point in all of Golden Gate Park. Next, a tour takes us around the lake and into a discussion about the legend of a ghost named "The Lady of The Lake." After picking up Stow Lake hot dogs and pink popcorn we make our way to The Japanese Tea Garden, Admission to the oldest tea garden in the country is as follows: Adults: $3.50; children 6-12 $1.25; seniors 65 and over $1.25. The namesake of the garden, Makato Hagiwara, is said to have invented the famed fortune cookie.

Across the street we peak into the botanical garden and the many attractions surrounding us including the de Young Museum. Our final stop of the day is the Conservatory of Flowers where admission is as follows: : Adults: $5.00; Youth 12-17, students and elderly 65 and older: $3.00, Children 5 - 11: $1.50; free for children 4 and under and the Conservatory is free every first Tuesday of the month. There are countless things to do in the park- you can take in archery, golf or go to the Academy of Sciences, so any of these choices can be added or substituted for other activities in our day. Lastly, one last special trek can be to the nation's only National Aids Memorial. Its peaceful environment was built as a tribute to those who have passed on after battling the AIDS virus.

About Zahrah Farmer-Castillo:
Zahrah Farmer-Castillo is the executive producer and host of Days With Zahrah, a traveling lifestyle show which has aired on KRON4 in San Francisco and this summer airs on PBS stations nationwide. Through Days With Zahrah, produced the programming for and oversaw the development of days with, a video based travel website with hours of programming. She also created, wrote and produced a dvd/book on "San Francisco Walking Tours" due in book stores this spring. Zahrah produced the start up programming for the Wedding Television Network, which includes a variety of shows with formats ranging from talk to magazine and documentary styles. She also hosted their wedding planner show called "Elements." At BET Zahrah was a producer for Teen Summit, where her work included producing a special feature on the 911 Tragedy and The "N Word." Zahrah has worked as an assistant writer, and floor director for CNN. She has written and produced PSA spots, town hall meetings, magazine and talk programming for the National Medical Association, The Sinkler Miller Medical Association, The Ethnic Health Institute and Alta Bates Summit Hospital. Zahrah has produced reality, infomercial and home improvement shows, pilots, and demos for a variety of real estate, health, and mental health groups. Through Days With Zahrah, Zahrah wrote, produced and hosted two real estate specials that aired on KRON4. Lastly, Zahrah has written commercial spots for The Sacramento Observer Newspaper and she has worked as a writer for Kaiser Permanente.

On Days With Zahrah, an empowerment show for women and young adults, Zahrah has worked with a variety of celebrities ranging from Daryl Hannah and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to Dr. Maya Angelou, Magic Johnson, Marlo Thomas and Mos Def.

Furthermore, Zahrah works at Laney College teaching Film and television. A visiting Professor at UCLA's Anderson School of Business's Riordan program, Zahrah has taught all aspects of production to students. In addition, she has also taught production to inner city kids at the American Film Institute, in Hollywood. Zahrah also has worked as a tutor with students in East Palo Alto.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Zahrah Farmer obtained her Master's Degree in Producing for Television and Film from The American Film Institute. She received her Bachelor Degrees from The University of California at Davis in International Relations and Spanish.