1 hour to kill | 2 hours to fill | 4 to enjoy
Suggestions for a San Francisco layover
Not every airport has an accredited museum. The SFO MUSEUM in San Francisco International Airport was the world's first. Today. there are many different exhibitions across all the terminals including ceramics, motorcycles, ancient art, and pop culture. One great exhibition displays the history of airline uniform design. Over 85 years of uniform history. Those old stewardess outfits: real style, big colour. They don’t make them like they used to. The museum trail is a nice way to stretch the legs and get the mind off work. A quiet library located at the Aviation Museum (pre-security on the Departures level of the International Terminal Main Hall) is an ideal place to charge your device and escape the chaos.
Possibly the healthiest food option at the airport is to be found in terminal 3 (Boarding Area F, by Gate 81). Fraiche is a local, artisanal snackbar specializing in homemade organic yogurts. All their yogurt is homemade. In Palo Alto they actually have a small-scale dairy plant right inside their shop. Using only whole fruits and veggies they maximise the nutritional value and minimize the sweetness. Certainly the best frozen yogurt in the airport and one of the best in San Francisco. Open from 4:30am in the morning and until 10:30pm most nights. A fresh and nutritious way to sharpen up.
There are two nice Yoga rooms at SFO, one in Terminal 2 (Boarding Area D) and another in Terminal 3 (Area E, near Gate 69). Well-equipped with a hardwood floor, sanitizing wipes, yoga mats and a mirror. The rooms are free to use, which is great, but for that reason not everyone uses it for its stated purpose. Be prepared for the possibility of having to finish your vinyasa to the sound of clicking laptop keys. Still, it's better than rolling out your mat at the gate. A useful amenity.
4. JAPANESE GARDENS
The Japanese Garden, in San Mateo Central Park, is one of the finest gardens in California. It was designed by landscape architect, Nagao Sakurai of the Imperial Palace of Tokyo, and features a granite pagoda, tea house, koi pond and bamboo grove. It is beautiful throughout the year, but be sure to visit the Garden in the late Winter and early Spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. Glorious. The Park is a 13 minute cab ride from the airport and the perfect natural antidote to the din of the terminal.
Take a hotel shuttle or short taxi out to the Westin or the Marriott and you can enjoy a walk nearby along a pleasant stretch of water. This approx 6 mile trail is lined with benches for people to sit and watch the planes take off and land. The roar of the jets on the runway; the open air; the calm water: good head space. Perfect place for a run, a walk, or just to sit down and enjoy the view. Sanctifly members can tie in a visit to the pool and the M Club lounge at the Marriott. Return to the airport a new person.
6. BIRD SANCTUARY
The Embassy Suites shuttle will take you to yet another lovely waterfront walkway. From the Shorebird Sanctuary in Burlingame you can watch the planes on approach, where the scenery changes constantly, along with the tide and the weather. Depending on the time you visit you might see a beautiful sunrise or enjoy incredible views along the esplanade of wading birds at low tide. Lined with benches for plane watching and picnics it’s a great spot for a stroll. For those visiting with binoculars keep in mind you may or may not get lucky with the birds.
10 miles from the airport there is a cute, up-scale town called Burlingame. The avenue is a long street of many and varied shops: some quirky, trendy places and some classy stores. It’s a relaxed stroll and there are plenty of places to eat. If it is a nice, healthy food option outside the airport that you crave, then The Plant Cafe might be for you. This popular spot sources its produce and goods from local Bay Area growers and artisans, working with small organic farms to take advantage of the great variety of seasonal produce Northern California has to offer. A great organic snack or meal in a lovely little town only a short cab ride away.
8. TAKE THE BART
The Bay Area Rapid Transit has been the public metro in San Francisco since 1972. It couldn’t be easier to travel to the city directly from the airport. Arriving at SFO Airport every 15 minutes the BART takes half an hour to get downtown. Once you’re in the city you have any number of things you can do or see. We suggest shopping at Union square or people watching at Fisherman’s Wharf. Wander around. Take it all in. San Francisco is a wonderful place. Just don’t relax too much and miss your flight.
There are two golf courses near the airport if you have the time. Poplar Creek is a good, flat course, less than 7 miles from the airport and reasonably priced. Fees depend on time of day and week but as a guideline you could for example pay €30 for clubs and $24 for an early morning back nine. Bear in mind that it can get busy at times so you might want to allow for delays. Crystal Springs is a challenging course located in a wildlife refuge with spectacular views of the reservoir. The surroundings are more impressive than Poplar Creek but it is a little more expensive. Their nine-hole earlybird is priced at €32. The journey from the airport to Crystal Springs is 12 miles. Doable with a four hour plus layover.
10. GO SHOOTING
Shooting a handgun at a target can be thrilling. You load bullets into a clip, push the clip up into the gun, switch off the safety catch, take hold of the firearm carefully with two hands, aim and shoot. It’s not cheap - you will drop more than 100 bucks - but what better way to prepare for, or unwind after the power meeting than by hitting a couple of bulls-eyes. Bay Area Firearms offer an introduction, an instruction, and the opportunity to fire a few dozen bullets at targets with several firearms. Then it’s back to the airport like nothing happened. Less than 5 miles from SFO. Best to get an Uber driver who knows the area as it can be a little tricky to find.
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