Top Travel News from San Francisco

San Bernadino, California
San Bernadino, California // Photo by FiledIMAGE/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

The city by the bay is getting a bunch of buzz lately. Here's the latest coming out of San Francisco:

San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco has announced the Annual Magnolia Bloom, considered a “not-to-be-missed floral spectacle as nearly 100 rare and historic magnolias at erupt in a fragrant riot of vibrant pink and white flowers”. With trees reaching 80 feet, the blooming is at its peak from mid-January through March, and visitors to the garden can take advantage of free Magnolia Walk maps, docent-led tours, and special signage to celebrate and learn about these trees. San Francisco Botanical Garden is home to a significant magnolia collection for conservation purposes outside China, where the majority of species originated. Its current collection includes 51 species and 33 cultivars, including prized examples from Asia. This unique and long-standing collection began in 1939 with Eric Walther, who planted the very first magnolia in the Garden and continued to introduce species and cultivars throughout his tenure as the first garden director. One of the most famous species he planted was the cup and saucer magnolia or Magnolia campbellii, the first of its kind to bloom in the US in 1940. This magnolia still stands in the garden today. The place is open every day, starting mid-January to March 2013. Tickets are free for San Francisco residents (with proof of residence), while non-residents pay from $2 to $7.

February 18 marked a milestone for San Francisco, when the Viceroy hotel Group landed with its Hotel Zetta. The first new hotel in SF in five years, the Zetta is a stylish, design-driven property on 5th Street in the heart of SoMa, not far from Union Square. The city is positively buzzing about the Zetta; the former Hotel Milano was transformed into an urban retreat with recycled design elements, and a host of tech-savvy amenities. The 116 guest rooms come with Illy espresso machines, in-room work spaces, pillow top beds, and Neil George bath products. With cool meeting spaces and an interactive lobby, the hotel aims to be a hub for the city’s tech innovators, as well. There will be a state-of-the-art fitness center with Technogym equipment, and access to a full-service spa in the adjacent Westfield Shopping Center. Expect a destination restaurant to open later in the year. 

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As the finishing touch on a big renovation, the Mandarin Oriental San Francisco has cut the ribbon on a brand new spa. Encompassing 8,000 square feet, the Spa and Fitness Centre is a state-of-the-art facility with three luxurious treatment suites, a couples' suite, a relaxation lounge, and a manicure/pedicure area. Decorated in mocha and gold tones, the spa’s design is chic and contemporary with Asian accents and museum-quality artwork. The spa menu offers an array of holistic Asian-inspired treatments- developed in consultation with specialists in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Next to the spa on the third floor, the fitness center is stocked with Technogym equipment and free weights; guests can help themselves to bottled water, fresh fruit, towels and headphones.

Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park has announced a new exhibit, entitled “Butterflies & Blooms”, for this spring. The exhibit returns to San Francisco’s greenhouse, transforming its Special Exhibits gallery into an English garden that is alive with hundreds of butterflies on the wing. The exhibit, which will be ongoing from May 8 until October 20 (except on Mondays), invites guests to “walk among a wide variety of brightly colored blossoms, watching (and sometimes ducking) as butterflies like Monarchs, Swallowtails, Painted Ladies and more fly from flower to flower drinking nectar and getting covered in pollen”. This is said to be a “fascinating demonstration of plant pollination in action”. The Butterfly Bungalow in the middle of the gallery also allows guests to observe the pupae in their chrysalis stage. This is the stage when these winged beauties emerge from their cocoons. Visitors receive a free butterfly identification booklet, including tips on growing their own butterfly garden; plus insight into these age-old symbiotic garden relationships.

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