It was simply time for the Golden Gate City to start playing ball again in Canada – literally, as a delegation from the San Francisco Tourism Association invited a select group of travel friends to attend a Blue Jays game against their own Giants at the Rogers Centre last week.
And while the visiting Giants lost the game, the event, and SFTA’s Canadian trade mission, was a resounding success, Hubertus Funke, Executive VP for the organization, told Travel Industry Today.
“It’s been a few years (since the team’s last mission to Canada),” he admitted, alluding to the pandemic, and added, “There’s nothing like face-to-face connections.”
Moreover, there’s a lot going on in the California city, and has been since Canadians last visited.
And with a high percentage of repeat visitors from Canada, Funke says, “We know Canadians have an affinity for San Francisco, and California, and we want to make sure it stays that way.”
To that end, besides talking up the town, Funke introduced the city’s new marketing campaign, “Always San Francisco,” the domestic marketing organization’s largest-ever global initiative to promote tourism to the city. The multi-million-dollar campaign targets leisure travellers and meeting planners in major domestic markets and key international markets – including Canada.
Celebrating the city’s bold, inviting, and playful ethos, the “Always San Francisco” campaign features iconic locations visitors already connect to San Francisco – the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, cable cars, and Lombard Street – and ones that showcase the city’s vibrant neighbourhoods and the diversity of visitor experiences.
It’s the latter that enthuses Funke. “We talk about these deeper experiences and exploring neighbourhood,” he says.
Like Chinatown, or one if his own favourite neighbourhoods, Hayes Valley, an under-the-radar gem filled with quirky restaurants, bars, and boutique shops, with nary a Starbucks in site.
Then there’s famed former hippie haven, Haight-Ashbury, and the Italian enclave of North San Francisco.
In all, the city – surrounded by water on three sides – is compact and easy to explore. At seven miles by seven mile square, Funke says “We call it the most unusual 49 square miles in the world.”
Meanwhile, across the Golden Gate Bridge is sensational Sausalito, a town that provides the best view of San Francisco’s skyline – and is idyllic on its own for lunch or just walking around. Funke recommends renting a bike and cycling over the bridge, then taking the ferry back.
And beyond Sausalito lies Napa and Sonoma, popular wine regions that are often paired with a city visit by Canadians.
To the south is Santa Cruz and its 100-year-old boardwalk amusement park, Monterey, and Carmel, and the famed coast Hwy 1, including Big Sur.
“There’s a lot of options for visitors,” says Funke, noting nearby Redwoods and the alternative East Bay wine region, plus culinary, wellness, golfing, a ball game in the Giant’s home park perhaps, plus just plain spectacular scenery.
Among the many options are also a host of events across the city all summer, including concerts and festivals, and milestone events marking the 125th anniversary of the city’s iconic Ferry Building (July) and well as 150 years of cable cars – one of the only moving US National Historic Landmarks – in August.
The milestone event features a six-month-long series of events that includes the first-ever public tours of the Muni shop in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighbourhood, where cable cars are built and rebuilt; history-themed walk/ride tours of neighbourhoods served by the cable car lines; the planned operation of “ghost” cable cars from disappeared lines; and a reenactment of cable car founder Andrew Hallidie’s historic first run. All are detailed on sfcablecars.org. And until the end of the year, special fares are in effect, including a $5 all-day pass.
Also, currently taking place (through Jan 21, 2024) at the California Academy of Sciences, is ‘The World’s Largest Dinosaurs’ exhibit which takes visitors beyond the bones and into the bodies of the massive marvels, shedding light on how heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and reproduction are linked to size and includes playful interactives that dig deeper into the palaeobiological research on present-day living organisms.
And then in 2026, many may have a passing interest when the Super Bowl comes to town.
“There is,” says Funke with epic understatement, “a lot of things to do.”
First published at Travel Industry Today