The Amazing Race

As San Francisco gears up to host the finals of America’s Cup 2013—one of the world’s premier boating events—there’s no better time to experience the “City by the Bay.”

For the first time in 18 years, the America’s Cup—the competition for the oldest trophy in international sports—comes home to the U.S. While the cup’s name might mistakenly imply the race has domestic roots, it’s actually an international event, named after the America, a charter member of the fledgling New York Yacht Club and 1851 winner of the first race. Queen Victoria, a spectator of that inaugural event, famously inquired who came in second, to which she was answered, “Ah, your majesty, there is no second.”

Since then, the cup has been passed between countries and competed for on many shores—the most recent domestic hosting in San Diego in 1995. The Golden Gate Yacht Club brought home the trophy from Valencia in 2010, and now the cup comes to San Francisco, where BMW Oracle Racing will defends its title.

CUP SCHEDULE & WHERE TO VIEW

There are actually three competitions scheduled for 2013: the Louis Vuitton Cup, which will narrow the final players, July 4 to August 30; the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, for sailors ages 19 to 24, September 1 to 4; and the AC Finals, September 7 to 21.

The afternoon races start at the Golden Gate Bridge and head east toward Fisherman’s Wharf, up to Crissy Field, repeat the course and finish at the foot of Lombard Street. The race can be watched from most vantage points on the northernmost shores of the city. More adventurous spectators might want to take in the action from Alcatraz Island or Treasure Island, the Golden Gate Bridge or even by private boat (but double-check with the marshals for appropriate on-water viewing).

HANGING YOUR CAPTAIN’S HAT

The emergence of SoMA (that’s South of Market Street, for those new to the neighborhood) has opened new real estate for hoteliers looking to get in on the San Francisco business and tourist market. One such company is St. Regis, which debuted its spacious, high-rise hotel in the historic Williams Building. With 22,500 square feet combined of indoor and outdoor space, there’s no packed-sardine experiences here. In fact, the rooms are spacious, contemporary and nicely appointed with luxury amenities. The tempting Remède Spa makes for a soothing afternoon escape, and dining at signature restaurant Ame is nothing short of spectacular. (125 Third Street, 415-284-4000, stregissanfrancisco.com)

Located at Fort Baker, a former U.S. Army post, the area is steeped with historical ambiance and expansive green space. Officer’s residences have been meticulously transformed into first-class accommodations, many with fireplaces and views of the bridge and San Francisco skyline. In addition to a top-notch spa, the property is well known for its culinary perks, including NoCal dining favorite Murray Circle restaurant and cooking school classes for the epicurious. (601 Murray Circle at Fort Baker, Sausalito, 415-339-4700, cavallopoint.com)

Across the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito, the Cavallo Point Lodge offers comfort and elegance in one of America’s best national parks.

AROUND TOWN

In addition to top sporting events and teams, San Francisco is, of course, known as an epicenter of progressive culture and arts. The de Young Museum in beautiful Golden Gate Park shines with stunning modern architecture and impressive fine art exhibitions. (50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, deyoung.famsf.org) In the Presidio, the Walt Disney Family Museum offers guests a glimpse at the life and legacy of one of Hollywood’s most prolific creators. (104 Montgomery Street, waltdisney.com)

Culinary aficionados will be in their full glory while visiting San Francisco, with everything from amazing Chinese to hearty Italian in North Beach. In the spirit of the America’s Cup, seafood is on the menu at almost all the eateries at Fisherman’s Wharf, including family-owned Alioto’s, the oldest venue in the neighborhood and some of the best bay views. (#8 Fisherman’s Wharf, aliotos.com)

If you want something a little less touristy, try Georges in the Financial District, serving sustainable seafood and a raw bar. (415 Sansome Street, georgessf.com) For vegetarian fare at its best and guaranteed amazing views of the boating action, make a reservation at Greens at Fort Mason. (15 Marina Boulevard, greensrestaurant.com)

And what would any trip to San Francisco be without a visit to Ghirardelli? Even with an influx of gourmet gelatos and assorted frozen treats around town, their hot fudge sundae still takes the cake. (900 North Point Street, ghirardellisq.com)