Category Archives: San Francisco

Destinations in San Francisco

The Donatello

The Donatello
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Since Alex used to live in San Francisco, he picked a hotel close to the area that he was already very familiar with. That put us at The Donatello, just a block away from Union Square. The hotel is in an area that is relatively safe, but it is adjacent to some neighborhoods with higher crime rates. Now, I felt very safe being with Alex who actually used to live in the Tenderloin, but we would not recommend walking too far south at night alone or unaware. Just like in any city, always be safe and aware. San Francisco is notorious for car break-ins, so you never want to leave anything in your car that even looks like it could have value or have something valuable in it.

The Donatello

We absolutely loved this hotel. The location is convenient to the most popular landmarks and destinations. Since we drove in, we were actually looking for somewhere we could be guaranteed safe parking. The Donatello has a gated parking garage with security and 24 hour in and out privileges. Parking is $45 a night, and while that sounds expensive, you will find that you can hardly put a price on peace of mind when it comes to your car in the city.

We stayed in a Studio Suite, 1 King Bed with Sofa bed and Kitchenette. The room was very spacious and equipped. The king bed was comfortable, but we did not test the sofa bed. The kitchenette had a mini fridge and a microwave along with some nice extra touches like dish soap and a sponge, a full set of silverware, coffee cups and drinking glasses. We had to ask for plates, but they brought them to our door. One of our favorite things about the kitchenette was the full-size coffee maker. What a luxury in a hotel room!

We were randomly assigned to an accessible room, so we feel like that may have provided a bit more space in the bathroom. You are provided with a few toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, and lotion, but favorite was the makeup remover wipes! The closet was stocked with hangers, an iron, a mini ironing board and an amazing makeup mirror that I used every day.

The staff was very friendly and helpful. We were warmly greeted and wished a good day each time we came and went. They even offered to hold our luggage for a while after checkout since we had a few more places to hit and didn’t want to leave potentially appealing loot in our car.

The Donatello

The Donatello

With a stay at The Donatello, you’ll be centrally located in San Francisco, steps from SHN Curran Theatre and 13 minutes by foot from San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Featured amenities include limo/town car service, a computer station, and express check-out.

Getting Around

When open, the “Muni” (Municipal Transit) is a highly accessible and affordable option for travel within the city. Driving your own car is an option, of course, but if you factor in potential traffic and ability to find a parking space, it may not be worth your time and the extra cost. Parking can be as high as $10-$20 an hour. Or, you could get lucky and find a meter for $3-$6 and hour. Or, you could get extremely lucky and find free 2 hour parking. But, pay close attention to all parking signs. Just like in any city, hours and days are limited on most streets. We went in March 2021, so the traffic was low and we were actually able to drive around everywhere and park with relative ease. But, things are quickly changing.

San Francisco has bikes and scooter for rent all over the place, and even car shares! It is an extremely bike, scooter, and pedestrian friendly city. Most locals walk or wheel places, so everyone is very used to looking out.

You can watch the hotel walkthrough video [coming soon]:

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San Francisco

We visited San Francisco to see some of the real-life places depicted in Big Hero 6, Inside Out, Antman, and Disney’s California Adventure. It may seem like a stretch to visit “real-life” movie locations for animated films, but we know Disney and Pixar always take inspiration from the magic that already exists in the world around us. So, in reality, there are plenty of places to visit to see the influences for fictional worlds.

Big Hero 6 – San Fransokyo!

Locations – Here are some of the locations you can visit that inspired scenes from Big Hero 6:

  • Japantown Peace Plaza – 1610 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
  • Japanese Tea Garden – 75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco – in Golden Gate Park
  • “Lucky Cat Cafe” on corner of Haight and Masonic
  • Golden Gate Bridge – as seen from Crissy Field East Beach in the photo below and on YouTube
  • “Akuma” Island – or Angel Island in reality – as seen from Chrissy Field East Beach in our YouTube video.

San Francisco has one of the largest Japantowns in the United States, and one of San Francisco’s sister city’s is Osaka, Japan. So, it is easy to see how the artists behind Big Hero 6 were inspired to create San Fransokyo. When you learn the Disney film was based on a Marvel comic series of the same name that was based in Japan, it all comes together.

Wandering the city of San Francisco, it is easy to see how the ornate styles of both Japanese and Victorian American architecture work really well together. There are so many elegant architectural details around the city that blend with the more modern buildings. It is reminiscent of Japanese architecture and the way that it often presents clean lines and ornate details within the same structure.

There are a few more unmistakable examples of real-life locations used in the animated film. The grand Victorian home on the corner of Haight and Masonic is a clear reference for the Lucky Cat Cafe, the Hamada home and business in the movie.

And the Golden Gate Bridge was another icon they couldn’t leave out. The film makers turned it into the Torii Gate Bridge, but it maintained its recognizable qualities.

They also used Angel Island and the inspiration for “Akuma” Island. Akuma means “devil” in Japanese, so you can see the play on words they did there to make it home to the secret testing facility of the film’s villain. It was probably primarily used based on its proximity to the city. But, in early discussion, they had considered using Alcatraz as the location of the lair. So, we like to pretend the word play was the deciding factor in choosing Angel Island.

Inside Out

Locations – here are some San Francisco places you can visit that were interpreted in the film Inside Out:

  • Driving across The Golden Gate Bridge – pictured in YouTube video only
  • Ferry Building/Embarcadero
  • Lombard Street
  • Riley’s Neighborhood – Russian Hill – Hyde Street & Green Street
  • Powell and Hyde Cable Car
  • George Sterling Park Stairs – 2299 Hyde Street, San Francisco
  • James Lick Middle School – pictured in YouTube video
  • The Walt Disney Family Museum – location of Riley’s Hockey Rink in the film
  • Arizmendi Bakery – pictured in YouTube video only

Although most of the film takes place inside Riley’s head, the driving plot point is a family move from Minnesota to San Francisco, California. Most of the scenes from the city are in the opening credit sequence. The family drives across the Golden Gate Bridge, past the Ferry Building, Lombard Street, and into the Russian Hill Neighborhood at Hyde & Green street.

We could pretty much pin-point the neighborhood since the Powell & Hyde cable car passes by the families car as they drive down a street lined with ficus trees.

The cable cars were not running when we visited, but we were lucky enough to find the exact car from the movie to take photos with down at the Friedel Klussmann Memorial Turnaround.

San Francisco is a steep city, and therefore, a city full of staircases. While we are not sure exactly which “monster railing” Riley took a ride down, we found plenty. We settled on one at George Sterling Park since it is really close to Riley’s neighborhood, had low traffic, and a great view of the Bay.

A “monster railing” at George Sterling Park

The exterior of Riley’s school is only shown for a few seconds, but it is clearly based on James Lick Middle School on Noe Street. It seems unlikely that a real-life Riley would go to school here, as it is pretty far away from her neighborhood, but we can’t blame them for using it. It’s the prettiest school we’ve seen!

The Walt Disney legacy is given a cryptic tribute in the film in the form of Riley’s hockey rink. Using the magic of animation, they placed the rink in the exact geographical location that the Walt Disney Family Museum stands in the Presidio.

The Walt Disney Family Museum from the Presidio where they situate Riley’s hockey rink in the film

Cheeky payment was given to Arizmendi Bakery – a city institution that serves only one type of pizza a day. And, yes, sometimes it is broccoli. Try not to get angry.


Locations – here are some of the filming locations you can visit from Antman:

  • Riviera Hotel at Ellis & Jones – Scott Lang’s first apartment out of prison
  • The Haight – Dr. Pym’s House
  • Pier 43
  • 298 Missouri Street – Scott Lang’s apartment in Antman & Wasp
  • Chinatown

Alex lived in San Francisco for about four years, and after visiting, I can attest that his apartment, while pretty nice, was not in the safest of neighborhoods. If you have seen the film Antman, you will know what we mean. The place where Scott Lang lives and eats many waffles right after getting out of prison… well it is a block away from Alex’s old place! It is called the Riviera Hotel, but in the movie it is called “The Milgrom” after Marvel artist Al Milgrom.

We were most excited to see Dr. Pym’s house. It is a gorgeously renovated Victorian in the Haight. But, we knew it is privately owned and in a residential neighborhood, so we were happy to find it is situated nicely across from Buena Vista Park. It provided us a place to admire the house from afar and not disturb anyone in the neighborhood. A good rule of thumb for touristing in San Francisco is to remember people live there. The residents are used to tourists taking photos of their houses and some even encourage it, but don’t be that person shouting from the bottom of Lombard Street to someone at the top of the street. (Yes, we saw that person and gently shhh-ed them).

I have to admit that I am not the biggest Marvel fan, but I am a big Paul Rudd fan, so it makes this movie watchable to me. However, Alex is a fanatic about Marvel. So, I let him take over this video and highly suggest you watch it to learn even more with much more enthusiasm than I could ever bring to the table.

Disney’s California Adventure

Locations – visit one of the inspirations for Pacific Pier in Disney’s California Adventure:

  • Boudin Bakery
  • Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Ghirardelli Square

Pacific Wharf in Disney’s California Adventure was inspired by two places – Cannery Row in Monterrey, California, and Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Visiting Fisherman’s Wharf feels a lot like this little section of DCA. What’s more is that this area of San Francisco is also home to the original Boudin Bakery and Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop.

These locations are relatively close given that Boudin is on one end of the Wharf, and Ghirardelli is on the other. It is about a half a mile walk from one to the other. Now, we can’t eat bread or ice cream (allergies), so it was torture. But it smelled so good. Boudin even has the window wall like at DCA, so you can see them baking and preparing the bread. During regular operations you can even go on a tour.

While Boudin does have some dairy free (vegan) breads, Ghirardelli does not have any dairy free options (I asked while there).

But, if you can enjoy some milk products it would be the dreamiest place to get a float and some of those little chocolate squares while you look at this:

A touch of Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Oakland, California?

It makes sense that most buildings that inspired the facades of Disney’s Hollywood Studios are from Southern California. So, I was surprised in my research when I found that one most definitely takes influence from a building across the bay from San Francisco in Oakland, California.

Sunset Club Couture is a dead ringer for The Oakland Floral Depot building. I don’t know if there was some similar sister building in Hollywood at one time, or if the Oakland building was just too beautiful to resits despite its location. I’m not really sure of the why, but I am really sure this isn’t a coincidence.

The Oakland building started as a Florist, became a popular restaurant, and is now a rented restaurant space housing a soul food place named Jusla.

Thank you for discovering the “theme places” in San Francisco with us!

If you want to plan your own trip, we recommend The Donatello. You can read about it and watch a video walk through .