Leif Abram is a Concierge at Kimpton’s Sir Francis Drake Hotel, a true Union Square landmark in the heart of San Francisco. The hotel has recently undergone an $11 million property-wide renovation delivering a clean, contemporary style that simultaneously showcases the opulence and historic character of the Gothic Revival and Renaissance architectural masterpiece for this landmark San Francisco hotel.
How long have you worked at the hotel and what do you love about your job?
I have, in the blink of an eye, proudly served as Head Concierge at The Sir Francis Drake for eight years. Having lived in San Francisco my whole life, other than college, I know plenty of things about this beautiful, ever-changing, magical city! What I love most about this job is the opportunity to make heartfelt connections with our guests. I get great satisfaction when I make an itinerary for our guests and they come to me saying it is exactly what they wanted. Be it a restaurant, a tour, an activity that they enjoyed. I often say a good concierge has to be a good matchmaker. I also like the challenge of making the impossible possible.
Where do you like enjoying a day off and where do you take guests when they visit you?
On my days off I like to get in my car, roll down the windows, open the sunroof, and take a drive. Just over the Golden Gate Bridge is Marin County with beautiful and scenic backroads. It is an amazing experience to drive through rolling farmland, majestic redwoods and end up on the dramatic shoreline of the Pacific Ocean. I always take my guests to Lands End. It is located at the farthest North Western corner of the city with the most stunning views and hiking trails that wind through rocky cliffs above the Pacific Ocean looking out over the Golden Gate Bridge. Amazing!
It’s a rainy day but we want to explore, what should we do?
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. This popular downtown museum has recently made its debut after an extensive three-year makeover, which expanded it to twice its original size. You now get to enjoy 10 floors of artwork, including four permanent exhibits and over a dozen temporary ones. Whether you love photography, modern architecture, or contemporary paintings by famous artists such as Henri Matisse and Diego Rivera, you will find lots to marvel at. The MOMA is located just a few blocks from us here at The Drake.
What do you recommend as night-time entertainment?
With 55 Michelin star restaurants, the San Francisco food scene is full of interesting and noteworthy eats. We are truly a world class food incubator where experimentation is revered. The city’s unique climate, and the array of agricultural products grown near the city plays a part. This is a city known as much for its bread as its commitment to farm-to-table. From haute Italian and Mexican to road-trip-worthy Thai or sushi and some of the best burritos ever, San Francisco is a food destination known throughout the world. We also have world class symphony. opera and theatre along with over the top live music venues. As far as unique entertainment, come see us here at the Drake for Sunday’s a Drag. The Starlight Room on our 21st floor may be the best view bar in The City, except on Sundays, when the windows are blacked out and the curtains are drawn. It’s all a part of our legendary brunch, a San Francisco institution for over a decade featuring song and dance routines by elaborately costumed drag queens. A fun time is had by all.
Are there any phrases visitors should know before visiting?
The City is what San Francisco is called by locals. June Gloom is the way we describe the foggy nature of San Francisco summers. Mid Spring and Fall in The City tend to be sunny and phenomenal. And finally we say Karl is out. Karl the fog is our mascot and his importance is recognized by most locals. When Karl is out the sun is gone and The City is in its natural cold and foggy weather.
Where is the best shopping and what souvenirs should we pickup?
I don’t think any other city has so many diverse, interesting neighbourhoods so close together. Each has its own distinct flavours, smells and charm. North Beach for Italian, China Town and Japan Town for Asian, the Mission for Latin. It’s like walking around Disneyland for adults! A nice and interesting neighbourhood to explore with great shopping is Hayes Street, with an abundance of one-of-a-kind San Francisco boutiques.
What’s the best thing to do with children?
Whenever I have guests with children I implore them to visit the California Academy of Sciences. It is San Francisco’s premier science museum, containing a planetarium, four-story rainforest, aquarium, and natural history museum all under one (living) roof. This eco-friendly architectural feat also houses an earthquake exhibit and Claude, the albino alligator. This is one of the activities in San Francisco where you will find so much to discover, your kids could spend a whole day! Another fantastic spot for the kids is The Randall Museum. It is a natural history museum, science museum and arts centre rolled into one, offering hands-on learning through exhibits and classes in science, nature and art to all ages. The museum has many fun things to do with kids and adults alike, including live animal encounters and drop-in activities.
What is the city’s best kept secret or a hidden treasure?
My favourite hidden treasure that makes me smile whenever I visit them is that an actual herd of Buffalo roaming the middle of San Francisco. They are located at the west end of Golden Gate Park. The herd has been part of the park since the 1890s.
What is the best way to get to the airport?
We do have an efficient subway system called BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) that is convenient if you do not have a lot of luggage. It departs from Powell and Market, about four blocks from The Drake. The concierge desk can always arrange for a shared van shuttle service or even a town car, which is the safest way.
What is the best time of the year to visit?
San Francisco’s temperate climate means it is always a good time to visit.