For the past 162 years, the America's Cup has been an event best enjoyed while sipping a glass of Montrachet on the deck of one's yacht. But that was before San Francisco got its high-tech hands on it. Now, the venerable race is something more like Formula One, with 72-foot wing-sail catamarans promising speed and thrills (there have been two high-profile accidents) to lure a TV audience. It's also the best year to see the race in person. For two weeks in September, the Cup will take over the San Francisco Bay, with a course that starts at the Golden Gate Bridge, runs past Alcatraz, and finishes on the famous Embarcadero. Shoreline viewing areas will be set up along the waterfront. Throughout July and August, three teams will duke it out in the Louis Vuitton Cup for the right to battle defending champs Oracle Team USA in the finals. All in all, 55 days of world-class racing, all just a streetcar ride away.

It's also a perfect time to see the city. San Fran will be golden and warm. A special America's Cup Concert Series – Sting, Weezer, Steely Dan, et al. – will run all summer at a slick, new pavilion near the finish line, and if you book soon, you can probably snag a room in the Argonaut, a handsome exposed-brick-and-Douglas-fir hotel built in an old cannery in Fisherman's Wharf. If you want to see the finish line from your front porch, find a rental house on Treasure Island or in Telegraph Hill. Or you can always buy a yacht.

More Information: See the action from a room at the Argonaut for around $400 per night, and from a porch on Telegraph Hill, where most apartments are $300 per night.