Dorothy O'Donnell


United States

I'm a freelance writer and photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. I love telling just about any kind of story, but especially enjoy writing features related to arts &culture, travel, lifestyle and health. I've also penned a personal essay or two.


Lifestyle and Arts & Culture

Artist Natalie Gabriel brings Carol Doda back to North Beach in stunning new mural

The giant bikini-clad image of Carol Doda that flirted with drivers and pedestrians from the original neon sign marking the entrance to North Beach's Condor Club is long gone. But thanks to muralist Natalie Gabriel (@nattypaints), the iconic stripper who shimmied her way to international fame as a topless dancer in the 60s and 70s now graces the wall of Bodega wine bar (700 Columbus Avenue).

SF Chinatown grandmas drop AARP-sponsored Lunar New Year rap video

Some women their age may be slowing down. But the Grant Avenue Follies are busier than ever. Comprised of 11 Chinese American grandmothers, the cabaret troupe has been entertaining folks around the Bay Area and beyond since 2003. In recent years, they've also made a name for themselves as activists and rap video stars.

Popular North Beach vintage clothing shop Vacation opens new sister store Work

To the delight of vintage fashion lovers, several thoughtfully curated used clothing stores opened in North Beach in 2022: Vacation (@vacationSF), Via Margutta Vintage (@viamarguttavintage), and Missing Audrey (@shopmissingaudrey). And now there's one more reason for them to swoon. Last month, Vacation owner Kristin Klein opened a sister shop, Work, with her friend and business partner Sam Poole.

Head to North Beach to enjoy a special pizza and pot pairing

North Beach has always been a place where residents and business owners go out of their way to support one another. So it's fitting that, just in time for the holidays, neighborhood institution Tony's Pizza Napoletana and newish cannabis shop North Beach Pipeline have cooked up a fun and tasty culinary collab.

Eco Terreno's Urban Tasting Room and Lyon & Swan supper club open in Jackson Square

Next time you're craving an upscale wine-tasting experience, there's no need to trek to Napa or Sonoma. With the arrival of Eco Terreno's new Urban Tasting Room in North Beach's storied Jackson Square, you can sample delicious wines in a gorgeous setting here in town. And enjoy attentive service worthy of wine country's finest establishments.

Keys Jazz Bistro celebrates grand opening in North Beach

Long before the stretch of Broadway between Columbus and Montgomery was peppered with strip joints, it was home to some of the city's most popular jazz clubs. With the opening of Keys Jazz Bistro last week, North Beach is once again poised to become a prime destination for jazz aficionados.

Designer brings her colorful, sustainable knitwear to North Beach pop-up

Women's knitwear designer Kenlynn Wilson doesn't shy away from color. While you'll find neutral and muted-hued pieces in her new North Beach pop-up (1522 Grant Avenue), her vibrant jewel-toned creations steal the show. Think cozy dusters, cardigans, tops, and ponchos in yellow, coral and fuchsia. Or form-fitting maxi dresses in bright green and orange.

Cassava has a stylish new home in North Beach

After a 10-year stint in the Outer Richmond, beloved restaurant Cassava has chic new digs in North Beach (401 Columbus Ave.). Known for creative, California-centric, three-course prix-fixe dinners, the eatery - owned by husband-and-wife team Yuka Ioroi and Kristoffer Toliao - reopened earlier this month in its new space.

PHOTOS: San Francisco's Chinatown celebrates the 32nd annual Autumn Moon Festival

Over the weekend, crowds flocked to the 32nd annual San Francisco Chinatown Autumn Moon Festival. Presented by the Chinatown Merchants Association, the free two-day event celebrated Asian communities' long history of respecting the moon's mysteries and powers, including its role in producing bountiful autumn harvests.

Free music festival honors the Tenderloin's jazz roots

This past Saturday, the sultry sounds of jazz wafted through the streets of the Tenderloin at two separate events. At the intersection of Turk and Hyde where the famed Blackhawk jazz nightclub once stood, the Noah Frank Quartet played at a small, low-key gathering.

PHOTOS: World Dog Surfing Championships in Pacifica

Outside Lands wasn't the only place to catch rockstar performances on Saturday. Just down the road in Pacifica, a large crowd gathered at Linda Mar Beach to watch some incredible - and adorable - four-legged athletes compete in the World Dog Surfing Championships.

Secession Art & Design marks 15-year anniversary with special pop-up gallery

Until the beginning of this year, Secession Art & Design resided in a storefront on Mission Street. During its 15 years in the Mission-Bernal neighborhood, the combination gallery and boutique showcased work from more than 70 artists and designers - many of them local - and was also a go-to spot for art, clothing, and jewelry.

The 2022 SF Pride Parade In Photos

Jubilant participants and spectators took over Market Street during yesterday's 52nd annual San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration and Parade. According to the San Francisco police, an estimated 500,000 people gathered for the festivities. The theme for this year's celebration was "Love Will Keep Us Together."

PHOTOS: North Beach Festival Returns After Two-Year Hiatus

Happy revelers welcomed the return of the North Beach Festival this past weekend. After a two-year hiatus, San Francisco's oldest street fair marked its sixty-sixth year by adding new attractions, such as performances by acrobats from Dear San Francisco: A High-Flying Love Story at Club Fugazi, a professional chalk artist competition, and a pet adoption booth.

Relocated vintage clothing shop Vacation now open in North Beach

Leave those ho-hum, mass-produced garments on the rack and amp up your style game with a unique gem from Vacation, North Beach's new vintage clothing store. Well, new to North Beach, that is. Prior to opening here at the end of February, the meticulously curated shop called the Tenderloin home.

Pipeline cannabis dispensary spreads good vibes in North Beach for 4/20

North Beach has plenty of places to get your drink on. But until recently, if you were seeking a mellower high from a cannabis dispensary, you were out of luck. That's changed since North Beach Pipeline opened earlier this year. The store joins Pipeline's first location in the Sunset District.

7x7 Bay Area
We Wanna Be Friends With SF Insta Sensation Julie Gebhardt

Leave it to a hairstylist to know beauty when she sees it. Years ago, Julie Gebhardt, a stylist at Ringolevio Salon in Pac Heights, took a portrait photography class with the idea of learning how to take better snapshots of her family. But the photo bug didn't really click until she got her hands on...


American West
Peak Performance: Summiting Shasta at 60 - American West

My 60th birthday. Typically, I celebrate milestone birthdays with some serious pampering. But I wanted to shake things up as I entered a new decade, one that felt especially significant. Old age was coming at me like an avalanche. How long would I be healthy enough to handle a demanding...

7x7 Bay Area
San Francisco's Best Boutique Inns

Want to experience a new neighborhood in SF? Stay in one of these cozy boutique hotels, then explore your surroundings. Inn at the Presidio, the Presidio (pictured above) Housed in a handsome brick colonial where bachelor army officers once bunked, the Inn at the Presidio is now a fortress of com...

7x7 Bay Area
Nurture Your Soul With a Zen Retreat in 2015

Make like a monk and unplug from your hectic, always-connected life with a Zen retreat this New Year. Learn how to meditate, fine-tune your yoga practice, or just spend quiet time communing with nature. Here are five great spots to immerse yourself in a day or weekend of reflection and relaxation so...
Gaze at the holiday lights on a weekend escape to the Mission Inn in Riverside

Once famed for its citrus groves, Riverside today is best known for its Festival of Lights. About 500,000 visitors will flock to the holiday extravaganza, which runs through Jan. 6. The fun centers on the historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa and spills into the adjacent Main Street Pedestrian Mall.
Savor live music on a weekend escape to Saratoga, Calif.

Wine lovers appreciate Saratoga's laid-back sipping experience. But I wasn't hunting for a great new Cabernet or Pinot Noir on a recent visit to this peaceful town in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Los Angeles Times
Your weekend getaway for the holidays: San Francisco

Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, San Francisco's always-jumping Union Square ups its game. A towering Christmas tree aglow with thousands of lights and ornaments rises from its center. Skaters whirl around an ice rink, grooving to holiday and pop music. Street performers entertain in and around the square.

Los Angeles Times
Pedal along the American River on a weekend trip to Sacramento

My cycling skills and my ancient 10-speed clunker were a little rusty when I headed to Sacramento's American River Parkway for a recent solo ride. Luckily, you don't have to be in Tour de France shape to pedal the mostly flat, 32-mile trail that starts in the Old Sacramento historic district and ends in Folsom.

7x7 Bay Area
A Modern Guide to Mill Valley: Scenic Trails, Renowned Restaurants + Funky Shops

As you approach downtown Mill Valley, you can't help but notice the dramatic sight of Mount Tamalpais rising in the distance. Easy access to some of Tam's most scenic trails make Mill Valley a mecca for weekend warriors. But even if you're not the outdoorsy type, this laid-back, Southern Marin encla...

American West
Find Idyllic Mountain Beauty and Outdoor Fun in the Lost Sierra

The Lost Sierra's promise of a less crowded, untamed version of alpine bliss had tantalized me since I'd first heard of it a few years ago. Situated among the rugged 8,500-foot peaks of the Sierra Buttes in Plumas County, it also boasts some 50 pristine, glacier-carved gems.

Real Estate & Business

HomeLight Blog
House Deed vs Title: How to Keep Their Meanings Straight

House deed vs. title: what's the difference between the two? The terms are often mistakenly interchanged or misunderstood in real estate. Perhaps the biggest myth is that the title to a home is an actual document stored in a drawer somewhere.

HomeLight Blog
How to Focus on the Right Fixes Before Selling Your House

You've lived with your home's quirks for years: the toilet handle that needs jiggling after every flush. The electrical outlets that haven't worked in a decade. That red accent wall in the living room that's more dated than dramatic. Now that you're selling your house, you see these imperfections through the eyes of potential buyers.

HomeLight Blog
12 Tips for Selling a House in an Undesirable Location

You need to sell your home, but it's admittedly not in the best location. Despite your custom french doors, chef's kitchen, or other coveted features, you can't change the fact that your property backs onto a busy highway or that you're close to a landfill.

HomeLight Blog
Can I Sell My House to a Family Member at Below Market Value?

Only about 8% of people sell their home to someone they already know, but you personally want the buyer of your home to be your son, daughter, grandchild, or another relative - and you wouldn't have it any other way! If your budget allows, you may even desire to give your loved one a discount on the home's price.

HomeLight Blog
Creative Real Estate Listing Descriptions: Which Words Sell?

Today's homebuyers can scroll through dozens of real estate listings on the web in a matter of minutes, which means you may only have one fleeting moment to get them to notice yours before they're onto the next. Those sweeping aerial drone images of your home's acreage and pics that show off your light-filled interior are sure to catch their eye.

HomeLight Blog
Finding Cash Home Buyers In NJ: A Seller's Guide

Cash home buyers in NJ are clamoring for homes throughout the state, especially in the wake of the pandemic. So now is a great time to request a cash offer on your Dutch Colonial in Montclair so you can downsize to a waterfront condo in Jersey City, or whatever your housing situation may be.

HomeLight Blog
Sell My House for Cash - Are Cash Home Buyers Legit?

On the surface, fast-cash companies in real estate may not have the most pristine reputation, but you're not crazy to consider selling your house for cash. As a rising number of companies provide cash offers for homes and improve experiences for sellers with advanced technology, the idea that you don't have to wait months to list and close on your house appeals to many stressed-out sellers.

HomeLight Blog
How to Sell Your House Fast With a Realtor's Expertise

You need to move ASAP and would prefer to sell your house fast with a RealtorĀ®. But you're not sure where to begin your search for someone qualified. Plus, your house could use some TLC. The garage is overflowing, your bathroom hasn't been updated since the early 2000s, and your living room carpets aren't the freshest.

HomeLight Blog
How to Help a Loved One With Dementia Sell Their House

Learning that a parent or spouse has dementia can leave you reeling. Even if the symptoms are mild - Mom's been losing her purse more often and missed some appointments - you know the day is coming when she won't be able to manage her affairs or live on her own.

HomeLight Blog
My Tree Needs to Go: What's the Cost to Cut It Down?

When a cherished tree must go, it can feel like losing a family member. To pour salt in the wound of your tree loss, you can expect to receive a pretty steep bill for the luxury of removing a sick, dying, or otherwise dangerous tree from your property.

HomeLight Blog
How to Sell Your House Fast in Tacoma, a Rising Seattle Rival

The days when Tacoma's charms were eclipsed by Seattle, its sprawling cosmopolitan neighbor 34 miles north, are over. A growing number of homebuyers are discovering what locals like you already know - bigger isn't always better. And this puts you in position to sell your Tacoma house fast.


The Road to Durango - HerStry

He chuckles and swivels around to grin at Sadie. She laughs at Grandpa's warped joke. Billy smiles. The conversation is as unreal as the mirage of water shimmering in the distance. It's the first time my brother's ever talked openly about his mental illness.

Grown and Flown
How My Daughter and I Stay Close Though We are Miles Apart

On Monday nights, I have a standing date with my daughter. That's when the popular podcast Crime Junkie drops a new episode about some gruesome murder or troubling missing person case. We listen together, 325 miles apart. Our love affair with Crime Junkie began two years ago when we still resided under the same roof.

Dorothy O'Donnell: Too Old For the Hiking Group - KQED

When Dorothy O'Donnell tried to join a hiking group the email that followed was surprising at first, then it was infuriating. Recently, I joined a local Meet Up hiking group online. I did so because a friend wanted me to accompany her on one of their hikes.

Marin Independent Journal
'Visiting' her mother's childhood home in the age of COVID-19

I've been spending some of my COVID-19 quarantine in Britain, my mother's homeland. In my head, at least. I had plans for a real visit this summer. Clearly, that's not happening. So I've been traveling there from the comfort of my sofa via memories of childhood trips, faded photographs and my mother's memoir.

Bipolar at 5? | Parenting

I wasn't at my 5-year-old's school the day she started to rip off her clothes and twirl in the rain in front of the music room. But when her kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Stapp, called to tell me about Sadie's latest episode of troubling behavior, I wasn't surprised. I'd witnessed plenty of similar incidents.

Brain, Child
Reluctant Sorority Sisters

By Dorothy O'Donnell I sat with three other moms on ugly green wedges of modular seating in the lobby of the Stanford Psychiatric Services building. It was a Tuesday evening and we were waiting for our daughters to finish their first session of group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for kids with bipolar disorder.

Full Grown People
The Break-Up - Full Grown People

It wasn't as if I hadn't been dumped before. Or ended my share of relationships that had disaster written all over them. But this particular break-up hit me harder than most, even though, technically, I wasn't the one being dumped. It happened at my eight-year-old's school on her first day of second grade, the hottest day of the summer.