Weekend Getaway: San Francisco

“San Francisco has only one drawback—‘tis hard to leave.” -Rudyard Kipling

San Francisco is the kind of city that never gets old, no matter how many times you visit, because there’s always something new to do or explore. Having been to San Francisco a few times, I have my go-to recos for things to do or see, but also have a slew of things I still want to do on return trips.

Located on a peninsula surrounded by water, San Francisco’s climate is mild year-round, although summers tend to be on the cool side. After visiting in July one year, I learned to always carry a jacket- no matter the month.

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Interesting Attractions

  • Cable Cars: It wouldn’t be a trip to San Francisco without a cable car ride. Hop on a car a few stops before the end of the track to avoid long lines
  • Golden Gate Bridge: There are a few different ways to see the first thing that comes to mind for most people when they think of San Francisco
    • Walk or bike across the bridge. If you head to Sausalito on the other side, you can catch a ferry back downtown. Bay City Bike Rentals lets you rent bikes for a self-guided tour
    • Head to Lands End for great coastal views
      • While you’re in the area, check out the ruins of the Sutro Baths, a grand public swimming pool that was destroyed in a fire in 1966
  • Fisherman’s Wharf: Named for fishermen who used to sell their catches at the harbor back in the day, the wharf is now a tourist attraction. I’d recommend coming in the morning before most of the crowds arrive to check out to see the historic buildings, numerous shops and sea lions lounging on the rocks near Pier 39
    • Ghiradelli Square: Come here for your fill of chocolate
    • Boudin Bakery: While you’re by the wharf, pop in for some of the city’s famous sourdough bread
  • Lombard Street:  A steep one-block street with eight hairpin turns make Lombard one of the most crooked streets in the world. Fun fact: The curves on Lombard were added in effort to keep the neighborhood safer and quieter
  • Painted Ladies: Seven colorful Victorian row houses built in the 1890s
    • Pack a picnic to bring to nearby Alamo square
  • Mission Street murals: The Mission neighborhood is filled with vibrant murals and graffiti, use this guide for a walking tour of the art in the area
  • Dolores Park: Come here on a sunny day, pack a picnic and spend a few hours lounging in the park and people watching. The great views are an added bonus
  • Coit Tower and Telegraph Hill: Great city views from the top of the tower
  • Alcatraz: Is visiting The Rock touristy? Yes, but it’s also an interesting part of history. Book your ticket ahead of time if you plan on visiting

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Where to Eat

  • Ferry Marketplace Building (Financial District): Located at the end of Market Street, the marketplace has become a tourist attraction. Packed with shops and restaurants, there’s something for every taste
  • Red Door Cafe (Cathedral Hill): The French toast hype is true. Breakfast tacos are another standout
  • Nob Hill Cafe (Nob Hill): An Italian restaurant with cozy ambience that’s been a local staple for 20+ years
  • Mission Beach Cafe (Mission Dolores): The brioche French toast is pretty steller, but the caramelized pepper bacon was phenom
  • La Taqueria (The Mission): Good tacos, but the burritos are the real winner here
  • Mateo’s (The Mission): Huge veggie burritos, incredible
  • Dottie’s True Blue Cafe (SoMa): Order the chili-cheddar corn bread and a stack of the famous pancakes
  • Mama’s on Washington Square (North Beach): The line is always out the door, but it’s for good reason- the brunch here is incredible
  • State Bird Provisions (Fillmore District): Changing menu of American small plates
  • Brenda’s French Soul Food (Tenderloin): his place wins so hard. First, order the beignet trio (plain, chocolate, apple and crawfish). For the main meal, I loved the shrimp and grits with a side of hush puppies

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Where to Drink

  • Zeitgeist (The Mission): Outdoor beer garden, great place to hang on a sunny afternoon
  • Trick Dog (The Mission): Drinks are named after Pantone colors and are full of quirky, innovative ingredients
  • Smuggler’s Cove (Civic Center): Tiki-themed bar with rum cocktails
  • Rickhouse (Financial District): A superb cocktail bar, definitely put this on your list if you’re a whiskey drinker
  • The Alembic (Haight Ashbury): Bartenders take mixology seriously here- you can’t go wrong with your drink choice whether it’s a classic cocktail or signature drink
  • Comstock Saloon (North Beach): Loved the pisco punch and enjoyed the live music
  • Blackbird Bar (Duboce Triangle): Great mixed drinks and a good beer selection
  • The Buena Vista (Hyde Street): Home of the original Irish coffee, this place is not to be missed

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Where to Have Coffee

  • Ritual Coffee Roasters (Hayes Valley): Chill space to enjoy your morning cup of joe
  • Blue Bottle Coffee (Financial District): Dependenable choice for a cold brew
  • Sightglass (SoMa): Order the vanilla iced brew with almond milk
  • Jane (Pacific Heights): Love the pour over coffee and their avocado toast gets rave reviews, but it’s a small shop that can get crowded
  • Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters (Union Street): Famous for their pineapple wallpaper and pour over

 

Where to Have Something Sweet

  • Fenton’s Creamery (Piedmont Avenue, Oakland): The black and tan is to-die-for
  • Dynamo Donut (The Mission): All of the doughnuts are amazing, but I’m partial to the maple glazed apple bacon and orange galze
  • Mr. Holmes Bakeshouse (Lower Nob Hill): Home of the cruffin (croissant and muffin duo), but the California croissant is great as well
  • Tartine Bakery & Cafe (Mission Dolores): Morning buns and brioche bread pudding are the stars here
  • Bi-Rite Creamery (Mission Dolores): Around the block from Tartine, the creamery is knwon for their salted caramel ice cream. I had a triple scoop with salted caramel, roasted banana with fudge and peach. Out. Of. This. World.
  • Miette (Financial District): Cute candy shop selling European candy, cupcakes and macarons

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Just Outside the City

  • Big Sur is a dose of paradise. Spent a few days driving down the coast and hiking trails along the way. If you only have one day like we did, here’s what I’d recommend seeing and doing
  • Napa and Sonoma: With over 600 wineries in the region, it’s quality that sets Napa and Sonoma apart. Rolling hills, blue skies and vineyards as far as the eye can see make California’s wine country a relaxing and fun weekend getaway
  • Muir Woods: A short drive outside of the city, the redwood forest is worth exploring. Go early in the morning before the crowds arrive for the most serene experience

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Extra Know Before You Go Info

  • Where to Stay: Airbnb is more affordable than a lot of the hotels in the city, so I’d look there first. If you’re okay with a 15-25 minute ride on the subway every day, there are some more affordable places to stay in downtown Oakland as well
  • How to Get Around: Take BART, San Francisco’s subway system, if you’re covering distances on the longer side. The city is very walkable- just wear comfortable shoes since you’ll be walking up and down a lot of steep hills. If you’re tired of walking and don’t feel like taking BART, Uber is another great option
  • Planning Tip: San Francisco is an expensive city so plan out your budget accordingly. When I visit, I find it to be on-par or slightly more expensive than New York City
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