If you were born in the 80’s and watched TV as a kid in the 90’s you MUST have seen the epic US sitcom Full House (and if you are a girl, you probably had a crush on Uncle Jesse – aka John Stamos too!).
Not only did Full House inspire my love for double denim, socks with frills and side pony tails, but it also gave me the inspo to visit their beloved home town of San Francisco. The cable cars, painted houses and of course the Golden Gate Bridge had been firmly etched in my mind, and somehow I’d managed to miss it during past visits to the USA.
Well, not this time. This time I made sure it was on my itinerary, and despite only having a couple of days to take in the sights, I definitely made the most of it, and while I didn’t exactly leave my heart there, it certainly captured a little piece of it.
So… To see the sights and truly get the essence for this stunning bay city in just 3 days, it’s handy to get some insider knowledge, so I did my research and planned our stay to ensure we got to see all the things we wanted (and then some), so I thought I’d share the itinerary with you!
We arrived in San Fran at about 3pm, after our drive from Yosemite Valley, and checked into our home away from home ‘Clift’. A boutique luxury hotel in the heart of Union Square, that is also home to one of San Francisco’s most historic bars the ‘Redwood Room’, and is the perfect base for a couple of days to explore the city. https://www.morganshotelgroup.com/originals/originals-clift-san-francisco
Union square is the shopping and entertainment hub of San Fran, and while there are some other great districts with plenty of dining options, this is where you’ll find the perfect central location to get around, and have lots to do right on our doorstep. Theatres, Galleries, Designer and department store shopping… the lot! http://www.visitunionsquaresf.com/
To start our adventure, we walked from the hotel through the CBD and down to the Ferry Terminal Building, where you’ll find the Ferry Terminal Market Place. http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/
As fans of fresh, organic and sustainable food it was absolute foodie heaven, and it serves locals and travellers alike, in their quest for yummy food & coffee.
From artisan cheeses to fresh fish and homemade ice-cream this place has it all. They also host a farmers market on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday so it’s awesome to pick up some picnic supplies for you to enjoy by the bay, or in one of the stunning parks around San Francisco.
We explored, ate and took in the variety of food choices before venturing along the bay by foot, all the way to the famous Fisherman’s Wharf. http://www.fishermanswharf.org/
Fisherman’s Wharf is the tourist hub of San Fran, and to be honest.. It wasn’t for me. While it was interesting to see the Sea Lions, who have taken up residence on the wharf, lazily sunning themselves on the pier, the rest of it was arcade games, big chain restaurants and wayyyy too many people to be able to take it all in comfortably….
BUT, if you love the pier culture of the Californian coast or have small kids to entertain, then it’s great for a visit that will have something to offer for the whole family.
After a little exploring we ventured back along the pier and found ourselves a beautiful restaurant/cafe in which to grab a glass of wine and watch the sunset over the bay.
We ate at ‘The Plant’ which is an organic cafe, who work with a large number of local farms to bring you fresh, local produce, all served to you in their Eco designed space, right on the water at the Ferry Terminal. The food was amazing, and it was easy to see why it was tough to get a table. http://www.theplantcafe.com/
Calling it a day, we headed back to the hotel to enjoy the comfort of our suite, and the luxury of a flat screen TV (which surprisingly we don’t have at home. Yep, that’s right… I don’t own a TV. Lol)
This was it… our one full day to explore San Fran & all that it had to offer and guess what…. It was a picture perfect day, with endless blue skies and nothing but sunshine.
After a little sleep in (we were on holidays after all) we ventured back to the Ferry Building to Market Bar for brunch. Sitting in the sunshine by the bay with perfect eggs and coffee….what’s a better way to start the day? http://www.marketbar.com/
We then set off on our own adventures around San Francisco, by bicycle! It’s one of the best modes of transport to see the city, as there are designated bike lanes, so it’s safe and the perfect way to explore.
There are guided bike tours that you can join like ‘Streets of San Francisco’, who are one of the top rated companies on Trip Advisor right now. http://www.sosfbiketours.com/
Or you can explore on your own… and this was how we chose to do it.
We grabbed some bikes from Bike n Roll http://bikethegoldengate.com/ who have locations all over the city, and we took their advice and chose one of the many self-guided bike routes that they suggest.
It was a big day with about 6hrs of riding all up, but we stopped along the way for photo ops and a couple of drink stops to ensure we took our time, and soaked it all in.
Our itinerary took us from the Ferry building, all the way along the bay and past Fisherman’s Wharf, the Aquatic Park and Fort Mason to Crissy Beach, which is one of the first opportunities that you’ll see uninterrupted views of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.
We then continued along and into Presidio Park, where you’ll find locals and tourists alike, soaking up the rays, enjoying a picnic, flying kites…. you name it. It was a hive of activity, and the vibe was fun, fresh and outdoorsy. I loved it!
Fort Point also offered the perfect vantage point, right under the Golden Gate Bridge to get some great close up angles & take in the sheer scale of it.
Then it was time to ride uphill and across the Golden Gate Bridge, and all i can say is WOW! What a surreal moment.
It is WAY longer than you’d think, and it was packed with bike riders & people on foot. Luckily they divide everyone up, so it’s super safe and ensures that there are few collisions or run in’s. With the whistle of the wind in my ears, we slowly peddled across, looking back over to the city and across the bay, for some stunning views of San Fran and the surrounding areas.
Hot tip.. Take a hoodie or a long sleeve top, as it gets pretty chilly up there.
Once on the other side, we continued on a fun downhill ride for about another 3 or 4 km’s to Sausalito, a Mediterranean-style village with hillside homes, beautiful city views, chic cafes and shops. Here we kicked back in a sidewalk café, refuelled and watched the world go by.
From there, the ideal option is to then return to San Francisco by ferry, as it not only saves your legs, but it offers another perfect vantage point of the city, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge…..
BUT, as it was such a stunning day, everyone in San Fran had the same idea we had and the ferry line was RIDICULOUS… so we got a bike Taxi, that was only $15 per person, and it saved us about 3hrs in waiting and travel. Plus we met the funniest, Ethiopian / American taxi driver who had us in hysterics for the entire drive back, sharing stories of his family and San Francisco itself… I love the random characters you meet travelling!
Once we had returned our bikes it was time to hit up the Cable Cars and explore the famous hills of San Francisco. Its $6USD for a ride, and it truly is SO MUCH FUN!
My #1 tip though, is walk to one of the lesser known stops along the route (your hotel concierge should provide you with a map that shows you the route), or better yet… venture to the beginning of the line, so that you are able to get a spot standing on the side or a good seat. Most people just ride them for the sake of riding them, rather than commuting as such, so a good vantage point is vital. Who hasn’t dreamed of hanging from the side of a cable car in San Fran? It’s just got to be done!
Dinner that evening was also a highlight, so I have to mention it.
With so many dining options in San Francisco and one very fussy boyfriend who will only eat GOOD FOOD (Paleo mostly) we wanted something special, but delicious. We were pretty overwhelmed by choice, and as it was a holiday while we were there many of our #1 choices were closed or booked out…. so, we decided to wing it.
We grabbed a taxi from Union Square to the Mission district, which is San Francisco’s oldest neighbourhood and home to some of its hottest new restaurants and Galleries.
After wandering past a couple of options, we landed at Locanda | Osteria & Bar which was an Italian restaurant, with a happening bar area, and open kitchen. While Italian seemed to be an odd choice for us, since we don’t eat Pasta, the menu looked amazing, so we gabbed a table.
Not only were the staff efficient, and knew their menu, but you could tell that they were completely passionate about the restaurant and were constantly offering personal recommendations and checking up on us. It was truly exceptional and the FOOD was out of this world! From their signature Grilled Pizza Bianca (a rare bread treat for us) which is Burrata (Italian cheese) with crushed herbs, to the main of slow roasted lamb and duck that literally fell off the bone and smacked your taste buds with their blend of fresh herbs and seasonal veggies… it truly was mouth-watering!
Topped off with signature cocktails and a dessert of Mascarpone cheese budino and Chocolate pot di crema, it was honestly one of my favourite dining experiences of all time (big call I know), so if you’re ever in San Fran, add it to your list!!! http://www.locandasf.com/
Our last morning to explore San Fran before setting off to LA and the weather wasn’t quite as kind as the previous day, as it was foggy, rainy and misty, but it was sort of fitting since we were off to visit the infamous Alcatraz prison. Since most of the images I’ve ever seen are of the gloomy island in the middle of the bay, it fit the image of Alcatraz that I’d always known, so it was fine.
A word of warning …. You need to book your Alcatraz tickets at LEAST 1 month in advance, otherwise you’ll miss out or spend hours lining up in the hope of scoring a stand by ticket.
If you DO manage to get a ticket, then it’s definitely a must do whilst in San Fran. The audio tour of the prison is super informative, and highlights some pretty unique stories about its infamous inmates (including Al Capone). You don’t need more than a couple of hours there, but it also offers some pretty great views of the bay, looking back at San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Returning to the hotel, we’d sadly run out of time to do the only other thing I really wanted to do, and that was check out the Painted Ladies (the brightly coloured Victorian or Edwardian homes) that appear in the opening scene of Full House. They are located on Alamo Square, and are one of the most photographed sites in the city.
Knowing that I’ll be back in San Francisco one day, I wasn’t too keen on racing up there from Union Square just for a photo, so I’ll save that moment for a time that I can pack a picnic and enjoy the scene in a more relaxed manor, but if you are keen to check them out, then take the Muni line #21 westbound from downtown to the corner of Hayes and Steiner streets, and there you’ll see them… all lined up in a row.
That was pretty much it, and while I know that there is plenty more to San Francisco, including opera or symphony performances, theatre, nightclubs, more dining etc… I feel that with the limited timeframe we had in San Francisco, we definitely made the most of it.
Thank you as always for reading! Hopefully that gives you a little insight into the way I travel and how YOU can next explore San Francisco in a limited amount of time.
Have you been to San Fran? Do you have any hot tips or must see sights that might be a little off the beaten path that we can learn about, so I can check them out next time? Share your stories!!!!
Locanda – Photo via GuidePal – Eric Wolfinger | http://www.ericwolfinger.com
Painted Ladies – Image via: http://www.sanfrancisco.travel
Full House Cast – image via Flickr
All other images are taken by me!