Welcome to the inaugural post of our “City Spotlight” series! Up first is one of our great loves, San Francisco. We have been having a SERIOUS affair for almost 10 years now. You could say it’s akin to “The Bridges of Madison County” in the way that we are Meryl Streep and San Fran is the new and exciting Clint Eastwood and as wonderful and torrid as our time together has been we ultimately decide to stay on the path we’ve already established. But seriously, Francesca really should have gotten in the truck with him. Alas back to reality!
As much as I love this beautiful bay city, Rob LOVES it. So what makes San Fran so special to us? The first big vacation we took together was a tour of several California cities and we made sure to save a couple of jam packed days for this specific location. Ever since, we have planned nearly the same itinerary for every visit with a dash of new locales each time. Having the ability to experience the wharf as well as the hustle and bustle of the inner city all while being only a 20 minute drive from the gorgeous upper suburban neighborhoods are all part of what make this destination so versatile and enjoyable.
Living in Phoenix we always revel in the opportunity to incorporate some chilly weather in our vacations and let me tell ya, nothing cuts right through to the bone quite like the bay wind in the middle of July. “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” Preach, Mark Twain! So make sure to bundle up when planning any part of your trip that involves even a three second stroll outside.
Another wonderful aspect to San Francisco is it’s famous and incredibly diverse neighborhood pockets. Enjoy the shopping district then essentially take a left and you’re in the throws of all that Chinatown has to offer. Take a right three blocks further and you are smack dab in the middle of The Castro and feasting your eyes on some truly impressive and gravity defying liquid silver banana hammocks (this guy will always be my hero rocking that look in 60° weather with a wind chill of what felt like -20°). But you might want to refer to a map because my directional sense may be slightlyyy off with these estimations.
So open your mind, plan just enough to check off your top tourist destinations, and leave enough time for this spontaneous city to show you what it has to offer!
Our San Francisco Favorites
Waxman’s – We can’t say enough just how much we love this restaurant. The chef creates the entire menu seasonally and changes it day to day as well. You’re sure to get something different each time you visit.
Boudin Bread Co. – While touristy, this stop is a must. When strolling along Pier 39 we always stop for some great appetizers and cocktails. Their signature bread bowls with chowder are to die for and if you’re a seafood eater they have great ceviche and the freshest oysters.
Pizzeria Delfina – We always include a pizzeria on our vacation menus and this place is one of the best. Great atmosphere, even better food, and it ventures you to another pocket of the city you’re not likely to visit otherwise.
Blue Bottle Coffee – Get ready for some reallyyy good coffee. And a reallyyy long wait. This place is definitely popular so plan some time for this stop and make it worth your time by trying one of their freshly baked goods.
Ghiradelli Square – Who doesn’t love chocolate?
Lombard Street – Both by foot and car this is a worthy inclusion. This curvy cutie is always a traffic jam but so so worth it and always so beautifully landscaped. You can even take a moment to drool over the houses that flank the street.
Haight-Ashbury – Straight from haight? This is a groovy stop for shopping and 60’s nostalgia.
Pier 39 – Gift shops (in case you plan on shopping for anyone other than yourself), fresh seafood, cocktails, and street performers make this a fun location that you can easily spend a couple of hours strolling along.
Japanese Gardens at Golden Gate Park – Care for a nature retreat in the middle of the big city? Look no further.
Union Square – Do a lap. Then do me a favor. Walk into the biggest Macy’s you’ve ever seen and ride the story escalator up and down in awe a couple of times. Buy something if you musttt 😉
Tour Alcatraz – We didn’t get the chance to see this historic prison island the first couple of times we visited and we regretted it each time. Make sure to plan ahead as there limited tours/ferrys each day and during peak tourism season they book up days in advance.
Tour Upper San Francisco by car – For anyone who loves architecture and ogling over houses that you will likely never be able to afford. A girl can dream.
Drive across the Golden Gate Bridge – This is mandatory. It’s like seeing the Statue of Liberty in New York.
Tour the bay by boat – To get the most out of this you’ll need to be on the deck rather than sardined inside the boat (there are large windows everywhere so you can still see, but like I said: sardined). That means you’ll need a coat…and a scarf, and a hat, and gloves, and thermals.
Catch a ride on a cable car – It’s not quite as easy as it looks in old movies since there’s usually a wait of around 45 minutes but it’s a fun ride and tourist staple. You can buy tickets at Ghiradelli Square and if you plan accordingly you can use this ride to take you into the heart of the city to check off Union Square.
xoxo Ariel & Rob