A cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge, chowing down on a lobster roll and hopping on a a cable car. All famous pastimes of the residents and visitors of San Francisco.
It’s rather embarrassing then, to admit that we didn’t get round to doing any of those three. A weekend in most cities is plentiful. But not the Foggy City. In San Fran you’ll be left just desperate to see more and more and more!
How to get to San Francisco
If you have been keeping up with the ‘Honeymoon’ themed series of posts, you’ll know we began our adventure in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Leaving LA we decided to fly up to SF to save time. The flight is only 1 hour 25 minutes and generally costs £30-£50 for a single flight.
However, I always forget to factor in all those little extras, both in terms of cash and time. Taking that cab to the airport, an hour and a half before the flight, those overpriced coffees when your flight in delayed or the sugar fix needed whilst waiting for your checked baggage to arrive back in your arms. It can all slowly add up and change your opinion on your choice of transport.
So after a, shall we say, ‘mix up’ with United Airlines (where we were told we didn’t have a seat and would have to wait until the following day, with no accommodation) we arrived in our Japantown hotel a mere 20 minutes earlier than we would of if we’d taken the 6 hour drive. Given that the drive is pretty picturesque, if we had our time again our trusty SUV would of come along for the ride.
Where to stay in San Francisco
Like Los Angeles, there is an array of areas to stay in. Some you should avoid and others you can embrace.
Again, we had June at Travel Councillors to thank for our amazing hotel booking. June had previously visited the Golden City and suggested either Japantown, Chinatown or Fisherman’s Wharf. We opted for Japantown and the fabulous Joie De Vivre Hotel Kabuki.
The hotel was undergoing a $30 million dollar renovation during our stay, but lucky for us our room was one of the few to be refurbished and ready! The hotel is stylish and contemporary, and situated in the heart of a community filled with bars and eateries.
Our deluxe view king-sized room featured beautiful eastern decor, a spacious bathroom with HUGE shower room, complete with a rain shower and a swanky coffee machine. I could of easily moved in! The large windows and balcony, made waking up a breeze, and the views over the city made it hard to leave the room!
Since our visit the hotel has completed it’s makeover, and now boasts a stylish cocktail bar, a serene Japanese garden and state of the art fitness centre. Which just means we’ll have to come back next time we jet off to San Francisco!
A two night weekend stay at Hotel Kabuki in April costs around £320 for two
Where to avoid in San Francisco
A horrible topic to cover, but a must. Certain parts of San Fran made me feel a little uneasy, and are downright petrifying past sundown.
The Tenderloin district for me was the scariest. It’s an easy one to wander into, as it’s situated near Union Square and even the Hilton hotel. Some blogs recommend avoiding walking along the sidewalk, others suggest not carrying much cash or engaging in conversation in certain bullish characters. But this still didn’t prepare me for walking past a gang swinging a baseball bat aggressively as a wandered by. Personally, I’d suggest you avoid at all costs.
Other areas known for their sketchy streets are the Mission Neighbourhood and Haight Asbury. Nevertheless, you’ll also find hip bars, unique boutiques and swanky bars, so just keep your wits about you to be on the safe side.
One other thing….
I just want to touch on the drug use in San Francisco. Not long after landing in the cities airport, I spied yellow sharps boxes. Again we saw them on the sidewalk and outside many public buildings. Some where even black with orange stickers. However, it wasn’t until we spotted a group injecting themselves on the steps outside the beautiful City Hall, that we questioned why the city had these bins.
(Would you believe I began thinking they were in place for any diabetics. Innocent mind or what!)
Unfortunately, due the the large number of residents who use intravenous drugs, which is approximately around 22,500, the streets had become strewn with injection drug equipment. According to ABC News, ‘In March 2017 alone, San Francisco collected more than 13,000 discarded syringes’ from the cities streets.
So, San Francisco Department of Public Health stepped in. These bins prevent such equipment being discarded dangerously and reduces the risk of spreading harmful diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis C. They will even exchange the dirty needles for clean ones to decrease the chances of cross infection between users. There’s a lot more to do, but it’s great to see a city tackling such an issue head on.
Now, back to the nice bits!
What to see in San Francisco
There is SO much to see, and like Los Angeles, you can’t see everything on offer in a 48 hour window. Research as much as you can before your visit and spent each second wisely!
Fishermans Wharf and Pier 39
For the real San Francisco experience, make Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 your first ports of call. The family friendly area is complete with street musicians, food outlets and amusements, you’ll get a real feel for life on the bay.
The noisy family of sea lions will easily be heard before seen, and if your still unsure, look for the hoards of tourists snapping away. Found at K-Dock at pier 39, in Winter months you can find up to 900 lounging around!
Got a few quarters hanging around? Head down to Musée Mécanique home to old arcade games, collected by the Zelinksky family. Admission is free, and it’s the best way to add some nostalgia to your trip. The games get pretty addictive too, and we actually ran out of time to take the famous cable car thanks to our time here!
Feeling peckish? A lobster roll or clam chowder in a sourdough bread roll will keep your appetite at bay, or for a sweet treat pop into Boudin Bakery!
Home to the 1967 ‘Summer of love’, the hippy community of Haight Ashbury is still strong to this day. With artistically painted streets, unique, independent stores and something memorising with every look, it has a completely different vibe to any other district.
With famous past residents such as Janis Joplin and even Charles Manson, every part of Haight Ashbury has a story to tell. A visit to Amboea Records is a must, you’ll loose hours searching through their vast vinyl collections.
Around the Haight Ashbury area you’ll also find quaint, painted Victorian homes. Having escaped any damage from the 1906 earthquake and fires, these homes add a more sophisticated touch to this eclectic area. The famous Painted Ladies located at Alamo Square, are an absolute must.
Golden Gate Park
Advisable to avoid at night, during the day Golden Gate Park is delightful. Home to countless features including, the Chinese Tea garden, Academy of Sciences and Spreckels Temple of Music, the park is vast in size. In fact, it’s 20% larger than New York’s Central Park!
A day could easily fly by exploring this oasis, so pack a picnic and make a day of it!
Golden Gate Bridge and beyond
The iconic figure of San Francisco and the most photographed bridge in the world. It’s even one of the great wonders of the world. And you’ll definitely see why.
Named ‘Golden Gate’ thanks to the narrow entrance between the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay, called the ‘Golden Strait’, the bridge was never intended to be red. It was in fact to be painted grey or black, but the red primer used to protect the steel from the elements, complemented the blue skies and it became permanent!
Feel like you’ve seen this shot before on A Weekend Escape?! Check out last years post on Lisbon and see how alike the 25 de Abril bridge is!
The suspension bridge connects San Francisco to the beautiful Sausalito. The 1.7 mile journey is walk-able, but many choose to cycle or drive across, and admire the views.
Sausalito is well worth a visit, if even for an hour. A tranquil and elegant seaside town, even the tourists don’t spoil it’s beauty!
The famous island of Alcatraz for us was an absolute must! Aware of how quickly tickets can sell out, we pre-booked online, a few months in advance.
The legendary island, housing the former notorious maximum-security federal prison, counted Al Capone amongst it’s criminal residents. Now a fascinating museum, the island has some of the best views over the bay and houses exotic flowers and hundreds of western gulls.
Once you arrive on the island, following the 20 minute ferry crossing, you’ll watch a short film before picking up an audio tour guide. The guide is so informative and you’ll find something new and intriguing round every corner.
After your tour, you’ll have time to explore the rest of island at your leisure, before picking which return crossing to take.
Also- Make sure you wrap up warm! The islands micro climate is pretty changeable and generally much colder than the mainland!
We spent around 2 and a half hours on Alcatraz. Tours cost around $45 per adult.
Where to eat in San Francisco
As mentioned earlier, some areas became a little less welcoming come dusk, so we preferred to stay local after dark. We were overwhelmed with the food options in Japantown and relied on Trip Advisor reviews to narrow down our choices.
Academy Bar and Kitchen is a great spot for a pizza and beer, and has a great community feel.
With so many Japanese eateries around, we had to try one for ourselves! Waraku was just the ticket and our Domburi and Ramen were absolutely delicious! So delicious, I didn’t grab a pic!
Off the beaten track in San Francisco
So not exactly ‘off the beaten track’ but it’s an activity I’d never usually consider on holiday. Or at home either to be honest.
But a trip to the AT & T Stadium to watch a ball game is an absolute must. I’ll be frank, I’d only really agreed to visiting a game because Tom had told me about the magnificent views over the bay from the stadium. Plus he was desperate to catch some American sports whilst we were over there!
He even suggested I took a magazine or something to keep me entertained as he premed I’d be bored senseless during the 3 hour game. In fact the opposite occurred. I was transfixed!
Sat next to a true ball fan, the spirit was infectious and before you knew it I was chanting along with the crowds and eagerly watching the scoreboard.
Not 100% you’d feel the same? The food and drink stalls are even worth the trip there! Arrive with an empty stomach and try as many American favourites as you can stomach!
Fancy a trip to the Golden city?! Pin this image below to remind you of all our tips for a weekend escape!